removing vinyl tiles on top of hardwood floor

I just bought a home that was built in the 60's. After pulling the carpet up, I discovered an ugly vinyl floor underneath. However, much to my pleasant surprise it appears there is what could be a beautiful hardwood floor under the vinyl tiles.
Unfortunately, only one of the tiles was loose, the rest seem to be very securely glued to the hardwood floor.
Anyone have any ideas on the best way to remove the vinyl tiles? I've been able to remove them with a putty knife, but it took about an hour just to remove a few tiles.
Thanks!
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Wow.
Boy, I'd have to think that in terms of effort to restore that it might just be a lot cheaper to install new hardwood. It's not really THAT expensive, and it sounds like you're talking about a boatload of labor to even get to those hardwood floors. And whatever solvent might help make the tile removal go easier probably isn't the sort of thing you'll want to breath during the requisite belt sanding of the floor underneath.
A putty knife of course is one of the hardest ways to go though. A standing scraper is what you might want better. Or there are these nifty flooring removal machines (saw one on PBS this past weekend, used where they pulled up commercial glued carpet from an office space rehab probject) that are essentially a winch and platform that has something that can dig to the flooring. You get a free end of the vinyl or glued down carpet, and clamp on a metal piece to attach to the cable, and then on the other end of the room you have the platform winch thingee, and the winch pulls the free end of teh flooring toward the winch/platform, pulling the flooring up along the way. If that works, you'll just be left sanding through the old dried glue which while unpleasant might not be too too awful.
Before trying it myself, I'd have some hardwood refinishing cats out there to estimate what it would cost for them to do it, and maybe you can pick up some pointers that'd be helpful in your decision on how/whether to attempt this.
Best Regards, -- Todd H. http://www.toddh.net /
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On 9 Nov 2005 15:45:41 -0800, "Captain Clueless"

A floor stripper machine (essentially a motor driven putty knife) will probably make a mess of the hardwood. They are mostly suitable for plywood or concrete. A manual floor stripper (a wide, stiff blade on a pole) would be faster than a putty knife and if handled carefully, might not damage the wood too much. Take a file and round the corners of the blade so they don't did in as much.
You could try heat or cold. Heat applied with a heat gun will soften the tile and adhesive and make removing them a little easier. Still slow going. Cold, applied via dry ice (you can often get a small amount from baskin & robbins) freezes the tile and adhesive and makes some kinds of adhesive brittle enough to pop the tiles right off. I've had this work on tiles glued to concrete; never tried it on wood. You have to be very careful handling dry ice, it will freeze your skin in an instant. And it gives off CO2 (doh!) so have ventilation. (I know CO2 isn't harmful, but if you have enough of it...) Ventilation and a respirator is a good idea if you use heat too; it smells terrible while you are doing it and I'm sure it can't be good for you.
Either way you're going to have a mess with the adhesive left behind. You can buy chemical strippers designed to remove the adhesive. They are just a form of strong paint stiripper and make a huge mess, but you have to remove the adhesive before you sand the floor or you will pay a fortune in gummed up sandpaper.
I'd remove enought of the tile in different spots to make sure the floor underneath is worth all the trouble and expense. There is often a reason people cover them up. (But just as often, people do stupid things like cover nice floors with vinyl!)
Good luck, let us know what worked (and didn't)
Paul
PS: Dog or Cat pee might work...not sure you want to go that route though!
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Try a heat gun on low temp. If you are lucky they are self sticking and will come right up. If they have black glue under you are in for a challenge.
If you can get them up the floor can be sanded to look like new.
Been there and done that more than once.
Colby
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First - thank you to everyone for the helpful information.
Now some updates. Yes, it most likely would be quicker (and maybe less expensive) to simply cover the floor with a new high quality laminate floor - but since I have the time, and the inclination, I'm going to restore the existing floors.
Also, I tried using heat (as several suggested) to help remove the tiles. To my pleasant surprise, a heat gun and and scrapper blade are actually making pretty short work of the job.
The biggest problem slowing me down now is removing the THOUSANDS of staples in the floor (from where the carpet installers stapled the padding to the hard wood floor).
Lastly, I need to deal with the glue residue that is left behind after the tile removal. I'll let you know how that goes when I get to that part of the project.
Overall, HEAT seems to be a very effective tool to loosen the tiles for removal.
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