What are the Best Methods for Removing Vinyl Flooring?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

When removing vinyl flooring from a kitchen, bathroom or other room of the home, is important to consider the age of the flooring, whether you are removing a rug or tiles, and the nature of the adhesive that is holding the flooring in place. Generally, it is a simple task to remove flooring of this type and prepare the floor to receive new tile or some other kind of replacement flooring. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the task can be accomplished in three to four hours at the most.

A utility knife is usually needed to remove vinyl flooring.
A utility knife is usually needed to remove vinyl flooring.

Before you begin the task of removing vinyl flooring, make sure you have some idea of how old the existing floor covering actually is. If you suspect that the vinyl floor dates back to before 1970, there is a good chance the product was made using asbestos. To protect yourself, make sure to wear a face mask that will prevent you from accidentally inhaling any small particles that may become airborne as you pry up the vinyl sheet or tile. Remember to wear protective clothing as well. If you do not want to run the risk of exposure to the asbestos, have the flooring professionally removed.

For any vinyl tile and sheeting that was manufactured after 1970, you can generally wear a face mask only to protect yourself from dust and other particles. Other flooring tools you will need include a hammer, crowbar, utility knife, and a trowel. You will also need cleaning agents to remove any residue that may be left after the flooring is removed, such as glue spots or small sections where the backing stuck to the floor.

If you are removing vinyl flooring that was installed in sheets, you may find that the edges of the sheets were tacked into place using finishing tacks. To remove the sheeting, use the utility knife to score the rug, effectively creating smaller sections you can work with. Always score away from your body to avoid the chance of injury. Pull each section away from the tacks, then use the hammer to remove the tacks from the underlying floor.

When you are removing vinyl flooring that was installed in tiles, use the trowel and crowbar to free the old tile from the underlying floor. In some cases, the trowel will be enough to break through the underlying adhesive and allow you to free a whole tile at a time. Older tiles are more likely to split, which may cause the job to go a little slower. If a tile or section of a tile is particularly resistant, use the crowbar to gain greater leverage.

After removing vinyl flooring from the bathroom or kitchen floor, your next step is to address any lingering traces of the flooring adhesive. There are a number of compounds that can be applied to the floor surface that will soften the dried adhesive. Most of these will do the job in an hour or so, making it possible for you to use the trowel to scoop up the softened mass and remove it from the area. Once the floor has dried, you can use a buffer to smooth the surface, then mop using a standard cleaning agent. This will effectively prepare the floor to receive the new floor covering you have selected.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Unless there is a really good reason for not doing so, I just clean the old vinyl flooring really well and then install vinyl flooring on top. Of course this does not work if the old flooring is uneven and peeling, but that's another story. New vinyl flooring will stick to the old flooring beneath, so that is an option, and this way involves much less work.


A heating gun is a good way to loosen the hold of adhesive substances used to stick down tile. However, if you don't have a heating gun and you don't want to purchase one when you probably will not use it again then you can use an iron instead of the gun on the tiles.

Plug in the iron and let it get warm then place it directly on a piece of vinyl tile for about 20 seconds, maybe a little longer, depending on what type of tile and what type of adhesive have been used. I guess it goes without saying that you shouldn't leave the room and leave the iron lying on the tile.

I restore old houses and resell them. Over the years, I have tackled a lot of old flooring, and much of it I would rather not remember. I am always looking for better and easier ways for removing vinyl flooring and old linoleum flooring.

When the flooring has been down for a decade or more, as is the case in many of the houses I work with, you should be prepared to use a considerable amount of elbow grease. Some of the adhesive I have seen is very strong. I have seen several instances where adhesives had bonded the shoe molding to the flooring to the point that the molding damaged the floor when it was taken down.

I have found that moving a heat gun across the tiles to heat them and heat the adhesive underneath can make most floor removal jobs much easier. When you do this, the tiles are more likely to come off in complete sections rather than splitting and tearing, and leaving a bigger mess for you to clean up after you get the flooring up.

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