Your old home creaks for new flooring and you want to oblige. The carpet is in tatters, the linoleum dull and worn. But besides picking clean, green, eco-friendly flooring, you need to know what secrets and surprises the ancient timbers harbor.
Flooring: Before Replacing, Check What's There
Older homes might hold some good surprises, but they also are fraught with health and environmental concerns--the biggest being asbestos.
First, a possible good surprise. You might have hardwood floors under that threadbare carpet. Many a house remodeler (perhaps at the demand of the spouse responsible for cleaning) has covered gorgeous hardwood floors with square-yards of tufted nylon. You may have some wonderful, aged fir, pine or oak--maybe even exotic hardwood. Pull up a corner of the carpet in each room and see what lies beneath. The wood probably would need refinishing, but nonetheless it could be beautiful, cheap, and easy on the environment.
Evil Asbestos in Older Homes
But consider the darker side of your home. Most importantly, cancer-causing asbestos can be lurking almost anywhere. It was widely used in home construction till the late 1970s. Linoleum, vinyl, asphalt flooring and their adhesives were loaded with it. It also was used in roofing, insulation, popcorn ceilings, wiring, heating, plumbing and more.
Unless a preceding homeowner dealt with the problem, you old home is, most likely, carcinogenic. You should consult with local authorities about how to proceed.
Sometimes, asbestos can be left undisturbed. For instance, new linoleum can be laid over the old, covering the asbestos-laden material. Or, depending on the situation, you could do the deconstruction and disposal yourself, using extreme caution.
However, your job may require budget-busting professionals to ensure a safe, healthful removal.
Old Carpets and a Mitey Load of Dust
Even without the asbestos issue, deconstruction can be a nasty business. For example, old carpeting is astoundingly filthy. No matter how often you vacuum and shampoo, dirt collects, along with dust mites and other unpleasantness. If you are pulling carpet, you need a good respirator, long sleeves and gloves--and then a good shower.
And speaking of a good shower, water damage, or other woes, such as termites, might show up as you peal back layers of your house. Kitchens and bathrooms, with their propensity for water spills, are special concerns. Dampness leads to toxic black mold, which requires careful handling. A couple of flooded toilets or a leaky dishwasher can ruin not only the sub-floor, but also the underlying joists. Obviously, repairing such damage could put a serious hit on your budget and your completion schedule.
New floors are a wonderful thing. They can bring warmth and beauty. And maybe as wonderful as anything, they are an avenue to rid your home of longtime health hazards.
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