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Reflooring our basement - questions...

Hello, just wanted to quickly say we love This Old House - we watch it all the time, and since my wife and I just got married and now we actually have a house and I find myself in need of assistance, so thanks in advance! It's kind of long, so I apologize, but it's stupidly complicated and explanation seems required.

The long backstory is this: So the basement is in two sections, one is the garage/furnace/etc, and part of it is finished and where we want our main living space to be. Now, the floor in the finished area is a mess. We believe the bottom layer is asbestos tiles (the house was built in the 60's), and my wife's mother (who gave us the house) had carpet over that. Unfortunately my sister-in-law, for some god forsaken reason, decided to rip up the carpet and then paint over the tile (but not fully ripping up the carpet so there's random fibers and glue patches making the floor uneven).

To top it all off, since it's the basement it has moisture issues - there's no standing water or collected moisture or anything like that ever, but it's definately damp. We're planning on running a dehumidifier but we want an option that doesn't *require* us to be running a dehumidifier to be able to maintain it.

So the short version is that we have a mildly damp basement with a concrete floor, covered with asbestos tile, covered in paint and/or carpet fibers.

Because we've just got the house and moving and being married and whatnot we're on a fairly strict budget and doing everything ourselves. So that essentially eliminates taking out the old tile correct? We can't really afford an environmental team to come out and do it. A worker/contractor at home depot said we could probably just pull the tiles out ourselves if we wear masks - but that doesn't seem like a great idea, or would that be fine?

Which leads to what our plan was. We obviously need to level the floor to put something down. We were told that the self-leveling compound won't stick to the paint, so a contractor we met (very helpful guy in home depot, lol), suggested we put down exterior grade plywood attached to the paint/asbestos tile with liquid nails as a subfloor and then use the quick level on top of that. I'm assuming the exterior grade was because of the potential dampness that could occur, but do we have to worry about mold or anything since it is still wood? And do we have to worry about warping and/or the liquid nails being effected by moisture?

As long as that plan is okay, we were just going to put down adhesive and ceramic tile over the self-leveling compound and be done with it.

Are we going to run into any problems or does anybody have any tips or advice? We thought we had that plan down and it sounded fine - but looking in home depot tonight, ANOTHER worker guy said that we would end up running into problems because of the moisture (when the other guy said it should be fine) and he was the one who suggested we just take up the asbestos tile ourselves. So at this point we're just confused and disheartened. Any directions, guidance, advice, anything would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks again!

Re: Reflooring our basement - questions...

A basement should really never be anything but tile. Putting wood or carpet or anything else over damp concrete will inevitably have problems. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but eventually a cover-up job will cause you problems down the line. So it depends what kind of a house this is. If it's one that you may pass on to your kids, there is only one way to do this right, and that's to pull up all that crap and start from scratch.
Now about that asbestos. I would never tell you to do it yourself, but people do every day. Wearing disposable suits, shoe covers, respirators (not masks, but RESPIRATORS), sealing off the ductwork, covering the walls and ceiling in plastic, spraying water on the tile as you pull it up, double bagging all the waste... these things will reduce your exposure, but you will still be exposed to some nasty stuff. In the end it may be worth the money to hire the pros.
While you're all suited up, you may need to score the concrete to get the leveling compound to adhere. This requires a big tool from the rental yard.
It's getting complicated, I know, but doing it right will mean you will only have to do it once.
The increasing rates of asthma and allergies in our country are indicative of the fact that carpet holds dust and moisture breeds mold and other toxins like asbestos and VOCs are serious issues not to be taken lightly.
People may tell you that it's not that big of a deal and the hype and paranoia is overreaction. They may be right. The problem is that no one knows how little or how much exposure is dangerous. There's no evidence that can quantify the risk.
Good luck.

Re: Reflooring our basement - questions...

Well, with all that setup required to do it, I can guarantee my wife won't let me do it because she'll be worried, hehe. That being said, we definately don't have enough money to pay for asbestos removal at this point.

On the other hand, we're not really planning on being here for more than five years, at which point we'll probably sell the house and move closer to family. So a temporary solution isn't too big of a problem and we'll just warn whoever we sell it to so they don't muddle about un-warned.

So that being said, is the liquidnails/plywood/self-leveling/thinset/tile stack feasible?

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure why they say that putting tile over plywood is a problem? If I secure it with the liquidnails and maybe some concrete screws or something, that should prevent too much movement/warping right? And if it's exterior grade then I thought moisture shouldn't be too much of a problem? Would using like that RedGard waterproofing membrane help?

Sorry I have so many questions! Trying to learn all this new stuff and it's all so bloody confusing :)

Thanks again!

Re: Reflooring our basement - questions...

Whether it's treated or not, wood moves. So to put something rigid like tile and mortar over something that will expand and contract like wood over a moist floor, is not recommended.
If you're determined to go this route, I'd say you could lay a cement backer board down (e.g. Hardibacker) with powder actuated nails, then mortar in the joints. But this a lot of work and materials.
If you're on a five year plan, I'd say carpet the damn thing and be done with it.
Most realtors know that asbestos is only a problem if it's disturbed, so hopefully potential buyers would not be scared off by "there may be asbestos tile under the carpet..."
But before you do anything I would send in a sample of the tile and adhesive to see if it really is asbestos or not.

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