Carpet (glue) bombing...
June 10, 2005 6:39 PM   Subscribe

RenovationFilter: We just bought an old library out on the great plains. Yes, library. But that's not the point. It's a wonderful, hundred-year-old brick building. The floors are beautiful, straight-grained, old-growth fir. Unfortunately....

...some time in the mid-1950's, the town decided it would be an excellent idea to glue horrid industrial carpeting directly to the floors. We pulled up the carpet, but there is glue residue covering every square inch of the floor.

First, we tried scraping up the glue with a paint-scraper, to no avail. Next, we got a drum sander with 30-something-grit paper, and the glue just gummed it up within a few feet each time we ran it.

We switched to a 60-something-grit paper to try to sand it off a layer at a time, but we only got a little further before it gummed up completely.

We have well over 1300 square feet of floor to refinish-- is there anything we can do to this glue to weaken it (without harming the floors) so we don't have make multiple passes and go through literally hundreds of sheets of paper (at 2 bucks a pop)?

(FYI, we've tried: acetone, paint thinner, diluted paint thinner left on overnight, plain old powdered dishwasher detergent dissolved in water, and commercial adhesive remover.)
posted by dersins to Home & Garden (27 answers total)
goo gone?
posted by yonation at 6:49 PM on June 10, 2005

Response by poster: Sorry. Shoulda put Goo gone on the list. Put it on, let it sit for half an hour, and all it did was make things worse-- scraping by hand was still incredibly painstaking (i.e. inch-by-inch), and it gummed up the drum sander even worse than without it.
posted by dersins at 7:01 PM on June 10, 2005

posted by box at 7:09 PM on June 10, 2005

Isn't there some kind of mechanical device (sander or something similar... scraper-upper?) that you can run over the floor to plane it down?
posted by rxrfrx at 7:11 PM on June 10, 2005

Possibly some of the tips suggested here, or perhaps this product (in quantity), or this product might help you out.

(I found these and more by googling "glue residue removal wood" (without the quotation marks)).
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:18 PM on June 10, 2005

God, people are MONSTERS. That's horrible.

Do patch tests of:

Dry ice and scraping. (Yeah, way too intensive for 1300 square feet, I know.)
Steam or boiling water.
Krud Kutter.
Other water- and heat-based wackiness. Also? Head to Home Depot and be like, yo.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:26 PM on June 10, 2005

Wow. I hope one of Dr. Wu's products works. We've been using an infrared paint remover on the adhesive on our old oak makes it brittle and easier to get up. You might give the specialist at Dumond Chemicals a call and ask them for advice. They were very kind to me when I called about removing milk paint (a substance that hardens to wood like enamel.)

If worse comes to worse, I don't know what the Paint Shaver would do to the mess but it would be a great last ditch plan before you decide the floors can't be saved.

Best of luck. I'd love to see photos of your project if you have any...drop me a line at webmaster (at) houseblogs (dot) net if you have a moment.
posted by jeanmari at 7:29 PM on June 10, 2005

rxrfrx: "Isn't there some kind of mechanical device that you can run over the floor to plane it down?"

You could try a floor plane. (Do they still make floor planes? Stanley stopped producing the one in the link in 1923.) And I, too, would love to see some photos.
posted by box at 7:40 PM on June 10, 2005

Methylene chloride.
posted by Wet Spot at 8:09 PM on June 10, 2005

We had a similar glue mess, but it was on a terrazzo floor in our theater. After trying all kinds of chemicals and elbow grease, I ended up hiring a professional floor refinisher to come in and use a special drum sander that had carbide blades on it. With some care, a specialist should be able to remove the glue. Of course, the blades might eat into the wood a bit... so, in that case, you can always go back through and sand the scratches out with your 60 grit sandpaper. Then you can refinish the floor to your liking.
posted by bjork24 at 8:15 PM on June 10, 2005

We just bought an old library out on the great plains.

Oooh, set up a photoblog please please please.

As to the goo, there are machines, usually called carpet removers, made for shaving carpet and linoleum off of wooden floors. They are big suckers sort of like floor sanders, but have flat vibrating blades than run parallel to the floor. I can't recall the name and can't seem to google one. But a rental center will know what you are talking about. Oh wait, here is a handheld model.

My neighbor used one to cut a couple of layers of linoleum off his old floors and was pleased as punch that it also took off most of the adhesive, with hardly a nick in the floors. Maybe it would scrape most of the glue off your floors.
posted by LarryC at 8:34 PM on June 10, 2005

What you want is Peel Away 5. What you don't want is to be anywhere near the stuff. Christ it's nasty - but it works.
posted by nicwolff at 8:36 PM on June 10, 2005

How about a heat gun to soften the adhesive? This can still be a time consuming process, but if one of the other answers above doesn't nail it, I think you're in for a sloow and detailed job.
posted by tomble at 8:38 PM on June 10, 2005

Best answer: We had that kind of guck all over our floors, too. My only suggestion: know your limitations. Call a professional.

The time and energy you'll save by not trying to do it yourself could be well worth the price. We spent two weeks scraping glue and fifty year old linoleum. Floor guy did it in a day.
posted by ColdChef at 8:40 PM on June 10, 2005

Is the glue gummy at room temperature? If not, then hosing water onto the area being sanded while sanding it could keep it cold instead of gummy, preventing it from gumming up the sanding disk, but instead be removed as desired.

Another trick I learned for a different but potentially similar problem is putting oil (eg aerosol WD40) on the sanding surface. (and frequently pause to replenishing it).
posted by -harlequin- at 8:53 PM on June 10, 2005

Could you pull up the floor, flip it over, plane that side and lay it back down, glue-side down? Wouldn't be all that much more work than you've already put into it, no?
posted by jmgorman at 8:56 PM on June 10, 2005

flip it over

now we're thinking outside the box!

i had a small section of glue on a floor I resanded and found the only way was with a good stiff putty knife and lots of brusing to the heel of my hand.

i don't envy you, but I think the carpet scraper machine / floor plane sounds the most promising.
posted by jacobsee at 9:01 PM on June 10, 2005

Here we go: Flooring Removal Machines.

Now will you share some pictures?
posted by LarryC at 9:06 PM on June 10, 2005

I third the picture request! I know this isn't germane but: what are you going to do with an old library?! I hope there'll be a labyrinth involved somehow.
posted by soviet sleepover at 9:19 PM on June 10, 2005

Yahh.. this sounds like a professional job. Even if there is some machine out there that eats glue for breakfast (LarryC link), it's likely going to cost a fortune, and even if you rent it, a knowledgable operator will get better results.

On second thought.. A buffing pad designed for paint removal - an extra course grade of pad similar to the ones used for cleaning linoleum floors. If they exist, a metal one. Your problem is that you had sand paper, and it doesn't allow the dust to pass through. If rough steel wool takes it off, maybe there's a pad which will work.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:42 AM on June 11, 2005

I just read Wet Spot's comment and link re: methylene chloride.

Don't use this stuff. It's very nasty, and is absorbed through the skin, or through your lungs. 1300 sq. feet of it indoors is almost certainly going to produce a harmful exposure.

I think cold chef is right; get a pro to do it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:52 AM on June 11, 2005

I, too, want pictures and the story of what you're going to do with the library!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:04 AM on June 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks for all the great suggestions. I'm overwhelmed by the number of really helpful responses.

Unfortunately, I think that our final decision has to be dictated by geography: the library is in central Nebraska. Neither I, nor the person with whom I own it, live within 1200 miles of it.

Unfortunately, this means that trips out there are all too rare. Which means that neither of us is really going to have the time to put a lot of these great suggestions to the test. Which means, in turn, that we're probably going to have to make our respective bank accounts very unhappy by hiring someone to do it for us.

Many of you have asked, in effect, "Old library? WTF?" Some of your questions are answered here, in a page put up by the person with whom I bought the library. Additional pictures (pre-ripping up the carpet) can be found here.

The initial purchase was made with the intention of creating a vacation home / writing retreat. (After all, what better place to write the Great American Novel than in an old library in a small town in the great plains...) Now there is some talk of creating a non-profit artists in residence-type foundation for food writing. But this idea is in its infancy. Who knows.

Sorry to turn this into chatfilter. I know, I know, I need to GMOBFW.
posted by dersins at 8:52 AM on June 11, 2005

I'm not sure about the rules as to chatfilter when it's your own thread (I presume you're given greater leeway) but thanks for sharing the story/pix. I had nothing to offer but was interested in the endeavour and suggestions. How about a MeTa update when things are all sorted out?
posted by peacay at 3:13 AM on June 12, 2005

i had to get this stuff off a set of wooden stair steps (open stairs, each step had carpet wrapped round and glued on). and the glue was on top of various layers of paint, of a very odd consistency.

the only solution i found was to use very coarse sanding disks - the kind you use with an electric drill. one disk would clean about 1m^2, require maybe an hour's work, and - at least until i got better at the process - risked taking large semi-circular chunks out of the wood. it was an exhausting, frustrating process.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:05 AM on June 12, 2005

why not pay for an internet connection and let someone like me live there a year or two? i bet there are bunch of people who would be willing to renovate the place slowly for a place to stay and perhaps a small allowance (maybe others wouldn't make a connection to the internet a condition for doing so). obviously you'd need to negotiate some kind of timetable and pay for materials, but it might end up cheaper than paying for a professional. and you'd get a guard for free.

ps the sanding disks were a kind of structured weave, not coarse sandpaper.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:10 AM on June 12, 2005

Response by poster: Although I am no longer an owner of this awesome building (sniff...sniff...), I thought I'd post an update here anyway. My now-former fiancee, with whom I had purchased the building, ended up hiring a professional to refinish the floors, and he did a lovely job.

Some photos can be seen accompanying this article. (bugmenot)
posted by dersins at 2:59 PM on May 30, 2006

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