Vinyl flooring has long been a favorite flooring option because of its waterproof durability and easy installation. But there comes a time when visible wear and tear makes you say, “that stuff has got to go.”
It’s a simple process to remove a vinyl floor, but it isn’t effortless.
With the right tools and knowledge, this is a Do It Yourself (DIY) project for just about anybody. Once the vinyl flooring has been properly removed, the subfloor will be ready to receive any type of brand-new replacement flooring.
This guide starts with general tips on how to remove vinyl flooring and moves to specific methods for removal from common subfloor materials, concrete and wood.
Removing old vinyl flooring can be a pain so it’s always worth getting a couple of free estimates from local contractors in case a small fee might solve the problem more easily.
What You Need
- Safety gear (mask, gloves, goggles, long pants and shirts, coveralls, steel-toe shoes)
- Tarp or drop cloth
- Screwdriver, hammer
- Pry bar
- Putty knife
- Utility knife
- Floor scraper
- Heat gun or hair dryer
- Wood saw
- Power scraper
- Shovel, broom, dustpan, heavy-duty trash bags, trash can
- Commercial adhesive stripper / acetone
- Hand sander / power sander
Vinyl Flooring Safety
Like any DIY project involving tools and physical effort, take appropriate safety precautions. Wear a respirator mask to protect from potential fumes, and don the rest of the gear listed above.
Pro Safety Tip: Many vinyl flooring products contained cancer-causing asbestos until the 1980s. Take special care if you have, or may have, asbestos vinyl flooring. To identify asbestos flooring:
- Find out when the building was built or renovated.
- Asbestos tiles were made in three sizes: 9”x9”; 12”x12”; and 18”x18”.
- Asbestos tiles contain asphalt, which can leak onto the floor below, leaving discoloration as a clue.
- Follow additional proper DIY procedures for removal of asbestos vinyl flooring, or
- Consider hiring a professional contractor who specializes in asbestos removal.
Whether the old vinyl is made of sheets, planks, or tiles, the removal process is generally the same; there may be minor modifications for flooring and subfloor types and stubborn adhesives.
Vinyl Flooring Removal – Step by Step
1). Remove everything from the room, including furniture and decorations. Use tarps or drop cloths to cover what can’t be removed (typically countertops and cabinets.) Take off the baseboards using a pry bar or screwdriver.
Pro Tip: Label the backs of the baseboards for easy replacement.
2). Expose a sheet or tile edge, so you can pry it up from underneath. With a putty knife, peel up a corner of a sheet or tile, or using a utility knife, cut into the vinyl to create access.
3). Lift the vinyl with a floor scraper or pry bar. Cut the vinyl into smaller pieces for easier removal.
4). Stubborn vinyl and strong glue may require a heat gun, which will soften the flooring and adhesive. A hair dryer on the highest heat setting might work. It’s worth a try before shelling out $20 to $50 for a heat gun.
5). Scrape off remaining adhesive and vinyl with a floor scraper or similar tool.
6). For especially large or difficult jobs, consider renting a power floor scraper. The metal blade cuts quickly into vinyl flooring and saves lots of time and effort. Follow power equipment directions carefully.
7). Clean up using a broom and/or shovel. Dispose of adhesive and vinyl scraps in heavy duty trash bags and trash cans and follow local rules for disposal or recycling.
How to Remove Vinyl Floor Sheets
Sheet vinyl flooring is more commonly encountered as a cut-to-measure option for residential and commercial jobs. Most of the time, sheet vinyl is perimeter installed, meaning adhesive is used only on the edges of the floor. Perimeter installation makes vinyl sheets relatively easy to remove.
1). In the middle of the room, with a utility knife, cut a hole into the vinyl about a foot wide.
2). Cut the vinyl into narrower strips. The vinyl strips are easier to pull up than the whole sheet.
3). Use a floor scraper, pry bar or similar tool to pull up stubborn vinyl sections and adhesive.
How to Remove Vinyl Flooring on a Plywood Subfloor
The best approach is to remove both at the same time by cutting into the vinyl and the subfloor with a saw blade. Trust us on this. You’ll likely need to replace the plywood no matter how carefully you work to remove the vinyl. Glue bonds to it, and chunks of wood come up with the flooring.
If the plywood underlayment is screwed into the subfloor, remove the vinyl flooring first (following the steps above) then remove the screws before removing the subfloor.
Cut the floor with a wood saw in 2- to 3-foot sections for easy removal and disposal.
How to Remove Vinyl Flooring Over a Concrete Subfloor
Pro Tip: Concrete is tough enough that you can use commercial cleaners and power sanders, to clean and prepare the floor after vinyl removal.
1). Cut and pull up the vinyl in narrow strips to reveal the glue.
2). Use a heat gun to soften the adhesive, if possible.
3). Scrape the remaining adhesive with a floor scraper or pry bar.
4). Use a commercial adhesive stripper or acetone to soften and remove remaining glue. Still got glue? This is where an electric hand sander might be necessary for removing the rest.
If you have experience of removing vinyl flooring we’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below.
About the Author:
Rob joined the Home Flooring Pros team in 2014 and is a freelance writer, specializing in flooring, remodeling and HVAC systems.
“I’m the son of an interior designer and picked up an eye for design as a result. I started hanging wallpaper and painting at 14 and learned enough on the job to be the general contractor on two homes we built for our family and did much of the finish plumbing, electrical, painting, and trim work myself.”