Trained Eye


Asbestos Flooring


I have identified that I have asbestos in my vinyl sheet flooring. Can I seal the floor with a liquid type waterproof sealant prior to covering the vinyl with a second vinyl sheet? There are parts of the old vinyl flooring that will not be covered by the new vinyl. There is a built-in breakfast nook, which was placed over the old vinyl. The nook can be partially removed so I can access the old vinyl. Can I then seal the vinyl? What type do you recommend?


In responding to your question, I find myself wanting to answer another question that should have precluded yours. Do I need to seal the old vinyl flooring to prevent asbestos from entering my home prior to installing the new flooring over top? The answer to that question would likely be, no! In that case, you would not have to try and find a sealer that was suitable for your purpose.

It is true that may floor coverings, including older vinyl-asbestos floor tiles and more modern rolled vinyl flooring contain asbestos. In the older tiles, it is a concern when removing the old tiles, as the fibres can become loose, or friable, and airborne when the tiles are damaged. Precautions should be taken to ensure workers are wearing suitable breathing protection when the tiles are removed. The area should be well cleaned after removal before installing the new flooring. The old tiles should never be sanded, but otherwise it is unlikely that a substantial amount of asbestos will become airborne as they are well embedded in the vinyl of the tile. Rolled vinyl flooring is somewhat different.

Much of the asbestos fibre found in vinyl sheet flooring is embedded in the backing. It helps to bind the backing, make it more durable and resistant to heat and moisture. Once installed, the backing is essentially sealed to the subfloor with adhesive, ensuring that no fibres become friable and airborne. If your were to remove the old flooring prior to installation of the new material then similar breathing protection and precautions would be necessary. If you are covering up the old flooring with a complete layer of new flooring, you are adding one more layer that will prevent any release of asbestos fibres in the living space of the home. There should be nothing to worry about.

A sealer for the old flooring is unnecessary, no matter what your concerns, if the new flooring is properly installed. To properly install new vinyl sheet flooring over old material, most manufacturers recommend installing a new subfloor, first. This subfloor is normally a thin layer of moisture resistant particleboard, often referred to by the brand name Proboard, Plywood, or special Orientated Strandboard (OSB) designed for this use. This new subfloor may be nailed or stapled over top of the old flooring and will ensure a smooth and even surface for gluing down the new flooring. This will prevent damage to the new flooring due to damaged areas of the old vinyl. It will also eliminate possible telegraphing of the pattern from the old sheathing through the new flooring.

Many building products in our homes contain Asbestos. Recently, attention has peaked due to the discovery of Asbestos in the insulation material Zonolite and serious health problems experienced by unfortunate individuals with long-term exposure. We should be cautious not to overreact when new potential health concerns such as these arise, but we should strive to become well informed of the issues. You are to be commended for seeking advice on your flooring concerns, but don’t jump the gun. More harm may be done by trying to eliminate the Asbestos from our homes than by leaving it undisturbed.

To do a very brief update, Asbestos is only a potential health hazard when the fibres become friable, allowing them to become airborne and breathed in by occupants of the home they are in. Many materials, such as the flooring at issue, have the fibres well embedded in the components and not considered to be friable. There are also different types of Asbestos fibres, with some being considered more dangerous that others. If Asbestos-containing flooring and insulation within our homes is left undisturbed or encapsulated (sealed), it should be harmless. If it is disturbed or damaged due to renovations or other household activities, then there is some risk of exposure.

To seek more information and advice on how to deal with Asbestos containing material in your home, check out the Canadian Mortgage & Housing (CMHC) website at or the Health Canada website at




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