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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Apologies if this is in the wrong subforum...

I recently had asbestos tile abatement done in my basement, and the fumes from the solvent to get the mastic off the slab are still pretty bad. To make the house livable, we've been actively ventilating the basement with the contractor's negative air machine (~600cfm) for the last two weeks, and have a few windows cracked in the house to control where the make-up air comes in from (rather than through the cracks in the house).

I live in Wisconsin, and it's going to get down close to 0-degrees F soon. Should I have any concern with having my windows open and allowing such cold air to come in? I'm concerned about what'll happen chilling the immediate interior surfaces down so cold (sills, etc.), any condensation, excessive dryness, etc. To my knowledge our walls our hollow and not insulated.

I'm considering closing the house up for a week while this cold snap hopefully passes, but I'm concerned about letting the fumes build up again (and its toxicity).

We've got windows cracked as follows: one in the basement, two/three in the first story (bedroom, bathroom, sometimes kitchen), and one in the second story.

Thanks!
 

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Ayuh,... I'd close 'em All but the 1 in the basement, where the problem is,...

Just to save fuel,...
Yer lettin' a ton of heat outa yer uninsulated house...
 

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And going to end up with frozen pipes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I understand the heat loss. I have windows open on floors other than the basement to encourage air flow into the basement from the rest of the house. This is to a) prevent the basement from getting too cold (furnace vents are closed up so I don't spread fumes through the house) and b) keep the fumes flowing out of the main floors. I worry that if the basement gets too cold, it'll take even longer (if ever) for the naphtha solvent that's off-gassing to dry (e.g., paint/varnish/etc. doesn't really dry when it's below 55F).

I'm not worried about frozen pipes. The basement's been averaging 59-61F the past two weeks, and I'm keeping a pretty close eye on it.

My concern is with other weird effects - condensation inside the walls from getting them very cold on the inside, etc., or anything else I may be overlooking or ignorant of.

Thanks again!
 

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600 cfm is a ridiculous amount of air to be sucking though your house over an extended period of time in the middle of winter.
I happen to be rather sensitive to chemical fumes, so I understand your concern about letting the fumes build up but I think you're overdoing it. At a minimum I would rig up a lower cfm fan (like temporarily setting up a bathroom fan) and then just crack one window at the opposite end of the basement and see how that works. Can you paint/seal that basement floor? Or maybe hit it with a steam cleaner (a carpet steam cleaner).

Letting that cold dry air flow in in the finished parts of the house could cause some localized cracking of wood and plaster right where the cold air is coming in (probably the window sills and areas right below the window.). I don't think moisture will be a problem since you have a continuous flow of cold dry air coming in as the warm moist air is being sucked out.
 

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Roofmaster
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Who's idea was it to scrape up the tile? In most cases the asbestos in tile is fully encapsulated. This sounds like one of those fanatical ideas by someone that does not understand asbestos. Was it friable? Just wondered.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
600 cfm is a ridiculous amount of air to be sucking though your house over an extended period of time in the middle of winter.
I happen to be rather sensitive to chemical fumes, so I understand your concern about letting the fumes build up but I think you're overdoing it. At a minimum I would rig up a lower cfm fan (like temporarily setting up a bathroom fan) and then just crack one window at the opposite end of the basement and see how that works.
An air quality company I brought in to assess the levels in our house was freaking out - apparently the highest total VOCs she's seen in a house. She recommended ventilating and the abatement contractor gave us a small negative air machine for that. The fumes are slowly getting better, though, but I don't want to stop ventilating. Thanks for the idea on a smaller fan, I think I may do something like that and hope the fumes eventually disappear. I may have to cut out the bottom few inches of drywall that they let the solvent soak into though. I'm not sure what the biggest source of the fumes are, though - the slab, the drywall, possibly bottom plates...?


Can you paint/seal that basement floor? Or maybe hit it with a steam cleaner (a carpet steam cleaner).
I'd rather not seal the floor (I believe in eliminating the problem vs. covering it up). The abatement contractor mopped the floor with trisodium phosphate and rinsed with hot water several times.


Who's idea was it to scrape up the tile? In most cases the asbestos in tile is fully encapsulated. This sounds like one of those fanatical ideas by someone that does not understand asbestos. Was it friable? Just wondered.
It was mine. Some of the tiles were curling/clicking, a handful were broken, and I thought it'd be the extra-safe option to remove it. I wish I hadn't. None of the profressionals I brought in suggested encapsulation. Of course, everyone I speak to now does. I am a whirlwind of regret and stress over this (mostly from the fume issue that has no end clearly in sight - nobody has any good suggestions for its elimination - although it is slowly getting better over time).
 

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Mold!! Let's kill it!
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Many old floor tiles contain asbestos, but tile mastic can contain asbestos too. Did the company leave you a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product used to remove the mastic? Have you tried contacting the manufacturer and see what their recommendation is to abate the fumes? They may have a counteracting product to render it inert. Is the stuff flammable? Find out if the fumes are dangerous or just annoying. If it is flammable, is the negative air machine rated for a flammable atmosphere (most aren't)? Is 600 CFM the right amount of air flow? it may be correct for an abatement project (the machine is sized according to the volume of the area where abatement work is to be conducted), but may be way oversized for the situation you now have.
 

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Roofmaster
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VOC Means Volatile Organic Contaminant. Volatile means fire, to me.

Asbestos is only a problem when it is Friable, and I have never seen friable asbestos in mastic, except on a roof where the sun can oxidize the asphalt away to the point where only the AB is left. The idiots that used a solvent on your floor should be drawn and quartered. Once the tile was up you could have simply put down a heavy bodied No VOC Primer over it, encapsulating it forever. All the solvent does is wash the bituminous material away, which could leave the AB fibers exposed.

This sounds like one of those cases where the operation was a success, but the patient died.
 

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VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. Volatile just means something will evaporate, not necessarily that it's becomes a flammable vapor. Because Latex paint contains VOCs, doesn't make it flammable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Many old floor tiles contain asbestos, but tile mastic can contain asbestos too. Did the company leave you a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product used to remove the mastic? Have you tried contacting the manufacturer and see what their recommendation is to abate the fumes? They may have a counteracting product to render it inert. Is the stuff flammable? Find out if the fumes are dangerous or just annoying. If it is flammable, is the negative air machine rated for a flammable atmosphere (most aren't)? Is 600 CFM the right amount of air flow? it may be correct for an abatement project (the machine is sized according to the volume of the area where abatement work is to be conducted), but may be way oversized for the situation you now have.
Yes, the mastic tested positive for asbestos.

I asked for the MSDS from the contractor (link), and when comparing the levels of fumes read in my house taken with a handheld VOC meter and an air sample sent to a lab with the MSDS's OSHA limits, we seem to be OK. Guidance on how to remove the source of the smell is mixed - the contractor wants to seal the drywall or slab, but I don't want to do that. The manufacturer and some other folks recommended scrubbing the slab with a detergent again, and possibly cutting out the drywall that got soaked. One of their chemists said there isn't anything that can neutralize the odor.

Agreed on probably being oversized, but I want to get these fumes out of my house and make sure they aren't pulled up into the rest of the house. Pulling this much cold air into the house is getting tiresome, though, so I'll be investigating a smaller fan.

VOC Means Volatile Organic Contaminant. Volatile means fire, to me.
There is no flammability hazard with this solvent. It is rated for indoor use and is slow-evaporating for that reason.

The idiots that used a solvent on your floor should be drawn and quartered.
That's been on my mind a lot these past two weeks, but what they did seems to be SOP.

All the solvent does is wash the bituminous material away, which could leave the AB fibers exposed.
Is this just speculation or is there any fact to this? No other professionals or state regulators I've spoken with have expressed this concern.
 

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A detergent wash on the floor won't hurt anything, so I'd try it. Asbestos fibers in mastic act much the same as reinforcing rod in concrete. They bridge micro-fissures and keep the mastic homogenous. The solvent disolved the binder so that the asbestos fibers could be released and removed. Nothing really wrong with thier process, but it's odd that the fumes continue to linger, unless they overused the solvent. We've removed the stuff mainly by scraping the bulk of it off, then disolving the very little that was left. Usually any odor is gone within a few days.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
A detergent wash on the floor won't hurt anything, so I'd try it.
The only reason I haven't tried washing it again is because the contractors already mopped/rinsed the floor with trisodium phosphate several times. I'm hoping time is all that's needed for the fumes to dissipate, but we were at the 2 week mark two days ago and they were still present. I may give it another week and then try washing the floor and cutting out the drywall.

Asbestos fibers in mastic act much the same as reinforcing rod in concrete. They bridge micro-fissures and keep the mastic homogenous. The solvent disolved the binder so that the asbestos fibers could be released and removed.
Is this something I should be worrying myself about? Are my wife and I in any danger from this?

Nothing really wrong with thier process, but it's odd that the fumes continue to linger, unless they overused the solvent. We've removed the stuff mainly by scraping the bulk of it off, then disolving the very little that was left. Usually any odor is gone within a few days.
The contractors I hired said the fumes are usually gone the same day or within a few days, so this is certainly a stressful headscratcher.

Thanks again!
 

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"Is this something I should be worrying myself about? Are my wife and I in any danger from this?"

No. That is why you abate the mastic instead of just leaving it. Mastic left in place with no tile on top of it is much more dangerous since mastic is not designed to be exposed. If they've done their abatement work properly, there should be no mastic or asbestos fibers to worry about. I trust that they (or you) had a clearance air sample taken at completion of the work.

If they've gotten this solvent into the drywall, then you need to remove it. Drywall will easily wick anything liquid that comes in contact with it. If the solvent is in the drywall, it could take a long, long time for it to dry out. Standard practice would be to cut 12 inches above the level of exposure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
"Is this something I should be worrying myself about? Are my wife and I in any danger from this?"

No. That is why you abate the mastic instead of just leaving it. Mastic left in place with no tile on top of it is much more dangerous since mastic is not designed to be exposed. If they've done their abatement work properly, there should be no mastic or asbestos fibers to worry about. I trust that they (or you) had a clearance air sample taken at completion of the work.

If they've gotten this solvent into the drywall, then you need to remove it. Drywall will easily wick anything liquid that comes in contact with it. If the solvent is in the drywall, it could take a long, long time for it to dry out. Standard practice would be to cut 12 inches above the level of exposure.
They did remove most of the mastic. There are still areas where the concrete has a dark stain, and some obvious areas underneath the drywall where mastic is still present. Here are some pics:

They did do air sampling, but I haven't heard back on the results.

I stopped ventilation last night as the outside temperature approached 0F. The fumes seem to be almost completely gone, which I am very excited about. Do you think it is still advisable to remove the drywall? Other "professionals" in the area and even a state regulator/inspector didn't seem concerned with the drywall - apparently it happens all the time (although maybe this is indicative of sloppy work being accepted in my area?)?
 

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Well, I for one, having done this kind of work, think it's sloppy that they got the drywall wetted with anything. I would have taped it off and covered it to prevent it from becoming involved in the abatement. If the fumes have disipated, then I would leave it alone. The pictures don't look bad. It's pretty common to have some material buried back in places where you can't reach without serious demolition. I always make sure that the customer is aware of it and that it's their call whether they want to pursue it.
 

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If that white stripe around the base of the wall is your trim I would rip it out and get rid of it. I would cut right through the drywall above the trim and get rid of the trim and drywall behind it. You can then get rid of any insulation that wicked solvent, pack the studs out to the face of the drywall, and install a wider (Taller) base moulding.

Im sorry that someone misled you re the perceived danger re Asbestos. Like I said, its not dangerous unless its friable. Removing the bituminous binder was a mistake, IMHO.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
If that white stripe around the base of the wall is your trim I would rip it out and get rid of it. I would cut right through the drywall above the trim and get rid of the trim and drywall behind it. You can then get rid of any insulation that wicked solvent, pack the studs out to the face of the drywall, and install a wider (Taller) base moulding.
The white stripe is just drywall. I think I'm going to leave it because the fumes are almost gone now. I think I'll give it a couple more weeks before I do any finishing (putting baseboards up, installing carpet tiles, also considering sealing the floor), just to be safe. To my knowledge there is no insulation behind the walls.

Im sorry that someone misled you re the perceived danger re Asbestos. Like I said, its not dangerous unless its friable. Removing the bituminous binder was a mistake, IMHO.
What are your concerns? Everyone I've spoken with seems to think abating the mastic is SOP, and I've really been goading them regarding any remote/potential issues. Just to be safe, I think I'm going to seal the concrete before I put new flooring down.

Thanks and have a good Holiday!
 

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If your air sample comes back clean, I'd forego using the sealer. If you remove the tiles and the mastic has asbestos, then you have to either abate that or encapsulate it. You can't leave it exposed. I think you did it right. My guess would be that the solvent wicked into the drywall which is why it took an exceedingly long time to dry out. The reason for not sealing is that if you decide at some time in the future to put some other type of floor down, such as ceramic, you'll have a sealer to deal with.
 
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