How to Remove Hardwood Flooring Without Causing Damage

How to Remove Hardwood Flooring Without Causing Damage

Hardwood floors elevate, enhance, and add tremendous value to any space, whether that’s a residential property or a commercial office or retail space. If properly maintained, regularly cleaned, refinished and repaired as needed, hardwood floors can last for decades without any issues, and sometimes they can last a lifetime. However, lack of proper care, neglect, or unforeseen events like floods or fires can cause damage to hardwood flooring, sometimes beyond repair. In this case, the floorboards will need to be removed, repaired, or replaced, depending on the extent of the damage. 

The good news is that sometimes the hardwood planks can be salvaged for reuse, but to achieve this, careful attention must be paid to the removal process. An inexperienced approach can cause damage to the hardwood during the removal process, and can lead to the hardwood boards becoming damaged beyond any possible repair. Here are a few ways to ensure that hardwood floors are properly removed without causing any further damage. These are things that every professional should know, and good information to share with clients who prefer to go the DIY route and handle the process themselves. 

When do hardwood floors need to be removed?

Extensive damage caused by water infiltration, rot, spills, fires, or structural issues will often require hardwood floorboards to be removed, repaired, or replaced. Anything that could potentially compromise the integrity of the floor and the subfloor is a reason to remove hardwood flooring to assess the damage and take necessary steps. 

When it comes to high traffic areas like a retail store or a commercial office space, hardwood floors are often exposed to extensive wear and tear over time, which can lead to the wood surface to accumulate scratches, dents, deep ridges, and even gouges. In this case, the floors might have to be removed and replaced if the damage is too extensive. 

Another scenario that warrants the removal of hardwood flooring is related to very old flooring that has become outdated or has been installed improperly. Last but not least, hardwood floors should be removed during renovation or remodeling projects, to protect the planks from any damage, and reinstalled later after the work is done. It’s always best to consult with an experienced professional who can determine whether the hardwood flooring requires removal or replacement, depending on the specific scenario the client presents. 

Can hardwood floors be reused?

Re-using or repurposing hardwood flooring is a sustainable and elegant option that can add value to a new home or space. As long as the floorboards are carefully and properly removed, they can be reused and installed in a new space, a new home, or repurposed to fit a different purpose other than flooring. However, there are certain conditions that should be met for the hardwood to be reusable. The wood should be in good condition, without signs of significant damage, warping, wear and tear, and ideally should have a thick consistency that hasn’t been overly refinished or sanded down. 

Whether hardwood floors can be reused also depends on how they were installed in the first place. Glued-down or nailed-down floors can be challenging to remove without causing damage in the process, while those that float above the subfloor instead of being directly attached to it are easier to remove and reuse. It’s important to note that removing, storing, transporting, acclimating and installing the wood floors in the new space should be done carefully and with expertise, to avoid structural or aesthetic issues down the line. That’s why the process should be handled by experienced professionals – going the DIY route will require some research and careful planning on the client’s part. 

How to remove hardwood floors without damage

1. Plan ahead 

Before you or your client start working on the actual removal process, make a list of all the things and tools you will need for the job, how many people will be involved, how the area will be prepared and cleaned beforehand, how the wood will be stored afterwards and transported, and anything else you need to consider. Make a plan and have everything ready from the get-go, including cleaning products, tools and equipment, transportation options, and more. Have a detailed plan on how the wood will be reused or repurposed and assess the new space as well to figure out the requirements for the new installation. 

2. Prep the workspace area

Before moving forward with the removal process, the room should be cleared of any furniture, drapes, curtains, carpets, rugs, and any other obstacles that might interfere with the process. It’s important to have safety gear prepared, like gloves, goggles, knee pads, tarps, boots, and cleaning products, to protect yourself and anyone else involved in the process from harmful toxins, dust, and debris. 

3. Start working from an edge

You should obviously never start removing hardwood floors from the center of the room. Instead, start by removing the flooring from one edge of the room, and work your way gradually to the other edge. Look and see if you can find a small gap or seam between the wall and the first row of hardwood planks, and use a pry bar to gently and carefully lift the edge of the plank. Then, move on to the next and work your way around the room step by step. 

4. Pry up the hardwood planks

When you start the removal process, you’ll want to use a pry bar to lift the edge of the first hardwood plank and separate it from the subfloor. If the floor is nailed or glued down to the subfloor, you have to be careful and work slowly to avoid causing damage, and use the right products to separate the wood planks without splintering. Pry up each plank one by one as you move along the room, but without placing too much pressure on the wood, because this could cause it to work or break. 

5. Use tools where necessary 

If the hardwood floor boards are nailed down to the subfloor, you’ll need to use pliers or a nail puller to carefully remove the nails and separate the floor from the subfloor without causing splintering. If the floors are glued down to the subfloor, you can use a floor adhesive remover to loosen up the hardened adhesive and separate the wood floors without damage. For stubborn areas that are difficult to pry up, use a circular saw to carefully separate the plank. It’s important to pick the right products for the job and not try to force the wood away from the subfloor, because this can cause serious damage. This is where many clients who choose to go the DIY route encounter issues and end up causing damage to the wood during the removal process. 

6. Clean up

After all the hardwood planks have been successfully removed, it’s time to clean the subfloor and assess it for damage, debris, or leftover nails or adhesive. If you’re about to install new flooring, make sure that the subfloor is clean, even, and use the right products to attach the new floor. The removed hardwood planks will need to be stacked carefully together and transported to the new space where they will need to be acclimated and inspected for damage before being installed. 

For more tips on how to properly clean, remove, repair, or replace hardwood flooring, or for information on any of the products we carry, reach out to First Atlanta Flooring and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!