Specialty Floor Types
Repair & Care Of Floors
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. However a number of factors will come into play in determining how difficult the project will be. A few include:
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
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 longer to pull up. The example shows cuts every three inches. Some are only an inch and a half 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 generally charge between $ 2.50 and $ 3.50 per square foot. Our numbers are based on a job we handled in 2004. More specifics.
Our 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 we installed it correctly one year before with Bostiks EFA (Engineered Flooring Adhesive) adhesive. Removal was required due to water damage.
We 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 we 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. This may not be true as of this September 2012 update.
Tools Used And The Actual Tear Out
To make matters easier you'll need to cut the areas in 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 hardwood 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 lines. 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.
The heavier the hammer or sledge the better. We found #3 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 saw cuts you get entirely through the flooring. Blades will dull quickly. We 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. Our 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're looking, try a specialty rental center and ask for an attachment that goes on the bottom of a buffing machine. Shown on the right is the scrape away rotary scraper.
NOTES: You may also want to check out removing tile on concrete. There we 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 run about $ 3.00 per square foot, but will depend on your location.