How To Removing Linoleum Tile From Wood

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    A friend that is remodeling their kitchen wants to remove their old linoleum flooring from wood wood floor that is under it. At that point they will make a decision if the wood floor is worth saving or if they will need to go with something else.

    Unfortunately removing old linoleum can be a difficult task because the tar based mastic that was used to attach it to the substraight many years ago is a really great product. Unfortunately there comes the eventual problem that the flooring has passed its life expectancy and the decision comes as to which method is the best to remove it.

    There are a number of ways to attack this problem. Some people might go with a mechanical method where a large shingle scraper used in roofing is used to scrape the tile off the floor. This might be ok if you were definitely removing everything and starting over but you have a pretty good chance destroying any hardwood that is under it if you use this method alone.

    Other people like to use steamers to try to lift the tile but since it is a tar based product the amount of steam needed is much more than stripping wall paper off a wall. Torches and other direct flame are pretty much out of the question.

    Whatever method you use you should remember that the mastic can get into the grain of the wood and discolor it. It can also get between boards and it will be impossible to remove .. reasonably impossible.

    For this reason it is sometimes better to just install flooring over it and call it a day.

     

    What is the best method linoleum flooring?

    Probably the best method is to do what professionals would do and remove it mechanically and just completely forget about using any heat. If you can remove it by hand then try to get an end up and use a floor scraper with a 5 foot handle to remove the top layer of the linoleum. What will remain is the paper backing and then a black resin tar adhesive. This is where the fun starts.

    To remove the rest you will need to rent a large circular floor sander / polisher. You will then need to find a scraper blade attachment to fit to the bottom. This probably won’t be available at your local home center where you rent the tool and you will probably have to search for this at flooring suppliers online.

    The attachment has a series of blades on the bottom and it will scrape off the linoleum very slowly as you work it back and forth across the floor.

    The best method is to get as wide a path as you can and not stop in one area very long. The reason is you do not want the tar to heat up. If the tar heats up the scraper can’t quickly chip/scrape it off the floor. Work slow in long sweeping motions until you get as much as you can off of the floor and then places like your kick areas under cabinets there is a smaller tool that looks like a car polisher that you can use. If this tool is not available at your supplier then it will probably take a combination of hand scraping and a smaller sander with 60grit paper to remove the mastic from areas the large scraper can’t get to.

    Many of these tools are rated to be used on concrete floors and using them on hardwood will mean that you are doing so at your own risk. If you improperly use the tool outside of manufacturer’s recommendations you can damage your floor past repair and refinishing. By using it on wood you will most likely be doing this.

     

    Final Note

    Whenever you are removing old tile that you believe was installed prior to 1980 you run the risk of asbestos being present. Asbestos could be in almost any part of the system from the tile to the backer paper to the black mastic. It was used for many reasons and many say too many reasons back then.

    Always use the proper protection. Always test your tile and mastic and all materials before you start removing them. Use proper ventilation which in this case would mean strong airflow out of the home and seal off other parts of the home with plastic to avoid contamination.

    If you have any questions always ask a professional for advice or to perform the job for you.

    When you have completed removing the old tile you can then sand your hardwood and prepare it as you normally would. Unfortunately mastic may have seeped between the boards making it difficult to impossible to get a nice finish. It will need evaluation at the time you perform the work.

     

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