I am in the process of removing vinyl tiles off of a cheap plywood looking floor in my bathroom. I am not sure how long they have been there but it's not just the adhesive I am having a problem with. The tiles don't want to come up at all. I am not real worried about getting up all the adhesive. I'm putting vinyl flooring down. I just cannot get the tile up. I'm trying to be cheap but want to do it so the other flooring will lay nicely. I have tried using hot vinegar and water but it's not working very well. It's just coming up in tiny pieces after hours of spraying it and trying to scrape it off with a putty knife. I'm not sure what to do.
Vinegar is not going to be effective at remove the tiles, but what is effective is a bigger tool. Since you are looking to save money, you might be able to get away with using a cheap scraper. It will look like a putty knife but a lot stiffer and have a wider blade. Then using a hammer (wear gloves and glasses), just start tapping the scrapper under the tiles to get larger pieces up.
Once these tiles are up, you will need to get your sub floor (the cheap plywood) to be smooth. If you got nail pops, rough areas from glue or gashes these will need to be leveled before you put the vinyl down. Vinyl is not very forgiving in hiding defects.
I highly recommend getting an oscillating multitool and rigid scraper attachment. You can get a corded oscillating multitool for around $50 and the scraper attachment for about $10.
Here's a video showing one tackling vinyl tile: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SyebrvFcOak
On my concrete basement floor with old, brittle tiles and very stubborn adhesive, I went from getting up 1 tile per half hour using handheld tools (a rigid handheld scraper and a push-broom style scraper with a 5" head) to 1 tile per 2 minutes with no fatigue. When I was using hand tools, I would switch back and forth between sitting with a handheld scraper and standing with the push-style to work different muscle groups when one set of muscles started to fatigue. The multitool was easily worth the money to me for not having to spend a few hours just to get up a couple tiles every day after work.
If the price tag still seems steep, here's another selling point on value: The oscillating mutitool I bought has since went on to become the most versatile tool in my tool kit. With just a couple more relatively inexpensive attachments, I have used it to:
- sand wood and drywall
- smooth/sand down rough sections of concrete
- perform punch cuts into drywall for outlet boxes
- cut out tile grout and brick mortar
- perform precision cuts in wood
Buy an ice chisel or roof shingle scraper (a 5 foot handle on a straight edge scraper, not serrated). Sharpen the edge if necessary. Push it firmly and slowly beneath the edge of the vinyl tile. Wiggle back and forth or slide it hard against the tile's bottom. Eventually the sharpened edge should slip beneath the tile and let you pry it up. You could do the same with a hand tool, but the large scraper should work better.
The scraper blade may cut into the plywood. If the divots are large / deep, you can patch with bondo or epoxy before laying the new surface.
As Kris said, a heat gun will help loosen the adhesive. Heat guns are all different. You want to try a heat setting that will heat up the tile enough so you can peel it off, but not so hot that you burn or char the tile.
With the heat gun, slowly heat up the tile and use sweeping motions over it, avoiding being too close to the work as well as holding the heat in one small area too long. Working from the edge of the tile, apply heat to it and begin to gently pry underneath it with a floor scraper. Once it is hot enough, it should allow you to start prying it up. Try to remove the tiles in as few pieces as possible, and remove as much backing paper and mastic as you can with the scraper.
Depending on the tile, it may have toxic chemicals in it, so you should have a good amount of ventilation. Some old tiles may even have asbestos in it, so using a mask would be a good idea if there is a chance of that.