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Linoleum is a classic and resilient material, often found in high-traffic spaces like kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways. But, because the bond between linoleum and its adhesive actually strengthens over time, you’ll need a few special techniques and a good measure of patience when you’re ready to remove an outdated style. If you’re planning on switching out your old linoleum flooring, follow these next steps.
A few things to take note of before you begin: While the terms are often used interchangeably—even by salespeople—linoleum and vinyl flooring are not the same thing, and they do not behave the same way during removal. Make sure to confirm that you have actual linoleum before beginning this process. Also, linoleum installed prior to 1980 likely contains asbestos in its backing paper and is hazardous to remove. Have a sample tested before you begin, and hire a qualified asbestos removal contractor to do the job if any is found.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Utility knife
- Utility scraper, floor scraper, or oscillating multitool with scraper attachment
- Wallpaper steamer
- Isopropyl alcohol or paint thinner (optional)
Working in small sections, score the linoleum into strips about 6 to 12 inches wide. If your linoleum features a tile pattern, you can use the outlines of the tiles as general guides to show where to score. Don’t cut all the way through the material—you don’t want to damage the floor underneath, particularly if it’s hardwood.
Linoleum consists of two layers: The top is a layer of flooring material, which should come off fairly easily, and the bottom is a paper backing with adhesive, which may present more of a challenge. Remove the top layer of linoleum first; you’ll go back later to pull up any remaining paper backing or adhesive. Start by working your scraper or the edge of your oscillating multitool underneath one of your score marks. Then, push forward to bring up the top of the linoleum. Keep working in small sections until you have removed the entire first layer.
To remove any remaining backing, apply heat to the floor in small sections using a wallpaper steamer (a heat gun or even a hair dryer set on high work in a pinch). Soften a small section with your chosen heat source, and scrape up the adhesive, working at a 45-degree angle and being careful not to gouge the subfloor as you work. Move section by section until all the backing and adhesive has been removed.
If you come across particularly stubborn spots, apply some isopropyl alcohol or paint thinner to the area and allow the solvent to sit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Proceed to scrape away the remainder of the adhesive, again working a 45-degree angle.
You can, in some instances, skip this process altogether and lay a new material directly on top of your current linoleum. But be aware that this shortcut will raise the floor by at least one-eighth of an inch. If you do move forward with removal, remember that the process is a marathon, not a sprint. Again, with patience and the right tools, you can rid your rooms of linoleum and lay the groundwork for a brand-new floor—and a whole new look.