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Hi all,

Hoping someone has experience or wisdom to share, because as you'd guess the Google searches on this topic are equal parts scary and inconclusive. We were looking into having our full bath remodeled, with the square peach/pink tiles taken off the walls and the little tiny tiles taken off the floor of our 1950-built house. 

Our contractor determined that he'd need to jackhammer the old tile out, both off the floors and walls, since there's apparently cement behind there. The plan was for him to start tackling that next week. 

But at Lowes today, as we were trying to pick out replacement flooring and wall tile, a salesman told us that jackhammering anything in the bathroom is a terrible idea, because our older home is likely to have asbestos in the tile, the adhesive holding the tile on, or the backing, or everywhere. He said Lowes "never does this," though of course independent contractors can. 

Our contractor, when I called him, said he's not concerned about it and has done this plenty of times in houses of similar age. But I was wondering if anyone here has had any issues like this -- or, better yet -- has removed the old wall and floor tile without incident. 

Thanks for sharing any insight.

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I remodeled a bathroom in my 1930's house with a nasty pink shower tile.  I believe the tile was from the 80's though and I wasn't concerned about asbestos with it.  I used a pry bar and hammer to remove it, and I broke very few.

However, I also removed some old acoustic ceiling tile that I was very concerned about, so I decided to get it tested.  I sprayed down the tile with water, scraped a small piece off into a plastic bag and took it to microair for testing.  They were the most affordable place I could find in Indy.  I believe I paid less than $20 for testing.  Maybe you could break off a piece of tile and adhesive from somewhere and get it tested so you know.  Mine turned out to be none asbestos so I did not have to worry.  Good luck and be safe!

Edit: Found pricing as of 2012 from an old email:

3 Day - $10.00

2 Day - $11.00

24 Hr. - $12.50

Same Day - $18.00


Did the guy at Lowes mean ceramic tile or the multi-colored linoleum/rubber tiles popular in '50s rec rooms floors? I've remodeled many bathrooms and have *never* heard of concerns about asbestos in ceramic tile.  On the other hand, I've also never heard of jackhammering away tile - the setting bed under it is unlikely to be so thick that it can't be removed with a pry bar.  

The asbestos in those pliable rubber/lino-type tiles is not highly dangerous, but does exist. The thing with asbestos is it's only dangerous in HIGH doses for fairly extended periods.  If your contractor is doing the work and you don't stand in the bathroom rubbing the dust all over your naked body while inhaling deeply I don't really think you have anything to worry about...

Seriously, I think the Lowes guy didn't know what he was talking about.  Asbestos or not, you *should* ask the contractor to seal the room and all duct vents connected to the room, including putting a (wet) towel under the door crack, during the demo to keep the dust from getting into every part of your house.

Thanks, guys, for your responses. I actually ended up taking samples from behind the wall tile and the floor tile and mailing them to Western Analytical for testing. (Thanks, Ryan, for info on a closer lab!)

The floor tile came back clean, but the wall tile adhesive was determined to have 10% Chrysotile content. This was pretty disappointing to us, but the contractor had a novel workaround in mind when I shared the news with him: "If it's just the adhesive holding the tile to the wallboard, why don't we just pull out the wallboard?" This struck me as a (potentially) decent solution, and overall he sort of echoed your comments, Donna: He said he'll wear a respirator and block off the room, and isn't overly concerned about the risk.  

So, for now, tentatively, but with the consternation you'd expect, we're moving forward. He's coming in the morning to make sure the wallboard-removal plan can work, though I'm anxious because I can't imagine he won't break at least *some* tiles in the process. 

This reminds me of the hubbub over radon levels when we bought the house last year! And then the neighbor who came over, pointed to the running exhaust fan on the system we eventually decided to have the seller get installed, and said "I'd shut that off and save the electricity. The risk is overrated anyway, and the main safeguard is that plastic floor they put down in the crawlspace already." But that's another conversation…  

My understanding with asbestos is that if you work in a factory that has it floating visibly in the air for full-day shifts for several weeks, your risk of lung damage/cancer is *very* high.  But one day of exposure to some dust is a minimal risk.  Have the contractor keep a spray bottle of soapy water handy to spray down anything that gets exposed and bag the demo materials in plastic bags twist tied closed.

Don't ask him where/how he's disposing of it, though - in my old state of Pennsylvania it couldn't go out with regular trash; it had to be called in as a hazardous material pickup. Virtually no contractor I knew abided by this rule...

Thanks for the reassurance, Donna. 

Still, I think we're going to hold off and gradually work up our nerve to tackle this with even the minimal risk -- this contractor is good at lots of things, and we think for now we'd rather have him take on a couple other projects *without* the potential to kill us! 

But what you said is still really nice to know for the future, and even just for myself -- I realized in retrospect that I naturally exposed myself to some asbestos while taking the sample last weekend. 


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