How to Remove Glued Down Wood Flooring From Subfloor or Concrete

While there are many reasons you might hope to remove glued-down wood flooring, the process requires careful attention. Because the adhesive is so strong, going about it the wrong way could cause a massive mess and permanent damage to your subfloor. So if you’re wondering how to remove glued-down wood flooring, read on.

You can remove glued-down wood flooring from the subfloor or concrete by cutting the boards into more manageable pieces and pulling each free with a pry bar, chisel, hammer, or scrapers. Afterward, you have the option to either re-use the wood or dispose of the material.

In this article, we’ll show you the steps you need to remove wood floors from either subfloor or concrete without causing damage. We’ll even add a few tips for making your project faster and easier.

How to Remove Glued Down Wood Flooring

How to Remove Glued Down Wood Flooring From Subfloor or Concrete

Whether your wood flooring is worn or you want to update the style, you may need to remove it. Adding another layer of flooring is not always an option. The process can be challenging and labor-intensive, particularly when it’s glued to subfloor or concrete. Use the following steps to help make this project a bit easier.

Before you get started, collect the following materials:

  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Long-handled pry bar
  • Putty knife
  • Scrapers
  • Circular saw
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Protective goggles
  • Breathing mask
  • Work gloves
  • Construction knee pads
  • Close-toed shoes
  • Painter’s tape (optional)

Step 1: Prepare Your Work Area

Before you begin pulling up your wood floors, prepare your work area. You may need protective goggles and work gloves. Make sure to wear close-toed shoes to protect your feet. Remove any furniture from the site, and place plastic sheeting over anything you cannot move from the area to protect from dust and debris. Cover light fixtures, appliances, and furniture.

Step 2: Measure and Mark the Area

Start by measuring the area you plan to remove. If you only plan to replace a portion of the flooring, you can mark off the location with painter’s tape and complete the project without damaging the rest of the hardwood floor. Doing so clearly points to the portion of the wood that will come up and which will stay.

To mark the floor, place a line of tape on the joint of the hardwood where the edge you remove will meet. You can also make the boundaries where you’ll cut. The tape is also a precaution, as it helps protect the edge of the remaining piece you want to stay on the floor from damage.

Step 3: Cut the Flooring

Unless you have parquet flooring, which comes into small square tiles, you need to cut the flooring to remove it from your space next.

Cut the flooring every two to three inches with a circular saw. The cuts should be perpendicular with the flooring direction and directly next to the line of tape you marked on the floor. It’s best if you set your circular saw blade to the same thickness as your flooring. Avoid cutting into the floor’s tongue, which could damage the piece of the floor you want to stay.

Step 4: Pry Up the Flooring

Removing glued hardwood flooringAfter the old flooring is cut in small sections, you can pry it up. This step may be more difficult if the flooring is firmly glued down. If you’re working with an engineered hardwood floor that’s nailed-down to a wood subfloor, the process is much easier than prying the boards from the glue.

To remove the flooring, you need elbow grease. You might also need to use a variety of tools to help remove the floor. The most common options include a chisel and hammer for stubborn sections. A long-handled pry bar is ideal for prying the flooring up, and it helps protect your back from pain later.

Remove the baseboards before you start. Then, place the pry bar around the edge of the wood board and lift. Nailed-down boards should come right up. Try to wedge the pry bar under the wood where you cut each section with the circular saw for more leverage. Look for a loose board or start along a carpeted section for an easy starting point.

If you’re having trouble starting, try cutting a square of the flooring with your circular saw. Set the depth to slightly less than your floor’s thickness, and create a 1’ x 1’ wide section. Setting the saw depth to less than the floor allows you to cut without hitting the concrete underneath. Next, pry the board up and chisel until you can remove the entire board.

Step 5: Chisel Concrete

A chisel with a handguard works well for hard-to-remove sections, but it also is excellent for removing a wood floor from concrete. Learning how to remove glued wood flooring from concrete is the most challenging for DIY beginners.

If the wood is glued to a concrete subfloor, removing the floor and glue is more complex and time-consuming. Expect the wood to come up in pieces because the adhesive typically remains so strong. Use a chisel and hammer to scrape the wood pieces off the subfloor, working your way to the boards nearby.

Use an oscillating tool with a scraping attachment for hard-to-remove glue or large spaces. When you have tons of glue left on a concrete subfloor, the tool helps. Apply slight pressure to push the scraper under the glue.

Step 6: Remove the Glue

Next, remove any of the glue that remains. You could use a hand scraper with a long handle to tackle most of the glue on your subfloor. However, you might need to use a scraper attachment on a reciprocating saw for challenging sections. Stuck-on glue and extremely large spaces often have a stronger adhesion that’s difficult to remove without a power scraper.

If the glue is not coming off, try using an adhesive remover or stripper. These products loosen the glue on your subfloor. All you do is pour and spread it around with a putty knife. You may need to apply the stripper a second time in some areas. Leave it on thick for it to work correctly.

The only downside is that they may leave a residue that could bleed onto your new floor and alter the adhesion. It’s best to check your new floor’s warranty information before going through with an adhesive remover.

This step is the most extensive and takes the longest time to complete. You might scrape the glue away for hours, depending on the adhesive.

How to Tell if Your Floor is Glued Down?

When you buy a used home, you may not always know how the previous owners chose to install the flooring. You can tell if engineered hardwood is glued down by checking the thresholds or transition pieces. They may snap into a track, which makes them easy to remove. If your home has a concrete subfloor, the wood is most likely held with glue as well.

If you see nails around the room’s perimeter, the wood floor is most likely nailed down to the subfloor. Removing wood that’s nailed to the subfloor is much more straightforward.

How Hard Is It to Remove Glue on Hardwood Floors?

Glued hardwood floor removal

The average person can remove the glue and wood flooring in a room in a few hours. However, the process can become more difficult and time-consuming if your flooring is really stuck to the subfloor or concrete underneath. Some projects can take 85 man-hours to remove the hardwood and adhesive. Most people can handle removing 10 square feet per hour.

If you’re removing glued wood flooring in multiple rooms at once, you could rent a power tool to save a bit of energy. Local tool rental companies typically offer equipment for a price per hour. However, the machines are large and heavy. You want to figure out how to maneuver it in and out of your car or around your home.

How to Loosen Glue on the Subfloor?

There are also multiple tricks you can use to help loosen the glue on your subfloor. You can soak the adhesive in warm water and soap, wiping away the glue. Alternatively, a heat gun could help soften stuck-on glue. Hold the heat gun carefully, running it a couple of inches away from the exposed adhesive. Scrape the glue away when it softens.

How to Remove Adhesive on a Concrete Floor

Removing adhesive from cement is challenging. If you try softening the glue and it’s still hard to scrape off, try using pure acetone or a lacquer thinner. These solvents are formulated to thin cement, and you can find them at your local hardware store.

A natural option is to break down the glue with vinegar. Soak a rag in a generous amount of vinegar, laying it across the glue for a few minutes. Leave the vinegar to sit and dissolve the glue, then scrape or wipe the sticky area to remove the adhesive.

Other products, such as Goo Gone Adhesive Remover, also help remove floor glue. Apply a generous amount of the product and allow it to soak into the adhesive for up to five minutes before pulling the glue with a putty knife. You can repeat the process a few times if needed. When you’re done, clean the area with soapy water.

Is Removing Glue from Concrete More Difficult than Subfloor?

Tearing up wood floors from concrete is messy and much more labor-intensive than if the wood was nailed into the subfloor. The adhesive typically sticks to the concrete thoroughly.

Many factors determine how complicated your project will be, however. For example, do-it-yourself installations are often easier to remove than jobs installed by professionals. Some types of flooring are also easier to remove than others.

On the other hand, many tools and products are also available to help remove the glue from a concrete subfloor.

How to Dispose of Old Wood or Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Many trash removal companies do not pick up construction material. To dispose of wood or engineered hardwood flooring, you must take it to your local dump. A few garbage companies may take construction materials one day out of the month if it’s bagged in heavy-duty plastic. Some recycling centers will also handle construction material. Check your local options.

If you have trouble locating a proper place to dispose of your old flooring, you could also check with a local flooring company. Ask them if they know what to do with old flooring in your location. Whatever you do, never burn the flooring. The adhesive and treated wood contains chemicals that become toxic when burned.

How to Remove Glued Hardwood Floors without Damage

You may hope to re-use the wood flooring after removing the glue, such as the case when you’re refinishing your floors or fixing a maintenance issue like water damage. To remove glued hardwood floors without causing damage, use extreme caution. Use a standing pry bar and lift each board individually. Pull up carefully to avoid splintering.

When you’re done removing the hardwood, wipe each board using a damp cloth. Store the wood in a dry, cool location until you’re ready to re-use them. You can save the wood for another project, sand and refinish reclaimed wood, or sell the lumber to a local company.

When Can You Reinstall New Floors?

When the old flooring and glue are gone and the concrete or subfloor is clean, you can reinstall the new floor as soon as the next day. A few other factors to consider include the original reason for replacing your flooring and the time it takes to dry the subfloor. Installing the new floors the following day allows the concrete to return to satisfactory moisture levels.

Summary

The steps you take to remove wood floors that are glued to the subfloor may vary. Most projects involve cutting the wood into smaller pieces and prying the boards up with a pry bar or chisel and hammer. However, there are additional steps you could take to loosen the glue or make the process easier on your back. The best option depends on your flooring and preferences.

Did you enjoy learning how to remove a glued-down wood floor from either subfloor or concrete? If our article helped with your home improvement project, please let us know. Leave a comment or share our article with your friends.

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