How to Restore Hardwood Floors Under Linoleum

Chances are that there may be a hardwood floor waiting beneath the old linoleum in your home.

Removing Linoleum

Refinishing hardwood floors can increase the value of a home, but keep in mind that even if there is hardwood underneath the linoleum, it may be badly worn, or refinished several times already. The only way to find out for sure is to look. If you do discover richly grained floors underneath, the job of restoring the floor will require time and hard work, though the results will be well worth the trouble. It simply takes patience and effort.

Pull the linoleum off by hand. If it was glued down, you may have to do a lot of scraping to get the linoleum off the floor. Look for tear marks that could give you a place to start. You can also start by using a pair of pliers to pry at a corner. For linoleum flooring that is still completely intact, use a sharp utility knife or razor blade to score the linoleum. The project will be more manageable if you tear up the flooring one section at a time.

Use a large metal or plastic scraper and mineral turpentine to remove the adhesive glue off the floor. Be careful not to scratch or otherwise damage the wood floor underneath. You can also use a heat gun to soften stubborn areas of adhesive.

Lay cotton towels on the floor and then soak them with boiling hot water to melt the adhesive. This is another method you can use, but be cautious about how much water you use so that you do not warp the wood. Wait about five or ten minutes before scraping the adhesive off the floor.

Sweep up any loose dirt on the floor. If nails were used to tack down the linoleum either pull them out or sink them farther into the floor. Nails holes could leave black marks on the floor, but the heads of nails should be level with the floorboards. You don't want any nails sticking up.

Walk back and forth over the entire floor several times inspecting for cracks or holes that might need to be repaired. Listen for squeaking floor boards. This is the time to nail down any loose floorboards.

Fill in unsightly gaps at the ends of the floor planks with a matching latex wood putty. While hardwood floors expand and contract throughout the year as the result of variations in humidity and air temperature, wood usually does not expand much lengthwise.

Sand wood floors lightly once all the worst of the old adhesive has been removed with a fine-grit sandpaper. Sanding should remove any adhesive residue still remaining on the floor. Wear a dust mask and safety goggles while sanding. Work in the direction of the wood grain, sanding from wall to wall.

Restoring the Hardwood Floor

Clean the hardwood floor. Depending on the condition of the wood, a good wax and shine may be all that is needed. If the surface of the floor is dull or has some shallow scratches, only a top coat of finish may be required. This may not be enough to restore the floor and more extensive refinishing may be needed.

Use a coarse sandpaper to rough-sand the floor to remove the old finish. You may want to rent a drum sander to make the job go a bit quicker. Familiarize yourself with the equipment first and be careful as you work so that you do not gouge the floor. The trick is to keep the sander moving in a motion similar to mowing a lawn.

Sand the floor a second time, using sandpaper with a medium grit, again following the natural grain in the wood. Any water stains on the floor will require more effort. Finish up with another fine sanding. Sand around the edges of the floor with a palm sander, as a drum sander cannot reach within four inches of a wall. Vacuum and buff the floor before staining.

Apply stain with a brush. Start at the side of the room opposite the doorway. Stain the width of five or six floorboards at a time. Wipe stain with a clean, dry cloth to blend. Wood gets darker the longer you leave on the stain before wiping, so time yourself appropriately so that the floorboards look uniform in color. Apply a finish coat of polyurethane.

Things You Will Need

  • Utility knife or razor blades
  • Scraper
  • Turpentine
  • Heat gun
  • Wood putty
  • Rented drum sander
  • Palm sander
  • Fine, medium and coarse grit sandpaper
  • Wood stain
  • Polyurethane finish

Tip

  • If a floor is badly scratched, applying just a coat of polyurethane will make the scratches appear less noticeable. Applying a wood stain could enhance the scratches, which you don't want.

Warning

  • Some flooring products manufactured before 1986 could contain asbestos. Contact the manufacturer to find out before attempting to remove the linoleum from the floor. A wood floor that is warped, sags or feels spongy may not be worth the trouble of refinishing.

About the Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.