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Asbestos tile adhesive

My GF's basement has/had old tile we believe to be asbestos.  I scraped it out be we are left with 50 year old adhesive on the floor.  My questions are: What will safely take it off (I was not very safe taking the tile out)   Do we need to if we are putting vinyl tile down?

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Posted 2012-02-22T20:57:44+0000  by jacstraw27 jacstraw27

Hey there jacstraw27,


Welcome to our community!~


While i'm glad to hear that you're taking the DIY initiative, this may be a project much better suited for a professional. Removing VAT (Vinyl Asbestos Tile) and the adhesive (referred to as cutback) are no easy task and require an abundant amount of safety precautions. Since it seems you've already gone ahead and removed them however, I'll assume that you did so in a safe way.


As far as the remaining cutback adhesive, I would strongly advise you to have this tested before moving on with any steps I list here. While the tile themselves contain a majority of the asbestos, the adhesive itself can still contain the fiber. The test itself is relatively inexpensive, and will help with peace of mind to the job.


Going forward with the removal-- unfortunately there isn't an "easy" DIY solution to it, aside from scraping it up. Reason you'll need to do this is because any adhesive that you attempt to put on now, would only stick to the cutback itself. Let's say for instance you were tiling, and attempted to adhere thin-set to the cutback. The thinset wouldn't be able to reach the concrete for a bond, and over time would cause failure in your tile install as the cutback deteriorates, since that's all it's bonded to. Same goes for your vinyl, it needs to grab something strong.


Before you jump into scraping though, there are a few key things to point out first:


  • Do not attempt to sand or grind the adhesive
  • Do not place solvents or chemicals on the adhesive
  • Always be sure to wet the adhesive before working on it
  • Cover air vents & wear clothes you can wash right afterwards

You need to keep the area you're scraping wet, because this will help keep the fibers from becoming airborne, which is when they become a problem. Chances are you won't be able to remove all the adhesive, but you need to at least get it to where it merely leaves an almost "transparent" layer on the floor. At this point, test your concrete by applying water on it. If you see the water penetrate into the concrete within around 5-7 minutes, then you've liberated enough of it to be able to bond adequately. 


If at this step your floor is a bit unlevel due to either the natural slab being un-even, or the adhesive, you can cover the area with a SLC (Self-Leveling Compound), such as Custom Building Products LevelQuik RS.


As I mentioned earlier, this may be a job you would prefer to leave with a professional. If the steps above seem to be a bit much, then I'd recommend you reach out for help. In my experience, the average contractor/handyman will usually like to stay away from asbestos at all costs, so you'll want to be looking for an abatement company and tell them about your situation. They'll take care of everything for you with the utmost care for safety, and can be easily found through your states EPA.


I hope this helps answer your question!~ If you need any more info, feel free to reply back and we'll go from there. Otherwise, best of luck on your project! = )


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Posted 2012-02-23T17:33:20+0000  by Jay_HD_CHI

Is scraping wet my only option?  I have been putting off my project for 3 years now because nobody knows what to do.  I have a basement floor cover with old cutback.  I dont have water issues.  I bought laminite flooring...took it back.  Now I have self adhesive tiles.

Soooo I scrape, liquid etcher, self level, and then lay the tiles?  The tile also say not for basements...

The old cutback seems hard but if i leave something on it for a while (say a ladder) the feet on the ladder get a little sticky and i track that horrible stuff everywhere i use the ladder.


Im so lost and I dont know what is the best and a cheaper way to start my man cave.


I heard put self leveler right over, put tile adhesive right over the old, scrape wet, diamond blade etcher,..I just want a floor down there already!!!


Please please please give me some pointers.

Thanks, Dave

Posted 2012-04-03T17:30:54+0000  by Davidjmb6

Hey there Davidjmb6,


Thanks for joining us on the community!~


In regards to your project, I would still recommend scraping, scraping and more scraping. It's not the funnest job by any means, but it will produce the best results.


I wouldn't recommend using a liquid etcher though. Like I mentioned in the previous post, never use solvents on top of the cutback. What you could end up doing is having the concrete below absorb what are called "bond breakers" and this will weaken the bond that your thinset will have with it later, so you'd actually be making it more difficult for yourself.


Once you get the cutback down to a thin layer on the floor, then you can then apply the SLC that i mentioned earlier if needed.


You mentioned wanting to use self-stick tile and then said that they are "not for basement" use. I'm curious about this, what tile did you happen to pick up?


Self-Adhesive tiles are a bit difficult to use over cut-back, since the old adhesive may or may not bond break the self-stick adhesive, causing them to quickly pop off. Since it's not recommended to add additional adhesive underneath these types of tiles (nor is it covered by warranty) I would either apply a thin coat of the SLC or choose a different type of floor covering for this area, such as ceramic tile.


I hope this helps you out and gets the project stared. Let me know if you have any more questions!~


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Posted 2012-04-05T14:37:45+0000  by Jay_HD_CHI

While scraping will work, I am using something else which is made for removing the mastic used for asbestos.


Its called simply that: asbestos mastic remover. 


home depot does not sell this, check grainger for it. thats where i got mine. your best bet will be the low-odor solution which costs $200 (no odor costs well over $500). its working wonders on my floor and all i need is a sponge and cloth to wipe the gunk off after i let the mastic remover set for about 15 minutes

Posted 2012-07-22T21:49:32+0000  by KayBon
another option is to put thinset on the tile, then put in a new subfloor (using permabase concrete boards) and lay tile on top of that to give you a sound, level platform for your tiles.
Posted 2012-07-22T21:56:02+0000  by KayBon

Hey there KayBon,


Thanks for joining the community!~


Kudos for the added input for removal. Jeez, for $200 that stuff had sure better work well. Do they give you a lifetimes supply for that much? o.o It sounds great for getting rid of pesky cutback though!

Posted 2012-07-26T14:38:00+0000  by Jay_HD_CHI


I recently had a free consultation for laminate flooring, however; I quickly learned that there are asbestos tiles under the carpet. They are already sealed with some sort of white looking, paint? I have been told I can put laminate flooring over it but I am concerned about the floors not being even when I do so. I have the carpert that i know the tiles are under, then I have  hardwood to tear up next to it, and then already placed laminate. All three need to be replaced wtih one cohesive flooring but I am not sure if it will be even and level so i am hesitant to start now that i cannot use a contractor. Please advise. 

Posted 2012-08-13T16:48:41+0000  by svriley



I just wanted to add that at the Home Depot, we don't carry PermaBase backerboard, but our 3 in-stock brands by USG, Custom Building Products, and James Hardie are just as effective. I prefer to use a good 1/4" tile backerboard on existing floors if the subfloor is sound and secure. But I entirely agree with using thin-set as well to give yourself a better foundation for your new tiles.


Glad to hear your input on this kind of install.




Posted 2012-08-13T19:14:20+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL

Hey svriley,


Thanks for your question and welcome to the community!


Pardon me for being a bit confused, but are these 3 types of flooring are all in one room/area? If it is, you are correct in needing to get all of the floor even for the laminate planks to be installed properly. Contacting a local abatement company can be a big step in determining if you may encounter directly working with asbestos tiles. Luckily, as long as they are covered and not disturbed in any way, you can place laminate planks directly over them with a high-quality cushioned underlayment.


To assist you further, you could tell me a few things regarding your floor:


  • would you be able to tear out the carpet yourself to inspect the floor closer?
  • how are the 3 types of flooring meeting in conjunction with each other? Are they in the same room or next to each other? If you can post pictures, that would greatly assist us
  • If you can see the height discrepancies on your floor, can you describe to us what size area you need to be level?
  • How high would the height difference be, if you can see it?

Placing a self-leveling compound with underlayment primer over any height differences in large areas would be your best solution for this. For any room transitions with height differences, using a hard surface reducer can work well in adjoining floors.


Let us know what areas are at issue on your existing floor so we can assist you in getting the best install for your new one.

Posted 2012-08-13T19:55:42+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL

Much like the creator of this topic, I removed vinyl tile from the basement of the home I recently moved into (the house was built in 1982).  There seems to be the black glue residue which was left behind after removing the tiles, and my wife and I intend on installing a tongue and groove laminate floor in over the concrete slab on which these tiles were removed.  Do I need to remove the residual glue, or can I simply place down the vapor barrier and install the flooring over it?  The floor is level as it sits now. 


I know that if this was, indeed, asbestos, then it can only be hazardous if disturbed, so will the barrier and flooring be enough to keep the residual glue from becoming a problem?


Your advice is greatly appreciated.



Posted 2012-08-28T17:09:56+0000  by BigDubbleU
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