How to remove Old Linoleum

One of the biggest challenges that homeowners face is removing old linoleum. It’s a daunting task, but there are tricks you can use to make the job a little easier. The level of difficulty really depends on several underlying factors, like the type of adhesive and the age of the linoleum. If you’re putting down a new floor it may be easier just to leave the linoleum intact, especially if it’s solidly bound and not cracked or heaving. If it needs to go, you’re in for a big job.
To start with, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to just remove the linoleum and adhesive all at once. What’s under the linoleum can be part of the problem, especially if it’s wood. Concrete floors can withstand a lot more in the way of rough treatment, including the type of scraper you use. Most people will use paint scrapers, although scrapers with a razor blade are usually more efficient. Be ready to break some blades it if the adhesive is hard, and you’re working on concrete.

One piece of advice is not to try and remove everything at once. Many people instead cut the linoleum into strips or sections, and peel that off. You should pull up most of the surface, and likely a good portion of the backing. Doing it this way will make it easier to get at the adhesive underneath as well.

Once you are down to the scraps, there are two basic methods to aid your scraping efforts. One is to use some kind of solvent or remover. A popular brand is Krud Kutter, which appears to work very well, according to the customer feedback comments. Follow instructions on the label of whatever product you employ, and wear gloves to protect your hands. Do a small section at a time, and then go on to the next one.

Boiling water can be used to soften the underlying adhesive. Try pouring very hot or boiling water directly on the remaining backing and adhesive, section by section. Give the hot water a few moments to sink in, and then scrape the softened glue. You can also fold an old towel over the adhesive and pour the hot water onto the towel. Let it set, remove the towel and scrape.

Heat can be another successful method of removing linoleum adhesive. Find an inconspicuous area behind a door or in a closet. Heat the adhesive with a hair dryer and scrape it using a putty knife or other style of straight blade scraper. If you’re uncovering a hardwood floor, be sure to push the scraper in the direction of the wood grain. Keep a pan or container nearby to dispose of the adhesive scrapings. Make sure that the container will not melt or ignite if it comes into contact with hot materials.

You may wish to move up to using a heat gun after you become comfortable with this process. If so, be careful not to overheat the wood and char it. You should also know that using this technique may allow some of the softened mastic to flow into the joints between the floorboards. Keeping the heated area small, constantly moving the heat source and scraping as quickly as possible will all help improve the outcome.

It’s virtually impossible to remove every bit of old adhesive from a hardwood floor, and too much scraping can easily damage the wood. Use the above methods to take away as much old adhesive as possible. Then, take a break to consider your next step. Some people choose to lightly sand away any remaining adhesive, while others use mineral spirits and turpentine to scrub it off. However you choose to clean your wood floors, remember this important final step: seal the wood to protect it before you lay any new adhesives or coverings.

By Ramona Mackgil