How to Remove Linoleum Flooring

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When it comes time to install new flooring, your first step will be to remove the old linoleum. 

While some might suggest leaving the old flooring in place for extra insulation, this can lead to significant problems. Moisture and mold might accumulate between the linoleum and the new flooring. (The same is not always true for other materials — you can lay linoleum over ceramic tiles, for example.)

These problems could lead to tearing out the replacement flooring and old linoleum in the future. It’s better to remove the old material first and start from scratch. This adds an extra step to your remodeling project, but this guide will teach you how to remove linoleum flooring successfully. 

Once the linoleum is gone, you can install your new flooring with the confidence and peace of mind that your floor will be there to stay.

How Do You Know What Type of Floor You Have?

Before you can consider how you’ll prepare for new flooring, you need to determine which type of flooring you already have installed in your home. How can you know if your current flooring is laminate or something else?

There are some subtle differences between linoleum and laminate flooring that can help you make the distinction. One difference is that patterns get printed onto the linoleum. This limits the designs available with linoleum.

Laminate flooring involves embossing patterns, such as wood grain, onto high-density fibreboard. Afterward, a glossy sealant gets added as the top layer to serve as a protectant.

The best way to tell which type of flooring is in your home is by peeling up a corner of the material. Linoleum will have a paper or vinyl backing as opposed to the firm fibreboard backing of laminate.

It may be easier to distinguish between vinyl and traditional linoleum. If the flooring is more than 50 years old, it’s unlikely to be vinyl. Additionally, vinyl gets embossed with the pattern, while colors and patterns get embedded into traditional linoleum. 

An embossed pattern will wear away over time. In traditional linoleum, the embedded pattern will wear through the full thickness of the flooring. This means it can’t wear away.

When Should You Remove Linoleum?

Once you’ve determined that you do have linoleum flooring, you’ll want to know whether it’s time to replace it. Essentially, you’ll want to look for signs that the flooring has suffered years of wear and tear damage. If it’s just discolored, you may be able to simply clean yellowed linoleum flooring

Stubborn stains, tears, and indentations in the flooring indicate a need to replace it. There might also be water damage to the wooden subfloor material, which you can detect by walking on the floor. If the surface seems soft or feels squishy beneath your feet, there is probably moisture accumulation beneath the linoleum.

You might notice an unpleasant odor in that part of your home as well. There might be an increase in allergic reactions or respiratory difficulties for those who spend more time in that part of the home.

Any of these issues are good reasons to remove linoleum flooring from your home.

How Do You Prepare for Linoleum Removal?

The removal of linoleum flooring can take up to eight hours, although that time will vary depending on the size of your work area. You can reduce delays on your project by getting your tools and supplies together in advance. 

Here’s a list of what you need to get started:

  • Utility knife
  • Putty knife or scraper
  • Utility trash bags/trash receptacle
  • Heat gun, hair dryer, or chemical stripper
  • Mop and dustpan
  • Isopropyl alcohol or paint thinner
  • Asbestos test kit
  • Wet/dry vac
  • Orbital sander

There may be a few other items you will want to use to help you work more efficiently. If you find a tool that works for you, add it to your list and keep it handy. For example, you might want to replace the orbital sander with a floor drum sander. 

Safety Considerations for Removing Linoleum

In addition to gathering the tools and supplies for your project, you should have some safety equipment on hand. These items are the personal protective equipment you should wear as you remove your linoleum flooring. 

  • Durable work gloves
  • Respirator
  • Eye protection
  • Ear plugs or hearing protection (for operating loud tools and equipment)

The PPE listed here will help you avoid exposing your eyes, ears, hands, and skin to contaminants. Additionally, it may be helpful to wear a long sleeve shirt and durable work pants.

How to Remove Linoleum Flooring: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you have your supplies, tools, and PPE handy, you’re ready to begin. Follow these steps to remove linoleum effectively and safely.

1. Test the Flooring

If you haven’t already used your asbestos test kit, this is the time to do it. Before you take any action to pull up the flooring, make sure you know whether there’s asbestos in the adhesive. This will help you determine how to remove the flooring and what PPE to wear during the process.

2. Cut the Linoleum Into 6-Inch Wide Strips

The first step is to prepare the linoleum by cutting the material into long strips. You’ll use a utility knife for this purpose. Make sure to wear your work gloves to avoid cutting yourself accidentally. Press the knife deep enough to slice through the linoleum as you cut each 6- to 12-inch strip.

3. Pull Up the Top Layer of Flooring

Once you’ve scored the flooring into easy-to-manage strips, you can begin pulling up each strip. Don’t worry about pulling up the backing. That step will come later. For now, just pull up the top layer, which is the actual linoleum. It should come up easily or with little resistance. 

You should have a trash receptacle nearby to dispose of the materials you pull up. Avoid throwing other debris into these receptacles since you may have to follow a special disposal process.

4. Pull Up the Underlayment and Backing Material

This is the step you’ll find the most challenging. Working in small areas, use a heat source or chemical stripper to loosen the adhesive. As the glue loses cohesion, you can use your putty knife or scraper to peel up the material. Hold the scraper at a 45-degree angle to avoid damaging the underlying concrete surface. 

Some areas may come up more easily, while other areas will require a little more effort.

5. Periodically Clean the Surface

Throughout this process, you should stop from time to time to clean up the work area. Dust and debris can collect and make it more difficult to work. Use a wet/dry vac to clean up larger areas, and sweep up the dust that collects in corners and crevices. Keeping your work area clean as you go will also make the final cleanup easier.

6. Address the Tough Spots

It’s not uncommon to come across tough areas where the heat gun or stripping agent just isn’t helping. When you find one of these spots, apply some isopropyl alcohol or paint thinner. The product label should tell you how long to let the solution sit before attempting to scrape the material up. 

7. Sand Out Uneven Surfaces

Once you have removed all of the linoleum backing and cleaned the area, look for problem areas. These areas might include gouges that you made while pulling up the flooring or areas where you couldn’t remove the adhesive. Use a sander to create a more level surface in these areas.

8. Properly Dispose of the Debris

If your linoleum doesn’t contain asbestos, you can take it to a recycling center or composting center. Most cities have these facilities available. Alternatively, you can put the debris in regular trash bags and have your waste management service pick them up.

If you did detect asbestos, you should wet the materials before placing them in asbestos waste disposal bags. You will need to contact a licensed asbestos abatement contractor in your area to remove them.

Linoleum Removal FAQs

If this is your first time removing linoleum, know that you’re not alone. This is a project that many homeowners undertake sooner or later. By reviewing some of the common questions they’ve had, you’ll start your own project with a better understanding of this process.

How Do You Remove Old Glued-Down Linoleum?

There are several methods for removing linoleum that’s glued to a concrete surface or another type of subflooring. You can use a standard hair dryer or wallpaper steamer to heat up the glue as you pull the linoleum up. Alternatively, a chemical stripping agent will negate the adhesiveness of the glue, making it easier to pull up the flooring.

Is Removing Linoleum Hard?

Yes, you’ll find it difficult to remove linoleum due to the adhesive substances used to affix the flooring to the underlying cement. 

Additionally, you should test for asbestos before starting your project. Some glues use asbestos — if that’s the case with your linoleum, the process of mechanical abrasion could send asbestos particles into the air. To remove linoleum in this case, make sure you use only a manual removal process.

How Do You Remove Glued-Down Vinyl Flooring?

Unlike traditional linoleum, vinyl flooring is more likely to melt when exposed to heat. For this reason, using a hair dryer or wallpaper steamer isn’t recommended. A chemical stripper is best for weakening the adhesive beneath vinyl flooring.

Should I Remove Old Linoleum?

If you live in a dry climate, you may be able to lay new flooring over old linoleum. If you choose to skip the removal process, be aware that adding new vinyl or linoleum flooring over the existing flooring will raise the floor by ⅛ inch or more. 

Passion and Care Will Help You Tackle This Project

By following this guide, you’ll be able to effectively remove your linoleum. While it’s not a complicated project, it’ll take time and dedication to get the best results. 

Did you like this guide? Leave us a comment to share your thoughts, and feel free to share it with your friends.

I wish you the best of luck with your linoleum removal!

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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