The Ultimate Secret to Removing Peel and Stick Floor Tile
Peel and Stick tile seems to be every DIY decorator's best friend: it's inexpensive, easy to install, and looks good... most of the time. In my new home's kitchen, however, I was not a fan. Here's what I started with:
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The tile darkened what was already a pretty dark kitchen, and as a part of my kitchen remodel, I wanted to replace the floor with something lighter. So the peel and stick tile had to go. But, we all hear about how easy peel and stick tile is to install, but is it easy to remove??
Spoiler alert: No.
I started with just a prybar and a hammer, and worked to pry the tiles off the floor. Did it work? Sure, if I wanted to spend the rest of my life breaking little pieces of tile off the floor. I quickly realized I needed a faster method; ideally one that pulled the tile off in a full piece.
So I did a bit of research, and learned that the adhesive holding the tiles softens when heat is applied. Since a hairdryer was one of the few things I had already unpacked, that became my preferred method of heat application.
- Hair Dryer
- Small Pry Bar
- Baking Soda
Step 0: Prep
I feel misleading calling the prep work a step for this project; it took all of 3 minutes. I removed any materials that were on top of the tile, aka, the AC grate and the transition strips that the previous owner had put at all of the doorways. About halfway through, I also removed all of the cabinets, but I only did that because I was getting new cabinets, and planned to install my new floor under those cabinets. The peel and stick tile didn't actually continue under the cabinets.
Step 1: Warm Up the Tile
The warmer you can get your tile, the easier it will be to remove. I used a hairdryer to do this, since it was easily accessible, although I've also read that using your iron is also a possibility. I imagine if you put a towel down over the tile (so you don't melt the surface of the tile and end up with a giant mess) and then iron, it would heat the tile hotter and faster than my hairdryer method. If you try/tried this, please let me know in the comments below; I really want to know how it goes!!
As I mentioned, I heated my tile with a hairdryer. I put the hairdryer on high, and held it about an inch above the tile. Holding it closer better warmed the tile (yay!), but overheated my hairdryer, since a bunch of the hot air was forced back into the motor (boo.) This a) wasn't good for my hairdryer, and b) meant I had to stop and wait for it cool down, so I tried not to hold the hairdryer to close to the tile.
Step 2: Pry Up a Side
Starting at a corner, I worked the pry bar under the tile, using my hammer to push it further under when necessary. I moved down one side with the pry bar, with the goal of lifting that one side far enough off the floor to be able to grab on to it with my hands. I have this prybar set, and the largest bar was perfect for this project. Additionally, the set has been everything I've ever needed for all of my demolition projects, so if you're in need of a set, check it out!
Step 3: Pull the Tile
You have one goal when pulling up a piece of tile: get the tile up in one piece. If (when) you fail at this goal, you'll have a little piece of tile that is still well-stuck to the floor. For whatever reason, it seems significantly more difficult to get up the small pieces of tile than one large piece. It is annoying and time-consuming, so you're much better off trying to keep the tile in-tact.
Because of that, I found there was a right and a wrong way to pull the tile.
Wrong Way: Pulling up. On all the tiles where I pulled up (aka, at a 70 degree angle with the floor) the steep angle that I was pulling snapped my tile instead of lifting the remainder off the floor. I was left with part of the tile completely off the floor, and some of the tile still stuck to the floor, and these two pieces connected by the thin decorative layer (that rips off super easily.)
Right Way: Pulling toward myself. By pulling toward myself (aka, at about a 30 degree angle with the floor), there was enough pressure for the tile to slowly raise up, but not enough upwards pressure to snap the tile.
Step 4: Lay Baking Soda
Once you remove the tile, there is a thin layer of adhesive that remains on the floor, and, as expected, it is super sticky. I didn't find that there was enough adhesive to make the floor bumpy and cause issues with the new floor I was going to install, so I didn't try to remove the adhesive. Instead, I just dropped handfuls of baking soda (which I buy from Costco in a giant size) on the floor, which stuck to the adhesive and hid the stickiness.
Step 5: Repeat (many times...)
The floor will eventually be gone, I promise.
Did you try this? How did it go? Did you use the hairdryer method, the iron method, or something else? Please tell me- I'm sure there will be more peel and stick tile for me to remove in the future... like in the laundry room 🙂