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How To Remove Linoleum From Hardwood Floors

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Many people tend to overlook the floors in their home but it is really where the family lives. We walk on it, sit on it, and sometimes, we even play on it!

What may come as a surprise to you is that underneath that top layer of flooring is often another layer of flooring that could be a beautiful addition to your home. This is especially true if you have had linoleum in your home for many years or perhaps you purchased a home with linoleum. How do you remove linoleum to reveal the hardwood floor underneath?

Linoleum is a type of flooring that comes in multiple layers. The top layer is removed in thin sections using a utility knife and scraper. The lower layer is heated in sections to soften the glue and then removed with a scraper or sander.

Linoleum floor removal hardwood underneath

As you will see in this article, there are multiple options for removing linoleum but the most important factor is not damaging the hardwood subfloor. It takes time and effort but when you are looking at the finished product, it really is something you can be proud of.

How To Remove Glued Linoleum From Wood Subfloor

Handman in blue overall with two thumbs up

One important thing to consider is if you are actually dealing with a linoleum floor or if it is vinyl flooring. They are two completely different products and are handled in different ways. You also need to assess the quality of the hardwood floor underneath.

There are different methods of removing linoleum depending on its age. In most cases, it is completed in a three-step process. You first remove the upper layer in thin sheets, revealing the paper and glue underneath. This is then removed, sometimes together but in most cases, separately.

Linoleum is a specific type of flooring material that was invented in 1863. Originally, it was for use in covering the deck of a ship and may have been up to 1/2 inch thick, but it wasn’t long before the practical use in the home was recognized. Some linoleum floors may have been down for decades.

One of the most important factors of removing glued linoleum from a wood subfloor is doing so without damaging the wood. Linoleum was a very popular product, especially during the 1950s and 1960s. Beautiful floors were covered because linoleum was en vogue. After those floors are uncovered and revealed, they can be a beautiful part of your home again.

Preparing for the work and gathering the necessary tools can help to simplify things and makes for a better overall project. You should also keep safety in mind, and we will cover the safety factors to ensure that you can tackle this job while minimizing the risks to your health.

Is It Safe To Remove Linoleum From Hardwood Floor?

Guy painting a question mark unto a white wall

Anytime you take part in a home improvement project, there are going to be certain risks involved. The risks that may be associated with removing linoleum from a hardwood floor should not be underestimated.

When you remove linoleum from a hardwood floor properly you can do so without damaging the floor underneath. It takes time and effort but it can be done successfully. As long as you follow some practical safety guidelines, you can also remove the linoleum without harming your health.

One of the most important things to consider when removing linoleum is the age of the product. If the linoleum has been down since the 1980s or earlier, it may contain asbestos and must be handled carefully. Avoid the ‘grip and rip’ demolition technique. Working slowly and methodically will reduce any airborne particles, including asbestos.

Wearing the proper PPE is also important during the linoleum removal process. This would include safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying debris, and a respirator, preferably an N95 or better will protect your respiratory system. You should also wear gloves, such as all-purpose or cutlass gloves.

We discussed the possibility of asbestos but even if the linoleum was manufactured after 1980, you may still be dealing with some potentially harmful dust. This can include everything from mold to silica dust. It’s better to wear a respirator through the entire demolition process so you avoid breathing in those particles as much as possible.

What Tools Are Needed to Remove Adhesive from Hardwood?

Tools lying on the hardwood floor

You may have a few of the tools necessary to remove adhesive from Hardwood. If you don’t have the tools, you can either purchase them and have them in your tool collection or you may be able to rent them at your local hardware or tool rental store.

Here are a few of the tools you will need to remove adhesive from hardwood floor:

Utility Knife – It is important to have a quality utility knife with sharp blades. Have a supply of blades available so that you can replace them as soon as the old blade starts getting dull. Utility knives are inexpensive and are a very important part of the linoleum removal project.

Floor Scraper – Having a quality floor scraper or perhaps a few options for scrapers can be of benefit. A larger floor scraper with a long handle can give you extra leverage while saving your back at the same time. Smaller handheld floor scrapers can be used for detail work.

Oscillating Multipurpose Tool – This is optional but if you have a lot of linoleum to remove, it will be an invaluable part of your toolbox. You don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars for an oscillating multipurpose tool if you’re only going to use it for a single job. Pick up a quality tool appropriate to the task.

Heat Gun – Although some people will use a hairdryer, and you may find it beneficial to have one on hand, a heat gun can work quickly and effectively. Just be cautious about overheating the glue because you could create harmful fumes.

Floor Sander/Scrubber – It may be easier to remove the glue with a floor sander or side to side floor scrubber with a sanding pad. These can be rented at most hardware stores.

Preparing to Remove Adhesive from Hardwood Floors

Utility knife removing linoleum floor

Preparing for any home improvement project is an important factor in the success of the project. It will help things to move along quickly and effectively so that you can start enjoying your new hardwood floors quickly.

The first step in preparing to remove adhesive from hardwood floors is to gather your tools and start with a clean floor.

Starting with a clean work area is imperative for the safety and success of your project. You should also remove the baseboard in the room and move out any furniture to have a clear workspace.

Work a very small area of the floor to familiarize yourself with what you will be up against. Knowing what is under the linoleum, including the type of glue, can act as a guide for when you tackle the larger project.

You can then score the floor in a grid to prepare for the removal process. Be cautious that you don’t cut the whole way through the floor and damaged the hardwood underneath.

The floor should be scored in 6″ – 12″ strips so it is easier to work with. Start at one end of the strip and begin peeling the top layer back. You can use any existing lines on the linoleum floor as a guide for your score marks.

How To Remove Linoleum Adhesive From Hardwood Floors

Floor scraper tool removing linoleum flooring exposing hardwood floor

After the top layer of linoleum has been removed the adhesive and paper lining will be visible. The easiest way to remove it is to heat the floor in small sections to soften the glue and scrape it from the hardwood floor using a floor scraper or an oscillating multipurpose tool.

Heat the glue enough to soften it but not so much that you run the risk of releasing toxic fumes. In addition, softening the glue too much could make it ‘sticky’ and more difficult to remove.

Most people will use a hairdryer because it can heat the glue but does it slowly enough that you can work with it effectively. A heat gun can also be used, but caution needs to be taken because it can heat the glue much more quickly.

Begin by using a larger scraper with a long handle to remove the majority of the paper and glue. You can then work with a smaller, handheld scraper to remove any of the leftover glue. You may need to heat the smaller areas to make the glue easier to remove.

One other option is to use a floor sander or side-to-side scrubber with a sanding pad. This option can remove the paper and glue very quickly but you need to work in a larger area at one time. Spending too much time on a smaller area could heat the glue, causing it to become gummy and ruining the sanding pad.

Using a floor sander to remove the glue also provides the option for removing the finish from the old hardwood floor so that it can be re-furnished to perfection.

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