Asbestos - Residential Floor Tile Removal - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Residential Floor Tile Removal

Does flooring contain asbestos?

Flooring, including sheet vinyl, floor tiles and any associated paper-like backing, adhesive or glue, can contain asbestos. Asbestos was added during the production of flooring to strengthen the flooring and to increase its durability.

When is flooring hazardous?

Flooring that contains asbestos, when intact and in good condition, is not considered hazardous.

However, heat, water, or aging can damage flooring to the point where it is friable. Friable means the flooring can be crumbled with hand pressure. Flooring can also be made friable during removal. Friable flooring can release asbestos into the air. Once in the air, asbestos is a health hazard when people breathe it.

Removing flooring yourself

Flooring projects are common during home remodeling. Options for dealing with asbestos-containing flooring are removing it or installing new flooring over it.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends using a licensed asbestos contractor to remove asbestos-containing flooring. However, a homeowner can remove the asbestos-containing flooring safely following the instruction on this web page. Using the proper tools, preparation, removal procedures and clean up are important to reduce the homeowner and the homeowner’s family’s exposure to asbestos.

Tools needed

Use the following tools when removing flooring:

  • Utility knife - for cutting polyethylene sheeting
  • Metal putty knife - for removing flooring from flat surfaces
  • Razor scraper - for removing adhesive or glue from flat surfaces
  • Abrasive scrub pads - for removing residual flooring backing and adhesive
  • Spray bottle/tank - for holding water
  • Water - used to keep asbestos from getting into the air
  • Disposable towels - for clean up
  • Duct tape - for sealing openings and bags
  • Polyethylene sheeting (poly) - for isolating work area and covering any vents or openings
  • Waste bags - 3-mil contractor grade waste bags to line boxes
  • Boxes - to put floor tile in for disposal
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - Respirator, disposable work suits, gloves, and eye protection.

Prepare the work area

First, remove all movable objects from the work area. This is to prevent any contamination of these objects and reduce clean-up time. Objects that cannot be removed must be covered with poly and sealed with duct tape. Next, isolate the work area by turning off the heating and air conditioning system. Cover all vents in the area with poly and seal with duct tape.

Limit access to the work area to one doorway. Cut a slit in the poly of the doorway from top to bottom to allow access to the work area. Cover the slit with a poly flap secured at the top of the doorway with duct tape. This should be the only access to the work area and will limit air movement in and out of the work area. Cover all other doorways and openings with poly and seal with duct tape.

Remove the flooring

Place all tools inside the work area. Put PPE on before beginning removal. Limit the number of times going in and out of the work area once removal of the asbestos-containing flooring begins.

The flooring needs to be wetted with water before any removal begins. Water keeps asbestos from getting into the air.

Floor tile removal

Start removing floor tile from the edges of the work area. Use a hammer and putty knife to work under the edges of the tile and pop it loose. Once the first tile is removed, work the putty knife at a 45 degree angle to gently pop the remaining tiles loose. Avoid breaking tiles during removal to keep asbestos from getting into the air.

Floor sheeting removal

Remove floor sheeting by cutting the material with a utility knife into sections about 6" wide, running the length of the room. Use a metal putty knife or razor scraper to get under the floor sheeting and start pulling it up. Continue to wet the material as it is pulled up. The floor sheeting backing may separate from the floor sheeting during removal and remain stuck to the floor. Any material stuck to the floor can be removed by wetting with water and scraping with a razor scraper.

Waste materials

Place floor tiles into waste bag lined boxes and seal them shut with duct tape. This will prevent the tiles from poking through the waste bag and releasing asbestos. Floor sheeting can be placed in waste bags and sealed shut with duct tape. Wipe down the outside of the boxes and waste bags and remove them from the work area. Continue doing this until all flooring has been removed.


Sometimes the adhesives holding the flooring down needs to be removed. Chemical solvents or water can be used to accomplish this. Do not sand or grind adhesives. Adhesives may contain asbestos and it can be get into the air this way.

Check with the manufacturer of your new flooring about using chemical solvents. Some chemical solvents are not compatible with new adhesives

How to clean-up

Clean-up is vital when removing asbestos-containing flooring. All dust and debris must be cleaned from the work area. Wipe down the entire work area with damp disposable towels. This includes all poly sheeting in the work area. Rinse the disposable towels and change the water often to prevent recontamination of the work area. Inspect the work area again for any dust or debris. If any dust or debris is visible, re-clean the work area. Inspect and clean all tools used for removing the flooring. After cleaning them, remove all tools from the work area.

Take down all poly sheeting, place it into waste bags. Place any disposable PPE in a waste bag. Place all other poly, cleaning towels and other waste into waste bags. Seal all the bags with duct tape. After all the bags are sealed, take a thorough shower to remove any asbestos still clinging to your body and hair.

Dispose of the waste

All asbestos waste must be disposed of in a landfill that accepts asbestos waste. There are three methods of disposing of asbestos waste:

  • Contact local waste hauler
  • Contact licensed abatement contractor
  • Take the waste to a landfill yourself

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has a list of landfills accepting asbestos (PDF).

More information

For more information about asbestos, contact the Asbestos Program through the internet or by telephone at (651) 201-4620.

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Updated Tuesday, 16-Nov-2021 18:38:47 CST