Found - fir floors!

lindy1096October 1, 2012

Our demo started today and the contractor found fir floors in the kitchen. (House built in 1941) The PO put down sticky tile looking linoleum type stuff in 2006. He found the floors underneath. Our plan has been to put red oak in the kitchen to match the rest of the house. Now we are wondering if we should keep these floors. They run the opposite way of our oak floors. And after googling the topic we found some old threads here on GW and one person mentioned that the black tar type stuff on top of the fir floors could contain asbestos. Ugh. My husband is now looking up how to test it. If its not then we need to decide to keep the floors or rip them out.

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I would keep the original unless it tests positive for asbestos.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 7:37PM
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If the PO installed the flooring in question in 2006 it is highly unlikely that either the linoleum or the adhesive has asbestos in it. Rules and regulations banning asbestos in building materials were put into effect long before 2006.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:13PM
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We found that the longleaf pines floors that were original to our entire original house also ran under the stick-on tiles in our kitchen (the stick-on tiles were themselves covered with some really lovely faux brick sheet vinyl -- nailed down, not properly installed).

We had the same concerns about asbestos but it turned out not to be a problem and we had the floors refinished. There are some faint stains where moisture had seeped between the seams of the stick-on tiles but I kind of like that echo of the old house. The floor refinishers were horrified and said we needed to patch the floors to get rid of the imperfections. I think they were amused by my refusal.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:44PM
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Badgergal - I know that floors from 2006 won't contain asbestos. What concerns us is that the PO possibly found and didn't deal with the possible asbestos before they put that floor down.

SW Austin - did you test for asbestos and it came back negative? I am curious if anyone's asbestos tests ever come back negative. I feel like they could say positive to everything and make more money with the removal. Or is that just me? I might actually start a new thread with that question.

My husband is going to scrape it tonight and take it in tomorrow morning for testing. Will let you know the results.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:53PM
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I have tested for asbestos twice. One was a floor (and was positive) and one was insulation (and was negative).

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 10:09PM
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Circus Peanut

Lindy - scrape a sample and send it in to a reputable lab, don't take it to a local abatement company. That way you'll get objective results.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 10:15PM
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Oh, good point, Circus. My tests were done at an independent lab.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 12:18AM
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My husband says it is a local lab. I will look it up and double check. I am pretty worried about it as we have two small kids. This whole thing is making me crazy. The cabinets were original and had lead paint and now this.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 12:30AM
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Circus Peanut

Don't beat yourself up unnecessarily, Lindy -- chances are it may not even be asbestos, and if so, it's not dangerous unless you scuff or sand it and stir up particles in the air. If it is asbestos and abatement is too pricy, you can always go to Plan B and cover it with a different flooring; problem solved.

I do hope you can reveal and enjoy your Doug Fir subfloor, though - we had it throughout our last home and old fir is a really gorgeous, warm floor.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 1:22AM
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So the floors came back negative. Now I am concerned about insulation they pulled out of the wall. If its not one thing it's another. But that's all over my kitchen now so if it is then it has definitely been released into the air.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 2:24PM
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I honestly can't remember -- it's been 18 years! I just know we questioned whether the adhesive might contain asbestos and it didn't. Sorry not to be more help.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 2:49PM
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We had original fir floors in our 1913 bungalow kitchen. They had been sealed with tar paper glued down with some kind of black glue. Both tar paper and glue passed asbestos tests (we used 2 tests at separate labs due to paranoia), so we decided to remove the tar paper and refinish the original floors.

We found pretty quickly that we couldn't find a contractor / floor refinisher who would take on scraping the tar/glue off the floor. The best offer was one guy who said he would sand them off, but because the tar gums up sanding discs, he estimated the cost at something like $200 for materials and $75/hour.

We wound up doing it ourselves, using citrus cleaner, a wallpaper steamer to soften the glue, and paint scrapers. Call it about 60-80 hours on our hands and knees for this...part of our kitchen used to be an exterior porch, and it was especially tough going there. The parts that were always interior went _much_ more quickly, so you might be lucky on that front. We found that letting the wallpaper steamer sit for a relatively long time - 5 minutes or so - softened the glue/tar pretty well; shorter dwell times were much less effective.

Unfortunately I don't have any photos on hand that I can show you, but even after refinishing, there are stains on the floor -- apparently at the seams between strips of tar paper. It looks OK but not amazing -- it is definitely on the rustic side, and if we had it to do again, we might have proceeded differently.

One other possible option for cleaning the tar off your floor is a deck sander -- had this suggested to me but didn't get one to try it out.

Another comment: if you disregard our labor hours, refinishing the floors was cheaper than putting new floors down: about 1/2 to 3/4 the price of new floors, depending which quotes you use. Still, I would seriously consider pulling the floor up and installing salvaged fir tongue and groove flooring - still gets you that classic look, but with less labor and probably better end results. Or, even easier, just installing salvaged fir flooring over the existing floors, though this might yield a pretty big height difference between your kitchen and other rooms.

Hope all this helped, I'll see if I can dig up some photos.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 3:50PM
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Yesterday our contractor mentioned that the floor guy could probably sand off the black glue stuff. Fast forward 24 hours and our worries of asbestos are gone. We spoke to the floor refinisher and he said the contractor would have to scrape the stuff off. Interesting. I bet no one wants to do it. We can't do it ourselves. We have a 6 yo and an almost 6 mo old baby. Having the kitchen torn out and all of this work is hard enough as is. The floor guy is coming tomorrow morning. We will make our final decision then. We will probably end up taking it out and putting in red oak to match the rest of the house.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 4:39PM
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I would check to see how hard or soft the fir floors are. One of my friends has fir floors and they have become extremely scratched and dented over time. Perhaps if your fir is older, it might be denser and less prone to scratching, but I would recommend checking it carefully to see if it fits in with your lifestyle (both usage and maintenance).

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 6:59PM
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