Removing & replacing old vinyl sheet flooring -- possible asbestos?

One of my kids & her husband (two nurses) recently bought their 1st house. It's a 1966 split ranch. They were planning on replacing the old vinyl sheet flooring in the small kitchen with vinyl plank flooring that would be toddler & dog-friendly. The flooring guy from the local big-box store came out to do measurements, and panicked them. He told them that the vinyl has to be tested for asbestos, and warned it could add $10K to their project for asbestos remediation by a specialty contractor. They don't know it the existing kitchen floor is original to the house, or if a prior owner ever replaced it.  Has anyone encountered this, and can you share your experience?

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  • ?
    Lv 7
    1 month ago
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    I am a senior project manager for a flooring store, so you can take what i have to say about this to the bank.

    Any sheet flooring earlier than about 1985 should get tested for asbestos before it gets removed.  A floor in a 1966 home may or may not be original and may have other layers over it.  It is standard to put up to three layers of sheet flooring before demoing it to redo the floors.  If the sheet flooring is attached and reasonably flat and there aren't too  many layers making to spongy, they may be able to float a vinyl plank floor right over the top of it.

    Asbestos testing isn't a big deal, you'd want to test all the layers and the glue as well.  When I do this for customers I take a 2" x 2" square of each layer, sometimes they are all attached, and send them to a lab.  I NEVER give the jobsite address, just a project name, so it doesn't create a record that may cause a problem later.  Whether or not you can do this may depend on the lab.  Knowing you have asbestos creates a real estate disclosure issue, so you want to be cautious about records.  I have both the material and the glue tested a some old glues contained asbestos.  It costs about $15 per test, so three layers of material for both the material and the glue would run $90.

    If the material tests negative for asbestos, then you can demo, no problem. If it tests positive there are options.  The expensive way to do this is have an asbestos mitigation company come in the silver suits and demo and remove it.  This is very expensive and exactly how expensive depends on the size of the space, but it's about $1,200 just for them to show up at the site.  There are homeowner exemptions to demo it yourself, be sure to read up on how to be safest and how to dispose of the material.  There are disposal restrictions that may vary by area.

    You can have a contractor who doesn't care get rid of it for you.  Be careful on this as you can get into trouble.  One of the installers who occasionally worked for our company demoed an asbestos floor and tossed the material into our big dumpster (he did not have permission to do this).  Somehow the authorities got wind of this and a company came in their silver suites, created a plastic passage from our dumpster to their enclosed truck and took it all away.  I'm not sure what the fine was for this but I'm sure it was hefty.

    You can also contain the asbestos and leave it in place.  Installing another floor over it does this.  If you have an asbestos ceiling that is fraying you can just spray it with paint or varnish (matte clear for a matte ceiling) and the paint or varnish basically glues the fibers down.  I have installed may floors over asbestos floors both by gluing and floating the new floor.

    The best thing that can happen for a homeowner with a floor that contains asbestos is to have an insurance loss to the floor (like a flood).  The insurance process pretty much requires that asbestos and lead testing be done and mitigating the asbestos or lead is covered by the insurance claim.  I am NOT suggesting insurance fraud, but I do the insurance claims for our company and having this stuff done on your insurance company instead of out of pocket is a huge thing.

    I suggest talking to more than one flooring company.  Everyone has their own 'flavor' and way of doing things.  In my experience my 'competitors' who work in the big box stores are typically the least knowledgable people in the industry.  Maybe last week they were in the lighting department.  I suggest getting at least one or two actual flooring contractors to look at it.  If they are going to do other things to the home they may want to get a general contractor involved to help them.  Yes, a general contractor costs money - but a good one will save you money by eliminating your learning curve and having trusted subs they work with.  I am a trusted sub of many local contractors who don't even talk to anyone else about their flooring work.  I know what I'm doing, am always available for consults and they know they can be confident about my work.  Basically you want to find someone like me in your area.

    If there is particle board under the vinyl, which would only be for a wood subfloor and not a concrete one, I'd be wanting to get that particle board out of there.  First off beause it will be very old and probably degraded, and second, because if there is a water loss or a flood the particle board will blow up like a balloon and ruin your new flooring.  Also, for a house of that age with a wood subfloor, I'd be wanting to strip off the layers to check for any needed subfloor repairs before putting in a new floor.  Sometimes if you can get under the house you can look for this stuff from underneath.

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    I did an asbestos awareness course (there's a few hours of my life I won't get back). It was used in over 3000 building products and thermoplastic flooring, as they used to call it, is one of them. If it is sound you can leave it as an underlay which will effectively encapsulate it, otherwise it needs taking up.

  • G
    Lv 5
    1 month ago

    Asbestos testing is cheap, maybe $25 - $50 tops. Asbestos demolition and disposal is expensive. 1966 it certainly could be asbestos and once you test positive, you pretty much have to go all the way. Asbestos left in place is not a problem so you could simply not ask the question and cover it with a barrier and put the new flooring over top.

  • 1 month ago

    You have the option of installing the new floor over top the sheet vinyl. Very safe that way.

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