Techniques of Removing Different Flooring Types

Why is one flooring removal quote substantially lower than another for the same square footage and flooring types? Have you ever thought about it?

It’s easy to overlook how complicated something as simple as removing old flooring can be when planning a home renovation. If you’re not familiar with the specifics, you might just accept a contractor’s quote without questioning it, possibly leading to an overpayment. 

Or, you might opt for the lowest bid, only to end up with poor quality work that damages your subfloor and drives up your costs. 

In this guide, we’ll dive into the techniques for removing various types of flooring. We’ll also arm you with knowledge to effectively compare services, spot overcharging, and ensure that your flooring is removed efficiently and correctly, safeguarding your subfloor—and your budget.

Tile Flooring Removal

Before the removal process, professionals equip themselves with the necessary safety gear and section off the area. The specific removal methods they can use are:


    • Hammer and Chisel: For smaller areas or specific tiles, professionals might use a hammer and chisel to carefully break the tiles and pry them up. This method is Labour-intensive and used when precision is necessary to avoid damaging surrounding areas.


    • Electric Power Tools: More commonly, professionals use electric power tools such as jackhammers with spade attachments or rotary impact hammers. These tools allow for quicker removal of tiles and the mortar underneath.


    • Ride-On Tile Removal Machines: For very large areas, such as in commercial spaces, professionals might use ride-on machines that can strip large sections of tile flooring quickly and efficiently.

Hardwood Flooring Removal

It is important to prepare the area before the removal. We can do this by removing furniture and any obstructions. It’s also important to determine how the hardwood is attached to the subfloor. Each method requires a different approach to removal:


    • Pry Bar and Hammer: For nailed or stapled hardwood, professionals often use a pry bar and a hammer. They carefully work the pry bar under the edge of the planks and gently pry them up, being cautious not to damage the subfloor beneath.


    • Circular Saw: If the hardwood is glued down, cutting the floor into smaller sections with a circular saw can make it easier to pry up. This method reduces the stress on the subfloor and can help in managing the removal of stubborn adhesive.


    • Floor Scraper: A heavy-duty floor scraper can be used to remove any adhesive residue or to help pry up difficult sections of flooring.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring Removal

Removing engineered hardwood flooring, much like traditional hardwood, requires careful handling, especially if there is an intent to reuse the material. The methods used for removal can vary depending on how the flooring was installed:


    • Pry Bar and Mallet: For floors that are nailed down or floating, professionals commonly use a pry bar and mallet to carefully lift the planks from the edge. They make sure to handle the tongue and groove connections delicately, especially if the planks are to be reused.


    • Circular Saw: When dealing with glued-down flooring, slicing it into smaller, more manageable sections can make removal easier. This approach also lessens the likelihood of harming the subfloor.


    • Floor Scraper: A floor scraper might be used to remove any remaining adhesive or underpayment from the subfloor after the planks are removed.

If you’re wondering about the difference between hardwood and engineered hardwood, they differ in their construction. Hardwood is made from solid wood all the way through, and engineered hardwood consists of a top layer of real hardwood veneer attached to several layers of plywood or HDF underneath.

Vinyl Flooring Removal

It’s important to determine the type of adhesive used and how extensively it has been applied when removing vinyl flooring. This can affect the choice of removal method, as some adhesives are more stubborn than others. It can use either of these techniques:


    • Heat Application: For sheet vinyl or tougher adhesives, applying heat can soften the adhesive, making it easier to peel or scrape off. Heat guns or specialized flooring removal equipment that applies directed heat can be used.


    • Cutting and Peeling: Vinyl is often cut into strips or sections to make the material easier to handle. Professionals use utility knives to score and cut the vinyl before peeling it off the subfloor.


    • Chemical Solvents: In some cases, especially with older or more resilient adhesives, a chemical solvent may be necessary to dissolve the adhesive layer beneath the vinyl. This must be used with caution and proper ventilation.


    • Mechanical Strippers: For larger areas or particularly stubborn installations, power scrapers or walk-behind machines equipped with sharp blades can efficiently strip vinyl flooring and adhesive from the subfloor.

Laminate Flooring Removal

This type of removal usually begins at the wall where the laminate was first installed, which often involves removing baseboards or moldings that may cover the edge of the flooring. 

Identifying the direction in which the planks were laid is also crucial, as it’s easier to disassemble the floor from the tongue side to the groove side. The actual removal process may include: 


    • Unlocking Planks: The laminate planks are typically connected by a tongue-and-groove system. Professionals gently separate the planks starting from one end, lifting and unlocking them from their connections. This is often done by hand, with careful movements to prevent breaking the interlocking pieces, especially if the flooring is to be reused.


    • Pry Bar and Rubber Mallet: If planks are tight or difficult to lift by hand, a pry bar and rubber mallet may be used to gently tap and separate the planks without damaging them.

Now, the difference between vinyl and laminate flooring is their composition. Vinyl is composed of plastic, while laminate consists of a base of particleboard wood, covered by a photo layer of wood or tile and is protected by a clear plastic overlay.

Stone Flooring Removal

Removing stone flooring starts with removing baseboards and trim around the flooring to prevent damage and allow easier access to the stone tiles. And then, professionals will move on to either of these techniques:


    • Manual Tools: For smaller or more delicate jobs, tools such as chisels, hammers, and pry bars are used to gently lift the stone tiles. This is a labor-intensive method and requires a lot of precision.


    • Power Tools: For larger areas, power tools like a rotary hammer or a demolition hammer equipped with a chisel or spade bit are used to break the mortar or adhesive bond beneath the stone tiles.


    • Tile Lifter: A tile lifter or floor scraper can also be used, which is a machine that pushes a blade underneath the tiles to lift them off the floor.

Linoleum Flooring Removal

Adjacent areas are covered with protective sheeting to guard against damage and contain debris and dust when removing linoleum. Professionals can use either of these techniques:


    • Applying Heat: Linoleum is often adhered strongly to the subfloor with glue that can be softened through heating. Professionals may use a heat gun or a hairdryer to warm the linoleum, making it more pliable and easier to peel off.


    • Cutting into Strips: The linoleum is cut into strips using a utility knife to make the removal process more manageable.


    • Lifting the Strips: Starting from one edge, the strips are peeled or pried away using tools like scrapers or a pry bar. For more stubborn areas, additional heat may be applied to ease removal.


    • Using a Floor Scraper: A long-handled floor scraper can be employed to lift the linoleum and adhesive, especially in larger areas.

Carpet Flooring Removal

Before starting the removal process, professionals assess the type of carpet, how it’s installed (glued down or stretched over tack strips), and the type of subfloor beneath. After inspection, professionals start detaching the carpet:

Starting Point: Professionals typically start at a corner of the room. They use pliers or a claw hammer to grip and pull up the carpet from the tack strips or edge where it is secured.

Cutting Sections: If the carpet is particularly heavy or the room is large, it may be cut into smaller, more manageable sections using a utility knife or carpet cutter.

And then they proceed to roll and cut the carpet:

Rolling: As the carpet is detached from the floor, it is rolled or folded for easier handling.

Further Cutting: Additional cuts might be made to the carpet to fit it through doorways or into disposal bags.

After rolling and cutting, professionals move on to these steps:

Tack Strip Removal: If the carpet was installed over tack strips, these are pried up using a pry bar or claw hammer. This step is essential in ensuring the subfloor is free of any obstructions.

Removing Staples: Any remaining staples in the subfloor are removed with a staple remover or pliers.


The seemingly straightforward task of removing old flooring reveals itself to be a complex endeavour requiring specific skills and tools tailored to each flooring type. This knowledge not only helps in comparing quotes more effectively but also ensures that the removal process is conducted efficiently, preserving the subfloor and ultimately protecting your investment.

By understanding the techniques and challenges associated with different flooring removals, homeowners can also make informed decisions when selecting the best type of flooring for their house.