How to Remove and Dispose of Sheet Vinyl Flooring

  • 01 of 11

    Tools You'll Need to Remove Sheet Vinyl Flooring

    Remove Vinyl Flooring - Tools Needed
    Tools You'll Need to Remove Vinyl Flooring. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     Sheet vinyl flooring is either a Godsend or an evil bane of your existence.  It all depends on your perspective.  This giant plastic mat that, only a few years ago, helped cover up the hideous burgundy linoleum dotted with a constellation of cigarette burns, is now a dull bland obstacle to you having more beautiful flooring.

    It's not all that hard.  Shown here is the full complement of tools you might need, though you'll probably only end up needed two or three:

    1. Prybar:  Essential for...MORE taking trim down.
    2. Five-In-One (or Eight-in-One) Tool:  It have several functions, but we'll only be using one.  This handy tool has a sharp blade at the end which we'll use to scrape the flooring away from the glue.
    3. Wood Block:  This assists your prybar in taking down trim.  It will protect your walls and will provide leverage.
    4. Utility Knife:  Not shown in the photo, but absolutely essential.  See Review:  Stanley FatMax Retractable Utility Knife.
    5. Various Flat, Sharp Tools:  Grab anything else that is flat to use for prying off stray bits of flooring.
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  • 02 of 11

    Remove Trim with Prybar and Wood Block

    Remove Vinyl Floor - Take Your Trim and Baseboards Down
    Remove Baseboards and All Trim. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     Place your wood block a few inches above your baseboard.  Put the flatter end of the prybar on top, where the trim and wall meet.  

    A swift rap with your gloved hand should be enough to force the bar under the trim.  if not, rap the prybar with your rubber mallet or hammer.  

    Gently pry the trim away in stages.  If you pull back quickly, you will break the trim.  Even if you do not intend to re-use the trim, it's still easier to pull off trim in entire lengths rather than in small, broken...MORE pieces.

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  • 03 of 11

    Mark Your Trim For Re-Installation Later On

    Remove Sheet Vinyl Flooring - Mark Trim
    Mark Trim So You Know Where It Belongs. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     You love your trim, right?  If not, hack it up and dispose of it.  That's if you can't stand looking at it any longer.  Otherwise, it's great to recycle your trim "in-house" for various projects down the road:  plant stakes or shims come to mind.

    If you'll be reusing the trim, devise a marking system on the back of the trim for easier re-installation later on. I recommend starting with one key, starting piece of trim and calling it "#1."  Mark the number on the...MORE back.  Mark "up" with an arrow (yes, numbers should indicate vertical, too, but I like having extra signals).

    Go around the room in an orderly fashion, clockwise or counter-clockwise.

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  • 04 of 11

    Cut Out the Center of the Floor First, Leaving Edges

    Remove Sheet Vinyl Floor - Cut Out Center First
    The Trick to Removing Flooring is to Cut the Center Out First. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     Here's the big secret about removing sheet vinyl:  it should be perimeter-installed, making your life easier.  In other words, the middle of the flooring shouldn't be glued down, just a 6-inch perimeter.

    "Shouldn't" allows for the rare previous homeowner who might have over-zealously glued down the entire floor, sides and middle alike.

    So, first cut about 8 inches away from the walls, keeping your cut parallel to the walls.  In the photo, the beige strip is the sheet vinyl...MORE flooring.  The yellow section is the sub-floor.

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  • 05 of 11

    Are You Pulling Off the Entire Flooring Sheet?

    Remove Vinyl Flooring - Make Sure You Have Entire Floor
    You Might Not Be Pulling Off the Whole Piece of Floor. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     One note of caution.  As you start pulling off the sheet vinyl, it may seem deceptively easy.  You might actually be de-laminating the sheet vinyl rather than removing the whole thing.  

    Hopefully, you won't experience this with the inner, glue-free section.  But this is definitely a concern when dealing with the glued down perimeter.

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  • 06 of 11

    Not Recommended: Removing Flooring in Big Sheets

    Removing Vinyl Floor - Do Not Pull Off in Sheets
    It's Difficult to Pull Off Large Sheets of Flooring. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     So, you're now pulling back the un-glued center section.  It's tempting to start pulling back or rolling up large sheets at a time.

    I don't recommend this because sheet vinyl gets real heavy real fast.  You might start to feel that the flooring is glued down when actually you're fighting the weight of the floor itself.

    There is absolutely no reason to try to keep the vinyl in large sheets unless you plan on giving it to a friend or re-using it in another part of the house.

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  • 07 of 11

    Cut Narrow Strips and Pull Off Instead of Large Sheets

    Remove Vinyl Flooring - Cut Narrow Sheets Rather Than Large
    It's Easier to Cut Narrow Sheets. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     Instead, keep your utility knife always at hand and slice long, narrow strips.  I would keep the width to 12"-18".  You can cut off the length only when it gets unwieldy and in your way--about four feet or so.

    Keeping the strips narrow will benefit you later when you dispose of them.

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  • 08 of 11

    Remove Glued Vinyl Flooring With a Prybar

    Remove Vinyl Flooring - Use Prybar for Lightly Glued Places
    The Prybar Is Great for Lightly Glued Sections. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     With the unglued middle section removed, it's time to deal with the glued-down perimeter.  Hard scraping and gumption are the best way to go about this, rather than looking for some miracle glue-remover.

    First, I would try using the flatter end of the prybar.  Because the prybar is fairly blunt, it will work only if the vinyl is lightly glued down.  I like the prybar because it provides leverage.

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  • 09 of 11

    The 5-In-1 Tool Is Better for Removing Glued Vinyl Floor

    Remove Vinyl Flooring - Use Sharp Tool to Get Off Glued Areas
    Your Sharp Tool is Best for Removing the Glued Areas. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     Chances are, you'll need to do most of the glued-vinyl removal with your 5-In-1 Tool.  Get your whet stone out (you've got one, don't you?) and sharpen the end.  Force the sharp end between the sheet vinyl and sub-floor in jabbing strokes.  You'll find that the tool chips away the adhesive.  With your other hand, keep peeling back the sheet vinyl.  When it gets too long (about a foot or so), cut it off with a utility knife to make it easier for you to work.

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  • 10 of 11

    Score Scrap Vinyl Instead of Cutting Apart

    Remove Sheet Vinyl - Scoring Scraps for the Trash
    Try to Score Scrap Sheets Instead of Cutting Through. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     Sheet vinyl flooring cannot be recycled by sending it out.  Unfortunately, you'll have to land-fill it.  You might be able to recycle it in-house.  If your workshed only has an OSB wood floor, laying down a sheet of vinyl makes it easier to sweep and will protect against moisture and oil drips.  Otherwise, I don't know of many other uses.

    Instead of cutting the sheet into little squares, I begin with the already-narrow strips and score them every foot or so.  It will save a little bit of...MORE effort, as you will see in the next step.

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  • 11 of 11

    After Scoring, Fold Scraps Accordion-Style

    Remove Vinyl Flooring - Fold Up Your Scored Scraps
    After Scoring, Fold Up the Scraps Before Disposing. © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

     Your scored strips of sheet vinyl can then be folded up accordion-style into squares small enough to fit into the garbage can.

    The first score will be easy to fold back (because you are going with the score).  But the second score and all alternating scores are more difficult.  You'll need to force them a bit to snap them into a fold.