Tearing out old flooring in order to install new may sound as a quick and easy project but sometimes it is a real chore. I will cover a few types of removals and hopefully one of these hints will help you out with your job. Flooring materials can consist of vinyl tile, linoleum, carpet and wood as well as many others. Lets take a look at some of the most popular. Wood removals such as hardwood floors can be done fairly easily with a large crow bar or shingle removal tool. The shingle removal tool has a long handle and a wide flat end piece that can slide under the flooring and with a little downward pressure on the handle, the wood flooring will pop right up. The long handle will save your back as well. Remove all the remaining nails as you proceed if they do not pop up with the flooring itself. Kneeling on a protruding nail can cause an injury and is painful at best. Sweep the floor areas as you go to assure you have left nothing behind in the way of nails, splinters, etc.
VCT or vinyl tile flooring presents a much harder removal project. Vinyl tile after years of use can become very difficult to remove if almost not impossible. Some of the tiles will pop up if struck with a hammer as air pockets develop under tile leaving a small space. Aged vinyl tile is quite brittle therefore when struck will actually shatter and pop loose. That is the best case scenario. Using a hammer and flat cold chisels it is a slow process. There are tile removal machines but they seldom work very well. If the tile is really hard to remove, a tile floor grinder may be used but the dust generated pretty much makes this an empty room only alternative. A typical classroom getting new tile would have to be completely emptied and be professionally cleaned before it could be re-occupied. I found over the years that the use of dry ice worked very well in aiding the removal of the tile. It has to be handled very carefully of course to avoid injuries but if available in your area, large blocks can be slid across the floor freezing the tile almost instantly and by quickly striking the tile with hammer, the tile shatters and can be removed. Safety glasses should always be worn during all demo removals and good, heavy work gloves are a must when handling dry ice. Never, ever touch it with bare hands.
Carpeting if laid in a wall to wall installation is quite easy to remove. The carpet is fastened only at the rooms perimeter edges by a tack strip nailed to the floor. Grip the carpet at any corner with a large pair of pliers and yank. The carpet will pull loose of the tack strip and you can then proceed around the room rolling the carpet as you go. If you have a good aluminum knife, get a couple of carpet blades and cut the carpet into four foot strips making it much easier to roll up and cart away. Fully adhered carpet (glue down) removal is a different story. You may with enough manpower be able to cut the carpet into narrow strips and tear it out using brute manpower. Rolling a two by four into the beginning of the strip for a handle helps to provide a grip but a large amount of manpower is still required. There are machines available for rent for carpet removals which are OK for a room or two but if you are removing a carpet from a large home or commercial building you are better off hiring a professional carpet remover. Their machines are typically hydraulically driven allowing their use inside without fumes and are ride-on machines making the removal faster and the end results much better.
Linoleum after years of wear and tear can almost be impossible to remove. The glues used last forever and every square inch of the linoleum has to be scraped and removed. Sharpening the edge on a four inch wide spackle knife helps getting under the material to lift it somewhat easier but it is an uphill battle. Many times if the floor and door clearances allow it, the installer will simply install a new quarter inch under layment over the linoleum and start new. You can try dry ice to freeze the adhesive as with VCT removals but in any case removal of linoleum is a chore.