2 of 52: Replace That Basement Floor

Every Friday I post an idea or project to enhance your house now with an eye to selling down the road someday. Tina – since you asked, this is for you. Thanks for the inspiration!


Flickr image courtesy of sacks08

So, you have those 9×9″ floor tiles in your basement.. In most older homes like those in the Cheverly area, they’re often laid in an alternating checkerboard pattern or they might be really creative, like shuffle-board courts, or with decorative borders. I’ve seen some very creative floor tile patterns!

The concern, of course, is that many of these floor tiles contain asbestos. According to just about every home inspector I’ve ever met, if the tiles are intact and in good condition, there’s nothing to worry about.

If they are chipped, crumbling or pulverized (what the industry calls “friable”), then you should be concerned about releasing asbestos fibers into the air. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, so it’s important to handle cleaning them with care. See here and here for more information on the hazards of asbestos.

Most inspectors will advise that the best way to deal with asbestos tiles is to encapsulate it instead of trying to remove it. If you decide to remove the asbestos floor tiles, then you should hire an environmental firm that can do a full abatement. Asbestos is nothing to mess with – it’s not worth the health risk to you and your family to try one of DIY removal methods. There is no “safe” level of asbestos. And since it is a hazardous material, you can’t dispose of old tiles in the trash.

But, hey, this is 2011! Perhaps you’re just tired of your 1950s floor, even if it’s not falling apart. What are your options?

One option is to just carpet over the floor tiles. You should use a rubber-padded carpet pad instead of a fiber one or you may wish to try something like DRI-Core Subfloor if moisture is a concern.

The website The Money Pit has an interview on installing laminate floors over asbestos floor tiles. As they point out in the article, it is the underlayment that makes the difference.

EHow.com has a very good article on the types of flooring that work well over asbestos floor tile. A good reminder – if you put a new floor on top of the old floor, you will likely have to plane the bottoms of doors so that the doors don’t damage the new floor. This article discusses vinyl tile, floating laminate, ceramic and porcelain tile, and natural stone.

Nothing brightens a basement like a new floor – and if you’re at all concerned about the health hazards of asbestos, this is a great update to your home.

What’s your experience been with putting in a new basement floor?

Each Friday I’ll post a new “52 things to do now that will improve your resale value/chances later.” Why do them now? Because you’ll enjoy your house more. Let’s face it – if you don’t do it now, you’ll pay for it later – either because you’ll have to do it as part of your preparing the house for sale, or if you don’t do it at all, you’ll pay for it in your sales price. (Tip: buyers always discount a problem more than it actually costs to fix.) Why not enjoy the benefits of your labor now? What is the second most-common comment I hear when I list properties -after the prep work has been done to put the house on the market? “I wish we’d done this a long time ago -we love it!”

© 2011 Susan Pruden

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