How to Remove Tar Paper From Wood Floors

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Remove old tar paper to reveal the wood flooring below.
Remove old tar paper to reveal the wood flooring below. (Image: Djenan/Flickr.com)

Tar paper is a floor underlayment that was used throughout much of the 20th century. Often placed under linoleum or other resilient flooring products, it was designed to act as a moisture barrier over existing wood or cement floors. Many homeowners find that they have beautiful wood floors hidden beneath this tar paper. Removing the tar paper to reveal the wood can be a difficult and time consuming task. Fortunately, you can remove this paper and enjoy authentic hardwood floors using the right tools combined with a bit of patience.

Things You'll Need

  • Floor scraper
  • Heat gun
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Rags
  • Flooring solvents
  • Orbital or drum sander

Mix one part vinegar to three parts water in a large bowl or bucket. Apply this solution to your floor using a clean rag and allow it to soak into the tar paper for several hours.

Scrape the wet tar paper using a floor scraper. Experiment with different angles and sizes of scrapers, taking care not to gouge the floor.

Spray the remaining tar paper with a heat gun to help loosen the adhesive. Try applying only a small amount of heat at first to avoid potential warping or damage to the floor. As the tar paper and adhesive warm up, try to remove them using your scraper.

Apply a commercial solvent such as mineral spirits to any stubborn sections that you still can't remove. Leave these solutions in place for several hours so they can thoroughly penetrate the adhesive. The room should be well-ventilated when working with these materials.

Try to scrape away the remaining tar paper and adhesive. Apply your heat gun as needed to further loosen stubborn materials.

Use an industrial paint stripper to remove remaining tar paper. These types of solvents should be a last resort, as they are highly flammable and can pose health risks. Keep the room well-ventilated and consider wearing a respirator while you work.

Sand the floor using an orbital sander to smooth and even out the surface. Clean the floor and apply a stain or seal to refinish the wood.

References

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