Flooring and Carpeting/Laying Laminate Over VCT
Perry, I recently had a burst water pipe which destroyed the laminate flooring in the basement of my recently purchased house. I removed the laminate and its underlayment from the floor and discovered VCT flooring underneath the laminate. At first, I considered installing a new laminate floor over the VCT which is 10 or 20 years old but looks unharmed by the flood. However, I had second thoughts after I read all of the negative health side-effects from PVC floorings which typically contain phthalates — chemical additives used to soften PVC products — which have been associated with wheezing among preschool children, disturbances of normal hormonal processes, adverse impacts on the reproductive system, kidneys, liver, and blood, and autism in children. When I asked a basement contractor about removing the VCT from the concrete floor, I gather that he felt that the removal would create more health problems because removing the VCT adhesive would ultimately require the use of chemicals which also had negative side-effects. I mentioned citrus and soy-based solvents as alternative removers, but I gather that he felt that they were ineffective. Consequently I am wondering whether covering the VCT with laminate and an underlayment will effectively block any chemicals which might emerge from the VCT. In other words, will covering the VCT with laminate and an underlayment eliminate our exposure to the negative health side-effects of VCT? Alternatively, will covering the VCT with ceramic tile eliminate our exposure? If neither covering will eliminate our exposure, is it effective to use citrus and soy-based solvents to remove the adhesive after the VCT is removed? I welcome your feedback on these questions. Thank you. David
Thank you for your question David,
Please allow me to be candid with you David...ok? While nearly all of the vinyl Industry produced materials have compounds that are typically petroleum based and can outgas fumes of degraded material typically the process has been reduced to near or next to nothing once you get past a decade or more in age. The older produced VAT was far more carcinogenic than the following generation material. The adhesives used to secure the tiles also experiences a similar stable level after an extended period of time. I have removed thousands of sq ft. of vinyl over the years and if simple effective process's are followed it is an uneventful endeavor. Some of the difficulty with removing the VCT has most likely already been started by the flood that you experienced. Water will pressure down beneath the squares at the joints and carry into the slab below. This moisture can be captured there for some time as the evaporation process is slowed by the covered surface. For me if you are concerned with the VCT then lets get it removed as it is a straight forward process and typically doesn't take very long to do. The same can be said for the old adhesive beneath the vinyl. The old adhesive can be topically removed with a mild solvent called Mineral Spirits. It is strong enough to loosen and remove the remaining glue after there has been a concerted effort to scrape off the majority of the adhesive first, but is not caustic and will completely outgas/evaporate in 48 hours. Both steps are not dangerous or risky, just necessary...follow me? Once the VCT is gone and the adhesive removed you can do either a Baking Soda rinse or a Sulfamic Crystal rinse with a Baking Soda rinse to follow that. Now the "Sulfamic Crystal" may sound pretty strong but it is only marginally stronger than a vinegar rinse just without the offending smell. This quick and easy step will clean the pores of the cement slab a little deeper and freshen the cement. Then when you follow that with the Baking Soda rinse every thing will be completely neutralized and will return things to a good balance. Also clean up is much easier as when baking soda dries it turns back to white and can be easily rinsed away. This is a process that will take you perhaps 3-4 easy days of work and once the process is complete you can move forward with either an acceptable Tile material or the Laminate product you were also considering. I have long recommended that "any" vinyl material be subject to removal in order to return to a neutral/original finish where you can then move forward properly prepared to make a better decision with a more permanent and lasting material better suited for you and your family. In other words David...I think it is a no brainer. Get ride of the VCT and begin anew and fresh. Ok David I hope this helps you with your project, feel free to return anytime...