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Removing Vinyl Sheeting

Okay, sometimes you have to say forget it and replace an entire vinyl sheet floor. Maybe yours has too many nicks, stains or dents to ignore, maybe the glue beneath it has given up the ship and created bubbles or springy areas, or maybe you just plain hate the 70s pattern. When it’s time to call in the big guns, here’s how to get rid of the old floor before you install a new one.

Removing The Old Flooring
Before we can get to the fun, we have to first encounter the nasty part: removing your old flooring. As you proceed through the steps, be mindful on an important consideration: the sub-floor you leave behind will determine how good your new floor will look and how long it will last. If your subfloor is damaged, don’t ignore the water, mold, rot or whatever other serious problems it may have. Fix the subfloor yourself, if you can, or hire a professional to come in and install a new one. Laying down new vinyl over a deteriorating subfloor is only postponing the inevitable, as well as inviting trouble.

Also, be careful not to damage your subfloor as you remove your old flooring. Don’t get sloppy or destructive: a pristine subfloor is the key to a beautiful installation and to the longevity of your new floor.

Now that the nagging is over with, let’s proceed to yanking up that nasty old vinyl floor.

Removing Vinyl Sheeting
For this project you’ll need:

Goggles Spray bottle filled with water and 1-2tbsp dishwashing detergent
Large sharp utility knife Shop vac rated for wet/dry use
Drywall knife Straightedge ruler
Carpentry or flooring knife Floor scraper

Sizing Up The Job
If you’re removing vinyl sheeting that has been bonded around the perimeter of the room, the process will be pretty easy. Flooring that has been bonded along its entire length and width, however, will be a nastier job, requiring more cutting and a more intense battle with the old adhesive. If you have a heat gun, it will make pulling up the old vinyl quicker, but isn’t necessary if you have some time and patience.

1. First remove any baseboards (see instruction 1 under Replacing Wood Veneer Paneling). Use a sharp utility or flooring knife to cut the old flooring into strips roughly a foot wide and pull them up by hand. Areas that have been heavily glued will need to be cut into smaller sections and may require scraping with a putty or wallboard knife. You can loosen stubborn adhesive by misting the glued areas with your water/dish soap solution as you scrape. Be careful throughout to protect the subfloor from dings and gouges, or your newly laid floor will be more likely to have bubbles, depressions and failed adhesive.
2. Use a floor scraper to dislodge remaining fragments of flooring and adhesive. Sweep thoroughly. Then finish using a wet/dry shop vac to vacuum up all minute debris. If any glue remains, soften with soap/water solution, scrape and vacuum. Note: If you have any damaged sections of underlayment (look for mold, rot and deep gouges) they should be fixed or replaced. If you feel comfortable replacing them yourself, do. If not, hire a professional to come in and do it—it is a quick job and easy for a pro with experience, and should be relatively inexpensive.
3. You will need to make a template to accurately cut your new flooring. Start about 1/8 inch away from the walls and tape thick paper or cardboard into a connecting pattern, overlapping each piece of paper by 2 inches. As you build your template, use a utility knife to carefully cut small triangles into each new piece of paper so you can cover them with masking tape and fix the template to the subfloor.
4. Keep moving along the walls until you have the entire perimeter of the room framed with your paper template. Be sure to make careful cutouts of all objects that may interrupt the pattern, such as pipes, toilets, etc. Measure the distance from the wall to the front side of the obstruction and mark it on the piece of template you’ll be installing. Now measure the distance from the wall to the backside of the obstruction, closest to the wall and note it on your paper. Measure the obstruction from side to side and mark in on your paper and make the cutout for the object. Place your paper around the obstruction and see if it fits. Minor adjustments can be made by either cutting or taping paper in place until the fit is perfect. For bigger mistakes, start with a new piece of paper. Once you have it perfect, tape the piece into your template. Once the template runs all the way around the perimeter of the room, make sure its pieces are securely taped together. Remove the masking tape from your triangles to release the template from the subfloor.
Hammer Have more questions about vinyl sheeting? Head over to our Walls forum and talk to other do-it-yourselfers.