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How To Remove Vinyl Tile

If you’re looking to renovate and redo your floors, the first step is removing old flooring for a clean slate. Vinyl tile is a popular material used in a variety of spaces, like bathrooms, kitchens, and entryways. Vinyl tile uses a strong adhesive to keep it in place, which can make it a challenge to remove—especially after years of hold.

But thankfully, vinyl tile removal doesn’t have to be hard… and you can do it yourself in just a few steps!

What You’ll Need:

  • Utility knife
  • Hot water
  • Clothes iron/hair dryer
  • Long-handled scraper
  • Protective clothing

  1. Assess your tiles.

There are two key considerations before you begin removal: the type of subfloor and the age/stickiness of the adhesive.

Consider the type of subfloor you have. Wood subfloors are more delicate, so you’ll need to take extra care when scraping. We never recommend using harsh chemicals on wood subflooring, as this can damage and warp the wood. Concrete subflooring is generally more durable when it comes to floor removal. If you’re not sure which type of subfloor you have, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. The following steps can be used for either type of subflooring; this is the safest, most effective form of vinyl tile removal.

Often, the adhesive of vinyl tiles will loosen over time, creating uneven or “moving” flooring underfoot. In this case, vinyl tiles will be easy to lift up, since the “stickiness” has lessened. To check if this is the case with your flooring, go into the corner of the room and lift up a tile. If it comes off easily, then you will be able to gently and quickly pull the tile off the floor with a scraper. If not, you’ll need to move on to the following steps.  

  1. Cut the tiles.

Use a utility knife to cut a slit in the tile. Don’t cut all the way through the tile, just deep enough that it gets under the surface finish. Create a slit down the middle of the tile or cut into 4- or 6-inch sections. The smaller the section of tile, the easier it will be to remove.

  1. Use heat and water.

Dump a small amount of water on the tile, enough so that it covers the entire tile including the slit. The water should be hot or boiling to help loosen the adhesive. When working with hot water, be sure to wear protective clothing, gloves, and eyewear. If you have a wood subfloor, use a small amount of water to avoid damage.

Let the water soak for 30 minutes to an hour. This will help release the adhesive so you can pull up the tile and glue without damage to the subfloor underneath.

If you don’t want to use hot water, you can also try a clothes iron or hair dryer to soften the adhesive. Hold the iron a few inches away from each tiled section to soften the adhesive. Do not touch the iron directly on the tile or adhesive, and don’t use an iron if you’ve already used the above water technique.

P.S. We don’t recommend the dry ice tactic. Some people will say to put dry ice on the tile to make the adhesive brittle, so it will crack away. However, this can damage any subfloor underneath. Dry ice is also dangerous to handle and can cause serious burns if not properly controlled. Furthermore, if your floor has any asbestos, mixing with dry ice can be highly dangerous and toxic. Stick to heat over cold.

  1. Scrape.

After the water has soaked in, it should be softened and ready for removal. Take a long-handled scraper and use short strokes to pull the adhesive up. Push the scraper underneath the tile and adhesive, using it like a lever. Start on one end of the room and work your way across.

You’ll want to pull the adhesive up with the tile if possible. Although it’s easier to scrape up the tile and leave the adhesive, you’ll still need to remove that adhesive in order to install your new floors. Adhesive is a lot harder to remove on its own without the tile. In this way, it’s actually easier to remove the adhesive and tile together in one fell swoop to save time and energy.

  1. Clean up.

Clean up any chunks of tile or contaminants left on the floor. You’ll need to remove any leftover adhesive and mastic as well with powerful glue removal tools. You can learn more about creating a clean subfloor here.

Once cleaned, your subfloor is ready for its new installation!


The Bottom Line

Vinyl tile removal is as easy as just 5 steps. Restoring your floors has never been simpler! Purchase your necessary scrapers and the mastic removal tools here to get started on your new floor project!

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