Removing Tar From A Hardwood Floor

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Renzatic, Dec 30, 2015.

  1. Renzatic Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #1
    Yeah, sounds weird, but it's legit.

    About once a year, usually around winter, I'll up and decide to do some repair and/or light remodeling around the house. Since yee olde homestead is about 85 years old, there's always plenty to do.

    This year, I decided to do something with the ugly ass, cracked and bumpy linoleum floor in my center room hallway. It's a part of the house I've never done anything with, and I figured it was time to bring it up to spec. One of the things that surprised me is that when I peeled back a bit of the ugly, faux wood checkerboard linoleum, there was actual, honest to god hardwood floor underneath it. It needs to be sanded, stained, and polished, but it's actual hardwood floor. Why would anyone cover up real, rich red hardwood with a cheap fake replacement is beyond me.

    People apparently didn't have any taste in the 50's.

    Now my question involves the crap they used to seal the linoleum to the floor, which I'm pretty sure is a kind of tar. It's black, gummy, and takes forever to chisel out. Now if it were any type of relatively modern adhesive, I could soak it down with some remover, and scrape it up in a second. This stuff? It makes it a little softer, but it's still firmly attached to the wood underneath. I have to very patiently work it out to remove it, and it takes forever. It took me about 4 hours to get 1/6ths of the way through it.

    So is there an easy way to remove old tar like that without warping or damaging the floor itself, or am I stuck to doing things the hard way.

    For reference, this is what it looks like. That little bit I've done? That's what took 4 hours.
     
  2. Scepticalscribe, Dec 31, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #2
    Wow.

    Well, I must say that I share your love of real wood, especially what you accurately describe as 'real, rich, red hardwood'. It is beautiful. And I share your stupefaction that anyone would seek to cover up such beautiful hardwood with ugly faux wood linoleum. The only reason I can think of to want to lay such a floor is convenience - I suspect that it is was a lot easier to clean than was wood, especially with the materials available in the 50s.

    Unfortunately, I am not able to advise you, other than suggesting dropping into a hardware store, or phoning one of those aged and gloriously experienced carpenters and ask them how they might contemplate going about this. Meanwhile, the very best of luck with it. Nevertheless, this strikes me as the sort of job well worth doing and embarking on - you'll have a beautiful, natural, warming wooden floor when it is finished.
     
  3. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030

    Macky-Mac

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    #3
    From the link, it looks like you're making progress.

    Some of the black may be actually be part of the paper backing that was part of the flooring. Throughly stuck to the adhesive glue, it's stayed with the glue when you ripped up the rest of the flooring.

    Some people report luck in sponging on warm water followed by scraping the gooey mess. Wallpaper steamers to soften the mess followed by scrapping is another option........some people use a floor sander to grind right through it all, but keep in mind there may be asbestos in that mess
     
  4. Renzatic thread starter Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #4
    Yeah. Asbestos. That has been something of a worry for me. The general consensus is that I'm pretty alright on that front, but I still wear a surgical mask, just in case.

    And speaking of toxic substances, about the only way I could quickly soften up the goo on the floor would be to use this...chemical compound stuff that can apparently eat your face off if you don't pour it quite right, dress it after the fact, and secure the area for 6 hours after the fact. I didn't want to have to rely on a hazmat suit and prayer just to make my life a little easier, so I've continued doing things the hard way. Bought a can of Goof-Off, which I apply, wait a bit, then scrape off by hand.

    It's mind-numbingly tedious, but I've got it about halfway done.
     
  5. Zenithal macrumors 68040

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    #5
    I seem to remember eucalyptus oil being a strong natural solvent. As for the covering up. Carpet was, for much of the 20th century, considered luxurious compared to bare wood.
     
  6. Scepticalscribe, Jan 2, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #6
    Well, I think that the long way of doing things - while a lot more (mind-numbingly) tedious, may well rank as a lot safer in the long run. And you will have a wonderful, risk, red, wooden floor to celebrate and enjoy when this process has come to a (doubtless, longed for) end.

    Oh, and stay safe with the asbestos.

    Asbestos was very popular mid twentieth century - it was thought of as safe, very robust, and fire resistant.

    The original HQ of the EU in Brussels - the Berlaymont building - had to be abandoned for years - after it was realised that the bountiful quantity of asbestos used in the original building materials in the 1950s posed a serious health hazard to the entire EU bureaucracy by the mid 1990s. Let us just say that their HQ was uninhabitable for a few yard while they rendered it safe, at no small cost.


    I use eucalyptus (in Olbas Oil) for my (endless) sinus trouble when I am at home in wet, sudden, dismal, north west Europe, and I find it works wonders. Indeed, a bottle of Olbas Oil travels with me on flights, and I find it invaluable, especially on long flights. It would not at all surprise me to find that it worked well as a natural solvent.

    And yes, carpets were considered a sign of progress, or luxury, whereas wood was seen as primitive, and less civilised or cultivated, for much of the twentieth century.
     
  7. MacNut macrumors Core

    MacNut

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    #7
    The steamer might be too strong for the wood floor and could warp it. So be careful how long you let it sit. How easily can you pull off the linoleum. It might be easier to just sand the tar off.
     
  8. Renzatic thread starter Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #8
    That's my major worry. The only thing I can do is soften the tar, scrape it off, then sand it all down once I'm through.

    It's been a chore, but I'm getting there. I'm still surprised the floor is in as good of a shape as it is. Once I sand it and stain it, it'll look almost brand new, I bet.
     
  9. MacNut macrumors Core

    MacNut

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    #9
    Can you run a floor sander over the tar?
     
  10. Renzatic thread starter Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #10
    Probably, but I couldn't imagine things being much easier or more streamlined using my little orbit sander than what I'm doing now. It's fairly thick, gummy stuff, so grinding it down would take at least as long as scraping at it from the base.
     
  11. MacNut macrumors Core

    MacNut

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    #11
    Would this be too strong?
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Renzatic thread starter Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #12
    ...that's...that's beautiful. I want one.
     
  13. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030

    Macky-Mac

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    #13
    you can rent them.......and after using it, you'll laugh at the idea of people even considering using the orbital sander they own as part of their household tools
     
  14. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #14
    If there actually is asbestos in the adhesive, then you have to go through all the precautions when sanding. Otherwise any remnants of the adhesive will end up airborne, and settle out over a wide area. Then you have a much larger cleanup job than doing the sanding right the first time.

    I don't know if you can take a sample of the adhesive in somewhere for testing (google "asbestos testing"). If not, then you should probably assume it has asbestos in it and sand accordingly.
     
  15. Renzatic thread starter Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #15
    The reason why I don't believe there's any asbestos in the flooring is because the linoleum was applied directly to the floor without any buffering material. More often than not, any asbestos will be in the paper that's usually laid between.

    Though now that I think about it, maybe it'll be wise to err on the side of caution. I'll go get it tested.
     
  16. thewap macrumors demi-god

    thewap

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    #16
    Would deck stripper then whitener help I wonder - of course sparingly as to not have to over rinse the stripper, then refinishing the floor. Just did my deck, was amazed at how it rejuvenated the wood..
     
  17. Renzatic thread starter Suspended

    Renzatic

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    #17
    Not a good idea for interior wood. It hasn't been exposed to the elements, so all it needs is a sanding to wear down the rough spots, and smoothen it up. It'll look practically brand new once you're done.
     
  18. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #18
    Good idea.

    As I understand it, asbestos was used for many reasons. It was added to various adhesives because its tiny fibers turn an otherwise uniform adhesive into a composite material, like the ancient technique of adding straw to clay to make bricks. This use has nothing to do with asbestos's fire resistance, only its microscopic fibrous nature.
     
  19. aaronvan Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #19
    Well, in postwar America wall-to-wall carpeting was considered something new and luxurious. My parents had the same experience of pulling-up the carpet of their house and finding beautiful hardwood.
     
  20. Zenithal macrumors 68040

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    #20
    It, menthol, spearmint and camphor are very medicinal in nature. A couple drops in a humidifier tends to last for up to 24 hours.

    And now the opposite is true, depending on the wood.
     
  21. tdale macrumors 65816

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    #21
    Try a little gasoline, it might quickly dissolve it. Wipe off with warm water and soap to dilute. If the tar is oil based it will remove it easily. Another option is 100% white vinegar. Test in a small area for both, off course.
     

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