Can You Skim Coat Over Asbestos Tiles? (Explained)

If the tiles in your home were installed in the 1980s or 70s, there is a good chance they contain asbestos. A few years ago, asbestos was the go-to material for construction projects. However, it was banned worldwide in the 90s when scientists discovered its health risks.

For most homeowners, the thought of living with asbestos tiles is quite scary, mainly due to its health dangers.

If you suspect you have asbestos tiles, the best solution is to hire a professional construction company to safely remove this hazard from your home.

The rates for professional asbestos removal are often pretty steep, so many people consider alternatives such as a skim coat. Applying a skim coat covers the asbestos tiles and prevents the asbestos dust from floating into the air.

Asbestos tiles
“Asbestos tiles” by Mathieu Plourde, Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Can Skim Coat Seal Asbestos Tile?

A Skim coat is a thin layer of joint compound mainly used to smooth textured walls or repair damaged drywall. It is a cost-effective home improvement solution widely used to create a smoother finish.

Tiles aren’t a suitable substrate for the skim coat. However, when dealing with asbestos tiles, some techniques can be used to promote adhesion.

Skim coating is one of the quickest and most affordable methods of sealing asbestos tiles. Even though removing them is ideal, if you are worried about asbestos dust impacting your health.

A layer of skim coat should do the trick. Before starting such a project, experts also recommend taping seams to ensure proper sealing of the asbestos tile.

How to Skim Coat Over Asbestos Tile?

Skim coating over asbestos tiles is a relatively straightforward process. But it’s a bit tiresome to work in a large area. Here is how you can skim coat over asbestos tile;

Step 1 – Clean the Tiles

Considering that tiles, whether asbestos or not, are not a suitable substrate for a skim coat. You need to be thorough in every step.

Begin by washing the tiles with a mop. Do not scrub them as you may agitate the asbestos. Give the tiles enough room to dry before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2 – Apply a Bonding Primer

If you were skim-coating over drywall, the primer wouldn’t be needed because the adhesion would occur automatically.

However, asbestos tiles have a smooth surface that may impact the level of adhesion between the tiles and the skim coat.

There is a wide range of bonding primers you can use. Apply it evenly, ensuring that all the asbestos tiles are covered from wall to wall.

Step 3 – Mix the Skim Coat

For the skim coat product, you can use joint compound or something much more robust such as self-leveling concrete. Whichever skim coat product you settle on, ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Step 4 – Lay Down the First Coat

Depending on the skim coat you are using, apply the first coat, ensuring that the first coat is consistent.

If you are working on a big area, divide it into smaller sections. Or, you can work with an extra set of hands. A trowel is an excellent tool for smoothing down the first skim coat.

Step 5 – Apply the Second Coat

You can apply a second coat to ensure the asbestos tiles are adequately sealed. This isn’t necessary if you use a skim coat like self-leveling concrete.

Once it cures, your asbestos tiles will be sealed by the skim coat, and you can lead a comfortable life in that home knowing that you are safe.

The skim coat has to be inspected regularly because cracks can act as exit points of asbestos.

Why is Testing Tiles for Asbestos Important Before Skim Coating?

Just because your home was built in the 1980s doesn’t mean the tiles contain asbestos. If the tiles are asbestos-free, you won’t need to apply a skim coat. Before you proceed with anything else, you must test for asbestos in the tiles.

There are two ways you can do this. You can buy an asbestos test kit online and test the tiles yourself. Alternatively, you can send a sample to a lab for an asbestos test. The latter option is more accurate.

You can only be assured that the tiles contain asbestos through a test. Making assumptions can significantly waste time, money, and resources.

What are the Benefits of Skim Coating Asbestos Tiles?

The role of skim coating on asbestos tiles is to create a sealing layer over this harmful material. A Skim coat acts as a DIY encapsulation of asbestos tiles. It’s a popular method because it’s quick and cost-effective.

It’s important to note that skim coating over asbestos tiles is a temporary solution. There will still be asbestos in your home unless it’s removed.

Are Asbestos Tiles Dangerous?

There are a lot of conflicting opinions online about the dangers of asbestos tiles in homes. However, indeed, asbestos won’t harm you if it’s not damaged or cracked, as in the case with tiles. Not many homeowners are into the idea of having such material on their premises.

However, you will be glad to know that asbestos is available in small ingredients of not more than 10% in tiles.

Also, asbestos doesn’t just get suspended in the air on its own. The tile must be broken, chipped, or damaged. In case you have damaged tiles, stay away from them.

A skim coat adds an extra layer of protection over the asbestos tile. It’s an excellent alternative for anyone who doesn’t have the money for professional asbestos tile removal.

Having asbestos in your home is dangerous and can lead to serious health issues.

Will a Skim Coat Add More Weight to Asbestos Tiles?

As you consider using a skim coat to seal asbestos tiles, it’s imperative that you also evaluate the effects of this new product on your home’s structure.

A layer of skim coat is often too light. Therefore, the weight added will not significantly impact the asbestos tiles.

How Long Will Skim Coat Last on Asbestos Tiles?

The lifespan of a skim coat ranges from ten to twenty-five years. If correctly applied, the skim coat can last for decades.

But the problem is that tiles aren’t a suitable substrate for the skim coat. Therefore, it won’t last that long. As the skim coat acts as a sealant for the asbestos tiles, you must develop a long-term solution to this problem.

If there are a lot of vibrations experienced in your home, the skim coat may crack and leave the asbestos tiles exposed. This is something you have to pay keen attention to.

Should You Skim Coat Over a Deteriorating Asbestos Tile Floor?

A deteriorating asbestos tile floor is pretty dangerous. If possible, the occupants of that homestead should be vacated as a professional company removes it.

On a deteriorating asbestos floor, I wouldn’t advise you to apply a skim coat. That’s because there will be asbestos already suspended in the air. Only a professional company can contain such a disaster.

Professional skim coating

Skim Coat Vs. Removing Asbestos Tiles

Removing asbestos tiles is messy, tiresome, costly, and time-consuming. It’s also risky because of the side effects associated with asbestos.

This is why skim coating over asbestos tiles is often the go-to method for people interested in protecting themselves from asbestos tiles.

Both options have their pros and cons. It’s why you need to compare the two and determine which will deliver more results.

From a professional point of view, removing asbestos tiles is the best method of dealing with this problem. It may take a lot of time and money, but you will have eradicated this danger from your home once and for all.

The Skim coat only seals the asbestos tiles. The danger remains lurking behind the scenes. Also, you must understand that tiles are not a good surface to skim on.

They are pretty smooth, and you will have to use a primer to promote adhesion and give the skim coat something to grab onto.

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