Q: When we removed the basement carpet and the plastic that was under it, we found that moisture had loosened the vinyl tile from the concrete...
Q: When we removed the basement carpet and the plastic that was under it, we found that moisture had loosened the vinyl tile from the concrete. We would like to place wood laminate over the tile.
Should we pour a one-inch concrete overlay on top of Visqueen (a vapor barrier), or can we just place the wood laminate over the plastic foam that is used with “floating” floor systems? Are there any other options for covering the tile?
A: The vinyl tile was lifting because of the plastic placed over it. Moisture was trapped between the plastic and the vinyl tile. That being said, I fail to see how this is a problem if you are planning to cover it again. The laminate floor will just “float” over the vinyl tile.
Laminate manufacturers will recommend that you place a vapor barrier and their proprietary padding over the concrete (and, by extension, the vinyl tile) before installing their product.
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You could remove the vinyl tile — unless it involves an asbestos abatement that’s out of your budget.
Other options include tiling over or staining the concrete. In those cases, you would need to remove the old vinyl tiles.
Your floating laminate idea is a perfectly legitimate solution, requiring the least amount of prep, labor and money.
Q: I recently saw a sink supply pipe that had a safety device. If the water flow through the pipe exceeds 2.5 gallons per minute, a valve shuts the water off. This prevents floods. Is that a great idea?
A: The device won’t prevent all floods or smaller leaks, but it can help prevent major damage from bursts in the supply pipe or the faucet. As this is a new product, we don’t know how it will work in the long term.
I do applaud the thinking outside the box that it took to get it to market.
Q: How far can moisture wick into wood? I see stains on a 4×4 post in my basement that go up much higher than the flood we had a few years back.
A: How tall was the tree that the wood was cut from? Trees suck moisture from the roots up through the wood to the tippy-top via capillary action. That’s why a structural post is set on an impenetrable material like tar paper or plastic to prevent the cut end from absorbing moisture from the concrete that it rests on. Without that barrier, an untreated wood post would soon rot.
Rot can even occur on the cut end of beams resting in steel joist hangers many feet from water in a crawlspace. How? Condensation from the steel and unprotected contact with the sidewall of a foundation can create moisture that can be absorbed by the wood. This same phenomenon is why untreated fence posts rot so quickly from the bottom up. Wood is like a sponge.
Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. Send home maintenance questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sorry, no personal replies.