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Anyone know about flooring containing asbestos :(

(23 Posts)
narmada Sat 15-Oct-11 21:43:03

We are (or maybe that should be, were) about a week away from laying new carpets in our newly-purchased house and then moving in the day after. It's an ex-council (but not system-built) house from the late 1940s or early 1950s.

Today we were lifting the carpets as agreed with the carpet supplier. Under most of the carpets are sheets of linoleum or some sort of vinyl sheet flooring.

The backing material to some of this flooring freaked me out a bit. On some pieces the backing was a kind of fibrous hessian-type material. Other was backed in paper which is rather powdery.

I am guessing by the design on it that this lino/ vinyl has been in situ since the late 1940s/ early 1950s.

What are the chances that this is some nasty friable asbestos??

Also, the heating engineers removed a gas fire, fire surround and backing when installing central heating. The backing to the fire surround is approx 6 mm thick grey sheeting and in one corner there is a hole in it where it was attached with a rawl plug (the mind boggles). I am presuming this is asbestos. DP and I carefully moved it outside onto the patio taking care not to damage it, abrade it further, or touch it.

I have this awful, awful feeling that we are going to have to have an asbestos survey and put back our moving date by weeks. Obv this would be better than taking any risks but oh, my heart just sank when saw these worrisome bits.

Can anyone offer any advice?

narmada Sat 15-Oct-11 21:44:04

I should add that we had a full structural survey before we bought but they didn't lift the carpets...

narmada Sun 16-Oct-11 16:23:32


FearfulYank Sun 16-Oct-11 16:29:44

I'm not sure but didn't want you to go unanswered. smile We just redid ours (which was a screaming nightmare, I had to call in massive reinforcements i.e. my Dad smile ) but ours had a tarry black backing?

We used gloves and masks when pulling it out. We were refinishing the hardwood underneath though, so I don't know what's different when you're laying carpet.

Hope someone with more knowledge comes along soon... smile

narmada Sun 16-Oct-11 17:34:35

Thanks fearful yank smile - there's no bitumen backing on the flooring, it's just laid loose in pieces, very odd, with this alternately papery or hemp-y looking backing.

narmada Sun 16-Oct-11 17:38:07

WRT the fire backing, it has scorch marks on it... I thought asbestos didn't burn and therefore wouldn't scorch, or is this just wishful thinking??

narmada Sun 16-Oct-11 19:40:53

Anyone else got any experience of this? Slightly worried as until realised it was possibly dodgy, took a roll or two of it to the tip in my car (the heating engineers had removed it when installing the cent. heating).

RD250DX Sun 16-Oct-11 20:00:49

Asbestos was widely used up until as late as 1986, but usually for for insulation purposes, It would be utterly useless for a floor covering anyway due to it's relatively soft properties.
Many homes from that period used ash from steelworks/foundries as a substrate for floors, although this created it's own problems due to absorbtion of damp. Why not have a chat with some long-established residents who'll have a good idea what's going on.

narmada Sun 16-Oct-11 20:14:17

Thanks for replying RD but unfortunately asbestos IS sometimes found in flooring materials - e.g., lots of older vinyl tiles contain it, and he backing on some types of old flooring can be 100% asbestos paper and highly friable (e.g., breaks up easily) shock. This is only stuff I have learned since googling while freaking out - but I think it's accurate as it comes from respectable sources like the Health and Safety Executive.

That is really interesting about using ash for floors- thanks.

Good idea to chat to neighbours as well - thanks. I think I will go and have a chat to some of them. Quite a few of them have been there since the houses were built in the late 1940s/ early 50s.

RD250DX Sun 16-Oct-11 20:29:49

It certainly is found in old linoleum/vinyl coverings - But as I understood it, you were on about the floor itself. Use some heat when removing (hot air gun) to soften the covering and then something like a spreading knife to slide under and lift in one piece. FTR cleared up loads.
Depends on where you are, but ash - and the real naughty one, red ash - was used very extensively in that era, coming as a by product mix from steelworks. If you are in the north-west, then it's highly likely that it came from Shotton steelworks in N.Wales, which makes up for millions of sqaure meters of floorspace even today.

ZombiouslyGhoulblivious Sun 16-Oct-11 20:42:42

When I worked for a north London council I spent some time in the asbestos team. Can you find out if your council has something similar? We conducted surveys, took and analysed samples and arranged removals if needed.

wonkylegs Sun 16-Oct-11 20:51:39

The HSE are running an asbestos awareness campaign for people who work in construction and they have a guide to spotting asbestos on their website at the moment, which might be worth a look (has photos I think)
My knee-jerk reaction without seeing it is yes strong possibility. Have a look at the directgov website and search for asbestos and that will give some laymans guidance on how to deal with asbestos in your home
Be very careful if you get somebody in tO remove it as there are currently some very dodgy outfits about. Hope that helps

narmada Sun 16-Oct-11 22:11:59

RD no, it's old floor coverings that have been left in situ under carpets, not the subfloor itself. We are in Greater London so no danger of it coming from Shotton, I don't think!

wonkylegs thanks for that. I was also worried about cowboy asbestos abatement outfits, I will give the council a call and see if there is anyone they can recommend. Thanks zombiously, good tim.

So pissed off - the purchase itself took months and months, DD started preschool near new house which means 40 miles of driving every day and I was really hoping to be in by next week so the driving was a thing of the past sad sad sad

narmada Sun 16-Oct-11 22:12:32

good tip I meant, obviously. Duh!

narmada Mon 17-Oct-11 13:09:17

Grrrrrrrrrrrr, central heating engineer (the person who removed the gas fire) came back this morning to fix some snagging and whaddaya know, when I showed him the suspect fire backing, he said 'oh yes, that could be asbestos'. Well, thanks then, for ripping it off the wall, taking absolutely no precautions. He's Gas Safe registered and everything - you would think that they might think to look for that sort of thing, surely??!!

He was also very whatever about the need for possible cleanup works if it does turn out to be asbestos.

Honestly, I can't believe how slack some tradespeople are about industrial risks - it's their health that's going to suffer most in the long run potentially, isn't it??!

Anyhoo, asbestos surveyor coming out tomorrow to take a look and tell us if the place needs hosing down (or whatever they do). No doubt it will be £££ sad sad

thanks to everyone who replied to my thread smile.

Pendeen Mon 17-Oct-11 13:27:54

Asbestos has been used in over 3,000 building products including flooring, backing paper, separating layers and all manner of other uses.

The backing plate in the fireplace is almost certainly AIB (asbestos insulating board).


narmada Mon 17-Oct-11 13:46:04

Thanks Pendeen. that's pretty much what I'd concluded about the fireplace sad
and I gather AIB is not the sort of thing you should be tearing off walls without knowing what you're doing.

I know we as the property owners shoudl know what's in our house but I had no way of knowing that it was there before the gas fitter hacked it off hte wall. I can't believe they weren't on their guard for it working on what I know is a very obvious place to find asbestos. My kids have been in the house and everything, if only briefly and under instruction not to touch anything. I am angry.

narmada Mon 17-Oct-11 13:50:07

And pendeen not sure where you are based but if you are anywhere near sw london and know of non-cowboy asbestos abatement firms I would be forever in your debt smile

Pendeen Mon 17-Oct-11 13:57:50


I can imagine - I would be furious as well.

HSE offer free asbestos awareness training for any tradesmen so there's no excuse. In my opinion, for his criminally stupid actions the gas fitter should be taken out and shot...

Sory, I'm nowhere near London (west Cornwall) but you can see a list of HSE registered asbestos removal firms here:

HSE Licence Holders

Good luck. smile

ChippingInToThePumpkinLantern Mon 17-Oct-11 14:07:53

I had this problem last year (well, I still do actually!!). I lifted the carpet in the bedroom and there are tiles there that 'could' have asbestos in them. I have lots of artex ceiling (lovely hmm) that 'could' have asbestos in them. I have a panel in the kitchen that 'could' be asbestos, I have stuff in the loft that 'could' be asbestos etc etc etc I spent ages looking into it and got more and more confused. Most people advised just covering it all over - but I'm not keen.

I couldn't find anyone who wasn't very expensive to come and have a look, so I haven't done anything about it yet. I did also contemplate getting one of those send away kits - but it seemed an awful lot of faffing about.

I'll be very interested to see how you get on.

It does seem very irresponsible of the gas heater removal bloke angry

narmada Mon 17-Oct-11 14:28:49

I was kind of blaming myself and my naivety, Pendeen, so thanks for your words, they've cheered me up a bit.

It does make me wonder how many people out there who've done/ had people in to do home improvements are merrily sitting in clouds of asbestos dust without realising it. r

Chippingin apparently it is usually best left in place (unless it's something like blue asbestos) if there's no damage to it and if you're not going to disturb it by drilling, sawing, sanding etc.

narmada Wed 19-Oct-11 20:33:34

Well, thank goodness, the fireplace liner thing turned out not to be made of brown asbestos board in the end - it was some more modern material so must have been replaced when the old boy who lived there previously replaced the gas fire in 2005. Phew!

Some of the vinyl stuff upstairs is backed with some asbestos-containing material according to the lab, but I have managed to find an HSE licensed contractor to come in and clear it up on Sunday for £350 quid. We could do it o urselves but would need spraying down and we just don't have the time to do it properly.

Big relief.

ChippingInToThePumpkinLantern Thu 20-Oct-11 13:01:25

Narmada - £350 is a small price to pay to have the manual work done if it's anything like my friends was - it took them ages and was an awful job in the end, but that aside - it's worth it not to have any risk of inhaling the asbestos.

Have you had anything else tested?

I'm not sure what to do about the ceilings. In the hallway it's very chunky and can't be plastered over (it would take at least 3 coats and the plasterer is worried it would be too heavy and all just come down!! arghhh). The sitting room is a more recent job and could be plastered over, but not the kitchen. Sigh - it's all such a pain in the bum.

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