How to Remove Old Linoleum
Few projects in life are as satisfying as restoring an older home to its original glory. But if your restoration involves the removal of old linoleum, the project quickly becomes extremely challenging. Taking up old linoleum and removing the adhesive is a huge job, but there are steps you can take to make it a little easier. The age of the linoleum and the type of adhesive can certainly make your job more difficult. Some people simply lay the new floor over the old linoleum, while others dig in with tools and plenty of elbow grease to get the job done.
In a perfect world, the linoleum and adhesive would lift together. Unfortunately, that's just not likely. You won't know what's in store until you remove the initial layer of linoleum. If the underlying floor is made of concrete it can be relatively easy to remove the old adhesive. Wood floors, however, present a much bigger challenge. Most people use paint scrapers or razor blades to remove the old adhesive. This is fine on concrete, but wood floors require a gentle touch. Old adhesive can hard enough to damage blades and scrapers, so be prepared to stock up.
Don't try to remove everything at once. Instead, try cutting the linoleum into strips or sections, and peeling them away. You should be able to remove most of the surface layer and a good portion of the linoleum backing. Using this method also makes it a lot easier to get at the underlying adhesive.
After the top layer is taken up and you're down to scraps, you have options for removing the adhesive. Chemical solvents such as Krud Kutter can be effective. Research these products and read the customer reviews. Follow the instructions on the product label carefully, and wear protective gloves and a mask. Work with a small area at a time and take a breath of fresh air before moving to the next.
Some home renovators have had success using boiling water to soften the adhesive. Working one section at a time, pour the water directly onto the backing and adhesive. Leave it to soak, and then scrape up the softened debris. Another option is to lay a folded towel over the adhesive, pour the boiling water, let it set and then begin scraping.
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 almost impossible to remove every bit of old adhesive from a hardwood floor, and excessive scraping will most certainly damage the wood. Remove as much as the adhesive as you can by using these methods, and then clean the floors. Take a look and consider your nest step. A light sanding may be in order, or you can try scrubbing the remaining residue away with rags and solvent. Turpentine and mineral spirits can get the job done. If you're planning to lay a new covering over your cleaned wood floor, do yourself a big favor and remember to seal the wood before applying the new adhesive.