How to Remove Linoleum Flooring (2023)

Linoleum is a distinctive floor covering that many homeowners try to preserve to maintain their home's vintage look and feel. Waterproof and incredibly tough, linoleum behaves much like vinyl flooring—yet it contains no plastics. Not only that but linoleum is natural and biodegradable.

But even the best linoleum will reach the end of its lifespan. That's when it's time to remove the linoleum flooring and replace it with laminate, vinyl, tile, or other durable flooring products. Removing linoleum flooring is a painstaking process but it can be done with enough time and determination.

What Is Linoleum?

Linoleum is a sheet or tile floor covering made from linseed oil, tree rosins, stone, cork, and wood flours, pigments, and burlap or felt. Linoleum's popularity peaked between 1946 and 1956. It was commonly used from the 1920s to the early 1960s.

How to Know if You Have Linoleum or Vinyl Flooring

Linoleum and vinyl flooring are sometimes confused with each other. It's important to determine if you have linoleum or vinyl flooring because sheet vinyl is easier to remove.

Linoleum

  • Thick

  • Heavy

  • Brittle

  • Burlap or felt backing

  • Felt liner (underlayment)

  • Does not melt

  • 1920s to 1950s

Vinyl

(Video) How To Remove Old Vinyl Or Linoleum Flooring | Kitchens and Bathrooms

Why Linoleum Is Difficult to Remove

Linoleum is difficult to remove for several reasons: aggressive adhesives, felt or burlap that mix with the adhesives, and the possibility of asbestos in the linoleum glues.

  • Adhesives: Linoleum is always glued down. These adhesives, often decades old and rock-hard, form a solid bond between the linoleum and the subfloor.
  • Backer and Liner: The linoleum has burlap or felt bonded to the back of the product. In addition, linoleum was often installed on top of a felt liner, similar to underlayment used with laminate flooring today. These multiple layers of felt and burlap combine with the adhesive to form a thick flock that bonds to the flooring below.
  • Asbestos: Adhesives used with linoleum may contain asbestos. If you detect asbestos, do not mechanically abrade the flooring or adhesive.

Options for Removing Linoleum Flooring

Remove Linoleum With Dry Ice

With temperatures ranging down to -100°F, dry ice freezes linoleum and its adhesive super-cold, until they loosen and can be chipped off fairly easily. This method has been used for decades.

Because dry ice melts into a vapor, not liquid, it will not harm the hardwood flooring underneath. Removing linoleum with dry ice works best for linoleum tiles. It's a cleaner method than using a floor scraper but it's slow and tedious.

Scrape and Grind Away Linoleum

Linoleum can be scraped off with a prybar or flooring scraper, without using dry ice to loosen it. Because not all sections of the linoleum or adhesive come off, the remainder can be ripped off with a flooring drum sander.

This method works best for sheet or tile floor linoleum. It's messier than using dry ice to loosen the flooring, but it is much faster.

Cover the Linoleum

Unless you have a compelling reason for removing the linoleum flooring—like refinishing hardwood flooring underneath—it's worth considering covering up the linoleum.

Linoleum is thin enough that it can usually be covered with a floating floor like laminate or luxury vinyl floor.

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(Video) How To Remove Vinyl or Linoleum Flooring -Jonny DIY

Safety Considerations

Test the linoleum adhesive for asbestos with a test kit or call a testing company.

Dry ice is carbon dioxide in a solid state. So, when dry ice melts, it emits carbon dioxide. If enough carbon dioxide builds up in a confined space, there is the possibility of suffocation. Open all windows and doors to ventilate the room and bring oxygen into the room.

Do not eat or drink dry ice. Do not touch dry ice with your bare hands. Wear safety glasses.

(Video) Removing linoleum flooring.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Flooring drum sander
  • Flooring orbital sander
  • 120 grit drum sander sandpaper
  • Floor scraper
  • Pry bar
  • Eye, hearing, and breathing protection
  • Shop vacuum
  • Insulated gloves (for dry ice only)

Materials

  • Dry ice
  • Sheet plastic
  • Old towels
  • Asbestos test kit

Instructions

How to Remove Linoleum With Dry Ice

  1. Test for Asbestos

    Use the asbestos test kit as directed before starting work on a linoleum floor. If your flooring tests positive for asbestos, stop the project and call a professional to advise on next steps. Working with asbestos is possible for DIYers, but you must be sure of what you're doing.

  2. Purchase and Prepare Dry Ice

    Buy the dry ice just before you are ready to remove the linoleum. Dry ice will not keep solid in a freezer, though a freezer will slow shrinkage somewhat. Buy dry ice at a sporting goods store or large grocery. Handle dry ice with insulated gloves.

    Ventilate the Room

    Open up windows and doors to bring oxygen into the room.

  3. Cover the Linoleum

    Start at an edge of linoleum. Cover an area of linoleum about 2-feet square (24 inches by 24 inches) with plastic. Place ice on the plastic to cover an area about 1-foot square, leaving a border around the ice. Cover the ice with a couple of old towels.

  4. Wait for the Linoleum to Freeze

    Let the dry ice freeze the linoleum for about two to three minutes.

    (Video) Removing linoleum flooring from wood subfloor the easy way

    Tip

    Sometimes you will hear a pop when the linoleum tile loosens from its adhesive. Quickly proceed to the next step to avoid the adhesive softening and taking hold again.

  5. Move the Dry Ice

    Grab the edge of the plastic and slide the dry ice away to the adjacent tile.

  6. Pry Off the Linoleum

    While the dry ice is freezing the next section, force the pry bar under the edge of the previous linoleum section. Pry up. If removing sheet linoleum, pry up as much of the linoleum as you easily can.

  7. Move to the Next Area

    Repeat the process on the next area of linoleum.

  8. Sand Off the Remainder

    After the linoleum has been removed, remove the remainder of the floor adhesive, felt, and burlap with an orbital floor sander.

How to Remove Linoleum With a Scraper and Sander

  1. Scrape Off the Linoleum

    Begin at the edge of the linoleum. Remove floor transitions if needed. Place the flat end of the floor scraper under the edge of the linoleum. Push forward and pry up.

  2. Continue Scraping the Linoleum

    The linoleum may sometimes come up in entire tiles or in large sections but generally will break off in small pieces just a few inches in diameter.

  3. Grind Down the Large Pieces

    Large chunks of adhesive and small pieces of linoleum that were not removed with the pry bar or floor scraper can be ground down with the drum sander. Start with heavy grit sandpaper, even down to 36 grit sandpaper, if needed.

    Tip

    Frequently vacuum up the dust. If the flooring underneath is hardwood that you want to preserve, sand with finer paper in the direction of the grain.

  4. Sand With Orbital Sander

    For fine finishes, switch to the orbital sander with finer grit sandpaper.

Tips for Covering Linoleum

If you decide to cover up the linoleum instead of removing it, follow these tips for a flatter floor covering and smoother transitions.

  • Covering the linoleum will raise the floor above that of adjacent floors. Floor reducer strips can fill the seam and ease the transition between the covered linoleum and adjacent floors.
  • Almost any loose-lay or glue-down flooring can go over linoleum: laminate, sheet vinyl, tile or plank vinyl.
  • You'll need to remove all baseboards and then re-install them higher to accommodate the multi-layered flooring.
  • Undercut door casings with an oscillating multi-tool or a manual pull saw.

When to Call a Professional

If the linoleum adhesive contains asbestos, call an asbestos abatement or remediation company.

Even if you know how to remove linoleum flooring, you may still decide to call a professional since it is a difficult project. Call a general contractor or a large, full-service flooring company.

If the linoleum was cemented directly to the lower floor without felt liner, the linoleum will have developed an exceptionally tight bond to the wood. Chipping away the linoleum may splinter and severely damage the floor underneath. A professional can help remove the linoleum with a minimum of damage to the lower flooring.

(Video) The easiest way to remove linoleum from concrete

FAQs

How do you remove glued down linoleum? ›

Use a heat gun to help loosen the adhesive. Start in a corner and work your way around the room until it softens, then scrape the flooring glue away with a putty knife.

How do you remove old glued vinyl flooring? ›

If there is still adhesive on the subfloor, use warm water and soap to soak the glue, then wipe away the excess. If water and soap won't remove the remaining glue, hold a heat gun over the adhesive long enough to soften the glue and scrape it away.

What can I use to remove linoleum flooring? ›

Linoleum can be scraped off with a prybar or flooring scraper, without using dry ice to loosen it. Because not all sections of the linoleum or adhesive come off, the remainder can be ripped off with a flooring drum sander. This method works best for sheet or tile floor linoleum.

Does all old linoleum contain asbestos? ›

In older homes, it's common to find asbestos in vinyl sheet flooring, as well as linoleum and laminate. Generally, the sheet flooring itself does not contain asbestos. Prior to the 1980s, however, manufacturers would often incorporate a felt-like backing to provide a cushion underneath the flooring surface.

What is the difference between linoleum and vinyl? ›

Linoleum is a solid material through-and-through and it has no printed design layer, which gives it unique wear characteristics. Vinyl as a material was discovered in the 1920s. Unlike linoleum, it is a completely synthetic material comprised mostly of PVC (polyvinyl chloride).

When did they stop using asbestos in linoleum? ›

A: Asbestos was indeed used in the manufacture of vinyl sheet products up until the mid-1970s. After its use was banned, remaining stocks of asbestos-containing flooring continued to be sold into the late '70s or early '80s, so there is a possibility that the vinyl floor in a house built in 1981 could contain asbestos.

Is there a linoleum removal machine? ›

Remove VCT, linoleum, glued carpet, and more with the Brave compact floor stripper. This lightweight floor stripper is easy to use and is small enough to reach into tight corners, perfect for smaller projects. Remove the handle for handheld use and make this machine easy to transport.

How do you remove 70 year old linoleum? ›

You will want to work in small sections, about 3″ x 6″ at a time. Slowly move the heat gun back-and-forth over the small section to heat it. Then turn the gun off and scrape the warmed linoleum off the floor with your putty knife. It will just curl right off the floor in very satisfying little strips.

Is it safe to remove old linoleum? ›

Most often it's just tacked down and can simply be yanked up and the tacks removed with pliers. In rare cases, the linoleum may be glued down. In such cases, it's better to leave it alone. It's possible that the adhesive contains asbestos fibers, which are dangerous if inhaled.

What does asbestos look like under linoleum? ›

Asbestos tile looks like regular tiles between 9”x9” and 18”x18” in size. Sometimes, dark discoloration appears after years. Due to the danger of exposure, homeowners and construction workers should not disturb or demolish asbestos-containing materials.

What year did asbestos stop being used in flooring? ›

Asbestos floor tiles were often used from the 1920s to the 1970s.

How do you remove 1950 linoleum? ›

Here's how to remove linoleum:
  1. Cut the linoleum into strips using a utility knife. ...
  2. Lift part of each strip with a flat, narrow, putty knife, and then pull off the rest, using the putty knife to help pry it up if necessary.
  3. Continue removing the strips until you've removed the entire linoleum surface.
Jun 1, 2011

Why did people stop using linoleum? ›

Eventually, linoleum faded from popularity, a victim of its own advertising and cheaper, more personalized flooring like vinyl and asbestos floor tiles.

How can I tell if my floor is vinyl or linoleum? ›

On vinyl floors, the pattern is embossed on the surface. Any holes or damage to a vinyl floor will interrupt the pattern and therefore be easily visible. A pattern on a linoleum floor is carried all the way through the material and will still be visible even through holes or other wear and tear on the floor.

What is linoleum called now? ›

Linoleum has largely been replaced as a floor covering by the synthetic plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is often colloquially but incorrectly called linoleum or lino.

What color is asbestos adhesive? ›

Asbestos was a common ingredient in plastic cements and sealants for rooftops. Over time, weathering exposes the white asbestos fibers in asbestos-containing sealant, causing it to turn from black to grey.

What are symptoms of asbestos exposure? ›

Symptoms include:
  • shortness of breath.
  • persistent cough.
  • wheezing.
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • pain in your chest or shoulder.
  • in more advanced cases, clubbed (swollen) fingertips.

Will a heat gun help remove vinyl flooring? ›

A heat gun is a versatile tool and is extremely suitable for removing linoleum and vinyl flooring.

Is it expensive to remove linoleum? ›

$1 – $2 per sq/ft to Remove Linoleum

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.

Should you remove linoleum before laying vinyl plank flooring? ›

Linoleum or Vinyl Flooring: Sheet vinyl can be laid over old linoleum or vinyl flooring if the existing floor is in good condition. If the old floor has a rough texture or some indentations, use a coat of embossing leveler.

Can I remove flooring myself? ›

Removing laminate flooring may seem like a big task but the project is easy enough for you to take on yourself. Using a few common tools and a little bit of patience, taking out the old laminate floor in a room can be done in an afternoon.

Do I need to remove linoleum before laying tile? ›

Tile needs a smooth, level base in order for it to stay securely in place. Damaged linoleum floors should be removed so that your new tile can go onto an even surface.

How do you remove vinyl with Vaseline? ›

Dealing with Stubborn Vinyl and Residue

Rub petroleum jelly over the remaining residue or vinyl to help loosen it. Then, rub regular laundry detergent over the same spot. Hand wash and the vinyl and residue should be gone.

Is vinyl hard to take off? ›

Removing a vinyl wrap is quite easy with a few simple tools. You may want to heat the vinyl first to melt the adhesive, especially on a cold day, and a quick pass of a blowtorch can be enough to achieve this.

What is the best tool to cut linoleum? ›

The most basic, versatile and inexpensive tool is the Speedball Linoleum Cutter. This is sometimes the first tool linocut artists use. It's cheap (under $10), dependable and comfortable. If you're not familiar with this traditional tool, it works with six interchangeable blades that store in the plastic handle.

Can you use a hair dryer to remove linoleum? ›

Use a hair dryer, not a hot air gun; the latter is too hot and a hazard indoors. To remove the adhesive, heat may soften it so it can be scraped off, or use a chemical paint remover and scrape.

How do you remove linoleum without a heat gun? ›

Cut linoleum into strips with a utility knife, lift the edge of each strip with a scraper tool, and pull it up. Use a scraper tool to remove adhesive paper or underlayment. For stubborn adhesive, apply a chemical stripper first.

What is the black stuff under old linoleum? ›

So, removing old linoleum or vinyl flooring may come as a surprise to some homeowners when they see smears of some type of black adhesive between the tiles and the subfloor. This is often called black mastic and it often contains asbestos.

How toxic is linoleum? ›

Linoleum flooring is a non-toxic product that will not gas out toxic chemicals into your home environment.

Does vinyl floor glue have asbestos? ›

Flooring, including sheet vinyl, floor tiles and any associated paper-like backing, adhesive or glue, can contain asbestos. Asbestos was added during the production of flooring to strengthen the flooring and to increase its durability.

What happens if you breathe in asbestos once? ›

Is One-Time Exposure Harmful? It is possible to develop an illness such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural effusions or lung cancer after a one-time exposure to asbestos if the exposure was significant enough to lead to asbestos particles lodging in the body's tissues.

What does black mold under linoleum look like? ›

Look for black growth coming from the edges of the linoleum, as well as discoloration or bubbling of the material. Inspect for water stains or other signs of water damage, as mold grows underneath linoleum when moisture becomes trapped between the flooring and the sub-floor.

How do you remove asbestos linoleum flooring? ›

Use a chisel or putty knife to dig under the torn area until you're past it. Dispose of each piece of removed flooring (with backing thoroughly wetted) in an asbestos waste disposal bag as you remove it. Repeat this process until the entire floor has been removed.

What linoleum has asbestos? ›

Linoleum Flooring
ManufacturerBrand
Armstrong World IndustriesExcelon Vinyl Asbestos Tiles Solarian Vinyl Asbestos Tiles
Kentile FloorsKenFlex Vinyl Floor Tiles
Montgomery WardStyle House Vinyl Asbestos Flooring
Sears-RoebuckVinyl Asbestos Floor Tiles
3 more rows

Is asbestos still used in 2022? ›

Asbestos No Longer Used Everywhere

According to U.S. Geological Survey, Minerals Commodity Summaries, January of 2022, the estimated consumption in 2021 was 320 tons, much of it from stockpiled reserves.

Can you lay vinyl flooring over old glue? ›

Old adhesive can cause the vinyl flooring to be uneven and show the bumps and moulds that it creates. This is why the old vinyl must be removed if you want to place down the vinyl perfectly. The vinyl adhesive can add layers to the subfloor.

What is the best floor adhesive remover? ›

  • BEST OVERALL: Goo Gone Original Liquid.
  • UPGRADE PICK: Un-Du Formula Sticker, Tape, and Label Remover.
  • BEST FAST-ACTING: RapidTac Rapid Remover Adhesive Remover.
  • BEST FOR TOUGH MESSES: 3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner.
  • BEST FOR OIL AND GREASE: Oil Eater Original Cleaner and Degreaser.
Jun 20, 2022

Will Goo Gone remove vinyl floor adhesive? ›

Goo Gone Original is surface safe and can be used on carpet & upholstery, clothing, any hard surfaces including glass, laminate, metal, wood, plastic, vinyl, windows, ceramic, granite, flooring, countertops, tile and wood.

How do you remove old vinyl flooring glue from concrete? ›

Carbide or diamond pads make quick work of cleaning the adhesive and ensure a comprehensive job. We recommend taking the floor grinder across the entire surface as this will make sure that all the adhesive is removed and the floor is even.

Is Gorilla Glue good for vinyl flooring? ›

Will Gorilla Glue work on vinyl flooring? According to its makers, Gorilla Glue isn't ideal for use on vinyl floors. In fact, Gorilla Glue is water activated and its polyurethane formula works best on gluing ceramic, metal, foam, glass, stone and wood. That's why it won't work well on vinyl flooring.

Can vinyl flooring be lifted and relaid? ›

Yes, both vinyl plank flooring and LVT flooring can be removed and reinstalled when they're installed with the floating floor technique. It's a great way to save money, rather than replacing the entire floor and is also environmentally responsible since waste doesn't end up in the landfill.

What flooring can be installed over vinyl? ›

The short answer is yes, you can install laminate flooring over vinyl flooring.
...
Laminate flooring can be installed over vinyl as long as:
  • The vinyl is level.
  • The vinyl is in good condition.
  • The vinyl is cleared of all debris and cleaned.
  • You use underlayment on top of the vinyl subfloor.

Will Goo Gone remove floor adhesive? ›

Removing tough, stuck-on floor adhesive is a tough job. But it's a lot easier with Goo Gone Pro-Power Spray Gel.

Does WD-40 Remove floor adhesive? ›

WD-40 can also loosen the hold of strong adhesives such as super glue. So, if you drop some glue on the floor or bench, spray a little WD-40. In no time you'll be able to wipe the glob right of your bench surface.

What is a good homemade adhesive remover? ›

Vegetable or canola oil can work wonders, as can peanut butter or mayonnaise. Spread it on, let it soak into the residue for about an hour, then wipe it away. For a tougher clean, try rubbing alcohol or vodka. Let it fully permeate the unwanted residue, then rub away completely with a cloth.

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