What’s the Easiest Way to Remove Linoleum?
$1 – $2 per sq/ft to Remove Linoleum
The best way to remove linoleum flooring is to have someone else do it for you! Professionals will strip away and dispose of your old linoleum for between $1 and $2 per square foot. If you want do-it-yourself then read on for linoleum flooring removal advice.
Last Updated: February 16, 2023, by: Rob Parsell
Removing old linoleum from a concrete or wood subfloor requires time and energy, and a few smart tips can make it easier. Hiring someone to handle this tedious task might be the best tip, but for those committed to DIY, this page gives you the tools and techniques required.
This isn’t vinyl! A lot of homeowners refer to vinyl flooring as linoleum. While similar in looks, the way to remove linoleum flooring is a little different.
LINOLEUM REMOVAL TOOLS – WHAT YOU NEED
- Safety gear is recommended – mask, protective clothing, gloves, etc.
- Pry bar for removing baseboard trim
- Utility knife and extra blades
- Heat gun
- Floor scraper tool of your choice – options are discussed below
LINOLEUM FLOORING REMOVAL – STEP BY STEP
This section provides the basic tasks involved in linoleum flooring removal. In a following section, specifics related to wood subfloors and concrete slabs provide further suggestions.
1). Clear the room: Empty it of furniture, and remove the baseboard from the room’s perimeter.
Tip: If you plan to re-use the trim, label each piece as you remove it and the wall where it was attached. This makes replacing it a much easier process.
2). Cut the flooring: Use your utility knife to cut through the flooring all the way to the subfloor or slab. This is called scoring the floor. Make cuts every 12-24 inches, which are easier to work on than larger sections.
Your lucky day? If you’re fortunate, you’ll find that the linoleum is perimeter-glued rather than fully glued. When adhesive is only used on the edges, your job gets a lot easier.
3). Heat it: Go over a section of a few square feet using the heat gun. Give it 10-15 seconds per square foot initially to see if that’s long enough to soften the linoleum and make it easy to scrape up.
Tip not to try: One technique to heat linoleum on concrete is to pour near-boiling water onto it. While this tip gets tossed around online, we don’t recommend it. Why? Due to the possibility of burns, water-damaged drywall and a floor becoming very slippery are reasons to skip this tip.
4). Scrape it: You’ve got options – a putty knife is the cheapest but least effective/most work. A floor scraper with a handle long enough to allow you to stand is a back-saver, goes quicker but costs a little more. A reciprocating saw with a scraper accessory costs the most but easily goes the quickest. An oscillating tool and blade will produce the same results.
5). Pro power needed? For large jobs, consider renting a commercial-grade flooring scraper.
6). Dispose of the flooring: Heavy-gauge trash bags, a dumpster or the bin you use for weekly pickup are good options. Linoleum is recyclable, so you might also see if your local recycling center takes it.
These are the basic steps to linoleum flooring removal. There are additional tips related to concrete and wood subfloors.
REMOVING LINOLEUM FROM A WOOD FLOOR OR PLYWOOD SUBFLOOR
The easiest method is to remove the flooring and subfloor together. Why? Because even using the method above, bits of glue and flooring will probably remain on the plywood subfloor.
To remove it will require solvent to soften the glue and possibly sanding some of it off. The result will be a clean but imperfect subfloor unlikely to be suitable for new flooring. Any defect in the subfloor will “telegraph” through new flooring like LVP, sheet vinyl or linoleum. In short, it’s quite possible you’ll go to all the trouble of being careful to spare the wood subfloor – only to realize you need to replace it anyway.
Once most of the linoleum is up, remove the screws or nails holding the subfloor to the joists beneath it. If you want, use a circular saw to cut the sheets into smaller pieces.
Be careful and beware: Don’t cut those joists – and also beware that there could be ductwork, pipes or wiring in the cavity between the joists.
REMOVING LINOLEUM FROM A CONCRETE FLOOR
You can be aggressive with concrete. Once you’ve done your best to remove the linoleum using the outlined steps, remaining adhesive can be taken off with a liquid stripper. Pour some on the glue, let it sit for a few minutes, and then scrape off the adhesive.
If that fails – or as a dusty alternative – use a hand sander to take off the pesky glue.
You’ll definitely want to use your shop vacuum to get up any dust and debris left behind before installing new flooring over the slab. You may find some cracks in your concrete floor, many hairline cracks don’t need to be fixed but look to repair larger cracks. A final mop and rinse wouldn’t hurt either, especially if you’re planning something like an epoxy basement floor that requires excellent adhesion.
About the Author:
Rob joined the Home Flooring Pros team in 2014 and is a freelance writer, specializing in flooring, remodeling and HVAC systems (read more).
“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.”