If you decide to remove the vinyl sheeting to expose and restore the original timber flooring, then there are some challenges ahead. The vinyl sheeting has usually been glued to the underlay and can be a strenuous and time-consuming job to pull up and remove. Once the vinyl has been lifted, the hardboard underlay is exposed and it can be seen that the underlay has been fixed to the original timber flooring with metal U-shaped staples.
Sometimes it’s possible to lift the vinyl sheeting so that the hardboard underlay comes away with it, but it’s quite heavy and is best broken into manageable pieces as you go. It’s suggested that you wear a dust mask because of the fibers from the broken underlay and heavy gloves because of the metal staples that have been used to fix the underlay to the timber floor. These are very sharp and will enter fingers very easily.
Staples can be used at the rate of roughly 120 per square meter, so a room 6 square meters will have approximately 1500 staples that fix the hardboard to the timber floor, so if you’re doing 6 rooms, then there are going to be around the 10,000 staples that in the majority are going to be left in the original floor boards. They all have to come out, that’s the scary part! Quite often, the staples would be rusted and break off, but best practice is to get out as many as possible, because they can show after the floor has been polished as tiny silver specks.
I spent a fortune on trying different tools to get the staples out of the floorboards and none of them really did the job properly or were not easy to use. I found the following tool on a DIY forum and was amazed at how much easier it made the job. I’m not saying the job was easy, it certainly wasn’t; it was tedious and wrist aching, but the adjustable pliers did the job once I got the knack and some practice.
Try both sizes, but I prefer the larger one. The small one is good for broken stubs of staples. The technique I found best is to lock the pliers to the thickness of the staple. Push the pliers down vertically over the staple, then pull back with the jaws against the floor, and if you’re right-handed, then the knurled screw goes against the palm of your hand. Pull back slowly and gradually with a rocking motion, re-gripping lower on the staple if it doesn’t come out all at once.
Keep a bucket alongside you and drop the extracted staples into it, out of harm’s way. Get into a rhythm and a swing and you’ll make progress. It’s not a fast job, and you’ll get bored, but the floor sander will appreciate it, and you’ll appreciate the lack of shiny silver specks in your beautifully polished timber boards!