How to Remove Black Tar Paper Under Tiles


Tar paper serves as an adhesive on flooring and was most commonly used in homes built through the 1970s. Its purpose is to ensure that wood floors, tiles or linoleum stick to the floorboard for many years to come. However, because of its very sticky nature, tar paper can often be difficult to remove when it comes time to replace your flooring. Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to remove the tar paper with a bit more ease.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Stove
  • Bucket
  • Scraper
  • Solvent
  • Sandpaper
  • Boil a gallon of water on the stove and transfer the hot water to a sturdy bucket that won't melt.

  • Pour the hot water over the area and wait for 30 minutes. The hot water will soften the tar paper and allow for easier removal. Make sure the water is warm or cool to the touch so that you don't burn your hands. According to, 30 minutes is enough time to allow the water to cool down while keeping the tar sticky.

  • Place a towel on top of the water on your floor. Let the towel soak up the water. Refrain from scrubbing with the towel. Then, scrape the softened tar with a scraper and discard it in a trash can.

  • Pour an adhesive solvent (like paint stripper or tar remover) over stubborn tar paper. Follow the directions on the container (for how long to let it set) and then remove the tar with your scraper again. Make sure you have windows open for proper ventilation.

  • Scrub any remaining tar paper with a rough sponge or sandpaper. It will take a bit of effort, but by this time most of the tar will be removed and you'll have minimal amounts to remove.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear a face mask and gloves while removing the tar. This will protect you from the chemicals in the solvent and any mold that may exist under your floor.

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