How to Remove Self-adhesive Vinyl Floor Tiles

A stack of many different designs of vinyl flooring tiles.
  • 5-6 hours
  • Beginner
  • 20-50
What You'll Need
Utility knife
Mineral spirits

Self-adhesive vinyl tiles are a very popular flooring material commonly used in a number of different applications. You will often find them in kitchens, utility rooms, and bathrooms. However, if you decide that you want to remove these at a later time to change up your decor, a fair amount of work will be involved. Here are the basics for removing these vinyl floor tiles effectively.

WARNING: Test your vinyl tiles (or the material underneath) for asbestos before you start working, especially if you have older vinyl that was installed 20-30 years ago. To be extra safe, wear a respirator mask while removing the tiles and their adhesive.

Step 1 - Assess the Condition of the Vinyl Tiles

The first thing that you will want to do is assess the condition of this flooring. Often, the adhesive of these tiles will not be what it was when they were installed; it will start to release its hold on the floor over time. Therefore, you may be able to simply go along and lift them up off the floor. Get down on the ground and try to pull on the corner of a tile anywhere in the room. If it comes up easily, your job will also be very easy. However, if it is stuck pretty well, further measures will be necessary.

Step 2 - Cut the Tiles

If the vinyl tiles are still firmly attached, take a utility knife and start by scoring each one of them. Cut a slit right down the middle, deep enough to get under the surface finish.

Step 3 - Just Add Water

Once you have cut the tiles, get a bucket of water and dump some on each tile. If you know you are on a wood subfloor, make sure that you do not pour out too much water as it could damage the wood underneath. However, if you are on concrete, this should not be an issue.

Thoroughly cover the surface of the vinyl with water, and then allow it to soak in for a while. By cutting the tile and pouring water inside the cut, you will help release the adhesive. This will make it much easier to take up the tile without damage.

Step 4 - Scrape up the Tile

When the water has had a fair amount of time to sit, it is time to start scraping. This is the hardest part of taking up vinyl and there is no easy way around it. Take a long-handled scraper and start working it under the tile. Start on one end of the room, and then work your way across the floor. Try to take up the adhesive with the tile instead of just breaking it off. Many people will scrape up the tile and leave all the adhesive because it is easier. However, you will need to remove the adhesive if you plan on installing anything else in its place.

Step 5 - Clean Up

Once you have scraped up the tile, it's time to clean up the area. If there is any adhesive still left on the floor, use mineral spirits to clean it off. Dispose of any rags soaked with this chemical properly when you're finished. As a result of your work, you should have a completely clean subfloor to work with for your next project.