Removing Vinyl Flooring

Beth Asaff
Old Vinyl Flooring

If you're wondering how to remove vinyl tiles, then you may also be thinking that this is a sticky job. While it is time consuming to remove vinyl tiles from an installation, you can complete this job yourself with just a few tools and some time.

Vinyl Tile Adhesive

Vinyl tiles are stuck down with a thin layer of glue, which in one instance makes it easier to remove them than hard tiles, since there isn't any mortar. Depending on the age of the tiles, this glue could come up quickly with little residue, or it could be hard and firmly cemented to the substrate. In either case, the fastest and least back breaking method of removing this adhesive is to heat it up.

Tools and Preparation

Before you get started on removing the old tiles, make sure you have everything you need on hand to make the job go easier. Pick up the following at your local hardware store before you begin.

  • Trash bags
  • Wet wash cloth
  • Iron
  • Floor scraper
  • Utility knife

Test a few of the tiles with the utility knife by running the knife around the edge of the seam. This will give you a good idea of how much work this will be. If the tile starts to come up quickly, you can just use the scraper and knife with only a little help from the iron. If the tile is stuck fast, you'll need to warm up the adhesive to pull up the tiles.

Removing Vinyl Tiles

Once you've tested the tiles, pick your starting point to begin. You can start anywhere in the room, provided you begin at a seam between two tiles. At this time, you can begin.

  1. Place a wet wash cloth directly on top of the tiles.
  2. Turn the iron on high, and place it on top of the washcloth for a few minutes.
  3. Holding the floor scraper at a 45-degree angle to the tile, insert it under the edge and begin to scrape by pushing forward on the scraper. Floor scrapers have long handles, so you can stand while you do this, pushing your weight behind it.
  4. Scrape in small amounts, occasionally pushing the handle upright to pull the tile up from the floor.
  5. Apply more heat to the adhesive if it is stuck fast and you are having trouble getting it up.

Once all of the tiles have been removed, check the substrate for additional adhesive. You may find patches of dried adhesive here and there. Hold the iron about 1/2-inch above them to soften them, and then scrape them up with the utility knife. This will prepare your substrate to receive the new tile or flooring of your choice.


If your tiles are very old, and were installed prior to the 1970's, there is a chance that the adhesive contains asbestos. You cannot remove these tiles yourself, and must call in a hazardous waste expert to remove and dispose of them properly. To check for asbestos, you'll need to measure the tiles.

Asbestos tiles were produced in 9-inch and 13-inch sizes. If your tiles were installed prior to the 1970's and are 9 or 13-inches square, do not attempt to remove them. You can install new tile or a floating floor right over them to seal in the asbestos dust, or you can contact your town's city hall to find an expert to remove them.

Ready to Get Started?

By wondering how to remove vinyl tile, you've already begun the journey to a new tile installation. Accept this as a time consuming process, take safety precautions as needed and know that your old vinyl tiles will come up with little problem.

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Removing Vinyl Flooring