Behind the scenes of floor removal

by Francesca

When people renovate their homes, we’re often most excited to see the end result — forgetting that it leaves us with a pile of plaster, cut offs and drywall to clear up. The same can be said for industrial floor removal, where clients often concentrate more on the final floor, rather than the logistics of the work. So, what actually happens to the materials that are left over? Here, Dave Bigham global director of training at surface preparation equipment manufacturer National Flooring Equipment explains best practice for floor removal and how to avoid excessive waste.

A lot of importance is put on surface preparation and best practice for effective floor removal, but not much attention is given to the aftermath left behind. Floor removal creates a significant amount of waste for contractors to remove, so it’s important to know what to do with it.

Waste removal

There are a wide range of materials that are used for floors and the disposal method differs depending on the type of covering. Materials like wood, laminate and tile, for example, are typically dumped at landfill. Concrete on the other hand, must be recycled  because it does not disintegrate. Instead, we can repurpose concrete into substrates for roadways and parking lots, compacting the material and placing it on roads before adding coverings such as asphalt.

While it would be more sustainable to recycle more materials, it can often be difficult in these applications. Firstly, the way the material is removed can impact disposal options. Flooring is often cut into small sections to help machines effectively remove every inch of flooring. This means that materials like sheet vinyl and tile are removed in tiny pieces, essentially destroying them and making it impossible to reuse for another floor.

Another reason floors cannot be recycled is due to the adhesive. The residual glue that is left on materials prevent it from being recycled into something new, even if the material itself is recyclable.

Removal safety

During floor removal, contractors must wear protective clothing like face masks to minimise dust inhalation. There is a big risk of respiratory problems due the level of dust in the air, so avoiding spreading dust is essential. Contractors often use dust collectors or extractors to filter and process into clean air that is deposited back. Other ways that make the clean-up safer and easier include using floor sweepers to collect debris and polishers to scrub and buff the floor surface.

When removing flooring, it’s usually the job of the contractor to safely dispose of any waste. Before taking the job, contractors should look at the floor first and inspect it, not only to know which tools, like tip shanks, would work best but also get an idea of what is underneath the floor.

Reusing floors

While flooring waste cannot be reused for brand new floors, there are ways to avoid sending it to landfill. Our training centre for example, uses a lot of materials when demonstrating how efficiently our machines can remove flooring.

Buying new materials knowing it’ll be torn up is not cost-effective and creates a lot of unnecessary waste, so instead we go to recycle or ‘salvage’ centres to find second-hand materials. Recycling centres often supply materials found during floods, or stock small batches of materials that businesses can no longer sell.

These facilities offer businesses or homeowners a cheaper way to source materials, particularly when restoring homes. People can also find a variety of vintage and retro styles that aren’t typically sold for a fraction of the price of brand new options. While this isn’t used to replace industrial flooring, it is a sustainable option to send excess materials to if contractors want to avoid adding even more waste to landfills.

While the clean-up is most people’s least favourite part of a renovation, it’s important to understand the right way to dispose of the leftovers.

Need advice on best practice for floor removal? Contact the experts at National Flooring Equipment by visiting

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