Asbestos Tiles

So with the crazy real estate market, and dwindling inventory levels, it’s no surprise that people are turning toward old homes as starter homes.

Older homes often come with charm, intricate workmanship, interesting architectural features, and unfortunately the occasional hazardous item.

We have been inspecting a lot of older homes lately. And we have been coming across a lot of 9 x 9 tiles – sometimes located beneath newer flooring.

To the general public, the term 9 x 9 tiles probably doesn’t mean much to the general consumer. But to a builder and an experienced home inspector, it typically triggers the need for a conversation.

6 x 6, 9 x 9, 12 x 12, and even 16 x 16 tiles can potentially contain asbestos fibers.

In fact, if the home was built between 1920 and 1960, it’s fair bet that the tiles would contain Asbestos fibers.

So let’s talk about Asbestos real quick. Asbestos it is not a man-made material. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral that is mined out of the ground.

The reason asbestos has been used in construction over the years is because one of the attributes of the material is that it’s a known heat-resistant material. It was widely used in this past century as a fire-proofing material.

Now of course, Asbestos fibers are also a well known health hazard. If the fibers enter into our lungs, they can’t get back out, and will eventually cause cancer or other Asbestos-related ailments. Our bodies are not able to reject the material.

For this reason, asbestos was eventually prohibited from use in modern construction. It was outlawed in the 1970s, but it was used right up until the early 1980s (when the material was allowed to be sold off from hardware stores).

Asbestos is considered dangerous when the material in question is “friable,” which means the fibers can be released into the air if the material deteriorates or crumbles.

How can the average person tell if you have asbestos tiles in your home? Well, if you can view a cross section of the tiles, you might be able to see if there are any asbestos fibers protruding out of the material.

Or, to be 100% sure, you can bring a sample to a local lab for testing (I recommend using Optimum Analytical and Consulting located in Salem, NH). You can place a sample into a baggie, and then bring it to their lab, and they will analyze it and give you the breakdown of what the material contains.

What do you do if you do have asbestos tiles installed in your home?

So there are two ways you can deal with it. The easiest was is to simply encapsulate the tiles – typically beneath a new floor. This is the solution we see most often as home inspectors.

Most of the time I wouldn’t even know the tiles are present in the home unless I open up a closet door and see the old tiles on the floor of the closet.

And even then, our home inspection license prevents us from positively identifying the material as containing asbestos. We have to defer to having the material tested in order to make an accurate determination.

Encapsulating the material is considered a safe option in most states and local municipalities. If you do chose to have the material removed, it should be done by a qualified contractor that will adhere to the strict parameters regarding the removal of the material from the home.

Be sure to check the local regulations before you move forward with the removal. Be aware that the proper disposal of the material is strictly regulated as well.

At First Choice Home Inspection, our goal is to educate you about all aspects of your new home!

Michael McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
Vermont Property Inspector License # 143.0134099
HUD 203k Consultant # P-1939

Please note this resource regarding exposure to Asbestos products:

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