How to Cover Asbestos Floor Tiles

By Hunker Editor

Asbestos tiles can pose a major health risk in homes that were built before 1980. Any damage to the tiles can release asbestos fibers into the air where they can be inhaled and cause serious illness. However, removing those asbestos floor tiles can be even more dangerous. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency recommend covering asbestos floor tiles rather than removing them. One way to safely cover an old asbestos tile floor is with self-adhesive floor tiles.

Asbestos floor tiles used in public buildings.

Step 1

Measure the length and width of the room. Multiply the length by the width to find the area of the room in square footage. Example: If the room is 8 feet wide and 10 feet long, multiply 8 by 10. The room has an area of 80 square feet.

Calculating Square Footage

Step 2

Add any irregular sized areas of your room to your calculations as shown in Figure 1. This will give you total amount of square feet that your floor tiles need to cover.

Step 3

Check tile cartons to find square footage of tiles per carton. Divide total square footage calculated in the last step by the square feet of tiles in each carton to find out how many cartons of floor tiles you need to cover the floor area. Add 10% for waste and for future replacements. Example: Each carton cover 15 square feet of floor. Your total square footage needed is 159 square feet. Add 10% to 159 to get the total amount of floor tiles needed. In this case, you need 175 square feet of tiles. Divide 175 by 15, the number of square feet that each carton covers, for a total of 11.66, so you'll need 12 cartons of floor tiles to cover the floor and have tiles left over for future repairs and replacements.

Step 4

Clean the floor with a de-greasing cleaner to prepare the floors to accept the adhesive on the new tiles.

Step 5

Remove all trim from around the edges of the floor, working carefully if you intend to reuse the existing trim.

Step 6

Examine the floor for any damage, loose tiles or uneven areas. If there are none, proceed to the next section. If there are uneven areas or minor damage, go to Step 4. If the damage is more significant, go to Section 3.

Step 7

Apply a thin layer of embossing leveler with a straight-edge trowel. Allow leveler to cure and dry completely before continuing.

Step 8

Nail down any loose tiles with 6d nails. Use a nail set to set nail heads below the surface of the floor.

Step 9

Fill nail holes and any cracks with filler. Smooth even with floor surface.

Step 10

Lay plywood panels over prepared tile floor. Fasten in place using the fasteners and fastening pattern recommended by the plywood manufacturer and new tile manufacturer. Leave 1/32" gap between panels, and stagger the seams to avoid creating a "line" under the new floor.

Step 11

Apply a thin coat of floor leveler over plywood seams. Allow to dry and sand smooth. Clean up any dust with tack cloth.

Step 12

Find the center of two opposite walls in the room by measuring.

Step 13

Chalk a string and stretch it from one point to the other across the floor. Give the string a sharp snap to mark the floor with a chalk line.

Step 14

Repeat the two steps above to lay out a second line perpendicular to the first. The two lines will cross at the center of the room.

Step 15

Beginning at the center point of your line, lay a row of tiles in each direction to the wall. Do not peel off the adhesive or stick the tiles in place. These rows are test rows to work out your layout. Ideally, you want to keep the number of tiles you'll have to cut to a minimum and to make sure that the tiles set against the wall are at least half the tile's width.

Step 16

Adjust your tile layout as needed to minimize tile waste. Re-chalk the center line to your new adjustment if necessary.

Step 17

Start laying the tiles at the center of the floor and work outward, stopping when there is no room for a whole tile.

Step 18

Every few feet, bond the tiles securely to the floor beneath by rolling over the new tiles with a heavy rolling pin.

Step 19

Lay a piece of plywood on the new tiles if you must kneel on them to place more tiles.

Step 20

Cut the tiles for the last rows one at a time and lay them in place.

Step 21

Use a cardboard template and a craft knife to cut irregularly shaped pieces of tile around moldings or pipes.

Step 22

Replace floor trim and/or moldings around the walls.

Step 23

Admire your new floor from a distance until you can walk on it safely. The manufacturer's directions will tell you how long you have to wait.