How to Remove Linoleum From Wood

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How do you remove linoleum from a wooden surface? With the right tools and method the job is easily done. This 4-step guide explains how to do it.

You probably have linoleum in high-traffic areas of your home such as kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways. Linoleum flooring is made from a mix of linseed oil, cork, and limestone, and even though it’s a classic and highly resilient material, there are several reasons you may want to remove it from the wood flooring under, most notably when you’re ready to upgrade your existing floor with a new look and feel.

Removing linoleum from wood is easy for the most part, but does require patience and some elbow grease. To remove linoleum from wood, you first have to score the linoleum into smaller pieces using a floor scraper, remove the smaller sections using a heat gun and floor scraper, and lastly get rid of the adhesives.

#1 Gather your tools

The good news is that it’s easy to remove linoleum from wood with a few tools, but be prepared to spend a fair amount of time, and put in some muscle power.

  • Utility knife – you will need a sharp utility knife to cut the linoleum into small, manageable pieces.
  • Heavy-duty floor scraper – this tool is used for removing linoleum and other materials from wood and other surfaces.
  • Rubber mallet or hammer – a hammer or mallet will help break the linoleum loose.
  • Durable putty knife – if you come across stubborn linoleum flooring, a durable putty knife will help remove it.
  • Oscillating multi-tool – one of our must-have power tools for home owners. Using this tool is optional but could make the task of removing linoleum from wood a whole lot easier.
  • Heat gun or hair dryer – using either one can help soften the adhesives after removing the linoleum. As an alternative, you can rent a wallpaper steamer from your nearest hardware store.
  • Floor sander – to remove any traces of adhesives, and smoothen the floor.

#2 Cut the linoleum into small, manageable sections with the utility knife

Now that you have all your tools needed for the job, the first, and perhaps one of the most important steps is to cut the linoleum with a sharp utility knife into smaller two-inch pieces to make it easy to remove.

REXBETI utility knife with extra blades

The REXBETI pack comes with both a box cutter as well as a utility, so you get two tools for the price of one. The utility knife features an ultra-sharp blade, and an easy-to-use retractable and foldable design.

Further, it is topped with an ergonomic and rubberized handle that collectively prevents strain on your hands when cutting a large area of linoleum.

To cut the linoleum into smaller pieces, perform the task in straight lines, and make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure, and dig into the linoleum.

The goal is to only score the linoleum surface into smaller six-inch to 12-inch strips, and not pushing too deep, because doing so will cause damage to the wood below.

#3 Scrape the linoleum off the wooden surface with a heavy-duty scraper

There are two parts to completely removing linoleum from wood flooring—removing the top layer of flooring material, and the bottom backing with adhesive.

After you’ve scored the linoleum from wood flooring, use a floor scraper to raise the top layer of the linoleum. You should ideally use a floor scraper that measures at least four inches wide, so that you can cover a larger area.

The UnikPoint floor scraper features a little long, premium quality plastic handle, and is fitted with a high strength aluminum alloy splint, and comes with a spare high-carbon steel blade.

Use the floor scraper to pry under the linoleum strips, while pulling on them. Keep working in small sections until you’ve removed the first layer of linoleum, after which you will have to tackle the adhesive below.

To accelerate this step, you can use a heat gun to apply heat on the top layer of the linoleum, or you can even use a hairdryer as an alternative.

#4 Remove any remaining adhesives with a heat gun or hairdryer

It is highly important to remove the remaining adhesives for several reasons explained below. To remove the leftover adhesives, you’ve got several options—use a wallpaper steamer, heat gun, or even a hairdryer set on high heat.

PRULDE HG0080 heat gun

The PRULDE heat gun is an inexpensive yet powerful tool that offers a rather long 600-hour max temperature service life. It tips the scales at just 1.3 lbs, and offers a low 752°F and high 1112°F setting to select from.

Start by applying heat with any of your preferred tools to the floor in small sections, while simultaneously scraping up the adhesive with your floor scraper tool at a 45-degree angle.

Again, you have to be careful when using the scraper to remove the adhesive, as you don’t want to gouge the wood below. Repeat this process until you get rid of all the backing and adhesive.

If you come across any stubborn adhesive spots, apply some paint thinner or isopropyl alcohol to the area, let it soak in for roughly 10 minutes, and start scraping again at a 45-degree angle.

After you’ve completely removed the adhesives, it’s a good idea to let the floor dry, and run a sander to remove any traces of adhesive

You can opt to skip this step, and lay new flooring over the adhesives, but take note that it will raise the floor by at least 1/8 of an inch.  

Why you should always remove old flooring adhesives

One of the biggest reasons to remove the adhesives from wooden floors is because older adhesives contained oils that tend to react with new vinyl, resulting in a yellow discoloration, which most new vinyl warranties do not cover.

Another reason to remove the adhesives from vinyl flooring because it can cause damage to the new floor if it breaks loose. In worse cases, any bumps and cracks on your old flooring will be clearly visible in your new linoleum flooring.

Be aware of asbestos in old flooring adhesives

Older vinyl flooring asbestos—a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral that can endanger your life and the life of others who come in contact with it.

If your vinyl flooring is older than the 1980s, you should hire an expert for asbestos abatement to properly test your property for this toxic mineral.

There are several people that try to test for asbestos themselves, but it is truly not worth the risk.

Categories DIY