How to Remove Vinyl Flooring? (from Plywood or Concrete)

We’ve spent a lot of time on our site discussing installing different types of flooring for the DIY crowd along with the tools involved in the process. That is only one half of the equation, however, as some homeowners need to know how to remove it as well. Whether you have floating flooring that needs to be removed or tiles glued to the floor, this guide will walk you through the steps for a successful vinyl flooring removal.

How Vinyl Flooring is installed

Contrary to what many homeowners believe, there is more than one type of vinyl flooring. We’re not talking about formats like planks or tile either, but the different variations on traditional vinyl flooring. In order to remove this type of flooring, you have to understand a little more about how it was installed in the first place.

Vinyl flooring will be glued to the subfloor in a room or “floating” with click-lock edging. There are some variations on each style, but all vinyl flooring currently produced falls into one of those two categories. Over 80% of luxury vinyl flooring are considered floating floors, which means they can lay loose on certain types of subfloor.

This includes luxury vinyl tiles and luxury vinyl planks along with SPC and WPC vinyl flooring. While there are some types of LVT and LVP that require adhesive, it’s commonly found on older types of flooring. If the floor has been down for more than 20 years, there is a good chance glue was involved along the edges or on the bottom of each board.

Tools for Vinyl Flooring Removal

The tools required to remove vinyl flooring are almost identical to what you would use to remove laminate with a few exceptions. If it’s floating flooring that needs to be removed, you only need a handful of tools including a claw hammer, trim puller, pliers, and a utility knife. Most of these are things that may already be in your toolbox, although a trim puller is a unique tool designed specifically for baseboard and trim removal.

Goldblatt Trim Puller

Red Devil 2108

For flooring that is fixed to the floor with adhesive, you’ll need a heat gun and floor scraping tools. These come in different lengths and vary in quality, but serve the same general purpose. Heavy-duty trim pullers can work in some areas as well, although they are no replacement for a long handled scraper like the Red Devil 2108.

In addition to those tools, we highly recommend renting or purchasing a shop vacuum for the cleanup of any debris leftover on the subfloor. You may need thick garbage bags for waste, and will certainly want to pick up a pair of work gloves and eye protection when dealing with glued down flooring.

  • Claw Hammer
  • Trim Puller
  • Pliers
  • Utility Knife
  • Shop Vacuum
  • Pry Bar
  • Heat Gun (glue-down vinyl)
  • Floor Scraper (glue-down vinyl)
  • Removing the Baseboard

    Before you can pull up the first plank or tile in a room, you will need to remove any baseboard, quarter-round, transitions and floor vents. Most vents can simply be pulled up from the flooring, but you’ll need a few tools from our list to handle the other accessories.

    Go to the top of the baseboard where the wall and trim meet. Take the razor knife and lightly run it across this seam to loosen any caulk in place. Even if you don’t see caulking, the paint can seal the boards to the wall which could potentially damage the drywall during the next step.

    If there is quarter-round moulding or trim at the bottom of the baseboard, you’ll need to remove it with the trim puller beforehand. Quarter-round is thinner and may break leaving nails behind, which you can pull out with the pliers.

    When you are sure the baseboard is free of any obstructions, use the trim pulling tool to gently pry the board loose from the wall. In most cases, once it’s started, you can simply remove the board by hand and reuse it if needed. Short corners on walls can be challenging if adhesive is used, so remember to use a board or putty knife for a brace when prying against drywall.

    How to remove Luxury Vinyl Flooring

    In this section, we are going to talk about how to remove floating vinyl flooring. That includes luxury vinyl planks, luxury vinyl tiles, SPC and WPC flooring. Some of these styles can be glued down, but in most cases these will be floating floors which are just held in place by the baseboard in a room.

    Go to the corner of the room where the laminate is installed or an edge towards a wall. With the baseboard removed, lift up on a section of flooring. In some cases, the board will come loose or you may pull up a small section if they are firmly locked together. To “unlock” boards, simply lift and twist your wrists as vinyl click-lock is removed the same way it is installed.

    If you are careful, you can reuse most if not all of the flooring removed. Inspect the edges of each board to ensure the locking mechanism isn’t damaged, and place those boards into a save pile if you intend to use them again. Once the vinyl has been removed from the areas, pull up any underlayment and use the shop vacuum for any debris left behind.

    How to remove adhesive-based Vinyl Tiles and Planks

    While you can remove a large room full of click-lock flooring in less than an hour, we’ve seen homeowners struggle for weeks with vinyl flooring that has been glued into place. The first thing to remember with this type of flooring is the subfloor itself.

    If the flooring is installed over concrete, you can use a bit more force compared to vinyl plank flooring installed on plywood. You don’t want to gouge or damage the subfloor beneath, so proceed with caution if heavy adhesives have been used on wooden subfloors. We’ve also seen vinyl glued to solid hardwood as well – something to keep in mind if you intend to restore the floors below.

    Start in the middle of the room and use the floor scraper to push or scrape near a seam. The vinyl board or tile may pop loose with ease or could stay firmly in place. If it’s the latter, you can try the heat gun or find a wide seam to start the removal. This video shows how glued down vinyl tiles are quickly removed, but the process is the same for VCT or glue-down vinyl plank flooring.

    Peel and stick vinyl tiles can be removed in a similar manner, but are thinner so more care is required. You may need to use a razor knife along with a smaller hand-held scraper to remove thinner forms of vinyl flooring. This is another area where the heat gun is useful, as it can help to loosen any adhesive keeping stubborn vinyl tiles in place.

    How to remove Sheet Vinyl Flooring

    Sheet vinyl isn’t as popular as it once was, but it’s still found in millions of homes across the United States. It’s one of the most commonly removed flooring types in older homes next to linoleum, but can also be left in place depending on its condition and the new type of flooring that will be installed in the area.

    For sheet vinyl flooring removal, you’ll need to take the utility knife and head to the middle of the floor where there is less adhesive in place. Cut the vinyl flooring in half from one side of the room to the next. When complete, repeat this process across the entire room moving between 12” to 18” between each cut.

    Go to the wall near the end of one of the strips you’ve cut, and if you are lucky, you will be able to roll it up like a rug. Whenever you hit light resistance, you can use the scraper tool to give it a nudge. Older vinyl that’s become brittle could break off in sections. In this case, you may have to use the large floor scraper and some elbow grease to pry the section loose. Sheet vinyl is thicker than other adhesive-based vinyl flooring, however, and typically easy to remove.

    Removing Leftover Glue and Adhesives

    Even with glue-down vinyl flooring removed, there’s a good chance you’ll have leftover residue to deal with. Before new flooring can go down, old glue should be removed so there is a clean surface to work with. If you plan to have new flooring installed by a professional, they can handle this step, although you can save a considerable amount of money by doing it yourself.

    Removing Adhesives from Plywood

    Subfloors made from plywood are more common than not, especially in two-story homes with vinyl flooring upstairs. Plywood is durable, but can be gouged by sharp objects which can make removing some types of adhesives difficult.

    The most effective tool to use on plywood is a handheld scraping tool. You need to angle the edge of these tools towards the base of the stuck glue and apply a bit of force. Adhesives used in flooring can become brittle over time, which makes popping small sections of dried glue relatively simple. Solvents and thinner can work to loosen some adhesives, but may dry out before the job is complete.

    3M Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator 6200

    Using a heat gun along with a scraping tool will also help remove old vinyl adhesive. When all else fails, an orbital sander with a rough grit paper can remove glue quickly, but you’ll need to deal with dust which means a respirator and more clean up afterwards.

    Concrete subfloors…

    Removing glue from concrete can be just as easy or incredibly tough depending on the type and how much glue was used. You don’t need to be as gentle with concrete given its durability, so harder floor scrapers can be used with much more force.

    Carpet Glue Remover for Concrete Mastic Adhesives Removal GlueRemove

    As with plywood, heat can help loosen glue that won’t come loose from a concrete subfloor. Grinding is an option as well, but there are a number of chemicals that can also be used safely. That’s for sealed concrete, as you’ll need to read the fine print for unsealed flooring or risk an oily stain. Products like SureCrete’s GlueRemove will work on water-based adhesives along boiling water for small stubborn patches.

    Vinyl Flooring Disposal

    Some materials from remodeling projects can be broken down and thrown away with trash, while others will need to be hauled off to a local waste facility. Vinyl flooring falls into the second category, so if you can’t reuse it, homeowners will need to find a way to have it removed from their property.

    Curbside waste removal and recycling vary across the United States, but bulk material like flooring typically will not be picked up in most areas. It can be recycled to a degree, but you will need to contact the authorities in your region to see where it needs to be taken. Otherwise, a trip to the local landfill or solid waste management center is in order

    Vinyl Flooring Removal FAQ

    Q: How long does it take to remove vinyl flooring from a room?

    A: That depends on the size of the room and type of vinyl flooring that’s been installed. Floating floors can be taken up in 30 minutes to an hour, but stubborn glued down vinyl could take a few days.

    Q: Is it easy to reuse vinyl flooring?

    A: If it’s still in good condition with undamaged edges, most vinyl flooring can be reused or repurposed. You will need to check the square footage of the new room beforehand, however, or you could find yourself short on material that’s old or out of stock.

    Q: How do you remove vinyl flooring from a wall?

    A: The same basic principles covered in this guide apply. Trim will still need to be removed, and for planks that have been adhered to the wall with glue, you’ll want to use a heat gun and putty knife or similar tool with a thin wide blade.

    Q: Is vinyl flooring easier to remove from a concrete or wooden subfloor?

    A: Concrete subfloors are easier to work with as they provide a more stable surface that’s less prone to damage from tools and floor scrapers.

    Q: Is it expensive to have vinyl flooring professionally removed?

    A: If you are just paying someone to come into your home and remove vinyl flooring, the cost will typically be by the job or hour. Flooring installation is charged by the square foot, but demolition and haul are usually considered extra charges. 

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