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My First House (has asbestos) :-(

Hi, all…

I have a rather difficult and pressing situation, as you may well read below… Any help will be greatly appreciated!

I’m in my mid-twenties (read as: strapped for cash, like everyone else), and I’ve just purchased my first house: a HUD home. Luckily, though in this sense alone, I’m single, so moving into what’s basically a sleeping-on-a-cot-during-the-remodel situation was no huge deal for me. However, this ability to adapt doesn’t detract from my eagerness to make my home a showplace, one which I can cherish for years to come.

It’s a 1599 sq. ft. red brick ranch house, built in 1971, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, on a concrete slab (clay tile HVAC ducts in the slab), with a poured-concrete foundation, a big lot, and W-framed trusses forming a classy hip roof line. It measures 33’ x 66’. It tested negative for lead paint, though they looked at many different surfaces. It’s probably the most solid house I’ve ever stepped into. I’ve yet to see an insect out of place, or a drop of water in the vents. All but one of the windows appear to have been replaced in the 1990’s, with double hung vinyl. I’ve looked high and low on the brick lines, yet I can’t find a single crack in the brick, nor the mortar. My mortgage is for $100,000, but the insurance put its replacement cost at $169,000. The county appraises it at $128,800. As you probably guessed, I’m pretty happy with the fundamentals of the house, and my purchase. It’s in one of the top 3 suburbs of my city, with nationally acclaimed schools. All of this, and I actually was given a check for $1500 at closing (I did my homework, so to speak). I plan on staying in this house approximately 15 years, maybe longer.

Here’s the bad news: The house was vacant and sealed up for at least two months. “Someone had a temper” were the first words that came out of my whole house inspector’s mouth. Just about everything in the house is original and/or dilapidated to a degree that I want to replace it (e.g. someone kicked in most of the doors, breaking the jambs, including the front, back, garage, and bedroom doors). My whole house inspector found only about 6” of yellow stuff in the attic (the house is in south-western Ohio), and he suggested that I rush to get some more. He said I also need some fill dirt and downspout extensions to get the drainage under control. My radon guy reported that the radon level was “above the 4.0 threshold”, coming in at 4.8 pi/cu (I’m having a slab vent/fan combo installed in the garage). The kitchen cabinets don’t match, and some of the drawers are actually made of plastic, with no track to ride on! HVAC guy says that there’s about 5 years left in the current system, and that it’s only 85% efficient. The floor coverings are epic failures; the living room carpet was still damp for who knows what reason, when I pulled it up. The asbestos tester sampled nine surfaces, but found only one place where the evil substance turned up; the foyer and coat closet have a 12% 12x12” asbestos tile which lies under a hideous 12x12” ceramic tile.

Here’s the punch line: I’m going to rip out the wall that separates the kitchen, family, dining, living, and foyer rooms. I hired an experienced structural engineer to evaluate my plan. He was nearly gleeful at the sight of the 33’ trusses in my attic, and gave me a confident go-ahead.

Now (not a perfect plotting of the house, but a rough draft):

After (also a draft):

Now, I’m a lover of REAL hardwood flooring. I sometimes like to record (bands or my own musings), and I know from experience the value of warm hardwood floor in a prized recording. It would really be amazing, if I could rip out this wall, lay down some hardwood flooring, and make it a great room (read as: wannabe studio apartment in the center of my ranch house). I’d then put ceramic in the kitchen (it will be hardwood, if I have enough left over), and set about revamping the cabinets, ultimately, extending the kitchen area into the great room with a free-standing island. I’m going to do ceramic tile the bathrooms, and use Mohawk SmartStrand carpet in the bedrooms. I’m already making trips to the waste disposal in my truck, hauling old carpet and trim out of my evolving home!

I looked high and low for some cheap reclaimed or unfinished hardwood, and I finally scored it for 50 cents a square foot: 1000+ sq ft. of 3/4" thick, 2 1/4" wide hard maple tongue and groove, unfinished, for $500. The guy just doesn’t want it taking up space at his place any longer, so I’m going to U-Haul it back to my place from 60 miles away, tomorrow afternoon. He’s even throwing in 1500 sq. ft. of red rosin paper, though I’m unsure if I’ll even use it.

Here's some pics he sent me:

If you’ve made it this far, you probably are wondering why the back story. Well, here’s my issue: I need some expert advice on how to prep the many faces of my great room’s slab to lay down this hardwood, ASAP. My plan is to get the great room in great shape, then live in it, as a studio apartment of sorts, while I work on the bedroom-end of the house.

Here’s a list of what’s going on with the old flooring, and where:

1. Dining and living room areas: I took up the wet carpet and pad, under which, there is a pristine and unscathed slab (no cracks, not even hairline). I mopped this bare-slab area with water and bleach to disinfect.

2. Kitchen, laundry, and breakfast area: There are two layers of vinyl tile here, both of which tested negative for asbestos. The look as if they’ll come up very easily. The asbestos guy used hunks of tile with the black mastic still present on the back, for all of his tile samples. Therefore, I feel comfortable stripping this area to bare slab, though I’ll probably need some chemical assistance.

3. Utility closet, and family room area: When I saw this tile, I thought it surely would test positive for asbestos, but it didn’t. I’ve already removed most of the tile from this area, but the black mastic is still hanging around, taunting me. I’m using a sprayer with just water and detergent mixed, to mist both the material and the air above it, as I proceed with my demolition. I’m wearing gloves, an N95 respirator, closed safety goggles, and I’m trying to track down a HEPA cartridge respirator, as well.

4. Hallway, and the three bedrooms: Here there are simulated wood 12x12” vinyl tiles on black mastic, whose sampling tested negative for asbestos. In one of the affected bedrooms, there was a woven carpet pad that was backed by some sort of crumbling black foam rubber material (it smells!). I’m eager to get the tile up in that bedroom (the master bedroom) to rid the back rooms of this petroleum-like stench. These come up very easily, in many cases, unbroken.

5. Bathrooms: Both bathrooms have unlike tile on black mastic, but these tiles (and any mastic that came along for the ride) tested negative for asbestos. Though it’s not what I’m looking to do at the moment, I’ll be ripping this up and laying down ceramic, at some point.

6. Foyer, and foyer closet: This is the redheaded step child of the floor coverings in my house. The way I see it, there are, from top to bottom: well-secured ugly-duckling-designed Mexican-restaurant-decor ceramic tiles, some yet unseen adhesive, a cream-colored 12x12” asbestos-containing vinyl-like tiles, black mastic (perhaps, containing asbestos), and finally, the concrete slab.

The asbestos abatement folks quoted me $700 to “abate” the approximately affected 75 sq. ft. in the foyer and its soon-to-be-demolished closet. I am unclear, at the moment, how I might best install my beloved hardwood flooring, spanning areas 1, 2 (unlabeled, but it is the top right, in magenta), 3, and 6.

Here’s a graphic to explain where they’re at (I feel like I’m playing Clue)… The numbered areas coincide with the list just above, and the lightened area highlights the walls I want to remove. Remember, #6 is the asbestos-contaminated area...

I've been reading lots of websites about hardwood over slab, and I've yet to see anyone with a problem like mine. Ideas, anyone?


Thanks a lot!


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