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We live in a loft/warehouse rental where the wood floors are a
bit beat and splintery in places. I am pregnant with our first
baby so I hadn't given the floor much thought, but my mother
seemed very concerned and wants to pay to have wall to wall
carpet installed. My husband and I are not that into the idea
of carpet because it is nasty on many levels, 1) formaldihyde,
2) it will get trashed and then have to go into a landfill (our
dog likes to swim at the beach several times a week and despite
rinsing off is still always a little sandy and wet) and 3) this
is a rental.
Anyone have a practical suggestion for a flooring alternative
that would be not so toxic and hold up to a sandy wet dog and be
nice for a crawling baby and not a fortune?
We were in a similar situation with both our kids - a rental with
old-ish wood floors. I shudder at the idea at covering them up
with carpet! Here are some ideas -
- If your mother is willing to pay for carpet, might she be
willing to pay to have the floors re-sealed instead? That would
at least solve the splintering problem. If not, could you
negotiate something with your landlord?
- Small inexpensive rugs from IKEA, etc., that you can put in
high-traffic areas where the baby will play. (Wait until s/he is
born so you know where those areas are!)
- Foam mats, again in places where the baby will play
- Keep the baby in pants and socks instead of shorts, and s/he
won't mind the hard floor. The splintering does seem to be a
potential issue though, so consider the above-mentioned sealing
or covering up with temporary mats/rugs.
You might try FLOR. They are carpet tiles that are made in an
environmentally friendly way - the company will even recycle
your old carpet when you're done. We have a cool modern
looking area rug in our dining room made with a few different
types of carpet tiles and wall to wall in our basement living
room that we installed ourselves. The best part is when you
have a spill you pull the tile up, wash it out in the sink and
put it back down when it dries. The downside is that they are
not very plush if you are looking for that. www.flor.com
happy flor customer
I am a long time green architect and a mother and have
consequently thought a bit about flooring issues. I agree with
all of your concerns about wall to wall carpet. I would also
recommend against hard surface flooring--it is hard to get any
that are completely free of toxic chemicals, glues or finishes
and given your pregnancy I would take every step to avoid them
I think your best bet would be to get an area rug that is either
braided cotton or all-wool with a jute backing. For at least 6
months you can just plop your baby on the rug and she/he won't
stray. Hooked rugs have a fairly even surface and are good for
My daughter grew up on older wood floors, with area rugs.
Neither she nor her friends (or us for that matter) ever got
splinters from the floor. And I can think of a friend who's
house had some fairly bad patches of termite damaged wood--again
no issues with splinters.
When our baby was on the way we got 2 large wool carpets with
bound edges. Not cheap but they have lasted years very well, no
outgassing and stain resistant. Since we rent they move with us.
It's nice to have a soft surface for crawling, pulling up,
reading, etc. We got an underpad for one to make it even more soft.
We have a small hallway area (maybe 9x9?) in the center of our
home that sees a lot of foot traffic (the dining room, kitchen,
two bedrooms and a bathroom all open onto this area). Currently it is carpeted and the
carpet is in terrible shape. We would like to replace it with some other sort of wood or
wood-like flooring and are looking for some recommendations. A
few things to note:
1. This is a rental home, so it doesn't have to be the BEST
choice, just one that looks nice enough and is serviceable. For the same reason, cheaper
options would be better.
2. Underneath the carpet is some sort of vinyl flooring. The
owners thinks it is likely to be asbestos-backed, so we do NOT
want to remove it and create a hazard. Rather, we want
something that can just be installed on top of it. [The house
is an old bungalow in Rockridge, so you'd think there would be
hardwood underneath, but it really doesn't look that way . . .,
plus there's the asbestos issue anyway.]
3. We are thinking about some sort of hardwood or hardwood
subsititute (laminate, pergo, etc.) but don't know enough about
it to choose what would work in this situation and be
4. We are not handy and so would likely need to pay for it to
be installed (or have landlord pay).
Suggestions? Any idea of how much this would cost all told?
Lost in the woods
We put in cork flooring in a small space that we bought from
on San Pablo. They have all different patterns and colors. Its
tiles, so we put
them over an existing vinyl floor. Its held up very well and we
EcoHome recommended an installer. For a space 3 times the size
describe, I think
we spend $1300. But with the economy how it is, I know you can
Try marmoleum tile (www.themarmoleumstore.com). If you are at
handy, you can install it yourself, if not, it's cheap to get
someone to install it for you. In any case, I'd strongly
recommend installing some sort of ''stick on'' or ''glue on''
over the top of your existing tiles.
You could try to test the underlying floor for asbestos as well.
If you find asbestos, you'll want to be careful with it, but I
tested a sample at a house I owned and was happily surprised to
find no asbestos. This lab in Emeryville is excellent:
I recently learned my kitchen floor (where my older child crawled and
my younger child is about to start crawling) is made with asbestos.
We're deciding between just covering it with a new floor, like linoleum
or glue-down cork tiles, and having it removed. We think there is a
nice fir floor underneath and would love to have that refinished.
Anyone deal with this? What did you do (cover it, remove it, or choose
to live with it) and how happy are you with the outcome?
want safe floors
We removed our asbestos floor in our kitchen of our previous home
while I was pregnant with our first child. We found a beautiful
fir floor underneath that was easy to refinish. We did have to
pay a hazardous materials fee for the floor to be removed. I
don't remember the cost (almost 9 years ago) but it could not
have been too much as we did not have that much to spend. Good luck.
My family has gone through asbestos removals. They are expensive
and the best contractors get sloppy. If you have it removed hire
another company to test the contractors work and don't let the
contractor arrange to have the air tested. Have the testing
company use a process that tests specifically for asbestos
particles and not general particles in the air, it is expensive
but worth it. My personal opinion and the one of many physicians
is to have the asbestos covered up. It is not hazardous unless
Are you sure that there's asbestos in the tiles? In most cases,
it's the glue where the asbestos resides, and since the glue is
under the tiles instead of on them, they're of no danger to you
UNTIL you disturb it. IF this is the case, and you're set on
tearing it out, the demolition needs to be handled very
carefully. Use an expert company like Synergy, and beware the
contractor who poo-poohs the condition, lest he contaminate
We covered our asbestos-backed 1950s vinyl flooring up with
bamboo, laid right over the top of it. You could do this with
cork, linoleum, laminate, hardwood, etc.; I've known a number of
people who handled it this way. The asbestos only becomes a
problem when it starts flaking and gets into the air, so sealing
it up with another floor covering is a good way to go. If you
want it removed, it will cost quite a bit more. You will have
to disclose that it's under there whenever you sell the house,
but otherwise I don't think it's a big deal to leave it, as
scary as it seems when you first find out about it.
We had tested a cross-section of kitchen floor coverings in our
1910 house and were told that there was asbestos in one of the layers. I had read somewhere
that the glue that is used to affix flooring can be dissolved with boiling water.
As water will prevent flaking asbestos from becoming airborne, we put on high
construction boots (from Ashby) and rubber gloves, borrowed a linoleum scraper from the tool
lending library, got out all our large pots and filled them with water, boiled and poured it
on the floor in sections, then scraped it up! What a mess. Took about a half day to complete.
A large string mop and squeezer mob bucket completed our set of tools. Bagged it all (put a heavy
duty trash bag in the backyard) and discarded it as hazardous waste. We have
an unfinished basement so the water did drip down a bit but most we mopped up before it seeped through.
Not too difficult and the price was right. We then sanded and varathaned the fir floors underneath.
We had a new kitchen floored installed. The old floor had
asbestos in it (I cut off a small piece and had it tested by a
Berkeley lab). We hired an asbestos abatement firm to do the
removal, and we're glad we didn't trust the job to the flooring
contractor. Obviously, we paid extra but came away with peace of
asbestos tile is not super dangerous because it's comprised-- but
when you pry it up, be sure to keep things damp to avoid friable
particulate matter from getting into the air.
[Editor] see also: Advice about Asbestos
I live in a one-story Berkeley bungalow with a 4 ft. crawlspace
beneath and wood floors - in some rooms, the original douglas fir
subfloor is the main floor - and our floors are ice cold. Radiant
heat is out of the question financially, but I've heard
suggestions of either putting spray or traditional insulation
under the house to help keep the floors warmer. Are there other
suggestions out there that people have tried (and worked)?
Slippers and area rugs help, but maybe there's another way to
better insulate the floor, period? Thanks!
It sounds like you need to insulate your floors!
I had the floors insulated in my 1920s house and didn't mention
it to my tenant. My tenant called me that night to thank me for
making the house so much more comfortable.
In the last year I have worked with All Seasons Insulation and
McHales. I recommend you call All Seasons at 800 905 7965 to
get your floor joists insulated ASAP.
Regarding radiant floors, a radiant heating system does not
need to cost an arm and a leg if kept simple. If you were
really interested in keeping your toes toasty warm that would
be the way to go.
Dear Ice cold feet:
you (or i) can install traditional insulation between the floor
joists. It is a dirty job but it can most likely be done in a
I did this in my house in Massachusetts and it worked very well.
I installed R19 under my wood floors, this helped slightly but
the floors were still cold. Radiant heat made a huge difference.
If you are handy it's inexpensive to install in homes with
crawlspaces. I spent about $1600-$2000 in parts cost and a lot
of my own labor but it was worth it. Berkeley has mild winters,
your water heater and a single pump are plenty to heat a small
house. This is called an ''open system.'' You need to plumb it so
a shower flushes cold water through the floor keeping the system
fresh. There are at least two websites that sell packages that
cut down on the amount of plumbing you need to do, I bought some
parts from them, some from ebay, easier to just get it all from
one place. Search for ''radiant heat'' on google and look for the
two stores that provide both prices and info (diagrams etc...)
1/2'' pex tubing roughly 1.2 feet per sqft, tube talons or pex staples
mylar coated bubble wrap and R19 insulation
Grundfos UP15-18SU pump , controller and thermostat
3/4'' one way valve, ball values and other 3/4'' copper fittings
and pipe, pressure test kit and bike pump.
3/4 copper to 1/2 pex compression adapters.
1-1/2'' drill bit and right angle drill (tool library should have
Ability to bend pex tubing without kinking it (takes practice)
You could start with one room for about $800 in parts and add a
room at a time for roughly $300 in parts.
Big cost is labor, it is at least a week of work to get one room
up and working for someone inexperienced.
this page was last updated: May 27, 2013
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