Many homeowners have their vinyl tiles laid on a concrete subfloor because concrete is sturdy and durable. However, vinyl tiles, like most floors, don’t last forever, and there comes a time when they need replacing. But for one to install new flooring, the existing tiles must be removed.
The good news is that anyone can learn how to remove vinyl floor tiles from concrete and perform the task without the need for professional help. The only challenging part is to get rid of the adhesive, but with the appropriate tools, even this gets easier. We’ll show you how.
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Materials Needed to Remove Vinyl Floor Tiles From Concrete
Below are the tools and materials you need to remove vinyl floor tiles from concrete the right way:
- Pry bar: You will need a pry bar to pull out baseboards from the wall.
- Marker pen: If you plan to reuse your baseboards, use a marker pen to label them so you can know which piece belongs where.
- Utility knife: A utility knife will help you cut through the caulk sealing your baseboards and score the tiles to make their removal easier. Make sure the one you use is as sharp as possible so you can make your cuts all the way through.
- A block of scrap wood: You will need this to avoid damaging your trim or chipping the wall when removing the boards.
- Hammer: Use this to gently pull the baseboards out of the wall.
- Putty knife: Use a putty knife to scrape the tiles off the adhesive attaching them to the concrete slab.
- Heat gun: A heat gun will help you soften the adhesive so you can scrape it easily from the floor. If you don’t have access to one, however, you can use a hair drier.
- Water: Get 2 gallons of hot water and 2 gallons of cold water.
- Detergent: Use your normal laundry soap.
- Bucket: Use your usual cleaning bucket.
- Mop/old rag: You can use any of these to spread the soapy solution over the adhesive.
- Broom: With a broom, you will be able to sweep all the loose adhesive and debris out of the room to prepare the floor for cleaning.
- Protective gloves: Wear high-quality leather work gloves.
5 Easy Steps to Remove Vinyl Floor Tiles From Concrete
Once you have all the tools for the job, use the following guidelines to remove vinyl floor tiles from concrete.
Step 1: Clear the Room
Take all the furniture and large items out of the room so you can have unrestricted access to the work area. It will make the removal of the tiles easier.
If you will not be installing new flooring right away, make sure to store the items in a safe, dry place until the new installation is done.
Step 2: Remove the Baseboard Trim
Baseboards are used to cover the edges of the tiles where the tiles meet the walls. You need to pull these off so you can have full access to the tile and corners of the room.
Start by cutting through the caulk so you can have a space to insert the pry bar. Then push the pry bar between the trim and the wall and place a block of wood against the wall above the pry bar. The wooden block will keep you from scratching the wall.
Then, wedge the pry bar and gently rock it back and forth to loosen the trim. Once the trim is completely loose, pull it with your hands to detach it from the wall.
Here is a short video on how to properly use the utility knife, pry bar, hammer, and woodblock to remove your baseboards without scratching the wall or damaging the trim.
If you are going to use your boards later, mark the back of each one so you don’t mix them up. It will help you put everything back in place faster when doing the reinstallation.
Step 3: Cut and Remove the Tiles
Most vinyl tiles are perimeter installed, meaning, most of the adhesive is applied around the perimeter of the tile. The center of the tile usually has very little or no glue at all. To remove the tiles, therefore, simply score them around the edges and try to pull the middle section out.
But sometimes the entire tile may be adhered to the ground and pulling the center may not work. To remove such tiles, cut them into strips of about four inches each, then scrape under each strip with a putty knife. Use your free hand to separate the tile from the concrete as you scrape. Repeat the process to cut and remove the rest of the tiles.
Step 4: Soften the Remaining Adhesive
If you remove your vinyl tiles but find that most of the glue is still lodged on the floor, try loosening it with warm water. Pour hot water in a bucket and add a small amount of powder laundry soap, then apply the solution evenly to the glue.
Let sit for about thirty minutes so the mixture can soak in and soften the adhesive. You should be able to remove the glue after this.
If the hot water doesn’t help, you can go ahead and introduce the heat gun or hair drier. If you are going to use a hair drier, however, make sure to adjust it to the highest setting.
Hold the heat directly over the stubborn glue to soften it, then scrape the glue off the floor with your putty knife. Do not hold the heating equipment too close to the concrete or you will damage the floor, and do not hold it near your skin or you will burn.
Step 5: Clean the Floor
Use a broom to sweep up all the loose adhesive that now litters the room. You may also want to follow up with a mop dipped in a soapy solution to completely get the floor clean. If you plan on installing a new floor right away, make sure to allow the concrete to completely dry before the installation.
Step 6: Dispose of the Scrap Vinyl
Put the scrap vinyl and adhesive in contractor bags for disposal and check with your trash company for the most appropriate way to get rid of or recycle the items.
Beware of Asbestos
If your tiles were installed in the 80s or earlier, you may want to have them tested for asbestos first. Vinyl manufacturers used asbestos in tiles and other products to strengthen them and enhance their insulating properties.
Even though American manufacturers don’t use asbestos in flooring anymore, other countries are still using them to produce vinyl products and there are no regulations put in place to keep builders from importing these products.
Usually, asbestos will not pose any health risks if the vinyl tiles are in good condition and left undisturbed. But the moment you cut or pull the tiles off the concrete, you release the asbestos fibers, making them airborne.
If you inhale or swallow these fibers, you put yourself at risk of serious illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung, ovarian, and laryngeal cancer.
It is important that you test your vinyl tiles for asbestos before removal by cutting a small piece of tile and sending it to your nearest asbestos testing facility. If the test comes positive, it would be wise to have your tiles removed by a professional. Watch this video on how to know if your floor has asbestos.
Additional Tips for Removing Vinyl Floor Tiles From Concrete
- If you decide to remove asbestos-containing vinyl tiles yourself, make sure to dress for safety. Put on a respirator mask so you don’t inhale the fumes, leather gloves to keep your hands safe, and safety goggles to protect your eyes.
- Work in a well-ventilated area. Keep your doors and windows open throughout the floor removal process to allow fresh air in and contaminated air out. It will also help get rid of the adhesive or asbestos fumes quickly.
- Before you install new flooring, make sure to examine the concrete for signs of mold and try treating it before laying the floor. Concrete slabs are notorious for trapping water vapor and developing mold. You want to make sure your subfloor is free of mold and mildew and is completely dry before introducing new flooring.
- Clean your putty knife and utility knife thoroughly with soap after removing your tiles especially if your flooring contains asbestos.
On the surface, pulling glued-down vinyl tiles off a concrete subfloor can seem like a difficult task. But to be completely honest, it is much easier than removing the same floor from a much delicate subfloor such as natural wood, as the latter will require you to do things more gently, which can be time-consuming.
With the right tools, the entire process will take only a few hours, and if your tiles are adhered just around the edges, removing them will be even much faster. Just make sure they are asbestos-free and wear protective equipment throughout the removal process.