Floor Removal: How Much is Too Much?
By Dave Bigham, Global Director of Training,
National Flooring Equipment
Typically, flooring is removed for aesthetic reasons — like to match a company’s particular style or branding. For example, well known coffee shops require the same style of floor in each chain to ensure consistency. In homes and offices, the style of floor is typically decided by what’s is currently trending or to match the rest of the interior’s décor.
While it is common for contractors to remove some concrete along with the floor covering, it’s often small enough to go unnoticed. Still, major concrete damage can happen, contractors should understand when concrete requires repair and how to do it effectively.
The success of the new floor relies heavily on how contractors prepare the substrate. If concrete is left uneven, any floor laid on top cannot sit correctly and will need to be ripped up so that the substrate can be fixed. This adds time, creates unnecessary waste, and makes the job far more expensive than needed.
The hardness of concrete can sometimes be a factor in the level of damage seen during floor removal. Natural materials make up 70% of concrete mixture, and can vary based on the environment. For example, areas such as Tennessee and Ohio, where aggregate is made up of hard rocks like granite and quartzite, often have harder concrete compared to sandstone and limestone used in Florida and Texas. Other factors that affect concrete hardness include curing techniques, levels of hydration, and mineral additives in the mixture.
That means the degree of pressure the contractor uses affects the level of damage left behind. In areas with softer concrete, a lighter hand is needed to remove flooring and avoid removing chunks of concrete underneath. Before doing the job, contractors can visit the site and conduct a patch test — removing a small portion of flooring to assess the best method of removal, and get an idea of the concrete hardness ahead of time.
In most situations, concrete damage is due to tooling choice, rather than machine. If tools are used too aggressively or in the wrong way, contractors have to go back and repair it. It’s also not always just the type of flooring being removed that’s the issue. Older materials like asbestos adhesive requires specific PPE to avoid inhaling harsh chemicals, as well as heavy-duty tools to remove any excess residue, which can damage to the concrete underneath.
Repairing concrete damage
Once concrete has been damaged, there are a few ways contractors can repair the surface ready for new flooring to be laid on top. Adding a concrete topping or overlay can even out any dents or rivets, ensuring the new flooring can lay flat. This method is often used when large sections of the floor are damaged and need repair.
Alternatively, floor patches are particularly useful when only small parts of the floor are not level, to smooth out the uneven areas. However, floor patches are never as hard as regular psi concrete strength, so it’s common for these to be removed or damaged during future floor removal. Floor patches are difficult to see or aren’t always bonded correctly to the original concrete and therefore will need to be replaced before new flooring is laid down.
Just like choosing the right priming tool can improve a wall’s finish, knowing which tooling to use on each floor will ensure the concrete underneath is left intact. Even in situations where the concrete is affected, there are methods to prep the surface and avoid any imperfections to the floor once new material has been laid down.