Removing tar paper

Q: I need to remove the tar paper and tar backing left behind while stripping my pine floors of years of layering from laminates. I believe this material was laid sometime in the 1940’s or 1950’s and it was adhered directly to the pine plank flooring. How do I remove this tar paper like material?

A: Never been down this road. Would it work to heat the tar paper with a heat gun, enough to soften it and cause it to release from the wood? You would still need to have the floors sanded after ward if you plan to use these as your finished floor.

Similar Q: My daughter and I just ripped up 2-3 layers of linoleum and have discovered old wood flooring. it seems to be in good condition and I would love to refinish it. Unfortunately, it looks like someone put down a layer of tar paper. I was just wondering if stripper would take the tar off? Or if there is a better way to do it? We can’t afford a professional at this time.

A: Mineral spirits will probably soften it enough to remove, but you have a mess in any case.

(If someone out there can provide an solid answer, please contact us! We can post your answer, with your name and a link to your site if you can provide information.)

Related Q: I live in an old house and someone put down glued tar paper, then tile, on top of the hardwood floor. We took of the tile and I started using stripper to take up the tar paper/glue, but it takes hours to let it sit and scrape, sit and scrape. Is there an easier way we can do this? We can’t afford to have someone do it and we rather like doing it ourselves. (By the way, we already did one floor- no tar paper, only tile/glue, and it looks fantastic!)

A: The ‘easier way’ is to hire someone who knows what they are doing and has spent the money for equipment to do it. Since you enjoy doing this, the amount of time spent should only increase your pleasure.

Related Q: I live in a home that was built in 1952. The house has original t&g pine floors. The floors are installed on 1×6 screeds held to the slab with tar. Looks like the covered the whole slab in tar and later in the screeds. I’ve the years the house has got water in it a few times and there are multiple layers of flooring on top of the original. We are about to start a remodel and I’m want to go all the way down to the slab and rip everything out. Is there a way to get the old tar up or should I just locate and replace all rotten screeds and go over everything with 3/4 OSB? I want to do this the right way.

A: Clearly you are making the correct choice by removing it all off, down to the concrete. There is no easy way to remove the tar I’m afraid. You could rent a powerful polisher type grinder with special heads but is it really worth it? You could fasten strapping with tap con screws or a Hilti gun if you have access to one. I’m not a huge fan of OSB. I guess it depends what you intend to be the finished floor. If it is anything nail down I would use 3/4 exterior plywood. As an option, but only if you are not installing a nail down floor is to use those 2X2 square panels that have OSB on the top and dimpled plastic on the backing…forget their proper name at the moment. But they are meant to go directly on the concrete. Make sure this basement is dry and it may be wise to allow ventilation under the sub floor to help move damp air that may accumulate underneath.

Similar Q: I am a contractor who is doing a kitchen remodel. I pulled up the old asphalt backed linoleum to expose oak hardwood flooring. The black asphalt is very adhered to the oak. Is there a product which loosens the asphalt (such as DIF for wallpaper)? Or is it a sanding only situation? Thank you for your time.

A: Sounds nasty. I don’t think you want to liquefy the stuff. I might try a heat gun to just soften it slightly (being careful not to start a fire) and see if you are able to get a putty knife under it and lift it off. If not it will be a nasty job with a floor sanding machine. Keep in mind if the flooring is only 3/8 thick strip it may not be worth while trying to save it.