Removal of Resilient Floor Tile, Sheet Flooring and Cutback Adhesive

Resilient Floor Covering Institute’s Recommended Work Practices

Instructions for removing resilient floor tile, sheet flooring and asphaltic “cutback” adhesives are not contained in our installation documentation. Refer to the current Resilient Floor Covering Institute’s (RFCI) publication “Recommended Work Practices for Removal of Resilient Floor Coverings,” that addresses each in-place product type: resilient floor tile, resilient sheet flooring and asphalt “cutback” adhesive, or other adhesive. See current edition of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) publication “Recommended Work Practices for Removal of Resilient Floor Coverings” for instructions on removing all resilient floor covering structures at

Regulations Affecting the Removal of Existing Resilient Floor Coverings

  • Various federal, state and local government agencies have regulations governing the removal of in-place asbestos-containing material. If you contemplate the removal of a resilient floor covering structure that contains (or is presumed to contain) asbestos, you must review and comply with all applicable regulations.
  • Vinyl-asbestos tile and asphalt tile contain asbestos fibers, as did some asphaltic “cutback” adhesives and the backings of many sheet vinyl floorings and lining felts. The presence of the asbestos in these products is not readily identifiable.
  • Unless positively certain that the product is a non-asbestos containing material, you must presume it contains asbestos. Regulations may require that the material be tested to determine asbestos content.
  • The Recommended Work Practices are a defined set of instructions addressed to the task of removing all resilient floor covering structures whether or not they contain asbestos. When the Recommended Work Practices are followed, resilient floor covering structures that contain (or are presumed to contain) asbestos can be removed in a manner that will comply with the current Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Occupational Exposure to Asbestos Standard’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL).
  • Numerous products, devices and techniques have been introduced and/or recommended for the removal of resilient floor covering structures. AHF Products is only able to endorse the RFCI Recommended Work Practices. Before you use any other practice for the removal of an in-place resilient floor covering product that contains (or is presumed to contain) asbestos, you should determine if the practice meets all applicable regulations or standards including those of OSHA for occupational exposure to asbestos and that the material will be compatible with the new floor covering to be installed.
  • See federal and location regulations on lead-based paint testing, safety precautions and notification requirements.
These existing in-place products may contain asbestos fibers and/or crystalline silica. Avoid creating dust. Inhalation of such dust is a cancer and respiratory tract hazard. Smoking by individuals exposed to asbestos fibers greatly increases the risk of serious bodily harm. Unless positively certain that the existing in-place product is a non-asbestos-containing material, you must presume it contains asbestos. Regulations may require that the material be tested to determine asbestos content and may govern removal and disposal of material. See current edition of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) publication Recommended Work Practices for Removal of Resilient Floor Coverings for instructions on removing all resilient floor covering structures or contact your retailer or AHF Products at 866 243 2726.

OSHA Requirements

In August 1994, OSHA published revised asbestos standards that affect some of the operations referred to in the Resilient Floor Covering Institute’s (RFCI) publication “Recommended Work Practices for Removal of Resilient Floor Coverings.” OSHA has determined that “intact” resilient floor covering materials can be removed under a “negative exposure assessment” in compliance with the revised standard by appropriately trained workers using the Recommended Work Practices.

  • Intact” is defined to mean that the asbestos-containing material has not crumbled, been pulverized, or otherwise deteriorated so that it is no longer likely to be bound with its matrix. The incidental breakage of flooring materials, or slicing of sheet vinyl floor covering with a sharp edged instrument, during removal operations conducted in accordance with the Recommended Work Practices does not mean that the materials are not removed in an “intact” condition. OSHA has recognized that resilient floor covering materials are considered nonfriable if intact and generally do not emit airborne fibers unless subjected to sanding, sawing, or other aggressive operations.
  • Installers of resilient floor covering materials that plan to use the Recommended Work Practices to remove intact and nonfriable asbestos-containing flooring materials are required to complete an 8-hour training program.
  • Employers must designate a “competent person” with 4 hours of additional training to be responsible for the health and safety of the workers at the floor removal job site.
  • OSHA has determined that the competent person can make a “negative exposure assessment,” based on the data in the OSHA asbestos rulemaking record (including data from the Environ Reports) showing that use of the Recommended Work Practices during removal of intact flooring material consistently results in worker exposures below the levels permitted in the OSHA standards.
  • Where other workers or persons may have access to the flooring removal worksite, the employer must establish a demarcated “regulated area” (e.g. using barrier tape or closing door to enclose a work area) and post warning signs.
  • Workers who engage in the removal of asbestos-containing flooring materials for more than 30 days per year (one hour or more per day) must receive medical surveillance.
  • Employers are required to maintain training, workplace, and medical records.

Removal of the Existing Resilient Floor is the Final Alternative

AHF Products recommends that whenever possible you leave the existing resilient floor covering in place and go over the top with your new floor.

Alternatives to the removal of an unsuitable resilient floor over approved subfloors are:

  1. Installing directly over a single layer of fully adhered, existing resilient flooring.
  2. Filling the embossing of the existing resilient flooring with S-194 Patch: Underlayment & Embossing Leveler mixed with S-195 Underlayment Additive before installation (residential only).
  3. Covering existing resilient flooring on an approved suspended wood subfloor with a recommended wood underlayment.

Removal of Asphaltic Adhesive

Many asphaltic adhesive removal products employ solvents which leave a residue within the subfloor that can affect the new adhesive or can bleed through the new floor covering. Our warranties on the new floor covering materials will not cover instances where existing subfloor conditions damage our products or affect their installation.

Replacing Damaged Areas

Prior to removing an existing floor following the RFCI Recommended Work Practices for Removal of Resilient Floor Coverings (unless state or local law requires other measures), if there are visible indications of mold or mildew or the presence of a strong musty odor in the area where resilient flooring is to be removed or installed, the source of the problem should be identified and corrected before proceeding with the flooring work. In virtually all situations, if there is a mold issue, there is or has been an excessive moisture issue. Visible signs of mold or mildew (such as discoloration) can indicate the presence of mold or mildew on the subfloor, on the underlayment, on the back of the flooring, and sometimes even on the floor surface. If mold or mildew is discovered during the removal or installation of resilient flooring, all flooring work should stop until the mold or mildew problem (and any related moisture problem) has been addressed.

In areas where flooding has occurred, it is recommended that damaged flooring be removed following the RFCI Recommended Work Practices for Removal of Resilient Floor Covering (unless state or local law requires other measures). Any underlayment and subfloor should be allowed to thoroughly dry and, if necessary, cleaned, disinfected, and otherwise remediated consistent with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines referenced below. Any structural damage or signs of mold or mildew must be corrected before reinstalling resilient flooring. This may include for example replacement of the underlayment and/or subfloor.

For water damage caused by leaking fixtures, the source of the moisture leak must be located and corrected. Any structural damage must be repaired and any signs of mold or residual moisture must be addressed before replacing the resilient flooring in the affected area.

To deal with mold and mildew issues, you should refer to the EPA guidelines that address mold and mildew. Depending on the mold and mildew condition present, those remediation options range from clean up measures using gloves and biocide to hiring a professional mold and mildew remediation contractor to address the condition. Remediation measures may require structural repairs such as replacing the underlayment and/or subfloor contaminated with mold and mildew as a result of prolonged exposure to moisture.

The EPA mold guidelines are contained in two publications, “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home” (EPA 402-K-02-003) and “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings” (EPA 402-K-01-001). Appendix B of the Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings” publication describes potential health effects from exposure to mold, such as allergic and asthma reactions and irritation to eyes, skin, nose and throat. These publications can be located on EPA’s website at

Updated on May 12, 2023