A 20AR removes multiple layers of adhesives (left side) and a single layer of adhesive (right side).
Mark Rossi A 20AR removes multiple layers of adhesives (left side) and a single layer of adhesive (right side).

If you own a concrete floor grinder, sooner or later the time will come when you’re asked to do an adhesive removal. How hard can it be to remove a little carpet glue or vinyl tile mastic?

If your grinder weighs 1,000 pounds and you think a little adhesive would be no match for your machine, think again. A challenging adhesive will gum up your tools and bring your production to a standstill. Sometimes, even a veteran contractor can get caught off guard by a difficult adhesive removal project, so don’t feel bad.

The good news is that with the right tools and knowledge, you can successfully tackle any flooring adhesive removal project.

Step 1: Know What You’re Getting Into

Visit the jobsite in person before quoting a price, and carry a razor blade scraper so you can dig into a few areas to see what’s below the surface. Examine the whole floor carefully, and observe if the flooring adhesive completely covers the concrete or lightly skims the surface.

Pay attention to the color of the adhesive. Old, black mastic tends to be the most difficult to remove; while dry, yellow carpet adhesive is less difficult. If you see multiple colors on the floor, it means there are multiple layers of adhesive, which will increase the difficulty of removal substantially.

The final characteristic to observe is whether the adhesive is wet or dry. A wet adhesive will be much more difficult to remove.

Tip: Take photos of the floor to document the condition. It will help you quote accurately and explain to the client what needs to be done. If the job doesn’t start for months, you will have a visual reminder of the project, so your crew can arrive prepared.

Step 2: Arrive with the Right Tools

The key to a successful adhesive removal, like any grinding project, is correct diamond tool selection. Based on your assessment, order the tools required before the job starts, so when you begin, you’re ready to go full steam ahead. Showing up unprepared will likely result in you running the incorrect tool, wasting valuable time and labor.

Here are three likely scenarios you might encounter.

Scenario 1: A light to very light flooring adhesive covering the floor; you see more concrete than adhesive.

A standard set of 30/40 and 18/20 grit tools should have you covered (assuming they’re good quality). Start with the 30/40, and only drop down to the 18/20 if the production is slow.

Scenario 2: A thick, single layer or multiple thin layers of flooring adhesives covering the floor; you cannot see any concrete.

A purpose-built adhesive removal grinding tool should be used. The benefit of using a tool like this is speed and capability: You will be able to remove thicker flooring adhesives without resorting to a PCD scraper and do it faster. Allow the tool 30 minutes to get up to speed before considering an alternative.

We developed our first adhesive removal grinding tool about eight years ago (the 20AR), and it has become the go-to tool for companies that regularly remove carpet, VCT, and wood flooring adhesives.

Scenario 3: Multiple, heavy layers of flooring adhesives and potentially other materials like thinset; you are unable to perform the removal efficiently (or at all) using a purpose-built, adhesive-removal grinding tool.

This situation will require a two-step process. Use a PCD scraper (GS4 for big grinders) to remove 75% to 85% of the flooring adhesive; then, follow with your adhesive removal grinding tool (20AR) and grind the floor clean. If done correctly, you will still achieve a high production rate and an excellent floor.

See “Maximize Your PCD Scraper Performance” for more information on selecting the correct PCD scraper for flooring adhesive removal.

Step 3: Wear the Right Safety Gear

Many older flooring adhesives contain asbestos, so it’s important to take precautions when doing adhesive removal projects. Dust masks rated at N100 should be used at all times—not just when changing vacuum bags—and, if possible, workers should wear disposable coveralls that can be discarded when the project is completed.

Buying safety gear online, in bulk, is a good way to keep costs down.

Take On Any Project

You are equipped with the basic knowledge to tackle any adhesive removal project. Every project will be a learning experience—embrace the challenges, and learn from your mistakes. Knowledge is power, success is a result of the effort you put in, and comfort zones are for retirement. Today is the day. Advance your business. Outthink the competition. Don’t sit idle.