Archive for the ‘Asbestos Tile’ Category

Washerless Faucet Leak / Removing Asbestos Tiles Safely / Ridding Wallpaper Blisters

In Asbestos Tile, Plumbing, Q&A on October 30, 2012 at 10:39 am


We have old crumbling tiles on our basement floor that we think may be asbestos. Do we have to call in those companies that wear protective clothing and respirators?


Old, crumbling floor tiles can be safely pried up with a scraper, but first wet them down lightly so there is no dust disturbance. Put the removed tiles in double bags of 6-mil thick each. They should be disposed of at a dumpsite licensed to accept materials containing asbestos. Or you can just put indoor/outdoor carpeting on top of it.

If you’re not sure if the tiles care asbestos wet a piece of tile down to remove it and then put it in a small zip lock plastic bag and take it to a testing laboratory. If the tiles do contain asbestos and they’re in good condition, leave them in place. Just don’t use a buffing machine or stripper machine on them because that will disturb the asbestos and release the fibers into the air.


We have a single-lever Delta faucet that we were under the impression was never suppose to leak, but it sure does. What can we do?


No one ever said they aren’t supposed to leak. The advertising claim is that Delta faucets, and many single-lever faucets, are washer-less and you will never have to replace a washer. The ads are right. You will, however, have to replace 0-rings, springs and seats. This job is easy to do and kits can be purchased containing everything you need for the job, including an Allen wrench. The kits cost under five dollars and are available at most hardware centers.

Start by determining the brand’s model of your leaking faucet. Purchase the repair kit. Turn off the water and stop up the drain. Next, you’ll have to follow the directions on the kit for your particular faucet (you knew there had to be a catch). But believe me, they’ll be simple to follow.


My sister hung wallpaper at my house but since then I’ve noticed some bubbles in the paper. What is causing it and how can I fix the problem?


Wallpaper blisters are usually caused by air trapped behind the paper, or it might be a speck of grit or a paint chip. Lightly press against the bubble with your finger to feel for any foreign object under the wallpaper. If you feel something, purchase some wallpaper seam adhesive and follow these tips to fix it.

Get an Xacto knife, which has a very sharp, thin blade. Cut a small diagonal slit across the blister and carefully lift one edge to remove the grit or paint chip with a tweezers. Using a small paintbrush with a thin tip, apply the seam adhesive behind the slit in the wallpaper, into the blistered area. Press the area firmly against the wall and wipe off any oozing adhesive.

If the problem is an air bubble, cut a tiny slit with the knife or razor blade over the bubble, and inject a few drops of seam adhesive using the glue tube’s applicator tip or a glue syringe. Then press out the air through the slit and wipe away any excess adhesive with a damp cloth.

Another cause of blistering is a paint bubble. In this case, make a small X-shaped cut through the blister and peel back the four corners of the wallpaper. Scrape away the paint bubble with a narrow putty knife and then apply seam adhesive to the underside of each corner. Press the paper firmly back into place, smoothing the joints and wiping away any excess adhesive.

Seams can be the most troublesome areas of wallpaper, but they are easy to fix. Simply apply seam adhesive to the loose edge, press the seam against the wall and wipe away the excess glue. Now that you’re not “glue-less” any more, there’s no excuse for falling apart at the seams.


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Noisy Water Heater / Phantom Flushing / Check For Asbestos Tiles First

In Asbestos Tile, Hot Water Tanks, Plumbing on August 6, 2012 at 11:00 am

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My gas fired water heater “cracks and pops” like a steam radiator during the reheat cycle. Is there a cure?


Providing no one spilled a box of cereal into your tank, you may just have purchased and inexpensive tank. Even so, there are a few things you can do.

First, turn down the temperature setting, on the dial, on your tank. It should be set to 120-degrees. Next, periodically turn off the gas and using the hose of a vacuum cleaner, vacuum out the sediment that accumulates on the top of the burner compartment.

Another thing, twice a year, drain a pail of water from the hose bib at the bottom of your tank. That will flush some of the sediment out and help the tank last longer and be quieter.

One more thing, many people think turning the temperature up all the way will give them more hot water or hot water faster. Wrong on both counts. All you’ll do is take years of life off the tank, spend a lot of extra money trying to maintain the temperature of the water, which you’’ just have to add cold water to so you don’t scald yourself.


I have a toilet that all of a sudden flushes by itself. I know something is wrong and I know it’s flushing money down the drain. But what causes this?


Depending on the frequency that could be a few hundred dollars annually down the drain.

To correct the problem, pour a few drops of food coloring into the tank. Wait about 10 to 15 minutes and lift the seat of the commode. If the water turned the color of the food coloring, you’ll need to replace the tank ball or flapper ball not the float. It is generally black or rust colored at the bottom, center of the tank.

Turn off the water and drain the box. Simple to install replacement kits, which are easy to attach to the overflow pipe are available at neighborhood hardware stores for under ten dollars.

But before you install the new flapper ball, lightly clean the rim that the flapper sits in with a fine steel wool, you’ll now have what is known as a “Royal Flush”.


I have an older 1940’s house with a tiled basement floor. Some of the tiles are cracked, broken or have become loose. Can the old tiles just be yanked out and replaced?


If the tiles measure 9-inches by 9-inches in all likelihood those tiles contain asbestos. Normally floor tiles with asbestos present no health problems unless the fibers are disturbed. The only way I know of doing that would be to use a buffer/stripper machine on the tiles or damage and break the tiles. Feeling bored and looking for something to do? First take one of the broken or loose tiles to a testing lab (check the yellow pages). If it’s not asbestos, pretend you’re married to me and ignore what I’m saying.

If they do contain asbestos, to remove the old tiles you’ll need a large, long handled, metal scraper. Of course, prying and scraping the tiles will indeed disturb the asbestos. The only way to do it safely is to keep them wet while you’re working. Once loose, place the wet tiles in a large double-bagged garbage bags and dispose of them properly. The remaining adhesive may also contain asbestos fibers so instead of sanding them down, use a chemical remover.

If the basement is dry and you’re planning on carpeting it, leave the asbestos tiles down and just replace the damaged, missing or loose tiles with any tiles just so the floor is even. Remember, the asbestos tiles will be a good insulator between the cement floor and your carpeting.


Cooling a Third Floor Level / Odor From Evaporating Water in Floor Drain / Replacing Old Floor Tiles

In Asbestos Tile, Crawl Space, HVAC on May 22, 2012 at 10:00 am

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I need advice on summer cooling of the third level in my 3100 square foot home. The finished basement is cold, (all vents closed) the eight rooms on the main floor are chilly (most vents closed) and the upstairs is warm with all vents open.

I have heard about mini fans that are installed in ductwork to move along cool air. Is this a reasonably priced alternative that you would recommend?


Fact, hot air rises. The third floor will always be warmer especially in the summer. To make the third floor more comfortable you should start by bringing your attic insulation up to at least R-49 and making sure the attic is adequately and properly vented. You should immediately notice a difference in comfort. Doing so will also save you money on heating and cooling costs.


The water in the drain of my basement floor evaporates periodically, causing really an unpleasant odor in my house. How can it be avoided?


The floor drain does the same thing as the traps in plumbing fixtures. They’re designed to hold water, which blocks the passage of sewer gas from the sewer or septic tank from entering your home. That is a good thing!

Every time we use a plumbing fixture we replenish any water that has evaporated. But unless the basement floods frequently it’s a good idea to occasionally go down to the basement or laundry room and pour water into the floor drain, since that water also evaporates. When it does evaporate, as you know, you’ll smell an awful sewer gas odor.

If you’re one of those people who don’t like the idea of another periodic task, then you’ll love this tip. Remove the floor drain cover (there may be only a couple of corroded screws holding it in place) and pry up the cover. Now, remove and clean out any debris that you can see. Next, take a ping-pong or tennis ball and place it in the drain opening and replace the cover plate. Measure the opening before you drop in a ping-pong ball. If the hole is too big, use the tennis ball.

The ball should sit perfectly on the drain hole and block any sewer gas trying to work its way into the house. If any water gets onto the basement floor from an overflowing laundry tub, burst pipe or one of those 100-year storms that seem to happen every other year now, the ball will float and the water should still drain. Just remember to test this first by pouring some water into the drain and making sure the ball rises to the occasion.


I was thinking about replacing my old shabby basement floor tiles. Do you have any suggestions on how I go about doing this?


If you have a house built prior to 1982 and especially if it’s older than that, the floor tiles in the basement, hallways, kitchen or wherever there is tile, may contain asbestos.

Now, we’ve all heard that asbestos is hazardous, but generally those tiles are not hazardous as long as you basically leave them alone. They’re not friable, which is the “catch word” for hazardous asbestos. Friable means the product can easily be broken up and disturbed with hand pressure. If it can be, the invisible asbestos fibers become airborne and we inhale them increasing our risk of lung cancer, asbestosis or mesothelioma.

Keep in mind that not all floor tiles contain asbestos and if you need to know if it does, take a broken or loose tile, place it in a zip-lock bag and take it to one of the numerous testing laboratories that you can find in the yellow pages or on the internet.

In my experience, all 9”x9” floor tiles, as well as the adhesive used to lay them, contain asbestos. If your tiles do indeed contain asbestos, wetting them down lightly so there is no dust disturbance allows you to safely pick up those old crumbling floor tiles. Then use an ice chopper or long-handled scraper to gently pry all the rest of the tiles loose.

Check your municipality, I think you are allowed to double-bag them and dispose of them with your regular garbage.

Re-sealing a Concrete Patio / Can Alligatoring Paint Be Corrected ? / Vermiculite Insulation

In Asbestos Tile, Q&A, Vermiculite on May 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm

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I have a concrete patio, which was sealed with a 50-50 mixture of boiled linseed oil and kerosene 8 years ago. We are happy with it, and I am thinking of resealing it with the same mixture, but not sure if it requires stripping.  If it does, what kind of mixture do I use to strip it before applying a new coat? Also can this 50-50 mixture be used for sealing stamped concrete patios?


There is no need to remove the previous sealer since it has long worn away due to weather, the suns rays and normal wear. The only thing you need to do is make sure the surface is clean and dry before you reseal it. My recommendation is to wait until it is nice and hot to apply the sealer, otherwise it takes too long to dry.

Finally, this method of sealing concrete is not only recommended for patios, it is also recommended for driveways, porches and walkways as well.


The paint on some walls looks like the hide of an alligator. Can it be corrected?


Yes, it can be corrected. You didn’t read me say it can be done easily, but I will say it could be corrected and maybe worth the effort to you.

Sometimes numerous random cracks appear over the wall – not straight cracks, but cracks that actually look like an alligator’s hide. These cracks originate within the paint itself. A couple of circumstances contribute to this problem: Applying paint over a surface that’s not clean or is greasy, and most often, applying a flat paint over glossy enamel or a varnished woodwork.

In the future, if you plan on painting over gloss or semi-gloss enamel paints or varnishes, sand and clean the surface prior to painting. Then apply a de-glosser, like Liquid Sandpaper.

To eliminate the alligatoring-paint, you have two alternatives: A temporary solution is to fill and sand each and every crack with spackling compound and repaint. The permanent solution is to chemically strip off all the layers of paint, clean, sand, prime the walls, and re-paint. Keep in mind that most of the paint under the latex topcoats probably contains lead. Lead paint must be removed using precautions. You must be careful not to stir up dust or cause fumes that contain lead. You really should consider hiring a professional since you are going to set up a containment area in each room that you’ll be working in. Containment means removing everything from those rooms. The carpeting and floors will have to be covered with heavy-gauge, six-mil plastic and all seams taped. The plastic should even be taped to the baseboards. The heat supply and returns must all be sealed off and you will need to wear disposable clothing, goggles and protective mask. You can find out more about safety measures by calling 1-800-424-LEAD. Ask for the brochure “Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home.” This brochure explains what to do before, during, and after renovations.

Now that you think about it, those cracks don’t look so bad after all, do they? They sort of give the walls character. And speaking of character, I’m often called one.

You inspected my house for a purchaser and found vermiculite insulation in the attic. They did not buy the house because of it. Why?

Vermiculite is known to contain hazardous asbestos.

EPA’s recent testing in houses with vermiculite found that for the most part, undisturbed attic air contains no detectable asbestos. If vermiculite is disturbed, or samples pulled from the bottom of the insulation, there is up to 2% of a very hazardous type of asbestos. Since any exposure to asbestos is unsafe a licensed asbestos contractor should remove it.
Another problem with vermiculite is just its existence in the attic. Houses breathe and vacillate between negative and positive air pressure. When your house is under negative pressure you could be pulling asbestos fibers into the air via wall sockets, light fixtures, recessed lights, gaps between the floor and walls, etc.

Vermiculite looks about the size of the eraser on a pencil. The colors vary from silver-gold to a gray-brown. If you think you have it, do not go into the attic.

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