Floor Archaeology

One unknown in the big remodel is the state of the kitchen floor. That floor has always been about an inch taller than the floors around it, which led us to believe it has many layers of flooring, possibly dating back into the 30's. That could mean asbestos flooring, which would be a costly (but not impossible) removal task.

So last weekend, we took a bit of time and did a little destructive testing.

The first layer of flooring off

Over at the doorway to the small pantry (the one that used to be the butler's pantry but had its doors moved around), we found a narrow piece of plywood that was easy to pry up. That exposed a couple of layers of flooring.

The black tiles are part of a black and white vinyl floor, laid over another vinyl floor that is the same pattern as is in the dining room.

Under the second layer of flooring

Under that flooring was yet another vinyl flooring, another odd brown pattern.

Down to the fourth layer

You can see it a little better here. So far, none of these have the typical look of asbestos flooring, but I saved samples from each layer to send off for testing.

Is there more? Yes there is more

The fourth layer of vinyl flooring was on another layer of plywood, so we took that out (slightly more destructively). Underneath was a layer of what is actually kind of a pretty linoleum.

And we reach the original wood floor

And under that: the original wood floor (with requisite views into the basement).

Dating evidence

So how old was that linoleum floor? We pulled up and edge and found this newspaper snippet from 1970. Asbestos floor tile was manufactured until 1986, so any of these could be problematic. The only way to know is to test the samples.

Another interesting thing is that you can see the lines from where the wall used to be. This doorway was originally a pass-through to the butler's pantry in the dining room, and the previous owners opened it up to the kitchen and closed the door off from the dining room.

In the old butler's pantry

Finally, since the pantry had been a separate room until the previous owners opened the door into the kitchen, we took up the floor there to see how it differed from the kitchen. It has this yellow linoleum down over the original wood floor. There were no convenient newspaper snips with dates there, but it seems to be the same kind of flooring as the blue linoleum, so it was likely installed around 1970 as well.

I also want to do some similar testing on the flooring in the front bedroom; it also has 1/4" plywood over the original floor with vinyl tiles on it, which is suspicious.

posted by ayse on 02/21/16


I am kind of liking that linoleum at the bottom of the very last photo.

Asbestos was also commonly used in flooring adhesives.

"Black adhesive should always be tested for asbestos. If it contains asbestos, it should be wetted down and scraped by hand by an asbestos abatement professional wearing protective gear and a HEPA mask." (source: www(dot)asbestos(dot)com/products/construction/adhesive(dot)php)

Yes, the only place we've found it so far has been in a floor adhesive. That's why we will be sending samples for testing.

Also, asbestos tile removal is a little more complicated than just wetting it down and scraping. We've done that one time; this time we will hire an abatement company to do it if necessary.

Where do you send your samples for testing? And roughly how much is it? (I'm budgeting a kitchen redo.)

We send our samples to a testing place in San Leandro (because it is close). Their web page is http://www.asbestos.org. It costs $35 per sample (the price has gone up since our first time doing this but it's still reasonable in my opinion; I don't like mailing potentially hazardous materials any great distance). Multiple layers of flooring stuck together are charged as separate samples, but the entire layer of flooring (including the mastic) is included in the price for a single layer. The abatement is a whole different kind of cost.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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