Floor Tile

Asbestos in Floor Tile and Other Building Materials

Floor tiles can be fabricated from a number of different materials, including natural substances such as stone, marble, ceramic, clay, slate and even wood, as well as artificial ones such as vinyl and various types of resin polymers.

Vinyl floor tiles and linoleum started coming into use during the early twentieth century; by the 1920s, vinyl flooring was extremely popular because it was easily maintained and easy to clean. They also came in a number of different sizes and thicknesses, including narrow strips; this made such floors very easy to install.

As was the case with most building materials manufactured up through the 1980s, flame resistance was an important consideration – and asbestos fiber was the least expensive way to provide that capability. Asbestos was not added to every type of floor tile, but it was added to many of them. In addition to flame resistance, asbestos added durability and tensile strength to the product. As a result, vinyl and linoleum floors lasted for decades.

Companies that are known to have manufactured and/or marketed asbestos floor tiles include Armstrong, Congoleum, Montgomery Ward, Sears-Roebuck, and Kentile Floors.

Floor Tile Products Containing Asbestos

The following partial list of floor tile products were known to contain asbestos:

Product Name Start Year End Year
Armstrong Excelon Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tile
Fibreboard Pabco Floron Floor Tile 1941 1971
Flintkote Floor Tiles
Flintkote Vincor Floor Tile
Flintkote Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tile
GAF Contico Asbestos Floor Tile
GAF Fashioncraft VinylFlex Floor Tile
GAF Ruberoid Matico Asbestos Floor Tile
GAF Stoneglow Vinyl-Asbestos Floor Tile
GAF Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tile
GAF VinylFlex Floor Tile
Kentile Floors KenFlex Vinyl Asbestos Tile 1907 1986

Hazards Associated with Floor Tile Products

Asbestos floor tile was relatively safe when first installed as long as it did not need to be cut to size. When asbestos floor tiles needed to be cut, the possibility of installers breathing in airborne asbestos increased. Also, many of the adhesives used to attach tiles to the under flooring also contained asbestos which created further risk for installers.

While asbestos floor tiles were quite durable, they were not indestructible and tended to deteriorate over time. This posed a hazard not only for homeowners but for those performing renovation and demolition work in buildings with flooring products installed prior to 1980 as well.

Sources

Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)

Friedman, Daniel (ed.) "Vinyl-Asbestos Floor Tiles Identification Photo Guide." InspectAPedia
(http://inspectapedia.com/sickhouse/Armstrong_Vinyl_Asbestos_Tile_List.htm). Retrieved 6 January 2011.

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