We recently did a Google search for removing old vinyl yourself. Yep, there’s a lot of homeowners out there ready to tackle home improvement projects one room at a time. And why not jump into one you can really dig into?
New flooring is always a treat. It can’t be that difficult to remove old vinyl yourself, and install something new … can it?
Here’s just a sampling of the advice you’ll find if you search out how to do this home improvement project.
Removing old vinyl can be quite difficult, as most are installed using adhesive attached to the subfloor. Most subfloors are wood, which means they’re porous; thus they absorb the adhesive. You’ll have to use a flooring scraper, paint scraper, and a putty knife to remove the vinyl and scrap away all adhesive residue before beginning your next project.
And that makes sense, for a variety of reasons.
Before you install new, you want to take out the old. If you lay new flooring over old, you could be in for a host of problems, especially with vinyl.
For example, if you leave traces of old linoleum glue on the wood subfloor, older adhesives have chemicals that can react with new vinyl products. This can create a yellowing discoloration, and it null and voids the warranty. That means you’ll be replacing your flooring way before its lifespan is reached.
What is vinyl flooring?
Before we go any further, let’s discuss what today’s vinyl flooring really is.
Vinyl flooring is made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. Additional materials are added in to give it its appearance, and to allow color, patterns, sheen, and flexibility to shine through. Yet the primary element starts with a simple vinyl sheet. Then it’s suspended in liquid, with different layers added, smoothed out, and dried to give it its unique look. It can be kept in sheet format, or further cut into squares or planks for ease of installation.
Homeowners have been choosing vinyl for decades for many reasons.
- Unlimited color and pattern opportunity
- Easy installation
- Easy maintenance
- One of the most economical flooring choices you can make
But vinyl flooring hasn’t always been made the way it is today. Different processes have been used. Different materials have been used in production. And therein lies the problem.
Old vinyl flooring runs the risk of having been developed using asbestos
Think back to homes built one hundred years ago. Minus four walls and a roof, the two have little in common from a building aspect. From the 1940s to the 1970s, many home products contained asbestos. It was thought to be a highly -effective and inexpensive fire-retardant material, one that was used extensively in all kinds of products because of its insulation qualities. You can find asbestos in all types of materials, including
- Window caulking
- Roofing material
- HVAC duct insulation
- Some forms of paint
- And of course, vinyl flooring
So the first question you have to ask yourself is: How old is my house? And if your house was built from the 1940s to the 1970s, is there a risk that the old vinyl flooring was from that time frame?
Eventually, people started questioning the benefits of asbestos. They quickly found that the chemicals included in asbestos were harmful to the body when breathed in. Today, all forms of vinyl flooring are asbestos-free. And if you remove old flooring at risk of having asbestos, it’s recommended to utilize professional services to ensure the job is performed the right way. This is to ensure you and your family stay safe long after the flooring has been removed and replaced.
The dangers of removing asbestos vinyl flooring yourself
Asbestos is divided into two categories:
Friable material – this is material that is easily broken or crumbled. Friable materials are dangerous because they can easily be released into the air supply, and will release toxic dust into the air.
Nonfriable material – these are durable products where the asbestos fibers are strong and contained. They are safe as long as the material isn’t damaged.
Old vinyl flooring is considered nonfriable material. When the vinyl is in good condition, it’s safe to walk on, safe to use in a home environment.
That’s probably why you’re likely to find old asbestos vinyl flooring under different layers of newer flooring. The recommendation has always been to leave the flooring alone, and install new flooring over the top. Recommendations were also made to seal it with a coat of epoxy floor paint. All of these options trap asbestos in the floor, and keep them safe from your air supply.
However, that doesn’t negate the danger. And when you do a full remodel, bringing the flooring down to the original subfloor, that’s where the risk materializes once again. If you chip away at old vinyl, you move the material from nonfriable to friable category. And your risk escalates.
And it’s not just the vinyl that puts you at risk. Even old adhesives could contain asbestos if they were produced during the proper time frame.
Cutting, sanding, scraping, and tearing vinyl away from the floor should never be performed by anyone but a professional. As a homeowner, you might not be aware of the danger, which, in effect, puts you at an even greater risk.
Learn your options by shopping our retail location
We’re flooring experts. We can help you every step of the way.
If you know you’re at risk – or even if you aren’t sure – your best place to start is by having a conversation with one of our flooring consultants. We deal with this problem regularly, and can help you find the right solution for your home.
Fortunately, there are many different remedies on the market that will make removal dust-free, without putting you or your family’s health at risk. When you remove old vinyl without risk, it creates a safer environment long before it ever had the chance to become a problem.
And it leaves your home in better condition for the new flooring you decide to install.
Don’t hide or cover up the problem. We can help you stay safe while getting the flooring of your dreams. Think twice before removing old vinyl yourself. Hire a professional instead.