Linoleum is a timeless and durable flooring option commonly found in high-traffic areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and corridors. For ripping away an outmoded style, you’ll need a few unique skills and a lot of patience because the bond between linoleum and its adhesive really increases. Besides this, there are ways that linoleum was fastened to the subfloor, if fastened at all.
Many homeowners are aware of vinyl flooring, which is often seen as the same thing. While there isn’t much difference now, when it was introduced, there was. Before diving into this guide to learn how to remove linoleum flooring, you need to be certain you have linoleum and not plain vinyl. Linoleum laid before 1980 has the potential and may contain asbestos in the backing paper, and asbestos can lead to cancer. Get a sample analyzed, and if there is asbestos, you need to call a skilled asbestos removal contractor. (Learn How To Remove Velcro Adhesive)
If you are given the all-clear or awaiting a test result, you can still go through this guide and learn how to remove linoleum floor.
How Hard Is It to Remove Linoleum Flooring?
Here is a summary of the DIY removal of lino from your floors. There is more to know, but in the most basic, this is what you would do to removing old linoleum in your home improvement project.
- Cut the linoleum flooring into 6′′-12′′ strips wide with a utility knife.
- Using a scraper or an oscillating tool, remove old layers of flooring material.
- In parts, heat the bottom layer with a heat gun to soften it, then scrape it away to remove the linoleum strips.
What Flooring Do You Have?
Vinyl flooring and old linoleum flooring are frequently confused, as they’re similar. Linoleum can be found in tiles and sheets, although sheet linoleum is less frequent nowadays. It can be easy or challenging to remove linoleum or vinyl flooring, yet it depends on how it was laid and bonded. To get rid of linoleum that was just stuck around the perimeter, cut it into a small section with a utility knife, then bundle it up and remove it. If your old flooring is fully stuck, you’re in for a tougher fight.
Identifying what you have is the first step in the removal procedure. To see a cross-section, remove a flooring transition strip or a baseboard molding. The fastest way is to remove the underlayment, and the floors should the linoleum be bonded to the underlayment, which is often 1/4-inch-thick plywood that will be laid on the top of your subfloor.
Otherwise, removing the linoleum and the adhesive from the subfloor takes some scraping. You can also find you have old materials like hardwood or concrete if your flooring was glued directly to the subfloor.
Check for Asbestos
If your flooring was installed before 1980, the adhesive or backing might contain asbestos fibers, a known carcinogen. To be safe, have a local laboratory test a sample of the flooring and adhesive for asbestos.
If the sample tests positive for asbestos, a licensed asbestos abatement contractor should remove it. You can also leave the old flooring in place and replace it later. To make asbestos more harmful, scrape or sand it, making it airborne and easy to inhale.
Step-By-Step Linoleum Floor Removal
Rentable floor scrapers are available in various shapes and sizes, including small handheld instruments, long-handled scrapers, and power scrapers. Select the largest scraper you can handle that is effective and appropriate for your floor. High-carbon steel blades are frequently found on scrapers for removing such flooring.
Regular putty knives or paint scraper tools are OK for removing linoleum in small sections like the bottom of your wall, corners, and other difficult-to-reach regions. Still, it’s worth investing in a good floor scraper to make the job easier and faster when tackling a large floor. (Learn How To Remove Super Glue From Metal)
Step 1# Score your flooring in strips.
- Score the flooring into 6- to 12-inch-wide strips, working in small parts. If your linoleum has a tile pattern, the outlines of the tiles can be used as general guides for scoring.
- Proceed with caution and avoid cutting all the way through the material—you don’t want to damage the floor beneath it, especially if it’s hardwood.
Step 2# Remove top layer of flooring material.
- You’ll need to handle both layers of linoleum to remove it completely. The top layer of flooring should peel away, and the bottom layer is a paper backing with adhesive. This can be tougher to remove.
- Pull the top layer of linoleum, and then pull leftover paper backing and/or adhesive after.
- Start working underneath a score mark with your scraper tips or using the edge of an oscillating multi-tool.
- Push forward to lift the linoleum and continue to do so until the entire top layer of fitted tiles or your cut tile sections has been removed. (Learn How To Remove Tile From Wall)
Step 3# Remove your paper backing and adhesive.
- Apply heat to the floor in small pieces with a wallpaper heat gun to remove any leftover backing. You can use a steamer, yet this will leave your floor wet. A heat gun delivers more direct heat, but don’t hold it too close or leave it turned on for safety.
- Work at a 45-degree angle and soften a small subfloor section with your heat gun of choice. As it melts, scrape up the adhesive.
- Remove the vinyl floor backing and adhesive part by section until all of it is gone.
- Apply isopropyl alcohol or paint thinner to tough spots and leave the solution to sit for a few minutes. Scrape away the remaining adhesive at the 45-degree angle and avoid scratching the floor underneath the linoleum or vinyl.
Sometimes, you can skip this step and lay your new material right on top of your existing linoleum. However, remember doing this lifts your floor by an eighth of an inch and could leave a spongy feeling under your floor. It is much wiser to remove old linoleum. If you decide to proceed with the removal, remember not to rush. You can get rid of linoleum and build the groundwork for a brand-new floor if you have the patience and the right tools to do the job.
Remove Underlayment and Bonded Linoleum
- Grab a circular saw and pry bar to remove a glued-down linoleum or vinyl floor from an underlayment substrate.
- Protect your eyes with safety goggles, and wear a dust mask. When you’re cutting the floor, sparks and debris can fly everywhere. Blocking doorways with a plastic sheet is advisable to prevent dust around your home.
- Set your circular saw’s cutting depth to a maximum of 1/8 inch deeper than the total thickness of your floor covering and underlayment so you don’t cut into the subfloor or floor joists.
- Cut the flooring and underlayment into 12- to 24-inch-wide strips. You can use a reciprocating saw or oscillating multi-tool to cut by your wall.
- Use a pry bar or heavy-duty scraper, and separate and remove each strip of underlayment and linoleum from the subfloor.
- If the underlayment is secured to your subfloor with screws, not nails, it can crack and shatter, but you can pry it apart with force.
- Take care not to scratch the subflooring beneath you. As you go, toss out the old flooring and underlayment.
- Remove any remaining nails or screws from the subfloor.
- To prepare for new flooring, vacuum the subfloor using a shop vac.
Remove Linoleum from Concrete
Linoleum, together with vinyl, can be laid directly on concrete. It takes either heat or moisture to remove it from concrete. A hairdryer won’t suffice here; you need to heat the concrete floor with a heat gun. Once heated with your heat gun, scrape the adhesive with a broad putty knife or floor scraper.
Alternatively, you can use a wallpaper steamer you can purchase or rent, which offers heat and moisture. (Learn How To Remove Candle Wax From Fabric)
Depending on your room and the old floor, you can also soak your flooring for removing linoleum with warm water and let it sit for around 10 minutes before you scrape. Likewise, a good adhesive remover can help soften the tough adhesive in small or hard-to-reach areas in your house. Ensure you dry this floor before you lay your new floor.