Some flooring installers will choose to glue engineered wood floors to a concrete surface, given the right conditions. These floors can be beautiful and long-lasting, but when you're ready for a change, how do you remove them?
The short answer is, if you want to do the job yourself, you can. It will be labor and time intensive (anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on the room size) and might beat up your back and knees a bit, but it can be done!
We'll explain everything you need to know about pulling up glued-down floorboards and best practices to save you headaches on demolition day.
When Do Flooring Installers Glue Down Wood Floors?
Concrete subfloors are the most likely surfaces lying beneath your glued-down flooring. Flooring on concrete is glued or in the case of ceramic tile, affixed with another special adhesive, to keep the floor from shifting or separating. Engineered wood floors are often glued down to concrete subflooring in below-grade rooms and rooms which are exposed to moisture more often. If you have a finished basement with a wood floor, chances are you're looking at engineered hardwood glued to a concrete surface.
Gluing floorboards help prevent them from shifting. How well the flooring installation process was completed will determine how difficult it is to tear up. If you had your floors installed by a professional, chances are, it'll be much harder to remove. This is partly because hardwood flooring experts have the right tools and know the best adhesives and processes to use for your floor installation.
What Tools Do I Need For My Glued Wood Flooring?
If you've decided to remove your own glued floorboards, you'll need a few tools and pieces of equipment first. Begin with personal safety equipment, like a breathing mask to prevent you from inhaling dried floor glue or solvent, protective goggles or safety glasses, closed-toe shoes, construction knee pads and work gloves.
Next, think about protecting the rest of the room and other parts of the house before you dive in. Some plastic sheeting to protect the rest of the floor from damage and heavy foot traffic might be useful, along with painter's tape. Or, you could roll out a plastic runner rug from the room you're working in to another room where you can dust off and remove your shoes and safety equipment. Flooring removal will very likely be a messy process.
Gather your demolition tools and some elbow grease for the removal process. These include a putty knife, flooring chisel or floor scraper, and long-handled pry bar. You may also want to use a hammer, paint scraper, or other chiseling tools to remove stuck-on adhesives. A circular saw will be used to make the initial cut into the floorboards, unless there is damage somewhere that allows an easy beginning point for the removal.
A floor scraping machine or flooring scrapers, oscillating tool, and floor sander are the types of tools a professional flooring company might bring for a faster, more efficient removal process. These pieces of equipment are often available for rent at your local home improvement store, and can be worth the rental cost, especially if you have a large or multi-room project.
Challenging sections of leftover adhesive can be approached with a chemical solvent, although we recommend using solvents indoors only when necessary. Make sure any adhesive solvents you decide to use are safe for indoor use and are used only in well-ventilated areas.
Steps For Removing Glued Wood Floors
When you've gathered your tools and are ready to remove your glued hardwood floors, clear the entire floor of any furniture or other items and prepare surrounding rooms for dust and traffic. Make sure you've got the proper safety equipment and are using or wearing it as directed. If there is an existing loose board or damage to the floor that can be leveraged, begin feeling boards within that area. Otherwise, adjust your circular saw blade to slightly less than the floor thickness, and cut a 1 x 1-foot section of glued flooring to start.
The concrete floor should be visible underneath. Remove and safely store the circular saw, and begin using the flooring chisel, hammer and pry-bar, or other tools to pry flooring planks up from the concrete surface. Try to include as much adhesive residue and as much of the floorboard as you can as you chisel under and leverage it away from the concrete surface.
More challenging sections may require a more tedious chiseling and chipping-away approach. This is where the quality of the installation work will drastically affect the time removal takes. Remember to protect your knees and lower back, and to take breaks when you need to. Floor removal can be labor-intensive.
Some common methods and floor removal techniques endorse the use of a floor adhesive stripper or commercial adhesive remover as the fastest method for removing glue residue. Consider the safety and chemical waste components of these methods, and do your best to remove boards and adhesive without chemical agents first. Using a chemical adhesive remover will not help you save or reuse floorboards. If you choose to use a commercial, store-bought adhesive remover, check for chemical compatibility and make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. Others in the house may require breathing masks as well.
Can I Reuse Any of the Wood Floorboards?
Removing the glued-down floor without damage to the floorboards is unlikely. You should not expect to save many of the floorboards, if any, without damaging some part of them. If your concern is about waste, your local recycling center may have some use for damaged floorboards or know how best to dispose of them. Trash removal companies are another option for floorboard disposal. If you're handy and have the tools, some of the boards might be able to be upcycled into other small creative projects.
How Long Should This Project Take Me?
The time it takes getting the adhesive off concrete under your floor will determine the time difference in floor removal by a professional, and a floor removal DIY. Flooring professionals have the tools, equipment, and know-how to get the job done faster and more completely. Your project time will depend on the square feet of flooring you have to remove and how well it was installed. A professional flooring company can thoroughly remove flooring and adhesive at a rate of about 10 square feet per hour. Without professional equipment and experience, your floor might take much longer to remove.