How to strip vinyl backing for wooden floors

Ya girl tries DIY

What we did, and how we went about restoring wooden floorboards with a vinyl cardboard backing. Lots of pictures are included as requested :)

Equipment needed:

1x Floor stripper

1x Hammer

1x Pliers

1x Crowbar

2x Wallpaper steamers

3x Scrapers

1x Extension cord

4x Black rubbish bags

1x Dust mask (per person)

1x Dust suit (per person)

1x Ear protection (per person)

Naplock bars for doorways at the end



So here’s the thing; I despise carpet. I don’t like that it can be stained, I don’t like that it can never really be truly cleaned unless you steam it and rug doctor it or do something extreme. I also have a dust allergy, and I don’t like how much dust resides in carpet. Bacteria can live in carpet up to and over four weeks, as can bed bugs, and the worst fact of all that really shook me - knowing our home used to be a rental - is that people shed roughly 1.5 million skin cells a day. NO THANK YOU. If I want to show off some dance moves or read on the floor in a sunny spot, the last thing I want is to be rolling around in others peoples old, dead, skin.

Adam, on the other hand, loves carpet. He loves getting his little toes in it and feeling the plush wool under his feet. This is why we kept the carpet in the bedroom (I’m still against it), I’ll come back to this later*.


When we bought our home, my one thing was that we had to rip up the carpet, granted it was only two years old, but I wasn’t bugding. Because our house was built in the 1960’s, there was a good chance of wooden floorboards being under the carpet. However, until we took ownership, legally we weren’t within our rights to check. We did admittedly lift up a corner of carpet - however we knew we could always staple it back down (yes, carpet is literally stapled). This is what we found:


We called in our flooring guys from Four Star Flooring to come out and have a look; what Paul found when he scratched this cardboard/paper stuff back, was likely wooden floorboards. In saying that, we didn’t know if it was just the one floorboard and the rest of the floor was some other material: we had no idea. So we had to decide, do we risk ripping everything up to find out that there’s no floorboards, OR do we risk it and potentially have beautiful floorboards people will talk about for centuries? We went with the second option.


That lead us to our next problem. Because our home was built in the 1960’s, asbestos was commonly used. GREAT. We asked the previous owner her thoughts as she’d owned the property for years, she said she didn’t think there would be any in the living room, but the bathroom and kitchen were likely to have asbestos because they have lino. That’s when we decided to avoid those two rooms, just because at the time we thought it was likely we would do a full renovation and could take care of the asbestos then. Plus, we had a tight timeline. We took ownership of the property 6 December, we had the stainers and sanders booked the 12th at 11am, and we moved in the 15th of December. The 6th was a Wednesday, and since Adam had work, that ruled out workers coming until Thursday morning (because we had to rip the carpet up and see what was under it), which would give them Thursday, Friday and Monday to remove everything from the floors.


Four Star Flooring said in order for them to find a labourer to remove the vinyl paper backing off of the potential floorboards, the material would have to pass an asbestos test. Long story short, our floor passed the test, which we’re grateful for because removal of asbestos is upwards of $3,500-20,00. The test was roughly $120-$200, you take a sample in a plastic bag and ship it off to Capital Environmental Services Ltd - CES.

In the meantime, while we waited for the 6th of December to roll around, we investigated ways to remove the mysterious cardboard vinyl backing stuff off of floorboards - just in case of the rare chance that we did have floorboards and Four Star Floorers hadn’t found someone to do the work.


Spoiler: They didn’t find anyone. Therefore, I decided I would do it. How hard could it be? Besides, I felt I had to prove to Adam how badly I wanted wooden floors and man up to the task.



The day we took ownership, Adams parents came over and we ripped up the carpet, here’s what we found.





Under the carpet had previously (most likely) been vinyl. And unbelievably, it was this colour: yellow with black marbling.

Unfortunately for us, that meant what we’d been afraid of: Vinyl backing had been glued to the wooden floorboards. We looked up what to do when this happened like this link here on bunnings site: How to remove vinyl floor



The vinyl paper backing was throughout the lounge and two hallways. BUT WE HAD FLOORBOARDS. We were ecstatic - we didn’t know if they were flame matai or rimu, but it didn’t bother us, we knew our home had potential.

Note* Underlay is not ideal, as you can see ours had stains and filled the room with dust AKA skin cells. Yum. Moving on.



Having removed the carpet and underlay the previous night and finding we had floorboards (yay!) we went to Kennards and hired out a wallpaper steamer. We’d researched enough to think that the cardboard vinyl backing was typically glued to floorboards to crate an even surface for the vinyl to be laid on, so we decided a wallpaper steamer, which releases steam, would soften the glue and paper so we could scrape it off.


We arrived at the house at roughly 7:45am, Adam plugged in the steamer which takes about 10 minutes to heat up, and using all of his strength was able to scrape off the cardboard backing. I was very disheartened. It was really hard work.



I tried scraping for about 30 minutes and was reduced to tears thinking I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I called Adam who suggested removing every single staple from the underlay that was left in the cardboard backing because they went through to the floorboards and would need removing regardless. So, I spent my entire first day using pliers to remove hundreds of hundreds of staples and also (because I’m an overachiever) removed all the wooden edging that the carpet had been attached too. Even with the odd spider and bug flying into my face and attacking me. I worked from roughly 8am-3pm, when I finished removing 95% of the staples and all the wooden edging. (The way you remove it is by using a crowbar and hammering it under the nail, then I used my body weight and strength to slam it down and pop the nails up).



I then had to scoot off to the annual QT Hotel Christmas event, where I may have had one too many oysters and too good of a great time with the best of Wellington’s bloggers (pictured below). And for those of you who don’t know #thesquad these are some of the sweetest, smartest and most talented people I’ve met through the gram in Wellington - they’re seriously amazing people.




THURSDAY. Luckily, I was ever-so-slightly hungover from the evening before which gave me the motivation to kick some floor-ass! Adam and I went to Kennards bright and early at 7am to pick-up an extra wallpaper steamer and floor stripper which I insisted on because it’s basically a blade that sits a few mm into the cardboard and as you push it forward, it shakes and removes all the big, hard paper. Literally the perfect machine to easily remove the cardboard backing, however it’s about 69kg to push and is very loud.


I had to call in for backup.


I called my mother and brother in for some good ol’ family bonding! We’d never been the classic kiwi DIY family so I thought it was a great time to start! Because of my allergies, I insisted on wearing a dust mask and to keep my clothes free from glue I opted for a full body suit, mum also opted for a dust mask (we had surplus from the ‘05 bird flu scare), and Sean was fine sans mask. Luckily, he’d thought ahead and brought earplugs and noise cancelling headphones (if you’re reading this I still have your black pair) which were an absolute treat for my ever-so-slight hangover.


By mid-morning, I was a pro at steaming and scraping; the trick was to leave the steamer on the floor long enough the cardboard was saturated and the glue was completely melted.


I rotated the steamer so it was always steaming and I was always scraping, while Sean used the floor stripper to remove the thickest parts of the cardboard that the steamer had difficulty with. If you plan to do your own floors and can’t find a floor stripper, the next best option is to use the scraper, serrate diagonally along the cardboard so the steam goes in through the cuts and lifts the paper upwards. Mum was the designated sweeper - which is a key role! As Sean and I would scrape and strip, there’d be so much excess on the ground that with all the glue and wires it very quickly got in the way, so she swept it away and into black rubbish bags. Afterwards she helped remove staples and helped me with scraping - despite the heat. To be fair she also had a go at the floor stripper... all help was appreciated.

We saved a few thousands of dollars doing this ourselves, but because we’re not professionals BY ANY MEANS (you’ve got a creative, pilot, and governance advisor) there was the odd boo-boo.

It’s also worth mentioning that, as you know we chose our house because it has 24/7 sun, however it was very uch unappreciated during this period. Not only was there very little wind, we were inside a tiny house the sun streams through, sans air conditioning, I personally was wearing a full cotton bodysuit and socks and shoes (health and safety as were we all), and not to mention we had steamers on full blast. Personally, I prefer the heat over the cold anytime and felt like the sweating really helped detox my now-non-existent hangover, but it got to the point where my lululemon’s were soaked, like I’d been in hot yoga. Sean had to go shirtless and needless to say we were looking like that guy from the Fountain of Sweat ad. To be fair I had great skin the following month or so and Sean was extra shredded.


As a token of our appreciation, Adam and I took mum and Sean to lunch, after which we carried on and Adam went back to his comfy, air-conditioned office.


Adams mum (who’d been painting the entire kitchen throughout this whole time) finished painting and was then able to help Sean, mum and I, which really sped things up! By 5pm, we’d removed all the additional staples, all the thick cardboard and most of the paper.


That first day we took the floor from having thick cardboard, to this light paper layer.




At the end of the day, a cold shower couldn’t have been more appreciated or warranted back at our Courtenay Place flat, that night we had Christmas Secret Santa with the babies; Love Welly, Wellingnoms and Capital Eats at Crab Shack, where I also bumped into the gorgeous Sophie Howden too! Following which, Adam and I ordered UberEats at home - thankyouuuuu!


Saturday, Adam decided to join in and help, but all we really had to do was go around the skirting boards with the wallpaper steamer and try to get as much glue off as possible, we were worried it could block up the sander if it got heated.



*This is where I come back to the carpet. While we worked away, I peeped under the carpet that we'd left in the bedroom AND SHOCK HORROR it was perfectly beautiful floorboards. No cardboard. No glue. No paper. Relentless, Adam wanted carpet in the bedroom even though everyone on the 'gram and myself voted against against it.

Anyway, regarding the glue and fine paper, we were told (for next time? no) this step was unnessecary, much to my excitement we managed to return all the equipment by 2pm. Done and dusted!





We both went to the house early in the morning to meet the sanders and stainers, we deliberated between whitewash and dark stain, Adam wanted light and I’d initially thought dark but was being slowly being persuaded to the light side, until we came to the final resolution it would be just a bit too ‘hamptons’ and vanilla for us. We went with our initial gut instinct of dark staining. We specified we wanted “...dark mahogany, but visible grain” (and of course we had a pinterest board of images to show them) so we didn’t have block-coloured black floorboards. Then I went home to work and finish packing the rest of the flat up for our move Friday the 15th!


This is what the floor looked like after it had been sanded, which Adam then worked into photoshop quickly so we could get a real idea of the staining with the painting (being done the following week whilst we were in Auckland).




And THIS is what it looked like freshly stained!



If you want to see the rest of the house and final outcome, head over to It's great to be home.


To be honest, even though it was basically 40 degrees of hard labour, I'd totally do it all again. I get to look at my hard work and rub it in Adam's face everyday... no! Just kidding. A little. It is SUPER satisfying looking at the floors daily, knowing it took only a few days of my time (and everyone else's!) I had so much fun bonding with family, AND we saved a few thousand dollars doing it ourselves. Definitely all about the DIY life!


Any questions sing out!


Chat soon,


S x


P.S. I just want to note that whilst writing this, Adam asked if I was "...going to be straying away from 'the glamorous side of it' all..." - excuse me, which part of being on all fours all day covered in glue with a dust suit and mask on, literally scraping at the floor was glamorous? Or did he mean the part where he went back to work after lunch and had air-con? Cos that was glam AF.