If you’re looking to make changes to the flooring in a commercial building or home, you’ll likely run into mastic. Mastic is more than an average glue-like adhesive, and removal of mastic can pose a challenge for anyone—including experienced construction workers.
So how do you remove mastic in a way that won’t damage the flooring underneath and won’t cost you significant amounts of time and money?
What Is Mastic?
Mastic is a resin-based adhesive that comes from the mastic tree. Resin is flammable, super sticky, and viscous (meaning that it is so thick that it’s a cross between a solid and a liquid).
Mastic is used to set and adhere top flooring to the base underneath. It’s commonly found as a means of binding carpet, vinyl, or tile to the foundation floor of concrete, steel, or wood.
Why Remove Mastic?
There are two main reasons that you would need to remove mastic. First, if you are putting in new flooring, you will likely need to remove overlay floors and adhesive mastic to get to the base surface underneath. Fully and effectively removing mastic ensures that the new floor you put down won’t crack or have issues because of the dried adhesive. You also need to take off mastic if you want to polish or buff the concrete or wood foundation.
Second, you may be removing floors and adhesive for safety reasons. Older floors often used mastic that contained asbestos. This can be highly dangerous to workers and inhabitants inside the building. This “black mastic” can slowly affect your employees’ lungs and skin health. In this way, it’s important to test your floor adhesive for asbestos if you are working in an older building.
How Do You Remove Mastic?
The removal of mastic takes time and effort, because resin-based adhesives like to stick together and spread around. There are several ways to detach mastic, but mastic is a delicate material, so we prefer a delicate process of removal.
This is the process we often recommend:
Remove the top flooring. Rip up the carpet, tile, or vinyl carefully using the appropriate technique. Don’t forget to also remove any nails in the floor.
Soak the mastic in hot water. You can also use white vinegar mixed in with the water to further penetrate the adhesive properties of mastic. This soaking will help loosen the paste so that it’s easier to chip away. Keeping the floor wet can also help prevent possible asbestos from being released into the air through dry dust particles.
Chisel off the mastic. Once the mastic is wet, it should be easier to break off in chunks. You can use a hammer and chisel, a putty knife, or a scaler. Our favorite tool is the Novatek Vibration Reduced Scaler, which uses vibration-dampening technology to remove materials that contain anything from asbestos to lead-based paint. It’s also effective on steel, concrete, and wood, so it’s great for protecting the floors underneath while still effectively removing mastic. Also take a look at the Novatek Cylinder and Novatek Flat Tip Needles for an easy removal process.
After the mastic is lifted, polish the floor underneath. This will remove any remnants of adhesive and prep the base for the new flooring. Try the Diamabrush 100 Grit Polishing and Sanding Polymer Tool, which attaches to your other equipment so you don’t need separate machinery. We also recommend the Novatex Max Duty Coatings Removal disk, which is our most aggressive remover and polisher, and it’s used with a hook and loop backing pad.
This method takes time and elbow grease, but it’s the safest and most effective.
You can also try using a mastic remover, which dissolves the mastic into small chunks so it can be scraped up. However, these removers are often filled with chemicals, which is highly dangerous for workers. These solutions also make it harder to bond the new flooring on top.
Some people use heavy machinery to remove mastic and polish the floors underneath. While this can be effective, it can also be toxic. If asbestos is present, this process is not recommended because it will release the asbestos into the air, which can harm workers and seep into the walls causing long-term health issues.
Remember to always wear safety equipment when removing flooring and mastic—especially if the floor tests positive for asbestos. This includes a respirator mask, safety goggles, rubber gloves, and disposable suites.
Removing mastic is a lengthy process, but with the right tools and procedures, you can eliminate safety risks and install updated flooring with ease. Contact Floorcare with questions or concerns about your mastic removal procedure.