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Removing layers of vinyl tiles

I would like to install new self adhesive vinyl tiles but have to remove at least two to three existing layers from the floor.  How would I remove them in the most efficient manner?

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Posted 2011-05-27T23:43:42+0000  by ajmoon ajmoon

Hi ajmoon,


Thank you for your question, welcome to the community!


I work in the flooring department at my store and I'd thought I would drop in and discuss getting your old floor taken up. 


Depending on what make up the layers of the flooring, you can approach it several ways.


I would be assuming that this is in a high traffic/high moisture area like a kitchen or bathroom. Which means that typically you would have vinyl or a stone/ceramic type tile in there in combination.


To get rid of those layers, first start by assessing what type of materials are underneath. If you house is 30+years or older, check with an abatement company to see if there are amounts of asbestos in the tile/flooring. If you house is newer, then no worries!


To literally get to the bottom of your floor, start out with a good utility knife to cut through the layers. Cut as deep as you can seeing what you are up against. If it's not vinyl, but hard stone/ceramic tile you are dealing with, skip and go to the image below this one.

utility knife.JPG

IF you have stone/ceramic tile and/or vinyl that is glued down pretty heavily, now you can use a heavy duty floor scraper shown below. With the cuts you have made with the utility knife, start working in a corner or large area that is manageable and start scraping up the layers. It works great on getting all kinds of flooring up and off the subfloor...



At this point, it will depend on if you have vinyl, or ceramic/stone based tile. They may look similar but the way they were installed and to be taken up are very different. If you are certain you have no ceramic/stone tile underneath and the subfloor will be very level, then skip the next paragraph to the next. 


As in the picture shown, if you have ceramic/stone tile, you will need to make sure all of the mortar that the tile is taken up with either the scraper or a floor grinder. The key is to get it level again, mortar is essentially dried cement, so the new tiles need to be level. To do that, you can use a floor leveling compound to help you out. Only if it is tile like that and the subfloor is uneven, you would need to do that. I did an in-depth post earlier talking about preparing your subfloor by way of using a floor leveling compound, if you need it, here is the link


If all you have is vinyl, peel and take up as much as the vinyl and adhesive as you can. To help get rid of the adhesive, I would recommend getting a semi-paste adhesive remover after you get the vinyl scrapped off the floor. They are put on by way of a (chemical-resistant) roller or brush. Let it set for about 20-30 minutes and then scrape off with a metal or chemical-resistant scraper. Be sure to wear proper safety gloves and gear, as this product can give off fumes in the non-green version, so keep good ventilation going in the room. However, we have a green version that works as well if the glue you are taking up is water-based. 

adhesive remover.JPG

So ajmoon, depending on your layers of vinyl and/or tile underneath, with these 3 items, you should be on your way to getting the new self adhesive tiles down on a better layer.


Hope this helps you out, and any further questions, do not hesitate to ask,



EDIT: 2nd paragraph typo

Posted 2011-05-28T16:21:43+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL

Hi, I have a similar dilema however the tile is actually very old linoleum sheet layed over tar paper and adhesive. this is all on an original yellow pine floor that I want to restore (the house was built in 1893) I cannot use knives or scrapers as these will obviously destroy the wood underneath. any ideas? Yes its in a kitchen and hall area...

Posted 2011-05-30T02:09:53+0000  by bookdad

Hello bookdad.  Welcome to the Home Depot Community!


I actually had the same dilemma with the linoleum in my breakfast room.  The floor underneath is oak rather than pine, but I think the process you use will be the same.


What I did was to use a utility knife to careful cut into the linoleum and slice it into sections.  Slice parallel to the direction of the floorboards and only cut deep enough to get a scraper underneath.  I used an army of various paint scrapers, putty knives, razor scrapers and elbow grease to take up the mess.  When the linoleum is peeled off, you will spend most of your time scraping up the black tar paper and it's adhesive off the wood.  You won't destroy the wood, but by all means be careful not to gouge it.  One thing I have learned since then is that a heat gun can help to soften up the glue, making it easier to remove.  This is certainly worth a try.  I would avoid trying a chemical stripper if possible.  Scraping works, it just takes a lot of time and effort.


When you get all the goo off the wood, you will be sanding and refinishing the pine floor.


Here are some links to other sites with tips on how to go about this project:


I hope this helps,



Posted 2011-05-31T15:49:22+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI

I am removing two layers of linoleum from a concrete surface in my bathroom.  Would this method you described for vinyl tile work for linoleum as well, and is that adhesive remover ok on concrete?

Posted 2012-01-14T22:18:00+0000  by Renessance

Hello Renessance.  Welcome to the community!


Ah, the wonders of a concrete floor.  This makes your job a lot easier.


Grab a utility knife and a pack of new blades.  You will also need a good hand scraper such as a stiff putty knife or a sharp painter's tool.  A large floor scraper as shown above is overkill in a bathroom since it’s small and linoleum comes up very easily.


Painter's Tool.jpg


Yes, that adhesive remover is OK to use on concrete, but you should not need to use it.  Avoid the fumes and just use hot, even boiling, water to soften up the glue and scrape it up.


What are you planning to put down to refinish the floor?  Ceramic tile, vinyl tile, paint, wood or carpet would make a difference in how much of that glue you have to remove.  For floor paint, it all has to go.  For the others, you will just need a smooth surface.


I hope this helps,


Posted 2012-01-17T19:55:30+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI

Excellent, thank you very much.  I will be installing ceramic tile.  Will sandpaper suffice for smothing the surface, or am I going to need one of those diamond grinders?

Posted 2012-01-18T23:27:15+0000  by Renessance

Hey Renessance.


I suppose a sanding sponge may come in handy for getting up the last of the linoleum glue, but you don’t have to actually sand or diamond polish the concrete surface.  I use scrub sponges as shown on the left.  The goal is just to get the glue and backing residue off the floor, the same as you would for a wood surface floor.

Scouring Pads.JPG

If the concrete base is smooth and level, the ceramic tile install will be straightforward.


Please let us know if you have any further questions about this or any other projects you may be working on.

We are here to help,


Posted 2012-01-20T13:42:10+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI
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