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Removing old, glued down, vinyl flooring.

The room after we were done with it.

The room after we were done with it.

This site is not about typical do-it-yourself home remodeling but I just put a large amount of effort in doing just that and I think I have something to add so I will add it. The room was in bad shape and our Granddaughter will be living here every other week because of her dad’s work schedule so we decided to get the room ready for her. Some drywall work was necessary as well as painting and other typical work. The problem was there was also some glued down vinyl flooring that was in bad shape. That is the part where I can add a thing or two.

When the house was built we had vinyl flooring put in for a couple of reasons.   First it is easy to maintain. I have bad allergies and carpet was out of the question.  We do have a dog and dogs often have accidents so wood flooring was also a problem.  That pretty much left vinyl and vinyl for the replacement.

The house is built over a crawlspace and as such has wooden subfloors.   When the original vinyl was installed, they installed 1/4″ luan plywood over the subfloors as an underlayment for the vinyl.   At that time sheet vinyl flooring was glued to the plywood.  All in all the flooring has stood up well to a lot of abuse, but beds with faulty legs and various other heavy things had wreaked havoc and created holes and tears in the flooring.  It was time to go.

Like always when I face a job like this I look to see if I can find a better way to do it other than brute force.  I will link several of those videos here, because my situation may not be the situation you face.  As always, I will describe what worked for me and you may find a better way.  The old style vinyl consists of two parts, First there is the vinyl part, and then there was a fairly thick paper backing.  The paper, and sometimes the vinyl is attached to the floor with some type of special glue for the job.  Removing the flooring  pretty much consists of removing the vinyl part first, and then removing the paper. Sometimes you get lucky an it all comes off together, but that happened at most only on 25% of the floor.

Removing the vinyl itself is going to require some kind of scraper and more than likely some brute force.  There are videos showing some kind of burner to burn the vinyl off… I cannot see doing this for several reasons.  First, it would be impossible for me with the wood floors,  Second, burning PVC creates a very bad gas and it guarantees you will be sick.  Third, it will probably smoke up the rest of the house.   The other options I have seen are using a hand scraper,  a scraping attachment on an oscillating tool such as the Dremel Multi-Max or in my case a Rigid Job Max.  One video shows using a heat gun, but his vinyl was very brittle and all it did for me was just slow things down.   The videos showing this are:

Heat Gun Method:  “How To Remove Old Linoleum
Dremel Method:  “Removing Stubborn Linoleum the Easy Way with the Dremal
Hand Scraping Method:  “How To Scrape Off Linoleum Flooring – Home Improvement Tips

I chose primarily the hand scraping method with some of the Dremel method to start lifting the vinyl.  I chose to score my flooring in about 2′ X 2′ squares.  That seemed to me to be an area I could handle and not continually having to start at an edge.   The following video shows me doing a particularly hard part of the floor.  For some reason the glue stuck extra tight there.

All of the tools I used are shown on my page: Tools – Scraping and Cleaning

Once the vinyl layer was removed, then came the really fun part, removing the paper and glue.  At first I just used a scraper, but it was very hard to not create gashes in the luan plywood underlayment.  Eventually, I went to using a steam iron to force the steam through the paper and weaken the glue.   I was concerned about what this would do to the plywood, but the steam evaporated quickly and there was no detectable damage to the plywood.   I worked in small areas, the size of a wash cloth and used a razor blade scraper instead of the larger scraper.  Once I got the technique down I very seldom gashed the wood.   The following video link shows this being done.  The only thing I would add is, use the highest heat setting on the iron and press down to trap the steam between the iron and the floor.  This will force the steam into the paper and glue.   It is not quick but it is effective.

The Hot Iron Method:  “Removing glue.mpg

This is what you don't want to do (unless you can't avoid it.)

This is what you don’t want to do (unless you can’t avoid it.)

The next picture shows some of the damage I did to the plywood.   This was the the part of the floor where the old vinyl seemed to be glued the best, and this is also before I started using the steam iron.  I was able to fill the gashes so everything will be alright with the new floor.   There is another way all this can be done.  If I was going to a completely different type of flooring it would have been the only way.  That is to rip up the vinyl and the luan plywood at the same time.   That is probably the quickest method, but then there is the added expense of installing more plywood and I was concerned that I would do greater damage and possibly have to replace trim and other things.

Scraping the paper - before I started using the steam iron and razor scraper.

Scraping the paper – before I started using the steam iron and razor scraper.

After all the paper and glue was removed it was necessary to fill in the floor.  This would have been necessary even if I had not created the gashes because there were dimples from the nails and the seams between the sheets of plywood.  Repairing the gashes made this all the more important.

The type of vinyl I installed is sheet vinyl but it is very thick and has a fibreglass backing.  It can be left floating, in other words not glued down.   However, I had a minor problem, during the installation day.  The weather was hot and the air-conditioner came on.  I initially had not cut out the floor vent hole and the blower trapped air under the floor.  The waves were so great, tt would just about make you sea-sick.  Even after cutting the vent hole and installing the register, enough air leaked under the flooring that I had some bubbles form.  I added some double-sided tape around the vent to hold the vinyl down there and also did some calking around the vent itself.

Filling the floor so the vinyl was over a smooth surface.

Filling the floor so the vinyl was over a smooth surface.

All in all the project went well, but it was very time consuming.   Sheet vinyl was good for that floor because the room dimensions in one direction is less than 12′ and 12′ is the standard width for roll vinyl.   I have another room to do with much larger dimensions.  I am looking at a newer form of flooring for it called “floating plank vinyl”.  It will still mean having to remove the existing flooring because it is in very bad shape.

As always I hope you got something from this post, although it is not typical of the types of posts I normally do.



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