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Remove Glue Down Hardwood Floors

Tearing up hardwood floors that have been glued direct to concrete will be an extremely messy and labor intensive job.Video on this page However a number of factors will come into play in determining how difficult the project will be. A few include:

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How Well It Was Originally Installed

Do it yourself installations will be the easiest to remove, due to not enough or wrong adhesives used. Installed by good professionals? Expect a removal nightmare.

What Type Was Originally Installed

Kerf cuts

Some are easier than others to rip out. Foam backed parquet, popular in the eighties will be the easiest. On the other hand, products that were manufactured with multiple relief or kerf cuts on the backside (shown in example to the right) will take far longer to pull up and can be extremely troublesome. The example shows cuts only an inch apart.

The cleanliness of the subfloor - Ones that weren't prepped will be easier to remove.

Okay..But How Long Will It Take?

Unless you should happen to hire the services of companies that specialize in flooring removal, plan on ten square feet per hour as a high guesstimate. National and local companies today generally charge between $ 2.50 and $ 3.50 per square foot. Our numbers are based on a job I handled personally in 2004. More specifics.

The job example is a direct glue down of a Harris-Tarkett engineered 3/8" product on concrete. This job may prove to over exaggerate the actual time you may encounter, because I installed the same floor correctly one year before with Bostiks EFA (engineered flooring adhesive) adhesive. Removal was required due to water damage.

I Called The Local Labor Pool

The numbers came in like this; 85 total man hours to remove hardwood and adhesive that was left behind. The figure in your case could be higher or lower. In general, expect about ten square feet per hour working at a good pace. This includes complete removal with a smooth, clean concrete slab ready for re-installation of a new floor.

Finding temporary labor from local sources is probably the best idea if you can't locate a specialized service. That's what I did in this case, but I'll warn you..the same guys won't be back the next day! Having used temporary labor a half dozen times for tear ups over the years, these guys know how hard the work is and avoid it. However, this was a time when work was plentiful.

Tools Used And The Actual Tear Out

To make matters easier you'll need to cut the areas inSet blade depth one foot sections with a skill (circular) saw. Find the thickness of the flooring and set the blade depth where it will barely hit the concrete. Please do these adjustments when the power cord is removed from outlets. It's important your cuts go through the hardwood completely. Not doing so will prolong the job as we want sizable sections to come up rather than in splinters. Some glue down wood floors are easier to remove than others. I've found those that were installed in the earlier days (1970's) of glue down flooring to be the hardest due to the types of adhesives that were used.

Where To Start?

In most cases, but not all, removal is easiest from the tongue side of the installation. Yea, I know that's all fine and dandy but you probably have no idea where that is. Look for a full width board along a parallel wall line. For most glue down installations the tongue direction of the installation will be facing the wall. Generally this is where the original installation started, opposed to an opposite wall line that may have a partial board width.

Having set the blade for the depth of the flooring, cut a line about 15-18" away from the wall itself across the entire room. Try to keep the cut in the seams Pry barlines. Once done, repeat with another cut in another seam. This will become our starter area for the tear out. Finally, make perpendicular cuts every 12-15" across the starter area to each wall line.

For engineered hardwoods that have numerous relief cuts on the backside of the material, sectional cuts may have to be closer. Rather than twelve to 15 inches, four to six may work better. Approximately 12 inches is shown in the right.

Tools Needed?

The heavier the hammer or sledge the better. I found three pound mini sledges to work best. A common pry bar will work to get under the flooring after a few hard whacks. The trick is trying to remove in sections and not chunks. It's important when making the circular sawScrape away buffer attachment cuts you get entirely through the flooring. Blades will dull quickly. I used three on this job.

Flooring scrapers after the hardwood is removed would be the next step. Depending on how slick the surface is will dictate how long this should take. This slab had a good smooth surface making scraping much easier.

With some adhesives, hand scraping may not be very effective. Machines are available that can remove most adhesives. If you'reLarge floor removal machine looking, try a specialty rental center and ask for an attachment that goes on the bottom of a buffing machine. Shown above is the scrape away rotary scraper.

NOTES: You may also want to check out removing ceramic tile. There I discuss the option of hiring a specialized company that deals with removing floors by mechanical means where job time, mess, and inconvenience is cut dramatically. Costs on average runs about $ 3.00 per square foot, but will depend on your location.

December of 2011: Glue down removal on concrete in Naples, Florida. On this job approximately 900 square feet was removed in less than eight hours.


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New engineered floors

See proper methods of gluing down engineered hardwood floors on concrete.

Water Damaged or Flooded Floors

I know what you may be thinking; it’s been sitting in one foot of water for a week, the glue must be loosening. Sorry folks, not going to happen because most adhesives work as a moisture barrier. It’s impervious. That is unless the installer mentioned above didn’t do the job properly. See more on water damged hardwood floors.

When Can I Reinstall New Floors?

Once everything is removed and a clean concrete slab is seen, it will depend on a few factors. Naturally the original cause has to be fixed. Plus a proper dry out time is needed so moisture levels in the concrete itself are back to satisfactory levels. See more on moisture testing.

Video Transcript

Most floor removal projects like this 900 square foot water Video transcriptdamage job can take upwards of five days to remove manually even with an army of guys working the job as we analyze in the web page you’re viewing. Why mess with all that aggravation when we can have it done in less than eight hours at the same cost.

That’s what this Naples Florida homeowner decided to do.

Serious equipment? This behemoth speaks for itself, and look, it can climb gentle rises or smaller stairs and fit through the narrowest of doorways too. It’s battery operated and quiet unlike the guys that will be running saws on a manual job. Best of all, it raises very little dust but protecting sensitive areas that should be considered.

Once a starting area is chiseled out it’s all about the brute force this machine produces. It’s a little slow to start, but once it creates an opening and it can get at the hardwood in a perpendicular direction, say goodnight Irene to this solid hardwood glue down. It won’t happen all the time, but the glue was coming up with the hardwood, cutting more time on this job in getting a clean glue free surface for the re-installation.

Let’s hear what the homeowner has to say…and folks…this is not rehearsed.

“Well Dave. It’s really quite impressive. It’s been 30 minutes that you removed all of this? I had several demo crews come in here and look at this floor, tell me it was going to take five or six days to get this floor up.”