How to remove tar paper from hardwood floors
So you've found hardwood floors under the linoleum tile......
You're probably here, because like me you pulled off all of that nasty linoleum and found hardwood floors. The only problem is that it's covered with tar paper and you can't seem to remove it.
I've recently been through the same, and have tried several options. Some were fair, but only one really worked: steam. So, I'm going to give you a few pointers, and show you how I removed the paper in a matter of days.
These are a couple of suggestions I was given
Chemicals: Firstly, I didn't want to pay for the industrial strength solvents that it would require to remove the paper. Moreover, I didn't even want to think of how bad they are for the environment, much less my health.
Fabric Softener: Yes, liquid fabric softener diluted with some water will remove the tar paper...very slowly. If you want to use this method, I would recommend doing it on a small area because it takes forever. You'll need to place 1/2 liquid fabric softener (I found the cheap dollar store stuff works better than top brands like Snuggle, etc.) and 1/2 water in a spray bottle. Saturate the paper and wait and hour or two. Keep saturating the paper if it looks like it's drying out. After a couple of hours you should be able to scrape it off with a putty knife. Repeat as needed.
The final frontier
After months of struggling with the fabric softener method, I did a little more research. I found a man who had used a wallpaper steamer to remove the tar paper. Apparently, he managed to clean the floor in a couple of hours with the steamer. Unfortunately, I don't have a steamer and didn't want to rent or buy one.
What I did was boil water on the stove and pour the hot steaming water over towels that I had laid out over the tar paper. I let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes, then pulled off the towel and started scraping. It came off like butter!
Some removal tips
Learn from my failed experiments
Over the last couple of months, I've tried just about household remedy to removed this tar paper. Some items were very helpful, others bordered on dangerous.
Tools that I found worked best were a flexible putty knife to remove the wet/steamed paper. Wider and stiffer knives would gouge the wood or only remove the tar paper in bits.
I also found that using a dry towel every time I would pour down more steaming water worked best. The dry towels hold the steaming water in place and allow it to work on the paper. When I would wring out each towel after use, I found that I was getting very tired very quickly and that water would only pool around the towel since it couldn't hold as much water. This made for a huge mess.
Rubber mason or garden gloves will be your salvation. This is all very rough on your hands. Plus, the hot water could scald you so protect yourself with some kind of rubber glove. I like the gardening gloves with the rubberized palms because you can throw them in the washer.
You can remove the small stubborn areas of tar paper and adhesive with hot water and scotch pads.
I would NOT recommend using a heat gun. I tried this, and let's just say it didn't work.
Photos of my progess
Below are some photos of the condition of our floors from start to finish. We still haven't sanded down the floors to have them refinished, but that is next.
I hope this information will help you and save you lots of time!
Linoleum tile covers tar paper
More linoleum tile
The dreaded tar paper
Beautiful hardwoods exposed!
Tell me about your flooring nightmares. Be sure to let me know if this worked for you or if you have other helpful ideas!