Luxury Vinyl Plank install questions

Discussion in 'Vinyl Flooring Q&A' started by StephK10, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. StephK10

    StephK10 Member

    Hello, been watching many of the great conversations on here and it's time to ask my questions! I'm a DIY-er, but for this one I'm using a contractor/installer. Just don't have the time and means to tackle it myself. So I'm mainly educating myself and/or doing some helpful research for my contractor.

    The preface: 1 story-ranch home on slab foundation, lot itself is perched up pretty good, ground grading around the slab isn't the greatest on 2 sides of the house but not horrific. Just got gutters installed. Built in 1954. Purchased 4 months ago, with the intention of leaving the berber carpet that is in the LR, hall, 3 BRs and all closets after cleaning it to freshen the place up. Well, after steam cleaning, smell didn't really improve and mold test came back positive on carpet. So, carpet must go.

    All along had assumed the carpet pad and carpet was laying directly on the slab concrete as that's all I could see when I pulled the carpet edge up at the floor register vents. After some discussions and tips I received, did some center cuts in the carpet to see what's really under there and sure enough...lovely brown 9x9 vinyl tile (assumingly asbestos) has so far been found under the LR and 2BRs carpet. Looks to be in fine condition. Other BR it's hard to say what is...maybe remnants of someone having scraped the old tile off and left whatever adhesive behind or something. (i hope to come back to this post and include pics!). ANYWAYS..

    Have narrowed it down to going with an install of LVP flooring, floating, to replace the carpeted areas. Right now I'm stuck between Home Depot's LifeProof LVP and CoreTec Plus. Pretty similar products, major difference is the cork backing on CoreTec and the black foam-like substance on the back of the Lifeproof (and the lifeproof spews out a bunch of fancy things in description like mold/mildew inhibitor treatment etc.) Both offer good total thickness of product (6.5mm vs. 8mm), good wear layer, good texture features, and some sort of attached underlayment for cushion and warmth. Mostly comes down to pricepoint...

    (1) My biggest question is what to do with the old tiling that is down. I've read over and over that if it's in good condition you can just pretty much install the new floating floor right on top and never look back..OR...lay down some sort of sealer for piece of mind and feeling like you have a "fresh base" for your flooring. I haven't ripped up the whole house yet because my partner and I are living in it fully so I can't 100% describe the full quality of things. Abatement is not a financial option. I would love to just be able to lay some sort of sealer down and then get the floor installed.

    (2) Second biggest question: Moisture. Given that I'm on a slab, I fully understand the nature of vapor moving up through the slab. Overall the house has had a damper feel than most, and yesterday I bought a dehumidifier and already feel a decent difference. Have two basic home hygrometer/temperature readers and the humidity hangs around the mid-50's-60 on it's own, goes down to low 50's with dehumid on so far. Will laying the sealer of the assumed asbestos tile also serve as a vapor barrier to mitigate some vapor migration? I have a hard time conceptualizing that it can move up through the old vinyl tiling and it may not be an issue altogether, but right now it's really hard to tell if the damp-feel in the house has been coming from below, the slab, or I've got bigger insulation issues in the walls.

    (2nd question Part 2): Vapor barrier under the flooring. Lifeproof specifically states in their guide that concrete subfloor should be moisture tested and it has thresholds that if you are above them, you should lay a 6mil barrier down. CoreTec is much less specific and vague, and pretty much says "it's not a bad idea to lay one down but you don't have to". *rolls eyes*. One installer I spoke with stated he disagreed with vapor barrier as "it will just trap moisture between the barrier and the substrate underneath, so you'll have sitting moisture somewhere under your floor". Wouldn't that then lead to an odor and or mold/mildew growth? I like the idea of putting a VB down, but I understand what's he saying. Plastic would just trap it there and it won't be able to go back down into the old vinyl tile. One option I found was SVS (silicone vapor shield), that states it allows some degree of moisture through and "breathes" and is a bit of "gold standard" under hardwood and other similar floors.

    Any thoughts and opinions on anything I've asked, pointed out, described, etc would be super helpful.

  2. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    How is there a Floor Register when slab on grade? Good of you to do some research. I’m seeing builders grade homes in holes, I don’t get it.
  3. StephK10

    StephK10 Member

    The ducts are in the slab, sonotube style
  4. This is a tough one. Right now the carpet is allowing the moisture to move through the seams/edges between the VCT tiles = breathable. The vapour barrier is going to be required for the CoreTec - I already know that. The cork on the bottom has been known to get "musty" over these old slabs.

    A sheet vapour barrier has been known to keep the moisture below the VCT tiles...sometimes causing the old glue to become saturated and then it lets go. The carpet never let this happen (cause it allowed air floor). A sheet vapour barrier might change this dynamic. It all depends on how much moisture is moving up through the slab, through the seams of the VTC and into the air.

    All let the other guys talk about the coatings and toppings available for this situation. That's above my pay-grade. This is a tough one - that's for sure.
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  5. Incognito

    Incognito No more Mr. Nice Guy! I Support TFP Senior Member

    Brown, 9"x9" tile from 1954 is ASPHALT-ASBESTOS. It's very porous and thus highly resistant to moisture and alkalinity (pH). It's invariably installed into a tar/kerosene based adhesive that is a GREAT moisture barrier. IF your tiles are still secure it's a decent indication that your pH levels are cool and the moisture is............well, that's harder to say.

    With slab moisture AND high pH those tiles would be just setting there loose as a goose, if not already blistering and oozing the alkali (salts). It's those salts that distintigrate the adhesive and eventually MELT up through the patch and floorcovering. It's the scourge of our industry.

    So any advice is really contingent on the very specific conditions we would find after peeling back the carpet. I don't know what the rules are for moisture tests through asbestos tiles. I doubt they are allowed to remove tiles, grind the adhesive and surface layer of the concrete off to do a legit test.

    FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS would be to correct the issues with the landscaping. Don't think about flooring til that's done.
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  6. StephK10

    StephK10 Member

    Here ar some photos and different areas in the house:

    Photo 1: good condition tile
    Photo 2: no tile here. Appears to be some sort of old adhesive layer. It's closer to black than brown but falls between the two colors. It is very smooth in ths area the photo was taken
    Photo 3: good condition tile (not broken or loose) but appears to have some carpet adhesive spread on it as thas s is near the wall...
    Photo 4: close up of photo clue what that light brown substance is underneath?? It's not soft
    Photo 5: close up of photo 3
    Photo 6: similar to the previous 'adhesive layer' photos, different area than before. A little rougher Han the previous area. Hard to say if they put a little carpet pad adhesive down because this stuff was stuck down and you can see it's gonna be a mess getting it up...

    Attached Files:

  7. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    In my experience, it was easier to use carpet pad adhesive (some installers might use a multipurpose) than staples when installing carpet cushion over old asphalt tile because that stuff is so damn hard to drive a staple into.
  8. Mark Brown

    Mark Brown On The Surface Flooring I Support TFP


    I thought I was the only one that even knew of its existence :)
  9. Boy, this one is definitely a tangle. But, it's also one that I, and probably many others here, hear on a daily basis.

    We (the pros here) all know that the one right way to fix it is to demo everything down to the slab, shot blast it, install a proper moisture control system, install a layer of self-leveling over that and then put the floor down. But, the funds and logistics sometimes just don't allow for this to happen.

    So, what do you do?

    It's a hard question to answer because if we're not going to do it the one way that we know will work then we're basically forced to use our best "guess" and cobble together a solution for the customer that has to meet tons of criteria:
    • Has to meet the customers budget.
    • Has to meet the flooring manufacturer's requirements; to not void a warranty.
    • Has to try as best as possible to overcome the conditions that are present on the jobsite.
    • Has to be something that the person or retailer installing it feels comfortable enough with to assume the risk and liability of. (Assuming you're ethically trying to resolve the problem and not just make a quick buck)
    • Has to be something the installer is competent enough to install. (That can be a huge problem to overcome in itself)
    There are so many variables involved in a scenario like this it's very difficult to find a single source that can even tackle a situation like this competently and much worse when dealing with a residential scenario because that side of the industry has been even slower to learn about and address the problem. And if one of these things doesn't happen then the installer/retailer is left holding the bag for replacement.

    Since the mid 90's when the regulations began to be enforced that removed most of the solvents from our glues due to things like "Sick Building Syndrome" it has been a very slow, very painful transition to even get the people in our industry to really understand the scope of the problem, let alone begin to address it in a rational and competent way. It's really only been in about the last 5-8 years that the commercial segment of the industry has begun to seriously address the issue.

    I can remember talking about moisture issues with people 10 years ago and they would literally get that "deer in the headlights" look and start to nod and then conveniently forget everything that you just told them 10 minutes after they walked away (sometimes even sooner). After those same people get burned once or twice financially due to a moisture related failure then suddenly they become very attentive. And that is really the only thing that has moved us, ever so slowly. to where we are today with the issue. There are still a ton of under-trained and mis-informed people in the industry as a whole but even more so on the residential side of the industry with regard to this specific issue.

    Along the way in this industry wide learning curve for moisture issues, a whole industry has sprung up within the flooring industry with a multitude of cures and remedies for the problem. Much like the medical industry some of these products will work, but far too many of them are touted as "miracle" cures but are, in reality, simply band-aids at best. It's extremely difficult for even professionals in this industry to discern between all of the available products, let alone someone outside the industry.

    Sorry for the lengthy opining, but I think it's sometimes important for folks who ask us questions to understand why we don't sometimes give short direct answers when the questions seem so straightforward.

    Incog has given you some of the best advice regarding your specific moisture situation.

    To add to his comments with regards to moisture testing where resilient is installed; it can be done but there are two different approaches.

    If you're going to do in-situ Rh testing then you can do it with the resilient tiles in place. It doesn't change the result. You're just determining what the in-situ Rh is at 40% of the thickness of the slab.

    If you are going to try and do a Calcium Chloride test which measures the moisture vapor emission rate (MVER), then you would have to remove the tile for each test site in a 20" x 20" area and grind the slab clean in that area. Probably not going to work too well with asbestos tile and adhesive, it could be done but not very easily.

    I'd strongly recommend sticking with the Rh test as it's the more accurate of the two and most manufacturer's will state that if both tests are done the Rh should be the determining factor whether installation can proceed.

    That being said, please keep in mind that you're not dealing with a curing moisture problem. You're dealing with a "moisture of intrusion" problem. This is different because the moisture is coming into the slab from the ground so there is a unlimited amount of moisture that can pass through the slab depending on weather, drainage, and grade. Curing moisture with a slab that has an intact vapor retarder underneath is limited to the amount of moisture beyond what was needed for hydration (curing the concrete) passing out of the slab. With curing moisture, once it's gone that's it, assuming the vapor retarder is intact. In your scenario, depending on what the weather does, you will always have moisture coming from that slab. It could be drier at times and wetter at times.

    That's important to remember because that basically means the test result is going to constantly change with the weather cycle.

    That leads into your question about using a vapor retarder (6 mil poly) on top of the slab. Why do some manufacturer's say you should use one and some seem to care less? That's because there are two schools of thought on it.

    The first school says you should because:
    • It keeps the moisture and the dreaded alkalinity that comes with it from coming in constant contact with the back of the product. This could be bad as it can effect the flooring and cause it to buckle or fail.
    • It keeps any moisture and associated odor underneath and "hopefully" contained and away from coming in contact with the people living on the flooring.
    The second school of thought says:
    • You may not want to use a vapor retarder because it will "trap" this moisture below the vapor retarder, grow mold and mildew and it will have an odor and make you sick. You're better off letting the moisture evaporate "through" the joints in the flooring or the perimeter expansion gap.
    The problem is that neither of these solutions provide a full-proof resolution to the problem. The moisture is still there. It's still going to continue to be there and it's never going to stop coming through the slab. So if this is the only option you can afford you can see the dilemma and no one here can make that choice as to which you feel more comfortable with. I can expound on tons of reasons of what might be better but no one can ultimately say for sure because we just don't know how much moisture, based on the weather, we're ultimately dealing with so even the "better" option may not work well enough.

    So besides the 6 mil poly what other options are out there?

    1. Number one would be the "for-sure" system that I started the post with. But you've already stated that's not financially or logistically possible. ****Please note that everything after this has at least some chance of failure****
    2. An after applied silicoid densifier such as Bonedry or SprayLock Concrete Protection
      1. The risk here is with potential bonding problems and incompatibility with future flooring. It's also going to require a significant expense in demo and prep to be properly applied. It's nearly impossible to do in any occupied space due to the demo and resulting mess.
    3. A roll on application of an acrylic based vapor retarder / encapsulant
      1. Problems here are significant demo costs (remove tile and bulk of the old adhesive residual), very commonly not installed correctly leading to eventual breakdown and failure, and most importantly doesn't provide up to 100% Rh coverage which is possible with your slab. Most are going to stop at 90% Rh. If the Rh in the slab exceeds this you could have a failure.
    4. A more significant sheet product than the 6 mil poly such as VersaShield MBX (Soon to be called Kovara).
      1. Old tile could stay down if well bonded, but significant patching may be necessary in areas where tiles are missing, MBX is not a cheap date figure $3.00 / sf minimum just for the material + installation. MBX is only good to 99.5%. Same problems with moisture gathering underneath this material as with 6mil poly.
    5. A kludged together "redneck engineering" type of solution such as using something like Killz or Benz.
      1. Absolutely no guarantee this will work. It's an oil based "sealer" so down the road if the flooring ever gets changed it's one more layer in the "crap sandwhich" to deal with removing to go back to fix the problem right, the product is not designed to be used for this purpose.
    There could be more but I think I've hit the majority of the ones in the industry that are out there and commonly used today.

    Sorry to be so long-winded and negative sounding. I really just want to convey the enormity of the problem and the ton of variables in dealing with something like this even as professionals. The last thing anyone wants is for you to have a health/safety issue because we missed something. We're all here to try to help you succeed with your new flooring and we want you to have a good outcome that doesn't break you financially but unfortunately you're kind of in a pickle here and I believe it's best if you know what you're in for so you can ask good questions and get the best result possible that you're willing to accept.

    I'm sure you'll have questions and I hope you post back as often as you need and we'll keep giving you our best!

    I think that has to be one of my longest posts ever!!! Jim have I reached a new record yet?
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  10. StephK10

    StephK10 Member

    Thank you so far for all the responses, it is helpful but definitely overwhelming.

    Some context here, I'm 31 and this was my first home purchase. I wouldn't fully say I'm having buyers remorse, but I definitely learned way more about the home after buying it and being it in than on the front end. Hard lesson learned but it's what I have and I need to make it work.

    For the big picture, this won't be my forever home. I've freshened it up and have a few more things coming (including the flooring) and that's it. No major remodels, it is what is for ~5 years or so. It's a starter house for sure. All I want is to be able to get something installed that I know will last at least that and I can eventually move on. Whoever has the house next can decide what they want to do with it.

    A follow up question (or two):

    (1) Any idea what that lighter brown surface that is exposed in little patches among what I'm assuming to be an old adhesive layer in the photo where there is no tile? (the one where I got a good close up). I touched it and it's very rigid just like everything else. Just curious.

    (2) In particular when it comes to the option of just going over everything with some sort of let's say, epoxy sealant type application, would there be a bonding issue to the glossy tile that is there and/or a negative reaction over whatever that old black substance is?
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017
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  11. Incognito

    Incognito No more Mr. Nice Guy! I Support TFP Senior Member

    Response to the question about the photo that's NOT asbestos tile unde carpet and pad..........

    I'm at a loss. I could throw out some guesses that other industry familar (floor pros) would understand but I don't think it could be helpful to you so I'm biting my tongue.

    Doesn't really matter what it is. Commercial Floor Rep explained the deal about as good as I've ever heard it. I've spent a lifetime on commercial flooring jobs getting that "deer in the headlight" look. In my world it's 95% that they don't CARE because it's not their house and about 5% that they don't..........CARE.

    I think that adds up to 100%. But I'm only a flooring installer, not a mathmetician or scientist. I worry about the health effects of "floating" or "encapsulating" stuff like asbestos and alkali.

    Sick Building Syndrome is a real thing. I've experienced it so many times I couldn't keep track. In a home with elderly, children, loved ones.............

    Can you save a dollar and sleep well?

    I guess you can if you can ignore the basic chemistry.
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  12. StephK10

    StephK10 Member

    Playing devil's advocate now, what's really the difference then in never having noticed an issue with the carpet warranting removal and finding out what's really underneath? With the carpet being a breathable material, I'm still being "exposed" to whatever is going on underneath, and/or couldn't the carpet be viewed as a barrier of "encapsulation" (using that term very very lightly) to counteract said "exposure"?

    I feel like it's coming down to a "what's worse" scenario, ripping out the carpet and putting new carpet down which eventually will have the same issue, or putting in something (in this case the LVP) that actually ends up being more of a "physical" barrier between me and the flooring situation underneath and just hoping it lasts as long as I need it to.

    Incog, clearly I care because I've been this diligent in doing my homework and trying to use that to select who I choose to work with to do my installation, whichever way it goes. I feel like I've gotten so many casual responses of "oh yeah it'll be fine just lay it right on top of what's there no biggie", that's what brought me here.
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  13. If we're talking about residential broadloom carpet (roll goods, not tile) then no, it's not going to act as a barrier for anything. It's one of the few products that will allow the moisture to pass through it. But, as you've already learned from having the carpet that's down tested, this can result in mold collecting in it to which you're in contact with it.

    If it were my home and I was forced to choose between the two options you've given, I would go with a rigid core luxury vinyl plank or tile like Coretec Plus (Sorry, I'm not a fan of anything HD sells). Use a layer of 6 mil poly (Visqueen). Make sure you overlap your pieces by 4-6" and tape them with clear 2" packing tape. It's not ideal as we've already stated, but it's most likely going to get you down the road 5 years.

    Since you've said you that you're a first time home buyer and have learned quite a bit in buying this starter home, let me just plant a seed of wisdom.

    Obviously, the last owner most likely knew that there was Asbestos tile and adhesive down and "covered it up" for you, the next buyer. They were hoping that during the inspection process this little Band-Aid didn't get caught. By essentially doing the same thing with the hard surface floating floor you're considering, just be aware that it might get caught by a more savvy home inspector or buyer when you go to sell, which could ultimately lead to you having to deal with the ugly mess before you can sell. That's not a good place to be if you're in escrow. With my luck, I would be the one that gets "caught". As they say "Caveat Imptor, Let the buyer beware". That's not a condemnation of what you're doing, it's done everyday. Just a caution as to what could happen down the road.

    There really isn't an epoxy sealant product out there that can just go over what's there the old flooring and adhesive would have to come out. The process is fairly extensive and very messy, which makes it very hard to do in any occupied space. If I had to guess I'd say to demo what's there and install a moisture control system you're looking at probably $5-$7 per square foot. You'd also probably have a challenge of finding someone to do it. Most residential flooring retailers aren't equipped or trained to do something like this so you'd probably have to seek out a commercial flooring contractor to do it. It's also worth noting that depending on your local or state regulations you may have to have a professional abatement company remove and dispose of the tile and adhesive. It varies wildly from location to location. Here in Indiana, we simply have to work with it in a wet environment but anyone can do it. In other places you have to have someone who's licensed do the removal.

    At any rate, I wish you success and happiness with your new floor.

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  14. Mark Brown

    Mark Brown On The Surface Flooring I Support TFP

    This is exactly the reason we are opening a asbestos and hazardous materials removal division of our operation. My partner is on his way to training for the next two weeks. In our jurisdiction the removal of asbestos is highly regulated and we run into it more often than i would like to say. We have all the gear for concrete repair and remediation but that silly little asbestos layer is getting in the way of repairing so many floors that we figured hey, time to get on the wagon.
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  15. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    I'm still stuck on vent ducts run under slab. There's no crawl space? The brown stuff, that's not fiberboard designed for insulating?
  16. I'm not sure where the OP is located, but here in Indiana that's done pretty frequently. The vents and ducts are placed in the slab and buried in the concrete. No crawlspace. My mom and dad's old house was the same way. Had a hell of a problem with moisture for awhile because the slab cracked and water started accumulating in the in duct that fed the furnace from the outside. When they'd kick on the furnace it would put so much humidity in the house that the walls would sweat. Took me and dad a couple of days to find it and repair the crack. Luckily, the crack was reachable from a vent so we didn't have to tear into the slab.
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  17. StephK10

    StephK10 Member

    I am in central NY state. To clarify, the duct work is within the slab. Which has becomes its own issue in itself a short concrete moisture + cardboard tubing = mold and corrosion. Currently have someone in my house servicing furnace for heating season and there is sand blowing out several vents. Pictures show cardboard has rotted away along with some concrete and the sand layer below the tubing has free mobility is covering surfaces in my house. Now I'm officially hating this house lol. Going to have to seal off and re-route HVAC to overhead distribution. Insert 4 letter F word :)

    Attached Files:

  18. Whoa! That doesn't look like it's going to be easy or cheap to deal with. Did you have an inspector prior to purchase? If so, have you talked with them regarding why some of these issues weren't discovered? If you did, there could be some liability on their part for not discovering or disclosing some of this stuff. These are health issues. If it were me, I think I'd be starting to talk to my attorney and my realtor.
  19. StephK10

    StephK10 Member

    Yes, home inspector. I've gone back through all the paperwork...home disclosures were very minimal. One sheet of paper with all the basics, but no questions pertaining to any knowledge of potential asbestos containing materials. And the home inspection agreement I signed pretty much absolves him of liability and I could only recoup what I paid him ($290). At this point it's kind of harder to think about legal fees and time and what not vs. just taking the hit as a home buyer and sealing off the floor ducts, reroute going to ask my realtor a few questions and see what she thinks
  20. Wow, that sucks. You've got your hands full Steph, I hope it all works out for you. I bought my house when I was 20 and boy did I get hammered because I just didn't know what I didn't know, so I can definitely empathize. But, you live and learn. I wish you the best and keep us posted on how things turn out. Hang in there, this too shall pass! :yesss:

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