by Cheney Hines
One of the most common home improvement activities out there is installing new flooring. You may want to replace an old tile floor with hardwood, or you may simply want to repair and reface your existing material. Many people do not realize, however, that there are risks involved with tearing up old flooring, and care should be taken to protect your health and safety.
Asbestos in the Floor
Most people consider asbestos to be something that is in the walls, attics and ductwork of buildings. It is an insulation and fire retardant; certainly it is not something found in the floors. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Many flooring materials including asphalt, vinyl and adhesives can contain asbestos which were added during the production process to increase the strength and durability of the flooring.
If this asbestos becomes friable due to heat, water or even age, it can crumble and release particulates into the air. Breathing these particulates can present major health hazards and can even cause cancer.
Removing Asbestos Flooring
There are many risks involved in removing asbestos flooring, not the least of which is the aforementioned carcinogens in the dust and particles should the material crumble. When removing flooring which may contain asbestos, you should always seek the services of a qualified abatement company.
An abatement firm knows the right tools and methods to handle the disposal and extraction of hazardous materials like asbestos, lead and other toxic substances. They can ensure that the flooring is properly taken out and disposed of without polluting the air in your home.
Going It Alone
Again, removing this kind of flooring yourself is not recommended, but if you do decide to do it yourself, be sure that you wear the proper personal protective equipment such as a respirator, work suit, gloves, boots and goggles to keep the toxins from causing you harm.
Be sure that your work area is completely clear of any objects that could be contaminated by the foreign substances, and that it is extremely well ventilated. Cover doorways, walls, windowsills and the like with poly plastic and seal them with duct tape. Be sure all necessary tools and equipment are in the room with you so you will not track toxic materials into other areas of the home.
Clean-Up and Disposal
After you have removed the flooring, it is essential to thoroughly clean the area to avoid the potential of future exposure and contamination. Wipe down the entire area with a damp cloth, including equipment, tools and any disposable sheeting you used to cover doorways, windowsills and the like. Rinse and clean the water often. Use heavy-duty waste disposal bags to get rid of the offending material, and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
Clean and re-clean until everything is immaculate, and then shower and wash yourself thoroughly to remove dust and fibers from your skin. When disposing of the waste, either contact a local waste hauler or abatement contractor who can take the material to a landfill.
Handling asbestos is highly dangerous. If you are removing flooring that you suspect might contain this material, give us a call for help today.