Asphalt tile (or Vinyl Asbestos Tile aka VAT) is named for the binder that holds the tile together.  It was originally manufactured using material taken from natural deposits of pitch.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Asphaltum (a by- product of petroleum manufacturing) was substituted as the binder.  One of the first resilient floorings made in volume was asphalt tile.  This flooring was first produced shortly after the turn of the century and was considered very modern due to the colors and flexibility along with low cost when compared to many other floors.  Asphalt tiles gained wide popularity because they were inexpensive and durable.  When cared for properly, asphalt tile floors can last 15 years or longer.

Asphalt tile is made up of asbestos fibers, lime rock, inert fillers, and colored pigments, with an asphalt or resin binder.  It is usually installed in nine-inch squares, which helps to identify it as PACM (Potential Asbestos Containing Materials). CAUTION: Never dry buff or strip asphalt tile due health risk.  Refer to OSHA guidelines for proper maintenance.

As with most floors, regular daily maintenance is required.  Without daily care, the floor tends to look dull very quickly, and can sustain permanent damage if not maintained.  A water based treatment is the safest, since oil may damage the asphalt tile.  Mopping can dull the finish, requiring rebuffing or new finish application.  Never use a solvent or paste wax, which can harm the tile.  Never use oil or solvents such as naphtha, gasoline, turpentine, or carbon tetrachloride for cleaning asphalt tile.  Any chemical that is used on the floor should be tested on a small out-of-the-way patch of flooring first.  Asphalt is a rather porous floor that benefits from sealing prior to applying the finish.  

All vinyl/asphalt tile flooring installed prior to 1981 is presumed to have asbestos unless proven otherwise.  The following requirements and prohibitions apply to maintenance of such flooring: 

No sanding of this flooring material; Wet floor stripping must use low abrasion pads at speeds below 300 rpm; Dry buffing may be performed at any speed as long as the flooring has sufficient finish to prevent the pad from contacting the flooring material.

Consider using the Stop Light System to document how many coats (preferable 7-10) on floor tiles that are unbroken and not exposed to the air.

Recommend to the property manager that the tiles either be removed properly or covered over with another floor product such as tiles or carpet with a barrier underneath.  

Require workers exposed in any way to dispose of contaminated clothing including shoes.

Through asbestos remediation, VAT is becoming a thing of the past, however there is still plenty of it in buildings so know what it looks like and how to safely maintain it.  Go to for specific details on maintenance.  Your comments and questions are always welcome.  I hope to hear from you soon.  Until then, keep it clean…..


Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678.314.2171 or