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A sticky problem means starting over with tiles

Your Home Improvements

Posted: November 21, 2008 10:11 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2008 4:55 a.m.
Hi Mr. Lamoureux,
Two years ago I had someone put self-stick linoleum tiles in my laundry/bath room. He thought it would stick better if he used mastic also. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Who knew? He did a wonderful job but shortly after the tiles seem to move a bit and also get some goop coming out between the seams. My question is: What can I do to correct this problem short of taking it all up and starting all over again? I would have to disclose this when I sell and maybe the new owner wouldn't like the floor anyway and I could just give a credit toward new flooring. Or if I don't sell, I'd like to take care of it so I don't have to have it hanging over my head. Can I take up one tile at a time, remove the mastic and use something else that would stick? I like the tiles and wouldn't mind doing the work myself if it can be resolved (even though I'm 66 and have bad knees.)
Carolyn H.

Hi Carolyn,
You could try to clean each one of those tiles, but the best thing to do is rip it out and put something new down. You've got VCT - vinyl composition tiles and that adhesive seeps into the pores. It would take forever to get those clean. You would first have to scrape off all of the mastic and the original adhesive applied at the factory in order to put down a new compound to hold the tiles in place.
I'm of the belief that you do it once and do it right. Pull it up, throw it away and get rid of it. Cut your losses. Either put down new ceramic tile or one complete sheet. I would not waste any time or money on it.
After you get all of that tile pulled up, clean the concrete floor to make it ready for the new surface. You'll want it spotlessly clean. Use a scraper and get all of that adhesive off of there. You could use some paint thinner, but make sure you wear gloves, long sleeves and a respirator with plenty of ventilation. Whenever you're working with chemicals, you have to be very careful. If you know what type of mastic was used, call the manufacturer and ask what solvent they would recommend for removal.

Hello Robert,
My home is about 10 years old. I noticed some white spots on my concrete garage floor that have a jelly substance in the center of them. Do you know what it is?
Steve P.

Hi Steve,
This is reactive aggregate. It is a chemical reaction between the cement and the type of rock that was used in the concrete mix. What you're seeing in the center of the spots is an alkali-silica gel that can expand with moisture and cause cracks in the cement of the concrete.
Depending on the amount of reactive aggregate that was used in the mix and how close to the surface it is, it could take years before seeing any signs of damage. There are ways to neutralize the reaction which may prevent further damages.
First, you would want to sand each spot and remove as much of the gel as you can. Then you would apply an acid solution of 20 percent muriatic acid and 80 percent water. You could mix it up in a spray bottle and let it set for 3-5 minutes. With this I would recommend using a respirator, gloves, long sleeves and ventilation. Be extremely careful when working with acid. It will damage your skin and lungs. Next, you would want to neutralize by cleaning the spot with a 10 percent ammonia and 90 percent water solution. Clean the spot and allow to dry. Finally, brush apply lithium silicate to the spot. Allow to soak in and dry. Then you would reapply the finish you had, if any or leave as is but these areas will show some discoloration.
Again, depending on the amount of reactive aggregate in that concrete, this procedure may prevent further damages. If left unchecked, moisture could cause expansion and cracking of the slab.

Hey Robert,
I had a small leak in my bedroom ceiling after the last rain. I went up to the roof and pulled some of the comp shingle back and there is no paper under that area. I'm looking at bare plywood, but there is paper next to it. It looks like they ran out and didn't finish the job. I called the roofer and got a "this number is no longer in service." What's the lowest price alternative I have to fix this?
Gregg B.

Hi Gregg,
That felt is the last defense of keeping water out of your house. I think you're probably right - the roofers ran out of felt, just shingled over it and left.
It has to be re-papered. You'll have to pull all of the shingles to expose any open areas and put the paper down. A lot of roofers will use 15 lb. felt. I'd recommend using a 30 lb., which is literally only pennies on the dollar more expensive but provides much better protection. As far as the low price alternative, the paper has to be applied. You could save money if you did it yourself, but roof work is inherently dangerous due to the height and pitch. If you're not used to working under those conditions, I would call some roofing companies and get some bids. It may be better to spend a few extra dollars, have the work done professionally and stay healthy.

Hello Robert,
We are looking to purchase a ranch property and the listing said we needed to provide a "perc test." Are you familiar with this?
Amanda G.

Hi Amanda,
This is done in rural areas which require a septic system. A perc test - percolation test - is used to determine how fast water hydrates through the ground.
Usually you dig three or four holes, anywhere from 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet to 6 feet deep. Then, in the center of each, you dig another hole one foot deep. You would saturate these holes overnight by filling them up with water. Then you would come back the next day and fill that 1 foot section back up again and monitor the absorption rate. Based on the rate that the water is absorbed into the ground, calculations are made of how long of a leech field you would need for drainage of the septic tank.
These leech pipes are buried three feet underground. You first excavate for the leech lines and put in a 4-inch gravel bed. Then you put the perforated leech pipe down, with the holes on the bottom; cover with 1-foot of gravel and backfill.
Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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