Welcome to the Floor Show

by Melanie Jones on September 29, 2010

For the past four years we’ve lived in our house, the work we’ve had done has been pretty straightforward and relatively stress-free—putting in a new deck, adding proper attic access, having a new heat/air system installed. All of that changes next week, however, when my kitchen floor gets ripped out down to the joists.

About a year after we moved in I started working on the kitchen. I removed all the wallpaper (which is quite therapeutic, if I’m being honest), sanded and painted the walls, repainted the cabinets and changed out the hardware. At that point the next step was replacing the floor, which is currently a totally awful brick-patterned linoleum. In its place I wanted a black-and-white checkerboard tile. I found the tile at Home Depot and set an appointment to have everything measured and quoted. First I was told I had two layers of linoleum and the tile couldn’t be laid on top, the existing linoleum would have to come up. Fair enough. Oh, but because the house was built in 1952, there might be asbestos under at least the very first layer of flooring. Awesome.

But then the water heater exploded, more life happened and the floor project was put on the back burner until last winter, when we took out the cabinets around the tiny fridge that came with the house in order to make room for a new one that was made in this century. Here’s what we found beneath where the cabinet was.

We decided to get back to the flooring thing so we could get the kitchen finished and move on to other projects. The guy came back to take a sample to test for asbestos. And of course it came back positive. And it turns out there’s three layers of linoleum, not two. And he tells me that while they can’t remove the asbestos, we can totally remove the flooring and clean the subfloor ourselves. It’s not hard. Just use a lot of water! And we can bag it all up and leave it for the trash collector. Yes, of course you can just remove asbestos-covered flooring yourself with water and toss it out on the curb. All I could imagine was the EPA showing up at my house and turning it into the last part of E.T., when the government quarantines the house and covers it with plastic tunnels and what not.

So, fine. I got in touch with the only “asbestos abatement” company in the state. The guy comes and looks at the multi-layered floor, and tells me that the asbestos is in the mastic, which is what’s holding the first layer to the subfloor. Which means there’s asbestos in the subfloor, not to mention between the myriad layers of linoleum. And that means the entire subfloor has to come up. They’ll seal off the kitchen, cut out the entire floor (except where the cabinets are) and dispose of everything in an environmentally safe manner that does not involved piling it up by the street. The next day, my contractor, who sounds a lot like Rick Steves, comes in and puts in the new subfloor and then finally the new floor itself.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. This weekend we’ll move everything on the counters, the stupid hutch I can’t seem to get rid of, and the refrigerator into the dining room. (And then the dogs will totally freak out because there’s a fridge in the dining room) Monday morning the work begins, and the dogs will get a two-night vacation at their favorite kennel, and we’ll spend Monday night in a hotel, since by Tuesday evening we’ll at least have a plywood floor in the kitchen. Everything should be finished by midday Wednesday, and we’ll finally, hopefully, be able to move ahead with the rest of the work we’ve got planned…because now the goal is to get this place on the market next year!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

lisa November 12, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Love that story, shame that orange and yellow lino is not old tiles, so 60′s, I quite like it

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Mel November 24, 2010 at 6:28 am

Lisa, I know! If it had been in better shape it would have been perfect! But the new floor is in and looks great, and I’m almost ready to share it with everyone!

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