Wet floor caution sign on floor

A reader writes: "I have a small floor finishing business and have been invited to bid on stripping and sealing some rooms with asbestos tile. How much should I charge?"

Based on our conversation, you do not have any experience with VAT (vinyl asbestos tile) and may not be fully aware of the risks involved in working with this type floor. We have determined that the nine-inch square tiles were installed in the late 1960's and have been noted as containing asbestos. According to your inspection, the floors do not have any cracks or missing tiles due to multiple layers of finish being applied over the years which has resulting in yellowing. Since you know how to price a scrub/recoat job, you already know the labor, supplies and equipment necessary to scrub the floor and apply finish, but that does not capture the risks involved in this job.

My first recommendation is that you go to www.epa.gov and/or www.osha.gov for clear guidance on how to deal with asbestos containing materials (ACM) as well as PACM (presumed asbestos containing materials) since there are not only health risks for you and your crew but also potential liability risks. The following suggestions are intended to get you started in the right direction but does not cover all the requirements that are listed at the EPA and OSHA sites.

  1. Make sure you fully understand the risks involved in dealing with this type flooring which has been linked to mesothelioma cases which oftentimes do not appear until years after the exposure to the asbestos fibers.
  2. Be sure to follow directions closely on the type pads and PPE's (personal protective equipment) to use while keeping the floor wet from start to finish.
  3. Part of the guidelines stress that you CANNOT use any dry methods to scrub/strip the floors since it can generate dust particles that can be breathed in.
  4. Make sure to follow local/federal guidance on disposal of any slurry, used pads, mops and even clothing that will be contaminated during the process.

Due to your inexperience in this field I encourage you to weigh the risks before proceeding with this job.

Your comments and questions are important. 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 CTCG50@comcast.net.