Quick fix floor.
September 29, 2011 7:11 PM   Subscribe

How to quickly retile over a busted old floor? Bonus: potential asbestos hazard.

My old house has a small entryway (about 3'x4'). In it was some old 9"x9"vinyl tile. I noticed that it's barely attached to the floor, although it's otherwise sound -- so I just pulled it up with my hands and put it in a polystyrene bag left from previous asbestos abatement. Since no tile broke or cracked, I'm not sweating that. I'm going to dispose of it through proper channels, of course.

Anyway, under it is some older clay tile. It's not in very good shape, although it was probably nice once. Also there's some papery backing leftover from the previous tile which I have since learned could be asbestos-containing. Oops. There's about 1/4" between the tile and bottom of the baseboards.

I'd prefer to just seal this off, since it's a tiny area, and not think about it anymore. I thought about doing something as simple as pouring Quikrete, writing "potential asbestos adhesive do not drill", and then laying some quarry-tile flooring over that. But will that... work? Will tile bond to Quikrete, and are there consequences to sealing up the old floor? Is there a smarter option?
posted by zvs to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered self-leveling cement?

I am not sure if this will work for you - it depends on what is around the immediate area, and if you can contain the goop - but if you can make it work, this stuff is great. It seals in the area, provides a great base for laying tile, and of course, is self-leveling.
posted by Flood at 7:28 PM on September 29, 2011

Response by poster: That's exactly what I'd like to do.
posted by zvs at 7:34 PM on September 29, 2011

I laid tile in a bathroom once and used some concrete board over the existing plywood subfloor. We nailed the boards to the subfloor with roofing nails and sealed the joints with some thin set mortar product. The tiles adhered wonderfully to it, and except for smashing both thumbs in the same hour, was relatively painless. The boards were relatively easy to cut, too, and made for a generally flat surface.
posted by jquinby at 7:59 PM on September 29, 2011

You should put an isolating membrane like Ditra between your self leveling product and your tile. It'll greatly reduce the chances of your tile cracking. If your floor flexes after being top coated then you might want to consider floating a laminate over the top coat instead of tile. They make some pretty nice faux-tile laminate.
posted by Mitheral at 8:03 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

As I understand it, the main reason tile cracks is inadequate subfloor preparation. Is the tile in the picture missing big hunks, or is that the potentially asbestos-containing backing paper? If it's missing big hunks, or not level, retiling right over that would be asking for trouble, as you have guessed. What's under the tile? Does the floor flex when you stand on it one-footed and jump up and down? If you don't want to pull up any of the tiles, you can try this calculator to see if the floor is suitable for tile. To be safe, you might try Ditra, as suggested above, but it will add 3mm to the thickness.
posted by wnissen at 9:59 PM on September 29, 2011

I forgot to add that the folks at John Bridge Forums are really, really helpful at answering questions.
posted by wnissen at 10:12 PM on September 29, 2011

Might want to confirm that your problem is really a problem first -- I had a good experience with Western Analytical Laboratory for asbestos testing of some suspect tiles.

They gave me instructions on how to safely collect a sample, I sent them a piece of tile, an actual person called me within 48 hours with lab results, and a hard copy of results was mailed right away.
posted by desuetude at 11:24 PM on September 29, 2011

I agree with Mitheral's reccomendation of Ditra crack isolation membrane, rather than cement or self-leveling stuff. Nobody can tell you for sure whether tile will work here without knowing what's under the existing tile (Hardwood? Plywood? Joist size and spacing?) but small areas are relatively forgiving.
posted by jon1270 at 4:11 AM on September 30, 2011

Response by poster: re wnissen: The tile is not missing big chunks (although it's cracked and patched extensively). Those black areas are the paper. (I'll try that calculator whe I get home.)

re asbestos testing: Yeah, I know, I've already been around the asbestos carousel a few times. I'm getting some basement tile tested. However, for this tiny space, in which the existing tile is not salvageable, I'd rather not spend the money (and then find out I have to get it remediated at tremendous expense). If a new floor can be accommodated, it's a win either way.

(Thanks for the lab recommendation, though. I do have testing upcoming.)
posted by zvs at 7:53 AM on September 30, 2011

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