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Flooring and Carpeting/carpet over asbestoes



We recently bought a house built in 1961 and have asbestos tile in our family room and basement.  

I would like to lay down carpet in the family room and would like to know if it is safe to nail down tack strips or just glue down carpet without padding.  I am worried that nailing down the tack strip will disturb the tile.  I am pregnant and really don't want the baby or the rest of my family exposed.  

In the basement, there are a few loose corners of tile and I am not sure if we can just glue those back down.  They are not cracking just started to come up at the seam.  

Thank you for your help.

ANSWER:    In answer to your first question, yes it is safe to put in carpet without pad, however if you are using tack strips (tackless), the use of pad would bring the height of the carpet to the same level as the tackless, so without the pad you will have a ridge around the perimeter of the room. Or you can direct glue to the tiles as long as they are down securely.
       As far as the tile goes, to be safe, mist the tiles with water, such as from an old Windex bottle. That will keep any particles from becoming airborne when nailing through. Wetting down is basically what they do when they remove asbestos. Goggles, gloves and a dust mask will also be wise but just remember that unless the particles become friable (airborne such as from small chips/sanding) AND the exposure is relatively long term (years) there is really no chance of getting cancer from the asbestos in those tiles. Also the tiles will be covered so you and your family would be safe. Make sure the tiles dry thoroughly before covering with any flooring.
       Regluing asbestoes tiles is also not a problem. Again, use gloves when handling the tiles just to be extra safe. No need to wet down unless you are trying to remove them by scraping. Obviously we are talking a few tiles. Any extensive removal should be handles by an abatement specialists as extensive dust can permeate the home without sealing doorways, etc.  

I know there had been a lot of alarming warnings regarding asbestos and for those that worked in those industries that used asbestos there is no doubt that their exposure was life threatening  but for the general public it needs to be put in perspective. Think also of all the older buildings you have been in in your life that may have contained asbestos. I know of no reports of epidemic cases of lung cancers from people that used these buildings. FYI I was an installer for 10 years, from 1966-1976 and periodically ripped up flooring with asbestos. Back then there was no masks, no protective gear because we did not know of the dangers. This was when I was 18 till I was 28. I am now 67 and have no history of lung cancer.
Here's a link that might also make you feel more at ease: It discusses the fact that asbestos related cancer occurs with repeated long term exposure.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your answer. It definitely makes me feel better about laying down carpet with padding using the tack strips.  I do have a few follow up questions. Living in the house is not long term exposure correct?  What if drinks are spilled or our dog has an accident? Will the liquid affect the tile? I know cleaning up as fast as possible. Also, when replacing the carpet - are there any precautions for that?

Thank you.

If you are covering the tile with carpet then it certainly poses no long term hazards and it certainly gives you extra peace of mind. Even without covering I do not believe it is a hazard. To my knowledge there are no confirmed cases of lung cancer from end user exposure to asbestos tile installed in the home. So traffic over these tiles has not shown to be a cause of airborne particles. The only way the tiles can pose a hazard is to inhale particles from the tile that have become airbone such as from sanding, drilling  or chipping.  Spilled liquids on the tile will not cause this and as I said previously wetting the tiles is how abatement specialists contain the particles when removing tiles. Urine will not break down the tiles. It may stain it but not disintegrate it.

When replacing the carpet there are no real precautions again since you are not abrading the tiles. However if you are not replacing the carpet with other carpet and instead are putting down another type of flooring and thereby removing the tackless, I would wet the tiles that the tackless is attached to since some chipping may occur. For your own peace of mind you could wear a dust mask and gloves and safety glasses (goggles).

From the American Cancer Society: "If you live in an older home, it might contain asbestos-containing insulation or other materials. A knowledgeable expert can check your home to determine if there is any asbestos and if it poses any risk of exposure. This may involve testing the air for asbestos levels. (Again, just because asbestos exists in a home does not necessarily mean that it needs to be removed. As long as the material is not damaged or disturbed, for example by drilling or remodeling, the fibers are not released into the air.) If asbestos needs to be removed from your home, hire a qualified contractor to perform this job to avoid contaminating your home further or causing any exposure to your family or to the workers. You should not attempt to remove asbestos-containing material yourself."

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R Adams


Certified Installer 1966-1976, Certified Carpet Cleaning Instructor 1976-1985, Certified Commercial and Residential Floor Inspector since 1985 is available to answer questions on problems with carpet or other flooring, and carpet cleaning. I can guide you as to whether you may have a valid claim against a manufacturer/installer/dealer/cleaning company.


Floor covering Installer 1966-1976 Carpet Cleaning Instructor 1976-1985 Floor Covering Inspector 1985- present

Floor Covering Inspector Training School; FCITS Floor Covering Inspection Technical Services; FITS Certified Claims Inspectors Association; CCIA

Hartford Courant

B.S. Chemistry 1971 A.S. Physical Science 1969 Armstrong Certified Installer 1972 3M Certified Carpet Cleaning Specialist 1976 FCITS Certified in Carpet and Hard Surface, Commercial and Residential

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