One of the most frustrating home remodeling tasks is trying to remove an old linoleum or vinyl floor. Even when the linoleum is pulled off, things only get worse. Now you're faced with gobs of old glue or adhesive that seem harder than meteorites all over the floor.
Given the project’s difficulty, many homeowners look to flooring professionals. If you’re interested in a free quote for your project, let us help you connect with local flooring contractors.
Linoleum & Vinyl Flooring Removal Considerations
Removing old linoleum or vinyl is generally quite difficult because wood, a common subfloor, is porous, thus absorbing the adhesives. One reason the linoleum glue must be removed from the wood, or any subfloor, is because some older adhesives had oils in them that chemically react with new vinyl to cause a yellow discoloration. Most warranties on new vinyl do not cover this type of failure.
Another reason the glue or any adhesive must be removed from vinyl flooring, or any flooring if you're installing vinyl stripping, is because the new floor can eventually become brittle. If old glue breaks loose under new vinyl, it can cause failures in the new floor covering. Moreover, any bumps or cracks in an old floor will show on your new linoleum.
Homeowners also need to be aware that asbestos was used in some old linoleum and flooring adhesives, particularly in those made in the 1970s and earlier. Removing this material involves a health risk. If you’re unsure about possible asbestos, break a small piece from a corner or behind the refrigerator and take it to an asbestos abatement firm for testing. Wetting the vinyl as you break it off and putting it in a baggie will keep any possible asbestos fibers from flying around.
If asbestos is not present in your flooring, below are three ways you can remove vinyl or linoleum floors yourself, depending on the subfloor.
Recommended Tools For Removing Vinyl Or Linoleum Flooring
If this is a DIY project, a few tools will make your life much easier. Consider buying or renting the following tools to remove any vinyl or linoleum floor:
- Wide Putty Knife
- Utility Knife
- Brick Chisel
- Bully Flooring Scraper
- Paint Scraper
- Heat Gun
- Reciprocating Saw
- Toe Kick Saw
- Oscillating Saw
- Water & Dish Soap
How To Remove Linoleum Or Vinyl Flooring With Plywood Subfloor
With a plywood subfloor, you have two choices:
- Scrape away the linoleum or vinyl and glue with a wide putty knife, utility knife, brick chisel, paint scraper, hammer or a bully flooring scraper.
- Cut out the subfloor and linoleum or vinyl flooring as one piece.
Option 1: Scrape Linoleum Or Vinyl Floor & Glue
To remove old resilient flooring, first cut it into parallel strips about 6 inches wide with a utility knife. Use a hammer to tap a stiff putty knife or brick chisel under the linoleum to break it loose. Pull the linoleum up in strips to reveal the backing or the glue. Once the surface layer is gone, use a paint scraper to remove the linoleum glue. You can also use a heat gun to soften the glue as you scrape it away with the paint scraper. Some old linoleum has tar-based adhesive, which can be softened by applying mineral spirits or water.
Option 2: Remove Plywood & Linoleum Or Vinyl Floor Together
To remove the linoleum and subfloor together, drill a hole through the floor to determine how thick the plywood is. Set the saw blade to cut just 1/8 inch deeper and cut away a section of flooring on one side of the room. To cut flush against the walls, use a reciprocal saw, but be careful you don't cut the floor joists. Cut the floor into manageable sections about 3 or 4 feet long as you continue to remove it.
When laying down the new subfloor, nail crosspieces between the joists to support adjacent plywood subfloor edges, particularly if the old floor was tongue and groove plywood.
Choosing this option, while more labor intensive, eliminates the step of removing linoleum or vinyl glue. Try this option before option one.
How To Remove Linoleum Or Vinyl Flooring Glued To Wood
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Believe it or not, back in the day, homeowners covered their beautiful wood floors with linoleum or vinyl. In fact, it was quite common. As you can see below, the steps to remove linoleum or vinyl glued to wood is very similar to the process above.
First, peel away enough covering in a corner until you can judge which way the flooring runs. Cut through the vinyl in about 6-inch-wide strips in the same direction the floor runs to minimize any chances of cutting across the grain. Unlike with a plywood subfloor, we have to be very careful as we scrape. We don’t want to ruin that beautiful hardwood below.
To do carefully, set the utility knife blade just deep enough to get through the linoleum or vinyl. Heat the linoleum with a heat gun and then pry it and the glue up while the glue is still soft. Scrape away as much of the glue as you can while being careful not to gouge the floor. Once you have cleaned the floor as well as possible, sand away any remaining glue and refinish the floor.
How To Remove Linoleum Or Vinyl Flooring From Concrete
This is probably the easiest type of subfloor to get linoleum or vinyl off of, but it's still no picnic.
Cut it into strips about 6 inches wide. Pull the linoleum up in strips to reveal the linoleum glue. If difficult, try a heat gun to soften it, and then pull it off. The remaining glue can be scraped with a floor scraper or soaked overnight with water and dish soap, which helps soften the glue. Again, use a paint scraper to remove the linoleum glue.
Alternative Approaches To Removing Vinyl & Linoleum Flooring
One common alternative to removing old linoleum or vinyl floors is to put a new one right over it. If the existing floor is still smooth or can be smoothed with a few patches of FixAll, then the new floor can be laid directly on top of the old vinyl or linoleum floor.
If you prefer to place a new flooring type on top of your linoleum or vinyl floor, you have two options. In one instance, a layer of 1/4-inch plywood is laid over the old floor to provide a smooth base and then the new resilient floor is placed on top. The second option is raising the old floor with a self-leveling concrete that is about 1/8-inch thick when dry. The new floor is put on that.
When adding a new floor, particularly when adding plywood or self-leveling concrete, consider that this process is going to raise your floor noticeably. The most important concern is that it will not connect smoothly with the adjacent floors. This height difference could trip the unwary, particularly guests or the elderly. Also, you will not have the same clearance under the toe kicks and you may have a problem in the future sliding out your dishwasher, refrigerator or stove.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to remove adhesive from vinyl flooring?
First, try a paint scraper to remove the adhesive. If that doesn’t work, use a heat gun to soften the glue as you scrape it away.
How I remove linoleum glue?
Try a paint scraper to remove the linoleum glue. If that doesn’t work, a heating gun can soften the glue as you scrape it away. Some old linoleum has tar-based adhesive, which can be softened by applying mineral spirits.
How to remove plywood underlayment?
More often than not, the plywood underlayment is screwed into the joists. Therefore, just like removing a door, all you have to do is unscrew all screws with a screwdriver or drill. Gently pull up the plywood subfloor and hopefully, observe a beautiful hardwood below.
How to remove linoleum from concrete?
Cut linoleum into strips 6 inches wide. Pull the linoleum up in strips to reveal the linoleum glue. If difficult, try a heat gun to soften it, and then pull it off. You can also gently wet the floor and let it soak for a few minutes. Then, try scraping it and it should come off without as much effort. You can use the same process to remove vinyl flooring glued to concrete.
Where to rent linoleum removal tools?
If you like to DIY, you should own a hammer, chisel, putty knife, utility knife and other smaller tools mentioned above. Fortunately, you can rent larger floor strippers from The Home Depot. These larger strippers can vastly decrease the time it takes to remove linoleum floors.
How to remove vinyl floor tile squares?
Make your life easier with a heating gun. Apply to heat to small section of your vinyl floor tiles and gently cut the top of it. Then, scrape the tiles up with a wide putty knife or a chisel and hammer. Try to scrape the glue up as well, since the heat softens the entire layer.
Removing old vinyl or linoleum floors is labor intensive, but the end result will surely bring new life to your dated kitchen or bathroom.
As always, if you need help along the way, ImproveNet has a vast network of flooring professionals in your area awaiting your email.