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Asbestos abatement requires demolition of original wood floors?

July 3, 2013

After my husband pulled up the top layers of vinyl flooring and underlayment, we found a lovely avocado green vinyl/linoleum (not sure which it technically is) attached to the original wood floors in the kitchen. We took samples and had them tested, resulting in 30% asbestos in the flooring and 0% in the mastic.

Someone from the asbestos abatement company met DH at the house this morning, looked around and said it would cost $1700 for the abatement, cleanup and air quality test. Unfortunately, they also pull up the original wood floors during the abatement, leaving just the subfloor. He said for them to keep the floors, it would take 3 days vs. 1 day, thus tripling our cost.

Of course, I would love to keep the original wood floors but I'm not sure if it's really worth the additional cost. The kitchen area itself is approximately 175-190 sqft so it's not a ginormous area. We have to clear out the kitchen before they come in or it'll cost more. This includes moving any appliances and base cabinets as well, which we were going to do anyway.

DH is 75% determined to do this himself, taking necessary precautions - disposable coveralls, approved mask, keeping the floor wet as he removes, etc. After he's finished, he would clean up and have an air quality test done, which in and of itself is at least $400.00. Of course, he knows the risks which is why he's on the fence on whether or not to do it himself or let them take care of it.

We are not living in the house so a decision doesn't need to be made today, but we'd like to live in it as soon as possible. Our 4 year old daughter loves it over there, but of course, she can't go back in the house until all of this is taken care of.

It's funny to think of all the flooring that's been ripped up by the carpenters in mine and DH's families and they didn't think twice about it. Not a single case of asbestos related health issues, either. Don't you just love this level of fear we have in modern day society? I don't know that having all this information at my fingertips is always the best thing. ;)

Have you dealt with anything similar in your old house renovations? Did you do the work yourself, taking precautions or did you hire the abatement company to take care of it? If you did it yourself, what steps did you take?

Thank you!

PS. Any idea what type of flooring that is just in case I need to replace it?

Comments (24)

  • millworkman

    Cannot tell from that picture, would need a little closer view.

  • 1917bungalow

    This is as close as I have but it's still a bit difficult to see. The next time I'm over there, I'll wipe it down with a damp cloth and see if I can get a better picture. Thank you for looking!

  • lazy_gardens

    They do NOT need to remove the floors. Why do they claim it is needed?

    You can do it yourself easily ... heat the sheet flooring barely enough to soften it, scrape it off and place it in plastic bags for the trash. As long as you don't SAND the flooring or grind up the bits and snort them like cocaine, the asbestos is safely embedded in the flooring. It's not going to leap out and attack.

    Then remove the mastic with the proper solvent - there is one made by the same people who make soy-gel paint remover. And sometimes, hot water is enough.

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  • weedyacres

    Keep in mind that if they did the 3-day thing, that's, what, an extra $3400? But if you let them do the quick-and-dirty rip-out, what would replacing the floors cost?

    If it were me, I'd DIY it, with the above precautions.

  • paul21

    Lazy has it nailed . Twelve years ago we bought a house built in 1912 which had gone through several owners and many rentals . The kitchen floors were covered with several layers of stuff , the last one being linoleum , the 6 Ft wide stuff with a metal strip joining it to the next sheet . Upstairs was carpet and several layers of underlay over vinyl/asbestos tile . We donned the proper garments , masks and all , broke out the heat gun ,( low power of course ) gently heated the tile and levered them up one by one and disposed of them at the appropriate waste site . Then off with the glue , scraped off the six or more coats of paint , sanded and sealed and voila , the silk purse emerged from the sow's ear ! Oh and we're both still here and healthy . Just remember , slow and easy .. carefully , carefully ! I can't tell what the floors are either from the photos but from what I can see ,they would be stunning , refinished .

  • camlan

    Remember, asbestos is only dangerous when it gets into the air. As long as it is safely in the linoleum, it isn't going to harm anyone.

    So your DH can safely follow the standard procedures and remove it.

    If you are still worried about doing this DIY, get a different abatement company to give you an estimate and find out if they feel removing the entire floor is necessary. Never hurts to get a second opinion.

  • 1917bungalow

    I can guarantee there will be no snorting here! ;)

    Lazy - Thank you for helping ease my mind a bit. How do you recommend heating the vinyl? Will there be harmful fumes? Thank you again!

    Weedy - Those were my thoughts exactly. I even checked out Lumber Liquidators online to price flooring, but, well, I'm not sure what kind it is. lol DH is realllllly leaning toward removal himself. :)

    Paul - That sounds like a mess! Aside from the vinyl conundrum, we only have carpet to deal with. We've already pulled up the carpet in the 2nd bedroom, and part of it off the stairs. We still have to get it out of the living room and the converted attic. The stairs look to be in decent shape but I think the floor upstairs is regular ol' plywood.

    Camlan - Your suggestion of a second opinion is a good one. :)

    I believe the reason they gave for having to rip up the entire floor was because the chemicals they use to loosen the vinyl and/or mastic would ruin the floors anyway...? I wasn't there so I'm having to rely on whatever my husband tells me.

    Just in case you've not had a chance to read my other thread concerning the fabulous sand texture on our plaster walls (ugh), here's a little back story. My husbands mother and father purchased this house 41 years ago from the original owners. There used to be a wall separating the kitchen from the hallway where you see the break in flooring. From what I can gather from the flooring, my inlaws possibly took the wall down.

    The green flooring you see is only in the kitchen side of the wall. There is particle board topped with sheet vinyl stapled down on top of the green in the kitchen and the wood of the hall. On top of THAT is a layer of vinyl tiles my husband put in sometime in the 1990's.

    The particle board and 2 layers of vinyl on top of that are coming up fairly easily. The staples, though, are pain the butt...and knees...and arms...and back. Although the particle board is simply lifting up off the floor, the vinyl, of course, breaks when the board breaks. How do we keep that wet since it's breaking from underneath and not on top?

    This is a shot of where the wall used to be with the hall to the left and the kitchen to the right. We'll have to figure out some way to bridge the gap. Please don't fuss over the ripped and broken vinyl. I just about had a heart attack when my husband showed me his handiwork. He was immediately given a "stop work" order from me and the flooring was tested the very next day. :)

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    It is very hard work, but you can pry the plywood underlayment away from the original floors and remove the whole kit & kaboodle in one sheet. That's what I did on my kitchen floor, because the plywood (masonite in my case I think) was not glued to the wood. The hard part is that with the nails spaced so closely, at the beginning you have no leverage, and lots of resistence, This changes once you get a foot or so into the sheet of underlayment.
    On the plus side, you have an edge to start at, so pry away, protecting the old floor from marring with some thin piece of wood or plywood to pry against. The more crowbars you have, the better. It also helps develop upper body strength!

  • 1917bungalow

    Casey - DH was able to get up some fairly large sections of the floor, but I don't think he was too careful to try and get it up all in one piece. The "plywood" is a brown substance and not very sturdy all its own. I think the vinyl flooring being glued on top is actually keeping it held together better than anything! lol The staples are a nearly perfect 2.5" apart in all directions. When he pried the board up, the staples stayed firmly planted into the hardwoods while the board bent and ultimately broke.

    I'll see if we can't be a bit more diligent from here on out. Thank you!

  • lazy_gardens

    Heat the vinyl with a "heat gun" set to low, or an infra-red paint softener, one of those paint softening things that looks like a hair straightener plate ... even a hair dryer set to high.

    There should be NO fumes. You are just softening it, not melting it or burning it.

    If the mastic is brittle, you might be able to lift large chunks or strips of flooring off with a floor scraper.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Floor scraper

  • 1917bungalow

    Thank you!

  • mrsmortarmixer

    1917bungalow- nothing to add on asbestos.

    The wood flooring looks very similar to the original poplar floors at our house.

  • ideagirl2

    I've heard of people using a wallpaper steamer (normally used to remove wallpaper) to get asbestos-containing mastic off wood floors. You steam a small area to soften it, scrape up the mastic per the usual asbestos-safety procedures, etc. In addition to helping soften it, the steamer moistens the mastic so the asbestos is less likely to get into the air.

    The tricky aspect of this, of course, is that wood floors don't like moisture. But leave them to dry for a few days and they should be just fine.

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    But what will you do if and when you pull up the sheet goods? Pull all of those staples one at a time from the top? They are no doubt embedded in the underlayment. I think that a lot of prying is still in your future.

  • 1917bungalow

    I do agree - lots and lots of prying. One would think the staples would pull up with the underlayment. Noooooo, not these. The staples stay firmly planted into the wood floors while the underlayment pulls right up. Fabulous! ;)

    Hmmmm, poplar wood. I hadn't thought of that! I doubt they're anything spectacular by today's standards since the house itself was built during the second expansion of a cotton mill village in NC. The village very pretty in its day, but parts of it have taken a different turn since the houses became available for public purchase in the 1950's. It is now considered a National Historic District, but I don't think that matters much to most people around here.

    Great idea concerning the wallpaper steamer. Thank you! Fortunately, the mastic for both layers of vinyl tested negative for asbestos, so hopefully we'll be "in the clear" once we get the vinyl up.

    We've not had a chance to acquire the proper gear so we've not been back in the house. Thank you all for the suggestions and especially for not "flaming me" for even considering doing this ourselves.

  • Circus Peanut

    THIS. THIS SINGLE TOOL saved my marriage when we spent a week prying nasty staples and nails from our own beautiful 1921 fir floors underneath all the vinyl:

    Best $30 I spent in the entire renovation. Highly recommend.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Jefferson Tool Nail Extractor

  • 1917bungalow

    Oh my word. I think I love you.

  • lazy_gardens

    Oh my .... nice tool. I use a humongous locking wrench for those nails. It has a rounded head so I can rock the wrench and pull the nails out. Sometimes I cut them off level and whap them under the surface with a nail punch ...

    To remove staples, I use a small (7 1/2 in) "wonder bar". One of the feet is small enough to tap under the top of the staple, then rock the bar to pop it out. A slightly larger one (12 inch) can be tapped under the nails in carpet tack strip to pry it out.

    I thought I had pictures of the technique, but I can't find them.

    Another tool you can really use is a "oscillating multi-tool" for slicing small bits of wood out of odd places. It can also (with different blade), slice carpeting for removal and (yet another blade), slip under floor boards to cut the nails so you can take it out with minimum damage to the boards.

  • Circus Peanut

    Honestly, the thing is our favorite tool, to the extent that we had to get His and Her versions. I had tried the Crescent castiron number with the self-hammering handle and found it too heavy to hold; your results may vary, but as a woman with slightly smaller hands I prefer the Extractor.

    For floor staples, use it in conjunction with a staple lifter (I use mine from my upholstery workshop, linked below) for the stubborn ones that are countersunk deeply, and you're good to go.

    sign me,
    Extractor Proselytizer :)

    Here is a link that might be useful: Osborne Tack Puller

  • 1917bungalow

    DH used a pair of rounded pliers to remove what staples he has gotten rid of but I will certainly show him these links and read your comments to him.

    Thank you both so much!

  • Circus Peanut

    Best of luck! All we demand in return is plenty of photos ... ;)

    (I second Lazy's recommendation of the Fein Multimaster or similar oscillating tool - blades are expensive, but it's invaluable. Most recently used ours for sanding tight little areas in old gumwood crown molding.)

  • 1917bungalow

    Is that similar to the Dremel Multi-Max?

    If you just love photos, here are a few I've put on Flickr of the house. When my FIL moved into his other home, he pretty much left everything in this house. lol

    Here is a link that might be useful: Additional House Photos

  • lazy_gardens

    I'm using a cheap Harbor Freight multi-tool. And I change blades as soon as they get dull, because I buy them in bunches.

    With the expensive blades you are likely to try to use the blade longer, and you get raggedy cuts. They can't be sharpened.

    I would have liked to have two of them for the bath reno, with one loaded for cutting wood and the other with a nail-cutting blade. I spent too much time waiting for blades to cool so I could change blades.

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