New (old) house with the worst possible kitchen floor.
February 16, 2013 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Help us figure out how to cover up or replace this god awful kitchen floor. We just purchased a farmhouse that was renovated in the mid 50s. The mudroom and kitchen have 9" asphalt tiles that are all coming up (so not level), and on top of that, the prior owner used these rooms as a kennel for his incontinent daschund.

Our first thought was a floating floor over this mess, but I'm worried that the smell is going to come through. We've got one coat of Nature's Miracle down now that has seemed to help, but I don't want to find out that it didn't really do the trick after the floor is down. DH really does not want to take up the floor if he can help it.

I'm open to any and all suggestions no matter how funky. We are pretty handy and crafty, and have a great contractor for any tile work. I'm just getting a little overwhelmed with all of the options.

Bonus: We have a five year old, a dog and baby on the way, and are generally outdoorsy gardeners. This WILL get dirty.
posted by checkitnice to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What's beneath the floor? A slab? Crawl space? The basement?
posted by pullayup at 1:46 PM on February 16, 2013

Response by poster: There is a crawl space underneath.
posted by checkitnice at 1:51 PM on February 16, 2013

How intense was the smell? Also, I don't think you'll know how bad it now is until a rainy and warm day.

If the smell was really bad pre-treatment, I would pull up the floor and redo it with new materials.
posted by zippy at 1:56 PM on February 16, 2013

Just a heads-up -- I've been told by a floor guy that asphalt tile from that time period generally has asbestos in it. If you decide to take it up, I recommend testing it for asbestos beforehand so it can be properly abated.
posted by incessant at 1:58 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Can you smell the urine from the crawl space? Is there any chance pee got down below the tiled layer?
posted by dottiechang at 2:15 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I know I shouldn't be hovering, but.

*I am pregnant right now. So it smelled like death to me before today. MIL is also painting upstairs, so that smell might be masking it. My sense of smell is just not reliable.

They are more than likely asbestos tiles. Hence, we would like to keep them where they are. I'm really starting to think this is unlikely.
posted by checkitnice at 2:16 PM on February 16, 2013

Yeah, it probably contains asbestos, but this is no real threat to you and about the easiest stuff to mitigate and dispose of (but does need to be done right). In general you always want to get down to the base material (in this case the subfloor) before putting in a new finish material (tile/carpet/wood/whatever). Doing that will look better, last longer and be easier to fix in the future for you or the next guy. Also, just like a car repair, document your work, take photos and keep them in a binder or box to use when selling the house. Well done repairs and documentation are well recieved when selling a house. I am keeping all my mine in a binder with the original house inspection report showing how I am fixing each deficiency.

I would get the tile removed (or DIY if that is ok) and get to the subfloor, probably planking. Treat that with some odor killer (I don't have a recommendation) and then paint with a sealing primer like Killz. Put in a new subfloor if the smell is still bad after that (I would use Oriented Strand Board (OSB)) but it shouldn't be and the less material down the better than put in solid oak/maple/hickory wood floors. This is the best material to use over a wood joist system and looks good and wears well. It is kinda timeless classic and never looks dated and can be refinished if desired or damaged (and damage is fairly easy to fix). I don't like floating floors at all, the never feel solid, and a major point of buying a 1950's farmhouse is solidity. IN addition laminate and engineered wood always look kinda cheap, their only major pro is cost and ease of installation.

Also if you want ceramic/porcelain tile put down Schluter Ditra over the OSB subfloor, it will keep it from cracking as the wood joists flex.
posted by bartonlong at 2:23 PM on February 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Oh, and the asbestos in the floor tile (if there is any) is no threat to you, even when pregnant, as long as you don't go chipping it up carelessly. Asbestos is nothing to mess with, but it generally takes prolonged exposure to cause health problems, so either encasing it (which I don't recommend) or removing it will make it perfectly safe. And in many cases, these tiles can just be pulled up and bagged without too much fuss(but often must be done by a licensed contractor)
posted by bartonlong at 2:57 PM on February 16, 2013

Pleasepleaseplease seek out an expert in professional asbestos abatement. Asbestos removal is a big deal and shouldn't be undertaken as a DIY project, especially with a 5 year-old in the house and a baby on the way.
posted by incessant at 3:13 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Vehemently seconding that you should go down to the subfloor. If the tiles come up easily without breaking, this might not be as big of a deal as you're imagining in terms of asbestos abatement. That said, I would still get a pro to do it if I were you, since you have a small child and a baby on the way.

They may not have asbestos in them, though. We had tiles of a size and age that looked likely for asbestos that turned out to be clean. I sent a sample to this testing lab and they called me 48 hours after receiving it to give me my results (which they also mailed.)
posted by desuetude at 3:40 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you should get the tile tested and then, no matter what, re-do the floor as it sounds like a nightmare and I can't imagine covering it over won't be something that you really regret in the near future.
posted by amanda at 4:02 PM on February 16, 2013

Yeah, you really need to remove these tiles before adding a floor on top. If they're peeling up now, they're going to continue peeling up underneath your new floor and cause all sorts of issues.
posted by zug at 4:19 PM on February 16, 2013

Response by poster: Good points all around. This will all be done before we move in, so I'm not worried about the asbestos aspect, if that's what it is. There is no ductwork between the kitchen and the rest of the house. The kitchen will be sealed off when the work is done and neither I nor the little one will be there.

Tiles are definitely coming out.
posted by checkitnice at 4:26 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not only are the tiles likely to be asbestos, (not guaranteed, so test like desuetude did) but the mastic (glue) of that time also had asbestos in it and should be included in the test. Asbestos stays in the air for months or years after improper removal, giving you long-term exposure. Please read up on this matter carefully before you tear up anything. (But I do think you'll have a stink problem if you don't replace the subfloor)
posted by Anwan at 5:11 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

We just moved into a house with the most gawd awful, filthy 1950s linoleum tile ever. As in, I bleached it and then mopped it with boiling water and it was still horrible. We ripped it out and replaced it with a super inexpensive pergo, so it is new and clean and yet we won't feel horrible about trashing it in a few years when we properly redo the kitchen.

I feel soo much better about my baby and dogs being on the new flooring.

And as someone who had windows replaced with a newborn in the house, I can't recommend highly enough that you have this done before the new baby arrives.
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:26 PM on February 16, 2013

I once pulled up carpet and saw that the subfloor had been peed on many times. I could not replace the subfloor. So I painted it with cheap paint and added a bottle of vanilla to each gallon of paint. That worked for me.
posted by cda at 7:36 PM on February 16, 2013

Ha, cda! I love that idea. I don't know how effective it would be, really, but you could also attempt to cover any odor with a primer like KILLZ. I've found that dog pee isn't anywhere quite as noxious as cat pee. And I've found that cat pee odor responds really well to white vinegar. But, if you do end up ripping up the floor, making sure that the sub-floor is odor free would certainly be worth it. Best of luck, checkitnice, and let us know what you do!
posted by amanda at 7:53 AM on February 17, 2013

Use a commercial anti-dog-pee product on the subfloor; it has enzymes that neutralize dog-pee scent. You can use Killz afterwards, but start with the right stuff.

I've used commercial vinyl tiles and commercial sheet vinyl in different houses, and mostly like it. What I don't like is that vinyl is environmentally unfriendly to produce. What I like is that it's easy to clean, wears like iron, comes in lots of colors, and is really cheap. Don't get residential vinyl; it doesn't wear well at all. Sheet vinyl would be pretty good at stopping any lingering odors from rising. Tiles have nifty design options; I had a kitchen with a black & white check floor that looked great. I'd love actual linoleum, but it's not cheap.
posted by theora55 at 9:52 PM on February 17, 2013

Response by poster: Update! My dad spent the day ripping out the tiles. Well, more like four hours. They came out very easily with almost no breakage. DH and dad are ripping out the masonite flooring right now, and discovered tongue and groove oak flooring underneath THAT. I think we're going to refinish that and call it good!
posted by checkitnice at 2:34 PM on February 18, 2013

awesome, hope the existing flooring comes out great!
posted by bartonlong at 7:47 PM on February 18, 2013

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