tile over asbestos linoleum?

aim57July 18, 2010

We were just getting ready to pull out our old kitchen flooring for a kitchen remodel, and we discovered what looks like asbestos tile underneath the current linoleum.

We are looking at all the options of removing it ourselves, paying someone to remove it, but I am also wondering if we can tile over the existing linoleum? I would never want to do this otherwise, but in this case, I'm wondering if it's our best option.

The top layer of linoleum is not in perfect condition, and it stops at the cabinets, which we plan on removing and tiling under. Under the 2 layers of linoleum are 2 layers of wood subfloor. Would we tile right on top of the lineolum, or put a 1/4" cement board on top then tile?

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I'm no expert on asbestos but my general sense is that asbestos is a problem when it is friable (it crumbles and therefore can become airborne). If the tiles aren't deteriorating and you can encapsulate them by covering them with something, I think you should probably be OK. (You should check with experts about this, though; I'm not an expert.)

You might want to start, however, by having the tiles tested to see whether they actually contain asbestos. When a contractor suggested that some material in our home looked like it might contain asbestos, we had it tested and found out it he was wrong--it wasn't asbestos and we didn't have to worry about it. Hurray!

You might also want to check out the GW Remodeling and Flooring forums. The issue of asbestos has come up periodically there, I think.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 1:36PM
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I understand your reluctance to remove them, but I have a problem with tiling over vinyl of any kind, and that includes V/A tile.

"Friable" means sanding it, or using some other method where there are particles small enough to be airborn. Scraping won't do that, although all precautions should be taken to make sure it stays contained in the area where you're taking it up.

If you really don't want to get rid of it, I'd suggest going with a different flooring other than tile. I know it's no fun. I've got those very same 9" tiles on my own kitchen floor, and for that very reason, I haven't remodeled the kitchen in this house, even though I've been here for two years already. When I DO go to remodel, though, those tiles WILL be going.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 10:54PM
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You may have to look a your local codes for this. Some time ago, it was acceptable to cover asbestos tyle in this manor. But now I'm not so sure.

And you certianly have to state that it is there when selling the house if you chose not to remove it.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 11:59PM
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You can still cover it by code. I just don't suggest doing it with ceramic tile.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 12:22AM
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I'd put down a cement board first just to be sure. Especially since the linoleum is not in perfect condition. Since you want to tile, just get a good board for floors and either nail, screw, or glue that down directly onto the old floor.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 12:49AM
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If you're going to do this, DO NOT glue the cement board down.


Use a thinset under the cement board (ALWAYS), but it can be the real cheap stuff. It's not there to bond the two surfaces. it's there to act as a bedding, to take out vibration that would otherwise occur between the two layers, thereby drastically reducing the life of the tile floor. The screws or nails that are used in conjunction WITH the thinset are what will hold the cement board down.

I still highly recommend against tiling over this V/A tile.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 12:27PM
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Where I live, you are not allowed to DIY asbestos removal. You need certified HazMat guys and lots of $$ and you have to move out while the work is being done. However, we don't have to disclose its presence on a sales listing unless specifically asked. So do check what is allowed and not allowed in your jurisdiction.

In my kitchen reno, we found orig asbestos flooring under a layer of vinyl. All the vinyl got scraped off, but our tile guy had no problems about installing ceramic over the asbestos. In fact, many many homes in our neighbourhood have been similarly refloored over the past 15 yrs, and we've not heard of any unfortunate outcomes.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 3:33PM
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Go to John Bridge's forum. You'll hear plenty. This is copied and pasted from my website:

This is a subject that's very hotly debated within the industry. It seems every manufacturer has a thinset that they say can be used over resilient flooring (sheet vinyl) or vinyl tile. The problem with that is twofold. With all the different types of vinyl flooring out now, it's tough to know which ones can, and which ones can't be tiled over. Cushioned vinyl's are out. They can compress, causing voids under the tile, ultimately causing failure. Also, not all sheet vinyl is glued solid to the floor. A lot of times, vinyl installers will only glue the edges and spot glue in the center, and if you thinset the tile to it, it won't stay very long. In my opinion, vinyl tiles are out, as well, due to the fact that the thinset bond is only as good as the bond of the surface under it, and I've seen vinyl tiles ( especially peel and stick) let go way too easily. The same is also true for sheet vinyl. The second problem with tiling over vinyl is the underlayments used for vinyl installation. Normally, in woodframe construction, there are one of several underlayments used-- luan, 1/4" particle board, 1/4" plywood, and sometimes even MDF (medium density fiberboard). ANY of those in a tile subfloor is a guaranteed failure. 1/4" plywood has a nasty habit of delaminating (the layers come apart). Luan has the same problem, plus it can compress to 1/2 its original thickness from normal residential foot traffic (I've seen this happen). Particle board (as well as MDF), just from humidity, can expand enough to pop tile loose. Any of those can cause failure, and unless you pull the vinyl, you don't know for sure whether the vinyl installer just went over the existing subfloor, or added one of the underlayments mentioned. All in all, it's an extremely risky installation, and my question is why, when spending the money it costs for a tile installation, would you want to gamble on it?

Here is a link that might be useful: My website's Flooring page

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 4:52PM
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Point taken. But here, asbestos flooring hasn't been used in 40+ yrs, and those dodgy sub-floor substances named in the quoted post didn't exist, at least when my house was built. It's pretty trivial to remove vinyl flooring, especially the ubiquitous cushioned stuff that has been common for the past 30 yrs. But asbestos flooring is rigid and brittle, and cannot be removed without shedding a lot of particulate matter. The sub-floors in my neighbourhood are all real wood - tongue-and-groove planking laid diagonally. I've been in a number of homes with "newly" laid tile, some 10+ yrs old, and they are performing solidly.

So I guess I would recommend, besides following your local codes, find a tile guy with enough experience to properly assess your situation.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 5:37PM
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Just out of curiosity, do you think those VA tile floors have ever been waxed? Maybe any kind of dirt build up?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 8:13PM
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