How to Recognize Asbestos Floor Tiles

By Stan G. in Construction

Asbestos is a toxic mineral which used to be employed on a large scale as a component in construction materials. Besides insulation, floor tiles were some of the most popular asbestos-containing materials manufactured a few decades ago. Thanks to its great mechanical properties and fire-resistance, asbestos was added to a wide variety of materials, vinyl and linoleum included. The use of asbestos has been regulated since 1980, when its harmful effects on people's health were publically acknowledged, but it can still be found in a lot of houses built or renovated up to that year.

The risk of getting exposed to asbestos in the comfort of your own house is hard to know just by looking at the floor tiles. However, there are some key indicators of asbestos floor tiles which might help you find out whether the harmful mineral is present in your house or not.

Age of floor tiles

Asbestos flooring has been extensively used until the late 1970s, even though the heyday of asbestos was between 1920 and 1960. Therefore, knowing when the house was built or last renovated might help you estimate the age of the tiles and, consequently, the risk of asbestos exposure.

Tile size

Asbestos-containing floor tiles were usually produced in three main sizes: 9 inches, 12 inches, and 18 inches. Nevertheless, the fibers might be found in larger or smaller tiles as well, and even in the adhesive used to install these tiles.


An oily discoloration of the tiles in your home might indicate that they contain asbestos. Asphalt is one of the main materials used for the manufacturing of asbestos floor tiles and leakages of the oil incorporated in it can occur, causing the color of the tiles to fade.

Trying to identify asbestos floor tiles this way is not actually the greatest method and might leave you wondering if you have interpreted the results of your investigation right. The only sure way to know whether your tiles contain asbestos is to have a licensed asbestos inspector check your house and send a sample of material to a certified laboratory.

This whole process might be quite costly, but given the great dangers of asbestos exposure, we consider it a must. A clear and correct result will help you decide if your tiles need removal or not and will also help you live a peaceful life, knowing that you are safe in your own home.

You can send the sample yourself, but it can be quite risky if not done properly, as you can damage the tiles and accidentally cause the release of the toxic fibers in the air. However, if you decide to cut your own sample, make sure to wear a mask, put the piece of material in a plastic bag, and seal it extremely well. The cut area of the tile can then be covered with duct tape. You can find out more about how to safely collect samples of potentially asbestos-containing materials in our free, downloadable guide.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.