How to put my foot down when SO won't consider a Plan B?
November 3, 2009 5:55 PM   Subscribe

How do I put my foot down? My longterm girlfriend and I recently bought a house together; an older 1950s house that is in decent condition and we decided to renovate it throughout the next few years. The first thing we wanted to do was rip up the old vinyl tile and stain the concrete underneath in the kitchen - about 250 sqft. Turns out, it was old asbestos tile which we had to CAREFULLY remove, and a layer of regular 1970s vinyl. What was underneath was a black, thick mess of mastic that we have been fighting with for weeks to bring up with nasty chemicals. I work full time and I have 9 hours of graduate school (full time). I work longer hours than she does and i finally told her i think it would be easier if we just etched the concrete (so the grout would bond) and lay tile instead. But no, she wants the stained concrete.

This one weekend project is now going on four weeks and we are set to move into the house next Monday. WHen I told her I wanted to resort to Plan B and install the tile rather than proceed with the nasty work, she would not hear of it. It's not because I do not want what she wants, but I am afraid our NEWLY refinished hardwood floors will get ruined with us and our movers tracking the black mastic residue throughout the house. We have dumped some serious money on upgrading the floors this house, not to mention HARD laborious work ever single weekend the past month removing the mastic. I would not care so much if I didn't have 3 midterms to deal with right now, but time is cutting close. So this past weekend she says she will go out there every day and "turn the kitchen around" since it's what she really wants. Yet, she has spent the last 2 days coming home and sleeping, and then going out and spending 3 hours picking out different locks for the house, looking at garden stuff, etc etc. Aka stuff I really don't think is a priority with us MOVING in less than a week.

Am I being high strung? If she wasn't going to get anything accomplished and be lazy about it, I'd rather her be upfront and give a little with the tile situation. Otherwise it's like she won't do a damn thing unless I am present (I'm a woman also). Is there some other way for me to approach her with this? I just don't want the house we put so much of our hard earned money into get ruined by crappy priorities and laziness. Or if she DID want me to be there every second to help her lift the mastic, that is fine, but why make empty promises? I have cleared almost 3/4 of that mastic myself, I don't see the big deal with her just going in and doing some touch up until the weekend!!! Thanks in advance.
posted by kleenkat to Human Relations (48 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Possibly high strung. Part of the joy of a new house is the sitting back and relaxing a little bit. Besides the movers thing, is there any other reason for the floor to get done ASAP? If not, go to Menards and get some of that quarter inch fanfold pink foam and tape it down in the kitchen. Or that reddish paper you put under Pergo. Problem solved. Now you can work on the floor in peace.
posted by gjc at 6:19 PM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Well what should be a few sentences has turned into a page of text so for starters it seems that you should drink a cuppa and go for a long walk to clear your head. Moving into a house is supposed to be a fresh start of sorts, a happy event (I move into this place with my wife and our kid in a few weeks). I'd suggest that you try and focus on that.

However, if the story that you've done 3/4 of the mastic removal and your partner won't do the remaining 1/4 then you may have a point. Is her solution that you both just move in and finish the remaining 1/4 later? Have you done equal work in other parts of the house? Has she agreed to do it in some timeframe?
I am afraid our NEWLY refinished hardwood floors will get ruined with us and our movers tracking the black mastic residue throughout the house
Isn't that manageable? You could put down temporary sheets on the remaining 1/4 or something?
posted by holloway at 6:20 PM on November 3, 2009

House move, reno, midterms; oh my. Three horridly stressful things coming together at the same time. You used triple exclamation marks; I can tell this is a difficult time for you.

Sounds like the GF is coping with the stress her way, and has a different way of prioritizing work than you do. I recognize these traits in myself; last minute is plenty time for me, which stresses the living crap out of everyone around me. I'd also suspect that bringing up "crappy priorities and laziness" would result in more sleeping and more work avoidance.

Is there a temporary cover you can put over the mastic - masonite, jute, heavy-duty PVC - while the movers do their thing? Have you friends that can pitch in for a Late Nite Mastic Blast (with pizza and beer)? A compromise may have to be made.
posted by scruss at 6:24 PM on November 3, 2009

A few years ago, my husband and I bought a house and the floors needed replacing. The original flooring was a terrible looking tile. However, to save time and money - we decided to put the new flooring ON TOP OF the tile. But that wasn't our first choice, we only did it to save on the work involved and costs. And now, three years later - we regret not doing that extra work to get things exactly how we wanted. The flooring looks fine, but there are issues (wanting to expand the flooring to other areas - where we will now have to build up the floor to match with the old tile/new flooring layer).

Do it right the first time. Do it the way you really want it the first time. Plan B's are good. But Plan A's are even better.

I don't have any advice about the girlfriend situation. But, if you really want that stained concrete . . do it right, do it now. If you do tile, later down the road, you might decide that hey, you really do want the stained concrete - and you just wasted all that time and money installing tile and then pulling it up to do what you really wanted to do all along.

I understand the pressures of moving. I totally get that. But take a breath. Take a step back. You can still move, even if the floor isn't done, right? Maybe living there will make it easier to get the work done. Just saying . . . it doesn't HAVE to get done right now, although it would be nice.

Again, sorry I don't have anything to offer about getting your girlfriend to pitch in a little more. She may not feel as skilled in this area as you seem to be. If that's the case, give her some stuff to do that is more in her area of comfort.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:25 PM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Compromise! If she isn't working on it with you, and not focusing on what you feel is needed, then both of you "drop" the floor and you focus on your important other things. Projects become easier if you give it a rest sometimes.

Put down some temporary flooring in the mean time. Soon, you will both have a renewed vigor for getting the floor done. That is when you make her a 50/50 deal. Maybe 40/60 on your part if she agrees to administer nightly back massages?

As was said, you should make your life enjoyable. Don't fuss or stress out, no one will die if it is done her way, your way, a compromise, or even my way (I would put down astroturf). Make sure you will look back on it and smile either way.
posted by Ryaske at 6:25 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

From your question, I am not quite sure what you really want to put your foot down about. Do you want your gf to do the work, or to skip it entirely? I can't tell what you want regarding the house, and it seems the problem is more personal than practical.

From that perspective, my advice is to move in anyway (as long as you have a working toilet and at least one sink), and focus on your midterms.

Next, take a deep breath, grab your girlfriend, and watch this movie, then relax, because whatever schedule or priorities anyone has ever set since the dawn of time, renovating a home is a gigantic, messy, overexpensive project and things will inevitably get completely off track for known and unforeseen reasons.

I hope it's more a question of both of you figuring out how to take a no-pressure break from the situation, and realizing that something pretty unimportant on the scale of things is causing more stress than it's worth. Ultimately, it's not worth allowing the project to mutate into a huge source of resentment for both you and your girlfriend (as Mr Blandings learns!)
posted by lesli212 at 6:26 PM on November 3, 2009

Response by poster: Yes, but our original time frame is about 2 weeks overdue.. This means we will be living in a house with a giant stove blocking the doorway and not in use, and no fridge. I could totally deal with that for a while, but the point is we both set a time line and now it's way past due so I don't see the harm in putting down ceramic tile; it will be easier, faster, and cleaner. And this little project won't get delayed through Christmas! I've already tracked some of the black stuff onto the hardwoods even taken my shoes off, so I can only imagine what will happen when we live there! Yes, there's more to it than just mastic but geez, when people work hard for something and save money for stuff, it's natural to not want stuff to get ruined in a fraction of the amount of time it took to get there in the first place.
posted by kleenkat at 6:28 PM on November 3, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, we can lay something over the kitchen for the mean time... we could take the next 10 years to do everything else.. I personally just wanted the godforsaken floors to at least be cleaned so the wood floors would still look nice. I guess what I want is for her to help me out more with the removal of the mastic rather than trying to figure out which keylock set she should get. Yep, it is turning into resentment, but for no good reason, I see...
posted by kleenkat at 6:34 PM on November 3, 2009

Take a chill pill, dude.

Your schedule is offtrack so accept that and move onto another schedule based on where things are at now. Make sure you do approximately the same amount of work so you don't feel resentful. Perhaps you could offer to finish off the remaining 1/4 if your partner does something else to make up for it.
posted by holloway at 6:40 PM on November 3, 2009

I don't see the harm in putting down ceramic tile; it will be easier, faster, and cleaner.

Please, you will regret this if your original intention was a stained concrete floor. And if you change your mind later . . . what a mess to pull up all that tile.

I think the stuff your girlfriend is doing sounds like fun. And the stuff you're doing sounds like hard crappy work.

So . . . go do some of the fun stuff for a while. Pick out locks together and curtains! Woo hoo! Have fun together getting this house together. And then address the floor. She may feeling overwhelmed with the floor, as you are. Get away from it for a while. Then, get back to it, and when the going gets tough . . .go look at your pretty new lock and your awesome curtains and each time you look at those cool things you'll get a little boost to get that floor done.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:42 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I haven't done much home renovation, but I have built enough pieces of furniture to know that a few extra minutes (hours, days) spent cleaning excess glue out of joints, or sanding, or adding extra coats of finish, or whatever pays off down the line, no matter how badly I want to be done with it, goddamnit, when I'm faced with hours of careful glue scraping or sanding or finish buffing and meanwhile it's my week to do the grocery shopping so I gotta do that later, too, and meanwhile to that I'm paying for this by freelancing and the more time I spend in the shop is less time I spend meeting client deadlines (and expectations), and so on.

Do your future self a favor and spend the time it takes to get it right.

In any case, based on your 6:34, it seems as though you've got this worked out.

And on preview: what Sassyfras said.
posted by notyou at 6:49 PM on November 3, 2009

Could you just float another thin layer of concrete? ½" should dry in about a week.
posted by nicwolff at 6:56 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

i've worked in the flooring business for a couple of years in a variety of capacities. who told you that removing the tile and staining the concrete was doable?

concrete absorbs stuff like glue. in order to get it clean, you have to remove and replace it. you might get away with putting a fresh layer on top of what you have, but it probably wouldn't hold up well, and would be thicker then any ceramic tile you could put down.

removing the asbestos tile was the real mistake. any flooring pro would have advised against it, and once the tile was seen, it would have been obvious to an experienced flooring person that the concrete was not suitable for polishing and sealing. i bet your floor isn't even suitable for tile now, and will require underlayment to put most tile down.

your concrete floor was ruined the day they laid the vinyl tile. you can't get it back. there is no floor under that black shit. you are wasting your time.

you may be able to get some self stick vinyl tile to lay down now, and live in the house, but it depends on the surface.
posted by lester at 7:00 PM on November 3, 2009 [15 favorites]

Thank you for speaking up about these issues, lester...I am not a flooring professional, but have been around my share of full renos and those were precisely the thoughts running through my mind as I read the original post. Some compromise is going to have to happen because I can't see that stained concrete being viable, at all.

Your GF may not believe this, initially, so you really are going to have to get ahold of a professional to either offer a second opinion or convince her that another plan will have to be executed, tout suite.
posted by squasha at 7:11 PM on November 3, 2009

I don't think Metafilter can convince your girlfriend. "A [wo]man convinced against her will is of the same opinion still."

How about you take a different approach - grab her, lock up and go for a nice long walk with a cup of coffee at the end of it, and say, "Let's work out how we can make this work. These are the things I'm having problems with - full time work, graduate study and time to get this black shit off without tracking it through the rest of the house, and not having a working kitchen for an unspecified period of time. From your point of view, the kitchen really needs to have a concrete floor, not a tiled one. I'm willing to work with that. Now what solutions can you see for this to work for both of us?"
posted by b33j at 7:24 PM on November 3, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah that is what I told her from day one when we pulled up that tile. I do work in the concrete business and know there's not going to be any stain because the concrete underneath won't absorb it. Yes in a perfect world I did want the stained concrete but I pretty much knew since day one that it might not be possible. I mean the floor is over 40 years old. I don't know for a fact it's asbestos, but I assume since that is what they used back in the day, and the cutback tar is often associated with it too. I threw some diluted muriatic acid on it the other day and scrubbed it in and cleaned it. After it dried I poured water on it to see if it absorbed or beaded up. It absorbed slowly, but this was only 1/20th of the whole floor I was testing.
posted by kleenkat at 7:27 PM on November 3, 2009

Response by poster: I think the resurfacing concrete wouldn't hold up; that's been my experience with contractors I work with when using in small interior spaces. It is something I need to consult a professional on for sure...
posted by kleenkat at 7:30 PM on November 3, 2009

Yes, but our original time frame is about 2 weeks overdue.. the point is we both set a time line and now it's way past due... Yes, there's more to it than just mastic but geez, when people work hard for something and save money for stuff, it's natural to not want stuff to get ruined in a fraction of the amount of time it took to get there in the first place.

Yeah, you had me at first in your original question, but now you're starting to sound like my dad. As in, it all has to happen a certain way just because, with all sorts of principles involved that begin to make this personal. You need to step back and relax and accept that shit happens. Happens? Has happened. Deal with the situation as it is, not as you'd like it to be, and if you can't smile while doing it then you're forgetting what the whole point of this was in the first place.
posted by hermitosis at 7:33 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

My SO isn't as...plan-oriented as I am either, and we're also renovating our house. I feel your frustration.

First fire to put out: Cover your hardwoods to protect them right way. No matter what you decide to do, this is a good idea.

Next: Are you sure that you've got viable concrete under that mastic? I share some of the above concerns.

I think it's worth doing right the first time to get what you want, but maybe you two could open up the Plan B option, too. One of you can do get a second opinion on the original concrete if the other researches tile? (There's a lot of neat stuff out there that might surprise her, including concrete floor tiles.)

Most importantly, maybe you two should work on a plan together, with jobs clearly delineated and tasks assigned that can be accomplished independently. I know in my case, there's stuff i didn't work on because I felt like my SO should be consulted (or should share in the pain!), and vice-versa, and it kept progress from moving forward.
posted by desuetude at 7:39 PM on November 3, 2009

Yes in a perfect world I did want the stained concrete but I pretty much knew since day one that it might not be possible.

Um. This is a huge problem. How is her heart set on this when you knew it was likely impossible?
posted by desuetude at 7:43 PM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I agree completely with lester and I think your girlfriend is suffering from tunnel vision.

Let me guess that she saw stained concrete done on the freshly poured floor of an industrial loft conversion. Your floor is ruined for what she's imagining. You'll never get it to look right. I'm all for doing things right and taking time to get what you want but sometimes, when things aren't going soothly you have to sit back and re-assess the situation. For the time being, could you lay something down over the high traffic pathways and set the appliances onto carpet scraps? That way you can study and tell her to go to town on it in sections, figuring out how to get the black stuff removed. Be aware that if you live someplace cold, that you'll be sealing yourselves inside with a lot of nasty cleaning fumes.

I'd say switch to floating interlock cork tile. It's warmer, easier on your joints and if you drop a cup on it, the cup will bounce instead of smashing into a million pieces. Also, some of the stained cork patterns look a lot like stained concrete. It can be installed really quickly, too. We love ours.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:48 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

OK, I am a teensy bit like your girlfriend in that I Want What I Want and my husband generally indulges me on this. What would help someone like me is a neutral 3rd party patiently explaining that this Cannot Be Done because of reasons x, y, and z, and Option B will look fantastic. You two have too much history for you to explain this neutrally. and it's possible she is taking this personally somehow. I also suspect she's gotten her way many times before and expects you to magically make this happen.

Also also, having moved with my SO four times in the last 5 years, it is a real trial of a relationship. I get a little paralyzed before a move and start focusing on inconsequential stuff. Sit down and make a list, divide up the tasks, and work through them sequentially. Remind her that you two are a team and you're on her side. It's you two against the floor, not you two against each other.
posted by desjardins at 7:51 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hang on a second.

You pretty much knew, this wasn't going to work, when you started doing it?

But you did it anyway, because it put off an inevitable tantrum from the girlfriend?

Bring in a professional, or three, to deliver the bad news. I wouldn't tell her "I knew all along". But there's an indefinite pit of money, drama, and money drama if you keep working on something that's unlikely to work.
posted by effugas at 7:52 PM on November 3, 2009

Response by poster: stained cork! i never heard of that. I will have to look it up - Oh, I told her that the concrete wasn't virgin concrete. I also told her that black mastic seeps into the pours no matter how many of those nasty chemical applications we do. She insists it can be done. I agree with her - BUT the amount of time it will take to remove the mastic as much as possible is not feasible if we want a functional kitchen before the new year... That is the deal. There's also filler in a lot of places that I've chipped up. I have told her that it's not going to have that uniform look but it is what she wants. LIke I said I think it's possible. Unlikely, yes, but not impossible. I guess this is why we are here now.
posted by kleenkat at 7:56 PM on November 3, 2009

Also, totally separate from all the facts here, you should realize that you are stressed to the max. I just went through some stressful stuff (for the first time in awhile), and it was amazing how much harder it made everything to deal with. This doesn't yield solutions, and you may still have to fight your way out of this mastic-coated paper bag, but it's just worth really, really acknowledging, both to yourself and to her. With yourself, you can use it to reduce your expectations and to know that some of what you're thinking and feeling is mostly the stress talking. With her, you can use it to ask for some forbearance and for some support. Can't you just protect the floors? Do you have to have everything right before you move in? Stress in me creates perfectionism, among other things.
posted by salvia at 8:01 PM on November 3, 2009

Phone around linoleum and tile stores for the cork. It's usually on a green fibreboard interlock backing and the newer stuff is pre-finished. It come in lots of colours. I was thinking the espresso on the bottom right was close to stained concrete.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:03 PM on November 3, 2009

BUT the amount of time it will take to remove the mastic as much as possible is not feasible if we want a functional kitchen before the new year

Wait, did you know when you started that it was going to take until the New Year? So... it sounds like you're not all that far off of your schedule? Or is there 6 weeks of other stuff before functional kitchen time? I think you are right when you say "I guess this is why we are here now." Can you just make peace with it taking the time you knew it would take (or even just a little bit more)?
posted by salvia at 8:04 PM on November 3, 2009

Unlikely, yes, but not impossible.

Not literally completely impossible, but...functionally impossible for the two of you to accomplish the look that you're going for. Stop staying it's "not impossible." It's not possible, either.
posted by desuetude at 8:11 PM on November 3, 2009

I don't know a thing about flooring. I do know about relationships. Fortunately this question is not about flooring.

Cover it with something temporary. Move in. In six months, decide what to do about the floor. But only worry about it when you've regained your sanity. School sucks, working full time sucks, moving sucks, and remodeling sucks. DO NOT do them all at once. Your floor is not more important than your SO or your schooling or (more personally) your desire to have a peaceful home.
posted by fritley at 8:12 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Nah, we planned a week at max. Just didn't expect the 1/8th inch thick black mastic under there. Four weeks later we have it to where it's just a stain on the concrete. We knew from the get go it wouldn't look like those new polished homes in magazines. But now I am thinking painting it a darker color to accentuate some of the ghosting effects from the tile lines might be a nicer alternative to the semi transparent stain.
posted by kleenkat at 8:18 PM on November 3, 2009

Response by poster: Ah yes, and I had not only two friends, but my dad, and mother (on separate occasions) as well as her step dad tell us both we should consider a Plan B because of the staining issue and the older concrete after they saw the mess we started.
posted by kleenkat at 8:20 PM on November 3, 2009

"Yuck that seems like a mess and you can't possibly get what you want done, I think it would be nice to do [conventional thing]" is pretty unhelpful when coming from friends, and even more so from parents. I wouldn't (didn't) listen to that either. And neither would (did) my SO. Thankfully.

If I followed my parents well-meaning advice, we'd have a really boring house that doesn't look like "us" and certainly wouldn't be walking on our gorgeous heart-pine subfloors in our bedroom or preparing dinner on polished concrete counters or any of the other slightly unconventional decisions we made.

We knew from the get go it wouldn't look like those new polished homes in magazines. But now I am thinking painting it a darker color to accentuate some of the ghosting effects from the tile lines might be a nicer alternative to the semi transparent stain.

You sound like you're talking yourself back into your concrete floors, you know. ;)
posted by desuetude at 8:37 PM on November 3, 2009

You're going to be in the house for a while, put down cloth runners or brown paper sheets whenever anyone will walk, it's easy to pull up...I'd even put it down everywhere until you get the furniture settled.

You have time, moving and school and relationships are stressful. Get moved, figure out what you want to do with the floor and work on it as you have time, there's no deadline for this stuff and you guys are going through enough stress right now.
posted by iamabot at 9:03 PM on November 3, 2009

Nah, we planned a week at max. Just didn't expect the...

My wife and I bought a 50 year old house 4 years ago. We had big plans to make big changes in a short time. We then discovered the joys of asbestos floor tiles, old wiring and orangeburg pipe. (Turns out it lasts for just about... 50 years.)

So the quote above sounded really familiar.

We thought we were buying a house, that it was a goal, we would achieve it, and we would be done. House is now perfect, time for a dinner party. Turns out the house where our relationship lives is a lot like the relationship itself, an ongoing journey. We are still working on it, it is still not perfect, and I still love it with all my heart.
posted by patrick rhett at 9:20 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes and any time a parent says one thing, no matter how well intentioned they are, we want to do another :)
posted by kleenkat at 10:00 PM on November 3, 2009


This is sounding distressingly like an ultimatum.
posted by effugas at 10:36 PM on November 3, 2009

Hire a professional to do the floor the right -- and desired -- way, and make sure there's a stipulation in the contract that they won't damage the refinished floors, and if they do they'll pay for the repairs.

Meanwhile, you're pissed because you have a metric fuckton of pressure on you right now, and you feel like she's being selfish and thoughtless, because she's sacrificing your well being for her desires. Having a professional come in and deal with it will take the pressure off you and give her what she wants, and you can still work on other things in the house.

Trust me, this is the best route, even though it costs money; we bought our house to do the renovations ourselves (and frankly I'm shocked you took on the asbestos work yourself -- that wasn't the smartest idea, don't do that again) but we've paid a lot of money for the stuff we don't have time/expertise/patience for, and six years later we still feel like we have a whole lot of hand and heart in our home.

At the end of the day, what's more important, the house or your relationship? If you thought for even a moment before answering that in your head, your problems really aren't about the house at all.
posted by davejay at 10:58 PM on November 3, 2009

I also told her that black mastic seeps into the pours no matter how many of those nasty chemical applications we do. She insists it can be done.

Then she needs to do it. Seriously.
posted by rodgerd at 11:02 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I hate concrete floors. Go with the cork, your dishes will thank you as will your knees and back. Best thing about it, is it is a floating floor, so you don't have to deal with the mastic at all as long as it is relatively even.

Even with this plan b, I would still put it off for a bit. If you are moving in soon, quit with the chemicals, the last thing you need in your new house is something that could make you sick. That concrete stain takes days to dry and I wouldn't want to breath it either.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:22 AM on November 4, 2009

This is insanity. Renovating and moving is super-stressful. Just solve this problem in the fastest and most efficient way possible: put cork tiles down (even drappy sticky backed ones) on top of whatever is there now and just put the refinishing on the longer To Do list.

This takes the pressure off: no permanent decision has been made re the floors, nothing has irrevocably been done to them. At the same time, your girlfriend doesn't have to feel like she is never going to get the floors of her dreams, but you've protected your hard woods from additional damage.

posted by DarlingBri at 1:43 AM on November 4, 2009

Response by poster: Oh yeah! About the time frame - where it originated is because we are set to move in on Monday. Here's the kicker that I completely forgot to mention - my parents finalized their divorce about a month ago and my dad was to be moved out of their house end of October. With him moving out of a 2000sq/ft home with a backyard and into an apartment, I was asked to take his dog he's had for the past 2 years (a dog I adopted about 5 years ago and he wanted since I was living in apartments and they had a nice backyard). Well my mom is "sick of the dog hair" and a string of other incredibly ridiculous things and is basically taking a lot of stuff out on him and a whole other list of irrational things. She told me to take the dog by November 7th. So we scrambled to build a privacy fence so she has a fenced yard, and now the concrete floor mess. The dog was the other major reason I wanted to have the concrete floors done by, because on top of the movers and us, she would be frolicking all over the place with her nails in the glue and across the wood floors. (And I got a satin finish on the floors specifically because of the scratching issue..but the issue is the cutback glue, now..)
posted by kleenkat at 6:31 AM on November 4, 2009

Response by poster: RE: The asbestos

I'm not positive that's what it was, but I naturally assumed better safe than sorry since the house is from '58. It was pulled up with asbestos masks, clothing, and we did quarantine off the entire rest of the house. The tile was disposed of properly per OSHA standards and at a Texas facility. The tile was not very friable and came up in long strips at a time. All in all about 1 hours to pull up.
posted by kleenkat at 6:35 AM on November 4, 2009

It seems like a whole lot of bellyaching to respond to all of these replies. How many of these concerns have you actually shared with your partner?

We don't need further explanations of why this needs to get done ASAP or why you're stressed out. We get it. Renovating a house before move-in is very, very stressful, WITHOUT all the other stuff going on in your life. You seem to be upset that she's not doing more to get the floor finished when you already know that the end result isn't possible. Why put either of you through that kind of drama? This shouldn't be ultimatum territory unless this angst is just a symptom of much larger issues. Since time is drawing short, I'd suggest finding a workable temporary solution until you can decide what the outcome is actually going to be.
posted by scarykarrey at 6:54 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

yeah, that tile was probably vinyl asbestos tile, which was pretty heavily used. the asbestos is actually sealed in the vinyl, so it's not a threat to health--unless someone sands the tile. there might have been some exposure in removing it, but not much. it would have been safer, though, to just put another floor on top of it.
posted by lester at 7:34 AM on November 4, 2009

There's two issues here, your floor, and your crazy life.

About the floor:

1. If she thinks it can be done, and you think it can't, is there a small area you can prep and do to see if it'll work? If it doesn't work, you're going to be covering it up anyway. "What if?" is stressful. If you both have something you can point at, you can look at the result, know how long it took, and see if it's worth it.

2. I've removed mastic over that tile (in order to lay slate tile). I do not envy you. I never did get the black stain out, but the tile's holding fine. This does not mean you should lay tile, it just means I feel for you--it's a tough job.

3. Is it possible to grind off a layer? May not be terribly safe, and it would be messy.

4. As many people mentioned (and you believe), covering it is going to be easiest. You can do this temporarily (cheap, thick red rosin paper, plywood, cardboard, etc), or permanently (different flooring). There's also "in between", something like vinyl tile or flooring, which is quite inexpensive but is better than paper if you want to leave it for a while before tackling a bigger/pricier project. It's more glue to scrape up later if you don't get self-stick, though.

The "floating a thin layer" idea is good except concrete doesn't like to be that thin. Also, floating is hard, at least for me. You could use thinset for this purpose but again it's going to be difficult to get a level surface (unless you get a pro, maybe). One thing that might work *very* well is floor leveler. It's cheap, it levels itself (sounds like your floor isn't quite flat), and it applies easily. Tack up cleats all around to contain the stuff, and pour. Some caveats: 1) You'll have to see if you like the resulting texture/sheen 2) I don't know if it takes surface treatments the same way concrete does, and 3) I don't know if it sticks to cutback (I would imagine at least some do, but you should check). This stuff is made to be thin, though, so it might work out for you.

About your life:

In general, when you've got a lot to do you can do, delegate, defer, or delete it. Consider especially deferring (cover it up temporarily, make the decision later when you're both cooler headed), or delegating (have her deal with it, you may have to do something temporarily in the meantime). It may very well be that she'll eventually lose the infatuation. In the meantime take her to see some cool cork floors or something, maybe she'll fall in love again. :)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:42 AM on November 4, 2009

This thread feels like it's going nowhere. Have any of these suggestions helped?
posted by salvia at 8:47 AM on November 4, 2009

Mastic removal - use a product called Bean-e-Doo, which is soy based and not particularly nasty. You pour it on and it mops up along with the mastic. Non toxic and low odor. The internet is full of stories about using it on old asbestos tile floors.
posted by pekala at 9:36 AM on November 4, 2009

Response by poster: Yes it has helped and I have talked with her. I think we are going to test a small area that is "super clean" and then go from there. Thanks again
posted by kleenkat at 9:41 AM on November 4, 2009

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