What material should we use to cover asbestos tile on porch floor?
March 26, 2016 9:30 AM   Subscribe

We need to cover the existing asbestos tiles on our porch floor. Local flooring store recommended Wicanders hydrocork, which is vinyl covering cork, and which snaps into place. It's very new and I can't find much online about it - anyone with experience? What would you recommend covering the floor with?

We need to recover the floor of our enclosed porch. It's unheated and not insulated, but it has screens/glass louvers, so it doesn't really get rained or snowed on. We live in the Northeast so it gets very cold out there (as low as -15f). It currently has asbestos tile, which is starting to crack and needs to be covered asap; removing is not an option so anything we do has to go over this tile. We plan to use the porch to hang out on in the summer, and for wet shoes, etc, in poor weather, so we need something that can stand up to water. I hate indoor/outdoor carpet, plus we'd like something washable. Tile won't work as the covering needs to be flexible. The flooring store recommended either sheet vinyl, which was the most affordable, but ugly and slightly harder to install, or this snap-in system of vinyl covered cork, Wicanders hydrocork. Pros of that system is that it is water resistant, can handle the changes in temperature, supposed to be nicer to walk on, extreme ease of installation, should last 15 years or so. Cons - we don't know? It's so new I can't really find any reviews. Our considerations are - something washable that will stand up to the weather; durability; ease of installation; health concerns (we have a toddler so I want something that will offgas as little as possible); and to some extent, cost. It's a pretty small space so it will not be hugely expensive but we are not, of course, made of money.
posted by john_snow to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Before you put anything over the asbestos you should seal it with either shellac or latex.
posted by leslies at 9:34 AM on March 26, 2016

See comments here. Flooring people have concerns. (OTOH there are a couple of positive reviews further down.) On the whole I would go with something that has been around longer and has proven its durability.
posted by beagle at 9:53 AM on March 26, 2016

What about linoleum? The real kind, I mean. I'm not certain about its resistance to cold temps, but it's okay getting a little wet. And it feels good under bare feet.
posted by rtha at 11:32 AM on March 26, 2016

Vinyl floor would work for me. Good advice to seal it first. Killz, exterior oil/alkaloid paint, there's paint specifically for porch floors, System Three makes good two part marine boat paint. The good thing about boat paint is that it creates a single, non-porous membrane. The cover it with a single sheet of something.

Your end game here is to prevent friable fibers from releasing into the air. Even if you did nothing, you'd never live long enough to expose yourself to enough asbestos to hurt you. I am not a doctor.

Have you had the material tested by a lab?
posted by humboldt32 at 12:04 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have high-end click vinyl tile.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:01 PM on March 26, 2016

Best answer: Not familiar with Wicanders hydrocork, but I have Wicanders corkcomfort in my loft. Fantastic stuff. I had my whole floor replaced in 2013 (water damage from building plumbing issues, ugh). I asked the flooring shop, "Money no object, what's the best brand of cork flooring you sell?" They said they'd recently put Wicanders cork in their warehouse offices. They soon noticed buildup of black dust accumulating - turns out the coating on the flooring was hard enough to wear down the black plastic wheels on employees' desk chairs. Sold! It's super durable, warm, and sound-deadening. Shows virtually no dirt - I'll spot a smudge or spot from one specific angle 10 feet away, but when I attempt to clean it, I can't find it up close. Not a single dent from heavy furniture.

The 10 year old cork it replaced definitely showed its age. Dents, gouges, etc. When I bought the place in 2011, there were many places where the finish had degraded/peeled. The Wicanders is so much nicer.

I glanced at the hydrocork swatches just now; looks like they're mostly faux-wood finishes instead of natural cork. If you like the finishes, I don't think you can go wrong. YMMV with regard to showing dirt on darker finishes or finishes that are less visually "busy".
posted by ortoLANparty at 5:35 PM on March 26, 2016

Response by poster: Beagle, that was the only link I found, too! Was hoping for more input. OrtoLANparty - thanks, it is good to know they make good products.

Rtha, I need to do more research, but it seems like linoleum can't stand up to the temperature changes.

Chaussette - do you like it? Did you install it yourself?

Leslies and Humboldt, if it is covered with something else, what does sealing in addition to covering do? We haven't had it tested by a lab but when we bought the house, our housing inspector and realtor both independently identified it as asbestos tile based on how it looks (size of tiles, color/pattern), the age of the house, and their familiarity with housing stock around here.
posted by john_snow at 6:02 AM on March 27, 2016

Best answer: Your aim in sealing it is to prevent any bits crumbling and becoming airborne if the flooring over it gets swapped out. It's the advice I was given by realtor, contractor and painter in dealing with asbestos tile on a floor. That kind of asbestos is far less likely to become airborne compared to insulation but given the consequences it's worth the belt and suspenders approach to encapsulate it before covering it.
posted by leslies at 7:15 PM on March 27, 2016

Best answer: Agreed. Sealing works to maintain the integrity of the "asbestos" material. Laying a cover over it protects is from wear and further damage and keeps any friable material localized and out of the air.

Honestly, get it tested. My experience as a city planner working in historic preservation and working with municipal building inspectors, offhandedly identifying asbestos in various building materials is very common. It's no way to actually identify if there's asbestos or not.

Again, this small porch floor is never going to expose you to dangerous amounts of asbestos. You'd have to sit and rub it with sandpaper, or cut a whole bunch of it up into tiny pieces, and breath the dust for a prolonged period.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:41 AM on March 28, 2016

Response by poster: In case anyone else is looking for this info and curious about what we decided on, we're going to go with sheet vinyl.

After more research we realized the hydrocork's warranty would be voided by the temperature range on the porch. Linoleum was really nice but turned out to be too expensive. Sheet vinyl is not pretty, but will be something we can install ourselves, and turned out to be like 25% of the price of linoleum.
posted by john_snow at 8:31 AM on July 13, 2016

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