Removing Existing Floor Covering and Safety

If you’re installing a hardwood floor in new construction, all you have to worry about is the condition of the subfloor. But if you’re working on a remodel project like what we do here, you’ll likely have to remove an existing floor covering, which might be carpet, linoleum, or vinyl. Removing old floor coverings is my least favourite part of installing wood flooring.

And I’m here to give you all that you need to do it with yourself, I did a long search about removing floors, and I have done it before several times just keep reading and focus on claiming your knowledge.

Removing Carpet

No matter how many times a carpet is cleaned throughout its life, removing all the animal dander, dirt, and dead bugs are just about impossible. With that in mind, I always wear a respirator when tearing up the old carpet. Unlike dust masks, respirators are certified by u.s. Government to ensure that they meet specified minimum filtration requirements, as well as specific manufacturing quality levels. Also, many dust masks do not seal tightly to the face and allow airborne hazards to pass.

  1. Given that you never know what sort of hazardous material can become airborne when removing old carpet, wearing a respirator is a must.
  2. To remove carpet from the tack strips, grab a corner with stout pliers and pull. You can cut the carpet into manageable pieces for disposal, just be careful to avoid cutting into the floor below if you’re saving it.
  3. Tack strips hold carpets in place. Use a taping knife below a pry bar to avoid damage to old floors you want to save, and be careful—the tacks are sharp.

Many carpets are held in place by tack strips installed next to the walls. These narrow wooden strips have small, sharp, angled nails that point up to hold the carpet’s backing. The strips themselves are nailed to the floor.

To begin removing old carpet, pull back a corner with pliers. Continue around the outside of the room, releasing the rest of the carpet from the tack strip.

Cut the carpet into manageable strips to haul away. If there are existing wood floors under the carpet that you simply plan to refinish, be careful not to damage them while cutting the carpet.

Vacuum the subfloor as you remove the carpet strips to limit the amount of dirt that becomes airborne. Once you’ve removed all the carpet, pull up the tack strips using small pry bars, a claw hammer, and pliers.

A drywall-taping knife can be placed between the floor and the pry bar to protect the wood floor from damage. A cat’s paw–type nail puller can also be used to remove nails from a stubborn tack strip.

Wear gloves while removing the tack strips. The tack strip has sharp little teeth, and at least one will find its way into your fingers.

Removing Old Linoleum or Vinyl Floors

You need to be careful when removing old resilient flooring. Many linoleum and vinyl floors from the 1970s and earlier contained asbestos in their backings or adhesives. Various federal, state and local government agencies have regulations that require specially licensed abatement contractors to remove material containing asbestos.

I never remove old resilient flooring without having it tested for asbestos first. It is just not worth possible health problems, breaking the law, and contaminating the home. An alternative to removing old linoleum, vinyl, or any flooring material that possibly contains asbestos is to install a new one over it.

This requires that a proper subfloor exists under the resilient floor or that new underlayment has been added. I am usually able to verify the presence of the subflooring by looking at a preexisting plumbing hole, loose flooring, or a heating vent or by removing a transition piece.

The wood flooring fasteners need to penetrate the resilient-type floor and at least 5⁄8 in. Into the actual subfloor material. If needed, install plywood underlayment over the old resilient flooring. Most manufacturers recommend that a 3⁄8-in. Or thicker underlayment is used.

Increasing the height of the floor can sometimes present problems. For example, new wood flooring installed in an existing kitchen usually runs up to the bottom of the cabinets and in front of appliances such as dishwashers or trash compactors. This additional flooring height might make it impossible to remove such appliances for service or replacement.

Also, large transitions in height to other rooms can trip an unsuspecting guest. Many homes I work on have particleboard underlayment, a material that is unsuitable for use as subflooring, installed below the carpet.

I remove it by cutting it into manageable 2-ft. Squares. I find this makes it easier to pry off the floor and remove from the room without damaging the walls.

Note: Particleboard is considered an unacceptable substrate, so it must be removed prior to nail-down and most glue-down flooring installations. Use a circular saw with its blade set just shallower than the particleboard thickness to cut it into 2-ft. Squares to ease removal.

Safety Equipment is Paramount

Installing wood floors requires an incredible amount of cutting and nailing, but the most important equipment I own doesn’t cut or fasten anything. Nothing comes before safety equipment. With all the cutting, nailing, and chemicals flooring installers work with. It is only a matter of time before an injury will occur if you don’t have the proper protection.

Many old-time wood flooring contractors are partially deaf because they didn’t protect their hearing when using nailers and power tools.

Before I started wearing proper respiratory protection, some exotic woods I used made my nose bleed. Many old-timers have severe respiratory problems.

Wood dust is a carcinogen, and I have visited flooring friends who have cancer. Without safety glasses, I have had things go into my eyes, and I once had a close call with a deflected pneumatic nail. Kneepads are a very important piece of equipment.

I have too many friends with permanently damaged knees. One of them almost lost his leg when a splinter in his knee became infected.

Hearing Protection

One in 10 Americans has a hearing loss severe enough to affect their ability to understand speech. It’s more common among wood flooring contractors. Nearly everyone I know in this trade has hearing loss, which has made me all the more adamant about hearing protection.

Noise is measured in decibels or dB. The dB scale is logarithmic rather than linear. An increase of 10dB isn’t additive; it represents a tenfold increase in noise. Consequently, even a small increase in dB can have a larger effect than is immediately apparent.

Noise levels of 85dB or higher can damage your hearing. Most floor sanding equipment reaches 90dB or more.

If you look on any earmuff or earplug package, you’ll find a government-mandated noise-reduction rating (NRR). The NRR represents how many decibels the product reduces noise.

Because the arms of glasses interfere with how earmuffs seal to the head, wearing them diminishes earmuffs’ effectiveness.

to be on the safe side, it is best to wear earmuffs and earplugs together. This isn’t a bad idea anyway, particularly when sanding flooring. one caveat: use only clean earplugs. Dirty ones can lead to infection.

Make Safety a Habit Like all construction work, installing wood flooring has inherent risks. Cuts from edge tools are one obvious hazard. Others are less obvious, but perhaps more readily prevented. Reduce the risks of eye injuries, hearing damage, lung disease, and bad knees with proper safety gear. Comfort is one of the most important factors when selecting safety equipment. I tend to rely on 3M® for safety products, but you may find other brands fit you better. Try out several. Safety equipment does no good if you take it off because it’s uncomfortable.

Eye Protection

I cannot say enough about eye protection. Without it, there is little chance that you will avoid an eye injury sometime in your career.

safety glasses have saved my eyes more times than I can count. Protective eyewear should be made to ANSI standard Z87.1-2003, which means it should not break when smacked by a 1⁄4-in. BB moving at 150 ft. per sec.

eyewear should also provide generous side protection for the corners of your eyes. The lenses, frames, and packaging should all be stamped Z87+ to indicate that they meet this safety standard.

eye ware has come a long way from the goggles of years past. What’s available today borders on stylish, and it’s far more comfortable. glasses with anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings are available. You can even buy prescription safety glasses through your eye doctor and from several online sources.

Lung Protection

sanding and finishing wood flooring exposes you to fine dust particles and chemicals that attack your lungs. The American conference of governmental industrial hygienists recognizes wood dust as a human carcinogen. The size of the dust is important.

Dust particles 10 microns in diameter and larger are likely trapped and expelled by the hairs and mucous of your upper respiratory system. Particles up to 2.5 microns in size settle in the lungs where they may enter the bloodstream to be filtered by the liver.

some toxic particles transport through the bloodstream to the kidneys and central nervous system.

The body’s immune system tries to destroy and expel toxins, but our immune system is not always successful and our cells may become cancerous if overwhelmed by toxins.

Particles that aren’t expelled and don’t dissolve can stay in the lungs, possibly causing allergies, respiratory problems, lung diseases, and cancer.

some finishes such as polyurethane (particularly if it’s sprayed) may, over time, coat lung tissue so that it can no longer transfer oxygen to the blood. The only cure is a lung transplant.

I wear a respirator, as opposed to a nuisance dust mask. Respirators have replaceable filters that capture at least 95% of particles 0.3 microns in size or larger. They are designated by a letter followed by a number, such as n95.

Respirators designated with an n are for use where there is no oil present in the air. An R designation means it’s resistant to oil mists, and a P-labeled respirator is even more resistant to oils.

The n-filters are most commonly used when sanding wood flooring. half-face or full-face respirators with the appropriately activated charcoal cartridges should be worn when applying floor finishes.

full-face respirators are best because they stop the toxic vapors from entering your bloodstream through your eyes.

Charcoal cartridges for respirators are always working. Store them in a clean, sealed plastic bag or container when not in use. If you leave them out, the cartridge will be used up next time you need it.

Knee Protection

Working on your knees without kneepads can lead to prepatellar bursitis. Knees have a small sac called the bursa in front of the patella (kneecap).

The bursa holds a small amount of fluid that allows the skin over the knee to move independently of the underlying bone.

if the bursa becomes inflamed, it fills with fluid and causes swelling at the top of the knee. Without the padding provided by the bursa, kneeling would always hurt.

I like kneepads with doughnut-shape pads that transfer the weight away from the kneecap. I like the shell of the kneepad to be hard enough to stop objects that might penetrate my knee. Any penetration into the fluid of the knee can cause a serious infection that may require surgical cleaning to prevent loss of the leg from infection.

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