Instructables
The previous owner of our house, unfortunately, tried to "renovate" and "improve" the recently refinished and refurbished original clear-vertical-grain fir floors by sticking self-adhesive vinyl tiles to them to create "area rugs" of faux parquet and faux marble. After scraping, heating, and using a variety of solvents, I hit upon this far easier and relatively non-toxic method: dry ice.
 
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Step 1: Materials

30 lbs dry ice
waxed or parchment paper
hand towel or rags
small flexible putty knife


Step 2: Arrange dry ice

Picture of Arrange dry ice
Open a few doors and windows. Consider turning the fan on. While the CO2 gas from the evaporating dry ice isn't poisonous, it is heavier than air and not usefully breathable. Small children and cats, being closer to the ground, can suffocate if the CO2 is allowed to accumulate.

Tear off a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper large enough to cover a tile and overhang an inch or two on each side.

While wearing insulating gloves, arrange the chunks of dry ice on top of the paper to cover the offending tile. Cover the ice with a towel or two to insulate it.

Wait 2-3 minutes. Read a book, like I did. Often, you can hear an audible "pop" when the tile comes loose.


Step 3: Repeat


Use the piece of paper, pulling on the edge, to reposition the dry ice to the next, more offensive, tile.

Use the scraper or putty knife to lift the previous tile. Often, you can just lift the tile up with your fingertips. Put the tile in a bag or box. If left on the floor, it will soon re-adhere itself.

Step 4: Repeat until the floor is clean


If you aren't bored enough, attack what little adhesive remains after a tile removal with the putty knife, while it is still cold.
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Dr_Stupid3 years ago
What's wrong with the good ol' fashioned elbow-grease method? We have become so LAZY in the 21st century.
aeray (author)  Dr_Stupid3 years ago
I'm no stranger to elbow grease, but I also enjoy using my brain now and then.
DIY-Guy aeray3 years ago
Thanks to the author for a super clean and no-toxic-residue method without solvents!

Lack of brain fluid usually leads people to apply unnecessary amounts of elbow grease.

Fill 'er up, with cerebral fluid please!
aeray (author)  DIY-Guy3 years ago
Thanks for the comment!
canida3 years ago
This is absolutely brilliant! I wish I'd known this while removing the "improvements" from my previous house's floors - scraping was miserable.
Thank you for sharing.
aeray (author)  canida3 years ago
Thanks. Scraping is definitely miserable, that's what led me to this. I bet you'll remember next time though.
pmckee8 months ago
Does anyone know if this works with the troweled on adhesive?? I've got a room about 14x25 that is full of these amazing vinyl floor tiles. They are really on there too!
aeray (author)  pmckee8 months ago
It depends on the adhesive, but it I'd give it a shot.
EmmettO3 years ago
Huh, I've demolition tons of vinyl tile, but never thought to use cold. I didn't realize the glue would be cold sensitive. Still, unless I had a lot of dry ice available, (which may not be unreasonable) this would be too slow for me to do commercially.

I wonder if it would work any differently on concrete floors?

These look like the self stick variety of tile which has pretty weak glue in the first place. I wonder if this would work with commercial grade VCT glue?
It definitely works on concrete floors and with commercial grade mastics. This is one of the methods asbestos abatement workers use to remove vinyl asbestos floor tile without rendering it friable (the other is using infrared heat machines).

They use the pelleted version of the dry ice and a push broom. They let a pile sit, push it forward with the broom and pick up the popped tile, and repeat until done.
ringai sleeepy22 years ago
Thanks! I was hoping to find a comment about just that. My basement has two layers of that crap. Now I know how to deal with it.
aeray (author)  ringai2 years ago
Some before-and-afters would be appreciated.
sleeepy2 aeray2 years ago
Here's a "during".
tile.jpg
aeray (author)  sleeepy22 years ago
Awesome. How's it working?
sleeepy2 aeray2 years ago
It usually works well, when you take your time. The picture is of asbestos abatement workers, who do not like to take their time. Also, double layers of tile can be difficult at times.

As a further safety note, if the tile is 9x9, it's almost always asbestos-containing, so try to avoid excessive breakage. 12x12 can contain asbestos, but is less likely.
ringai sleeepy22 years ago
Nice tip on the sizes. Thanks!
aeray (author)  sleeepy23 years ago
Good to know! Thanks for the info. Hopefully EmmettO tries it.
EmmettO aeray3 years ago
Now all I have to do is find dry ice. :) It's not always available by me.
Johenix EmmettO3 years ago
Some years ago in the 1950's-60's Popular Science published this same tip but without the parchment paper.

Personally, I would put the dry ice in a rectangular metal cake pan and drag it from tile to tile with a string.
aeray (author)  Johenix3 years ago
I initially used a cake pan, but it dissipated the cold too much, and took a long time to chill the tile.
aeray (author)  EmmettO3 years ago
These are the cheapo self-adhesive ones. I don't know if it will work with trowel-on. Let me know if you try it.
As for it being slow- it seems slow, waiting around for the glue to pop, but when you take into account the time saved NOT having to scrape or scrub glue residue off the floor, it's pretty fast.
Sunnedaez2 years ago
This is an extraordinary idea and I am going to try it on a job coming up. What was the square footage of the areas of tile you had to remove? The job I have is 6 feet by 12 feet = 72 sqft.. I don't think 30 pounds of dry ice will be enough.
aeray (author)  Sunnedaez2 years ago
My space was about 8' x 20', so 160sq.ft.
Keko2 years ago
I have done this. The nutcase that put the tiles down used about and inch of glue. It took me an entire weekend to sand it off. Golly.
jsadler13 years ago
Poisonous is a misleading concept in dealing with CO2. It is true that it kills differently than CO but if you reach a 23% concentration of CO2 it will kill you. Thirty pounds of dry ice in a small room might reach that level.
aeray (author)  jsadler13 years ago
As I noted, it isn't poisonous, but it can kill you.
Here's a question - Do you think this genius idea could work with 2 layers of vinyl at once? A previous owner poorly did our kitchen floor.
aeray (author)  saxmaster7653 years ago
I don't see why not, although you might have to concentrate on one layer at a time. Try it and let me know.
sampowell3 years ago
You can also use a wall paper steamer if the tile is on concrete. You get a bit of water. Use a spatula to pick up the hot, limp tiles. The dry ice method can be expensive.
The only other clean way I can think of doing this is with a heat gun and putty knife. The way you showed us here is the best way, and I plan on trying it. Good job!
ryry20113 years ago
5 worthless
aeray (author)  ryry20113 years ago
5* stars for "worthless"? Wow, and petty.
ryry2011 aeray3 years ago
what is the point of it
aeray (author)  ryry20113 years ago
Apparently your reading comprehension is a little lacking.
ryry2011 aeray3 years ago
ok
This is helpful, unlike anything where you show people how to put together knex pieces...
dianesswi3 years ago
Cool idea!
I'll keep this in mind for when we tackle the hideous "cork" tiles in our foyer.
aeray (author)  dianesswi3 years ago
I'd love to see some before-and-after photos.
naomi14313 years ago
I wonder if this would work for vertical tiles--on a wall? Anyone tried it?
aeray (author)  naomi14313 years ago
What kind of tiles? What kind of substrate? How are you planning on keeping the dry ice up on the wall? It may work, but more details will help too.
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