When we moved into our retro ranch six years ago, there were a number of things that I claimed I would fix “right after we move in!” Of course, that’s much easier said than done, and many of those original action items got pushed way, way down the line in terms of our renovation schedule. One of those projects was making over the landing leading into the family room on our finished basement level (and the unfinished laundry area that’s on the other side of the door you see pictured below).
We managed to replace the very tried, dirty original berber carpet in the family room years ago, pretty soon after we moved in (success!), but we didn’t have enough new laminate flooring to makeover the stairs or landing leading into the space, so, instead, that remained carpeted up until last winter. It was at that time that I decided to pull up the carpet on a whim. I didn’t know what I’d find, but I was feeling energetic that day, so I just went for it. What I found underneath was expected—more 1970s asbestos tile, just like what we found underneath the carpeting on the finished side of the basement.
I really don’t want to go too deeply into my feelings toward asbestos tile removal because everyone’s comfort level is different. There’s absolutely no getting around the fact that you need to be really careful with this dangerous material, but I also don’t have any qualms about working with it as needed. We have such a small portion of it in our house, and we’ve dealt with it responsibly and extra, extra carefully, but we ultimately decided not to hire an abatement team.
In the case of our basement stairs and landing, we left the asbestos tile alone, and just patched up the areas where the tile chipped away during the carpet removal using pre-mixed concrete. I’m not going to explain the process of DIY asbestos removal or patching, but if you find yourself in the same position, just don’t be stupid about it, and hire the pros if you feel scared or nervous about touching it yourself!
The plan I came up with after I had the carpet removed and the old tile exposed was to go over it with new tile. I used the same peel-and-stick patterned tile that I used to makeover the closet under our stairs and our side entry so that it kept things cohesive. This tile is super affordable, and has held up great in all of the other areas where we put it, so I was feeling confident about using it on our basement landing. The new tile would update the look of the landing and also help incapsulate all of the old asbestos tile, too. My favorite thing about this tile is that you can do it whether you have tiling experience or not! You can use shears to cut the tile as opposed to using a tile saw, and it’s pretty much done/set the second you press it in place.
Like on our side entry, I used construction adhesive to give the tile added staying power. This landing and pair of stairs gets lots of use throughout the day, so it needed to be strong to withstand all that foot traffic. The additional glue gave us peace of mind that the tiles weren’t going to go anywhere.
Sorry for the rough pictures—I was clearly in the zone and couldn’t be bothered to pick up my nice camera—but to lay the tile, I set one new tile square on top of the old tile (I cleaned the surface of the old tile really, really well first, by the way), traced lines around the perimeter of the tile using a Sharpie marker, squeezed out construction adhesive inside my traced lines, evened out the glue using a spatula, and then I hammered the new tile on top using a rubber mallet. When I needed to make the tile fit around trim or a doorway, I cut it using heavy-duty shears, like these.
Finally, I added metal stairnose trim along the edges of the laundry room stairs that I cut to size using a hack saw. This step really gave the laundry side more polish and a properly finished look. On the other side of the landing on the stairs leading to our finished family room, I decided to skip the stairnose trim because I managed line up my tile pattern really well on that side. I did that part toward the beginning of this project, and must have had more patience for fine-tuning the details!
One thing we did do on that side of the landing was paint the once-exposed wood stair a light purplish gray to match the bathroom vanity I painted last year, which is just off to the side of this landing. Painting the wood stair helped the landing complement the bathroom, and also really finished off the landing as a whole.
It’s certainly not perfect, and it took almost a year to complete because of my chronic wrist pain that kept cropping up, but it’s done, and I love it so much more than the old carpet. The tile is much easier to keep clean, and the fun pattern gives this landing some much-needed character.
Have you ever put off a house project that you knew would be a big messy job? We had initially planned to redo the actual full-length staircase leading down to this landing from the main floor of our house, but after removing the carpet from the landing on my own, I decided we’ll eventually hire that project out. Stay tuned in another six years when, hopefully, that phase of the project will actually get completed!
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