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STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS
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AGE of a BUILDING - how to determine
ARCHITECTURE, STYLE, & Building Age
DEFINITIONS of Mobile Home, Doublewide, Modular, Panelized
DEFINITIONS of ENGINEERED WOOD OSB LVL etc
FLOOR, ENGINEERED WOOD & LAMINATES
MOBILE HOMES, DOUBLEWIDES, TRAILERS
MODULAR HOME CONSTRUCTION
STAINS on & in BUILDINGS, CAUSES & CURES
WOOD STRUCTURE ASSESSMENT
This article provides a guide to estimating the age of all types of flooring materials in buildings as a guide to determining building age. The age of a building can be determined quite accurately by documentation, but when documents are not readily available, visual clues such as those available during a professional home inspection can still determine when a house was built. In this flooring age determination article we list some helpful clues using an inspection of interior flooring materials to help answer the question "how old is the house?" and we provide photographs of key visual clues useful for determining the age of a building. Readers should see FLOOR TYPES & DEFECTS and also see FLOOR TILE HISTORY & INGREDIENTS where we describe history, dates, and description of the production process and ingredients in asphalt floor tiles, asphalt-asbestos floor tiles, & vinyl-asbestos floor tiles.Also see ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
List & History Resilient Floor Coverings Used in buildings
See these articles on types, ages, characteristics, ingredients, & inspection of different types of floor coverings:
In the U.S. the 1940's saw a tremendous expansion in the sales of this flooring material, largely because other materials were more difficult to obtain. At the end of World War II and combined with the reduction in military consumption of the product, asphalt floor tile sales increased to about 12% of the flooring market (1946), selling 41 million square yards. By 1949 the post-war construction boom led to asphalt floor tile sales of 61 million square yards.
By 1952 "asphalt-asbestos" floor tiles contained much less asphalt or gilsonite. Those binders produced only dark tiles. IN the 1950's manufacturers changed to use of synthetic organic resins and solvents made of vegetable or petroleum pitches. These new synthetic binders permitted manufacture of lighter colored, brighter floor tiles in a wider range of colors. But asbestos continued to be the main filler ingredient in these tiles.
Vinyl asbestos floor tiles were produced from approximately 1954 to 1980. Early vinyl asbestos flooring was made in 9" x9" floor tiles, and also sold as decorative or accent solid color strips, typically 1" wide by 24" long. By 1960 12" x 12" vinyl asbestos floor tiles were produced by Armstrong™, particularly their Excelon™ line. Asbestos was also used in sheet flooring.
By 1973 only a small portion of flooring was produced as asphalt-based floor tiles (9"x9") as vinyl asbestos flooring was dominating production. The size, thickness, color, and patterns of floor tiles can distinguish between asphalt-asbestos and vinyl-asbestos flooring.
While asbestos-containing floor tiles were made in a wide variety of colors and patterns (see ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE PHOTO ID GUIDE), if you encounter black or very dark asphalt floor tiles they are probably particularly high in asbestos fibers. We discuss floor tiles as an asbestos fiber source in buildings in more detail at ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION.
Colors and Patterns of Resilient Floor Tiles Can Indicate When They Were Produced
Asphalt -asbestos tiles manufactured early in their life (1920's) were either black, near black, brown, or a gray-brown tone. Brown asphalt-asbestos tiles were made by substituting gilsonite as a binder. In both cases the tiles were hardened by evaporating a solvent used in the fabrication process, or by cooling of hot asphalt used in the mixture.
Gilsonite could be used to produce a wider range of mixtures, but required some asphalt as a softener. Dark vinyl-asbestos tiles used, for example, a mixture of 40 parts asphalt or gilsonite, 60 parts asbestos floats, 30 parts powdered limestone, and pigments (parts by weight). Another typical mixture cited by Rosato contained 70% asbestos fiber.
See these articles on asphalt and vinyl-asbestos floor tile identification:
Cork floors, real cork flooring, were and are a wood product made out of cork from the cork oak tree (Quercus suber) native to Mediterranean countries, primarily Spain and Portugal. The bark of the cork oak is or was harvested once every nine or ten years, without injuring the tree. The epitome of a resilient floor, cork flooring can compress up to 40% and still return to its original shape.
Armstrong Cork Floor Tiles
In the U.S. Thomas Armstrong, a Scotch-Irish immigrant, began his business as a cork cutter in 1860, delivering hand-carved bottle corks by wheelbarrow. The use of cork expanded to the construction of corkboards (bulletin boards) and cork-insulated brick. By 1909 Armstrong had begun producing linoleum. "Corkboard led to fiberboard, fiberboard led to ceiling board, cork floor tile led to linoleum that ultimately led to vinyl floor coverings, in both tile and sheet vinyl forms. Armstrong's familiarity with cork grew into today's Armstrong Corporation worldwide as one of the largest flooring producers. See Armstrong flooring history.
Dodge Cork Floor Tiles
The Dodge Cork Company, a second Lancaster PA flooring company, also has a long history in floor covering production, dating from its founding in 1926. Dodge Cork notes that their cork floors were used by Frank lloyd Wright at Falling Waters and of course in many other buildings and that the company was producing a million square feet of cork floor tiles a month by 1962, probably a peak in the cork floor market.
As our photograph below indicates (Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY new cork flooring), cork flooring installations from various manufacturers continue to be placed today. But as the company indicates at their webgsite, "Dodge Cork Products are manufactured in Portugal in accordance with USA specifications and regulations."
Watch out: vinyl-asbestos flooring was produced by several manufacturers in patterns that closely resemble actual real cork. See ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE PHOTO ID GUIDE for examples. Examination of a flooring sample in cross-section (above) shows the use of cork materials throughout the 5mm (3/16") thickness of this sample that was painted or coated on its upper surface with a light white/beige coating.
Keep in mind that even when we can identify specific types of building materials and building methods, precise dating of the time of construction of a building remains difficult: old building materials were often re-used, so beams, siding, and other components may appear in a building built later than when the materials were first made.
Also, in the U.S. various states had machines for making cut nails, screws, and sawmills at different times. For example, New York State was industrialized earlier than some western or southern states, so machine-made nails appear earlier in New York than elsewhere.
Age of Linoleum Flooring & Older Sheet Flooring Materials Indicate Age of a Building (1890 - 1960 est)
Details about linoleum flooring products and the history and ingredients of linoleum are found at LINOLEUM & Other Sheet Flooring. Excepts are below.
Prior to the development of linoleum sheet flooring, floor coverings were made of painted canvas.
According to Rosato, "The original resilient floor coverings were developed during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century by Frederick Walton. The original covering was linoleum for use as a floor decking on British naval ships." The composition of the original products included asphaltic binders to which an asbestos filler was added by mixing on a rubber mill.
As discussed at ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE PHOTO ID GUIDE that Linoleum may be used as a generic term for older sheet floorings (sometimes incorrectly). Linoleum was invented as a ship deck, later floor covering in 1860 by Frederick Walton to describe sheet flooring.
At below left is Congoleum Gold Seal Jackstraw pattern, and below right, Congoleum "Square Dance" sheet linoleum sold in a 9" x 9" tile pattern.
Examples of non-resilient flooring used in buildings include
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