Q. Our sump pump failed recently during a storm and we got water on the basement floor. Some self-stick tiles came loose and I removed the rest because I want to paint the floor now. However, there is a sticky adhesive all over the floor and I don’t know how to get it off. Can you help?
A. Judging from your description, there isn’t any danger of asbestos in the tiles or adhesive.
That isn’t true of old vinyl-asbestos tiles, though, and people who have those tiles on basement floors (they are often 9 inches square and thicker than modern tiles) should be very cautious in dealing with them. Asbestos was used in floor tiles and adhesives prior to about 1980.
If you feel there is no asbestos danger because these were newer tiles, I think the best way to remove the sticky adhesive is to scrape it off.
Some people use chemical adhesive removers, which are very similar to paint removers, but these contain powerful ingredients that can cause health problems in a closed area like a basement. Therefore, scraping might be easier and safer.
Start by sprinkling a layer of sand over the sticky adhesive and let the sand in place at least overnight. The sand will absorb some of the adhesive. I suggest scraping a relatively small section at a time – 8 feet by 8 feet is a good start. You can use a chunk of flexible foam or an old pillow as a knee pad, or buy a pair of knee pads at a home center. A 6-inch or 8-inch drywall knife makes a good scraper.
If you prefer to stand up while scraping, buy a flat-bladed, square-end spade at a garden center and sharpen the blade with a file.
Before scraping, sweep the sand from the section where you will work. Clean the scraper blade frequently. When you feel you have removed all the adhesive, mop the floor with hot water; you will need to get the concrete perfectly clean before painting. Also let the floor dry thoroughly.
There are many good concrete floor paints available at home centers and paint stores. Follow directions on the paint container for best results, and keep in mind that no paint will last long if the floor is subject to seepage or frequent flooding.
Q. I have an old steel basement door that has developed some rust spots. I have tried different approaches to eliminate the rust, like rust converter, primer and so forth, but the rust always comes back in the same spots. What next?
A. One good possibility is that the rust is originating from inside the door, which is not uncommon with steel.
Most of these steel basement doors are sold with a coat of primer, but the doors should be painted inside and outside within a couple of months of installation. (Bilco, a leading manufacturer of steel basement doors, specifies 45 days.) Many users paint the outside of the doors, but not the inside.
The inside surfaces are subject to condensation on cool days and the moisture can eventually work through the steel to the outside. You should carefully examine the interior of the door to see if there is any rust.
If you do find rust, sand it down to bare metal, apply a rust-resistant primer to the bare areas, then paint with two coats of enamel. Bilco recommends Sherwin-Williams All Surface Enamel.
Even if you don’t find obvious rust, you should clean the interior metal and paint it. Finally, sand off the rust spots on the outside, prime, and apply two coats of the recommended paint. It’s a lot of work, but it might finally solve your problem.
Incidentally, if you eventually decide to buy a new basement door, Bilco now sells some doors that are prefinished, not just primed.