Whether you’ve just owned a new home or you’re simply looking to revamp your old home to meet your home improvement dream, transforming your floor is one factor that can’t miss in your wish list. But, when you think of ripping off your floor, most homeowners perceive it as a complex endeavor that can be challenging to accomplish. What they tend to forget is that there’s a hardwood floor removal tool that can be considered to turn this complex task into a simple DIY project.
Now, the reason why most homeowners shy away from hiring professionals to remove existing hardwood floors is due to the hefty costs incurred. Most professionals charge around $2-$3 to remove a square foot of hardwood flooring which can turn out to be super expensive if you have a large room. Thankfully, this guide has come to rescue enthusiast DIYers by discussing some of the key tools you’re supposed to consider when ripping off your existing hardwood floor. Please read on.
Hardwood Floor Removal Tool: A Complete Guide
Why Do You Need To Remove Your Existing Hardwood Floor?
Now, let’s imagine you’ve just moved into a new home. The first step you’ll need to take before you can move your stuff inside is to inspect the entire house to ensure it’s in perfect condition. Here, you’ll need to inspect the walls, the ceiling, the plumbing lines, and the floor to decide whether you’ll need to revamp them or not.
If we specifically focus on hardwood flooring, you’ll realize that three major factors can force you to remove the existing floor to replace it with a new one.
- One of those is when the existing floor is badly damaged. In such a scenario, you’ll have to remove the remaining planks to pave way for the installation of new hardwood flooring.
- The second reason is if the existing flooring fails to meet your aesthetic needs. You see, hardwood floors come in many variations ranging from honey oak, cherry, maple, walnut, ash to mahogany floorings. They also come in different categories such as unfinished vs. finished and solid vs. engineered. Since you already have a choice in mind, removing the existing flooring to replace it with your favorite option will be a logical move.
- The third and last reason why you might be pushed to replace your existing flooring is to lower the height of your floor. There are some cases when you discover the hardwood flooring on your new home was installed over several layers of subfloors. In such a case, removing a few layers will be necessary to lower the floor to make it easier to open the doors and to fit custom made furniture will tall heights.
When removing existing hardwood flooring, there are several ways you can choose to accomplish this task. You can take the shortest route that involves removing the planks without considering recycling them or you can choose to remove them with a bit of care to ensure they remain in good condition.
Since removing hardwood flooring requires you to have the right tools, this guide will focus on discussing each of these tools to help you understand what each of them is tasked to do. For easy visualization, I will discuss these tools in order according to the exact steps you’ll have to follow when tearing off your existing hardwood floor.
- Floor Tape
To start the project, you have to mark the floor to determine the exact point you’ll be starting from. Although some people might consider using a pencil or a marker pen, floor tape is a perfect choice. You see, hardwood floors are not the same. In the case of laminated or oil/polyurethane polished floors, a pencil cannot work perfectly. Therefore, you need to have a floor tape for you to make visible marks.
Once you’ve marked the area you’ll be cutting, the next step is to cover those parts you’ll not be touching. If you’re removing the hardwood flooring to renovate your floor, you may find that even after removing your furniture and electronics, some appliances might not be removed such as a custom-made wall unit or cupboard in the dining area.
Since some of these accessories might be sensitive to dust, covering them is the best approach you can consider. So, if that’s the case, the perfect tools needed for this task are plastic tarps. Therefore, when laying down your tools, you’ll need plastic tarps to cover your furniture or electronics to protect them from dust.
- Working Gear
Before you commence the project, always remember to wear protective gear. This is one area most DIYers go wrong as they assume that removing hardwood floors is an easy task. Although these are not removal tools, wearing protective working gear will keep your body safe.
For instance, a pair of goggles will protect your delicate eyeballs from dust and flying debris, a pair of gloves will protect your hands against splinters and blisters, earbuds will protect your ears from the noisy power tools, a dust mask will prevent you from inhaling the dust, knee caps for the knees and closed shoes with thick soles will protect your feet when stepping on pins and pointed nails.
- Trim Puller/Utility Knife
Once you’ve put on the right gear, the next step is to commence the removal process. Here, you will be starting with removing the baseboard. Since you need to be gentle enough to salvage the baseboard in case you decide to reuse it, you will need to use a utility knife, a box cutter, or a painter’s tool to scrape off any paint or drywall paper lying between the wall and the baseboard. You will also need a marker pen to mark the baseboard and the wall to which it’s attached on to make it easier for you to return it after you’ve installed a new floor.
To pry the baseboard from the wall, you will need the trim puller. What you do with this tool is that you position it between the baseboard and the wall then use a mallet or a sledgehammer to gently tap the trim puller. This strategy will allow you to pry the baseboard from the wall without causing any damages.
- Dremel Multi-Max
Still, on the baseboard, there are times when nails make it extremely difficult to pry the baseboard from the wall. Since you need the baseboard to maintain its structure without getting damaged, a more advanced tool will be needed. In this case, a Dremel multi-max is what you need to consider.
By equipping it with a metal blade, this versatile 5HP tool will allow you to shred those stubborn pins and nails that might be preventing the baseboard from coming off. The tool is easy to handle and it offers you enough clearance to coordinate the cutting process without damaging your wall or the baseboard.
- Circular Saw
Once you’re through with the baseboard, the next step is to cut the boards into smaller sections for fast removal. In my case here, I will be quite picky on how I cut the boards as I will be reusing them in another project. Therefore, since I won’t be throwing the old hardwood flooring away, I will make sure that I remove the planks with extreme care.
So, the next tool you’ll be using here is a circular saw. This tool is considered the backbone of any hardwood removal project as it makes the work much easier than considering manual ways. Since it’s an electric saw, the circular saw can either be corded or cordless. In most cases, DIYers consider the cordless version to get rid of the annoying cables that can create a lot of clutter.
When using this tool, you need to be really careful with how deep the blade penetrates. Since most hardwood boards are ⁵⁄₈” to ¾ “ thick, you need to ensure that the blade doesn’t penetrate beyond the plank’s thickness to prevent puncturing the subfloor.
Lastly, when cutting the boards using a circular saw, you need to cut across perpendicularly to minimize the risk of cutting through nails and pins which can damage the blade.
- Pry Bar
Once you’re through cutting the hardwood planks, the next step is to pry the planks by getting them off the subfloor. Whether the planks were installed using the floating, gluing, or nailing method, the pry bar is the perfect tool you’ll be using to accomplish this tedious task.
To do this, position the “J” end of the pry bar between the already sliced planks and the subfloor. Pick a mallet and hit the pry bar gently to pry up the planks. Since you’ll need the wooden planks later on, you need to be very gentle with the removal process to avoid damaging the planks. As you can see, this step requires the use of two major tools that are the pry bar and a mallet.
- Nail Claw and Curved Vice Grips
After you’ve pried up the entire floor, you will notice that your floor has nails and staples lying all over. The worst thing is that these nails/staples are attached to the subfloor so removing them will require you to use a special tool. Thankfully, a nail claw and curved vice grips are the perfect tools you can consider at this stage.
If the floor you’re working on is quite expansive, you might need to use a nail claw as it’s much faster. With this tool, all you need to do is simply pop it under the nail or staple then pop the nail claw right up to remove the nail/staple.
On the other hand, if the floor you’re working on is quite small, then you can opt to use a pair of Vice Grips to squeeze the nails out of the subfloor.
- A Magnet
After removing all the nails and staples from the subfloor, you’ll notice that all that is left is nothing short of debris which includes wooden and metal debris. Since the wooden planks are easy to remove, the tiny nails and staples will require you to pass a magnet all over the floor to pick all these debris.
- Floor Scraper
With most of the debris already out of the way, the next step is to use a floor scraper to remove any remaining nails, glues, and staples. If you’re looking to install hardwood flooring over a large area, then considering this tool means that you’ll accomplish the job much faster than if you’re using a nail claw and a curved vice grip.
In addition to that, a floor scraper allows you to remove any dried glue from the carpet when removing it. It also allows you to remove paint and other adhesives when readying the subfloor.
So, once you’re through collecting all the nails and staples lying on the subfloor, the next step is to vacuum the floor to make it spotlessly clean. Here, you can use a brush to clean the floor then use a dust collector tool to pick up all the dirt and dispose of it in a bin. Alternatively, you can opt to use a vacuum to clean the entire floor. For large floors, a vacuum is a perfect alternative as it saves you time.
Once you’re through vacuuming the floor, the last step is to salvage your wooden planks to reuse them in another project or to donate them. As you can see, removing hardwood flooring is not just a walk in the pack. You need to have the right tools ready to make the process fast and as efficient as possible especially if you’re planning to salvage the planks to reuse them in another project.
Although some tools seem to be a hefty investment when it comes to buying them, the best thing with most of them is that they’re affordable and readily available in your local store. With that said, this two-in-one guide has discussed both the tools and the steps you’ll need to follow when removing your hardwood floor.