How to Remove Flooring Adhesive

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Replacing old tile flooring and laying down fresh new tile or another floor covering makes a room more attractive. In some cases, you may be able to simply lay new vinyl tile or carpet over an old surface. Other times you'll need to strip off the old tile. Getting the old tile up is only part of the job. Much of the mastic (flooring adhesive) will be firmly stuck on the floor. There's no easy way to remove flooring adhesive, so you are in for some hard work.

Things You'll Need

  • Long-handled floor scraper Citrus-based floor adhesive solvent Mop Broom Hot water Safety goggles Sander and sandpaper Fan (if needed for ventilation)
  • Take proper safety precautions by wearing safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying debris when you are scraping the spatter from the floor adhesive remover. Make sure the room is well-ventilated by opening windows or using a fan. Start by mopping a small area about 3 or 4 feet square with hot water to soften the flooring adhesive.

  • Remove flooring adhesive with a long-handled floor scraper. Don't try to scrape up all of the adhesive. Concentrate on dislodging thick deposits of adhesive. As you complete each section, push the debris into a small pile and sweep it up.

  • Spread a citrus-based floor adhesive remover on the remaining adhesive. Citrus-based adhesives are less toxic and are effective at softening and dissolving the adhesive. Let the solvent stand for at least 20 minutes and then use the floor scraper to remove as much of the remaining adhesive as possible.

  • Sand any remaining deposits to remove flooring adhesive lodged in corners. Even after this, there will probably be a few traces remaining. That's okay because you'll be covering the floor with new tile, carpet or some other surface. The idea is to remove enough adhesive to give you a flat surface so the new floor covering can be installed properly.

Tips & Warnings

  • For large rooms, you can rent a power floor scraper designed to remove both tile and adhesive. Rentals range from about $20 to $40 (as of 2009) for a half-day to full day for a hand-held power floor scraper. If the tile you are removing dates from the 1970s or earlier, have it checked for asbestos. If it does contain asbestos, it should be removed by professionals. Inhaling dust from breaking tiles containing asbestos is extremely hazardous to your health.

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