"a practical hands-on
   guide to bathroom


Flooring Removal Tips

Removing old flooring may be as simple as removing a carpet and pad or as difficult as removing existing clay tile set in a bed of mortar with wire mesh.  In all cases, you will need to get down to the subfloor.

Be certain you have eye protection, heavy gloves and good footwear.  Do not use floor sanding or grinding equipment since this may cause hazardous materials to enter the work area.  It is a good idea to have the furnace and air conditioner off to prevent the spread of dust throughout the house.  All pictures and wall hangings should be removed (including on walls opposite the work area) since some of these items are held up with small nails or sometimes tape that will fail and cause the wall hangings to fall and break.  Mirrors should be removed if on clips - mirrors on wall with glue should taped in horizontal strips of 12" or so spread and carefully removed (definitely wear gloves and eye protection).  In many cases, it is better to have a professional glass company attempt to remove the mirror - even then the mirror may break.  While removing the floor, do not leave a mirror on the wall assuming it will not fall (I have actually seen a mirror fall on the back of an installer).  When the new mirror or old mirror is reinstalled, I suggest that e-z mount metal mirror clips be used.

All woodwork and trims (baseboards) and possibly moldings around doorways should be removed.  Toilets and vanities should also be removed (keep in mind that old vanities - while they may still look good - may fall apart when removing them).  It is best to tile under vanities; however, sometimes they must remain in place and you will need to tile around them.  Pedestal sinks, like toilets, must be removed.

Keep in mind that many floors are nailed in place, stapled in place or screwed in place.  We suggest using a large crow bar/pry bar or floor scraper (see photo this page) for this removal.  Start with a small area to get your tool under the old floor and pry the material off.  Sometimes it is easier to use a 2" x 4" block under the prybar to get more leverage (give me a lever long enough and I will move the earth - as the saying goes).  Sharp objects, nails, etc. will abound so be careful to not let one go through your shoe and foot - this has
happened to many installers.

In some cases, especially in older houses or those that have had significant water damage from showers, leaking toilets, etc. you may find that the subfloor plywood or 1" x 8" floor planks may be seriously damaged to the extent that they may fail and cause you to fall through the floor into the lower level (this has actually happened a few times).  To prevent this from happening, use 5/8" or 3/4" plywood scraps to stand on while removing the old subfloor.  In even more serious situations, the floor joists have been damaged (by water, termites, carpenter ants, etc.) and even greater care must be taken when removing the flooring.

Keep in mind that if living quarters are below this work area, special precautions need to be taken to minimize damage or inconvenience.  If the living quarters below is a resident of another "unit" (for example) I suggest you advise them that this work is going to take place.  Keep in mind that if you cause damage to their "unit" you may not be allowed to enter and make repairs or the occupant may be difficult and unreasonable.  An example would be that you have damaged irreplaceable wallpaper or a hand-painted mural (this has actually happened to me) and it will possibly be difficult to deal with the occupant.  If this happens, be prepared to do almost anything reasonable to satisfy the occupant/owner.  An example of what has happened to me - we damaged an area on the basement ceiling the size of a quarter and we had to repaint the entire ceiling.