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“Flip or Flop” Flops with a Flippant Attitude on Asbestos

January 22nd, 2016 Sears Homes 7 comments

“Flip or Flop” (HGTV) really flopped on “Breaking Up” (Episode 407), which featured the remodel of a modest 1950s cottage in Torrance, California. The flooring throughout the small home, from stem to stern, was the original 9-inch floor tiles.

Nine-inch floor tiles + 1950s = this possibility: Asbestos.

Had the old tiles been left undisturbed, this would not have been an issue. They were not left undisturbed. They were picked at, busted up, chiseled, chipped and sawed through.

Asbestos, a naturally occuring fibrous mineral, was used in flooring materials from the 1920s to the 1980s (and maybe even beyond). In addition to its fire-resistant qualities, it also made flooring more durable, and substantially increased its longevity. In rooms with minimal foot traffic (such as basements), you can still find 1950s and 60s 9-inch tiles that retain much of their original luster and beauty. Encapsulation on this type of asbestos flooring is easy: Padding and carpet.

Asbestos is not good for your lungs, but it was not without merit in early 20th Century building materials. And I am the last one who’d suggest that we should all run around in a panic about asbestos, however…

It’d be prudent to show some respect for this mineral that can wreak such havoc with human lungs.

Throughout the 30-minute Flip or Flop program, not one word was spoken about testing the flooring for asbestos.

Not one word.

This is Torrance, California, which has two asbestos-testing labs less than three miles away. For a fee (less than $50), labs will examine a piece of floor tile using “polarized light microscopy” or PLM. Results are usually returned in less than 24 hours.

Perhaps the tiles had been tested off camera and it was determined that no asbestos was present in the tile or the mastic. If so, that should have at least been mentioned and discussed - if only in passing.

It was reckless and irresponsible to show this flooring without providing any mention at all about the age (1950s) and the size (9-inch tiles) and the black mastic being among the MOST likely flooring materials to have asbestos content. That means that this material should have been treated as PACM (Presumed Asbestos Containing Material).

Shame on HGTV.

To learn more about responsibly (and economically) mitigating asbestos risks in your own home, click here.

Here’s a good site that explains why you shouldn’t freak out when you find asbetsos.

And my favorite book on the topic is this one - “Haunted Housing: How Toxic Scare Stories are Spooking the Public Out of House and Home.”

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Episode #407 featured this small cottage in Torrance.

Episode #407 featured this small cottage in Torrance.

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Hosts

In this episode, the shows' hosts (Tarek and Christina) talked with their contractor (Israel) at length about the best way to correct the flooring problems, and yet there was no mention of the potential health risks.

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The 1950s floors

Throughout the house, the original 1950s 9-inch floor tiles were still in place.

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In

Intact floor tiles present no health hazard. It's when they become "friable" that the problem arises. For testing, you only need a small piece (1-inch), and results are usually returned in less than 24 hours.

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I literally winced when I saw an expert picking at the edges of the tiles.

I literally winced when I saw an "expert" picking at the edges of the tiles. This is a beautiful example of what you do NOT want to do with these tiles. In the 1950s and 60s, asbestos-based mastic was also prevalent, so it's not just the tiles that present a health risk, but the glue as well.

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This

Yes, he's sawing through the tiles and mastic. If you look to the right of this image, you can see it fades out a bit. That's a cloud of dust behind these two guys. And you see they're all wearing nuisance masks? If this was asbestos, those masks would be wholly inadequate. The tiny asbestos fibers pass right through this type of face mask.

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Look closely, and youll see that the mastic under the tile appears to be black .

The mastic under the tile appears to be black, which is indicative of asbestos content. When testing these materials, both the tile and the glue would be suspect.

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Another great shot

And when not using saws, they used jackhammers and sledge hammers.

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We

In the 1950s and 60s, these tiles were all the rage.

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The

It was the infusion of "Vitamin A" that gave these tiles their strength and longevity.

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Kitch

This floor that looked so snappy in 1959 would be a homeowner's headache today.

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This graphic

This graphic from Patagon Inspects (www.patagoninspects.com) shows that the mid-century flooring material is more likely to be at risk of containing asbestos.

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Not very responsible reporting.

"Flip or Flop" gets an "F" for being so flippant.

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To learn more about responsibly (and economically) mitigating asbestos risks in your own home, click here.

Here’s a good site that explains why you shouldn’t freak out when you find asbetsos.

And my favorite book on the topic is this one - Haunted Housing: How Toxic Scare Stories are Spooking the Public Out of House and Home.

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