How to Remove Particle Board Underlayment

  • 2-4 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-500
What You'll Need
Circular saw with saw blade the same thickness as the underlay
21-inch super bar
5-foot crowbar
Floor scraper
Protective gear (safety goggles, dust mask, hearing protection, hard-cover knee pads and heavy-duty leather gloves)

Particle board is an engineered composite wood product made from wood chips, sawmill shavings and sawdust glued together using a synthetic resin, which is then pressed and extruded. Particle board is a popular alternative to conventional wood and plywood as it is denser, more uniform and significantly cheaper. It is often used as underlayment to a continuous sheet of vinyl floor coverings since exposure to moisture causes it to expand and discolor.

If you are considering replacing your current tiling with something different, you will need to remove any pre-existing underlayment since not all materials will be compatible with the kind of tiles you intend to use. Underlayment is a layer of material between the sub-floor and the finished floor covering in your home, and is used for a variety of reasons – to provide a surface for glues and mortars to easily bond to without damaging the subfloor, to raise the surface of the floor and to reinforce the subfloor and framing system. Removing underlayment is an arduous task as particle board underlayment is usually both nailed and glued down to the subfloor. However, it is possible and doing it yourself would save a lot of money!

Step 1 – Preparing Yourself and the Room

Since cutting particle board releases a lot of wood dust which can irritate the eyes and respiratory system, it is essential that you wear safety goggles and a dust mask. Since you will be on your knees with a lot of nails, staples and screws on the floor around you, knee pads are also a must. Protect your hands from the saw with leather gloves. Before starting to remove the underlayment, remove all furniture from the room. Also remove any baseboards and trim using a pry bar.

Step 2 – Cutting the Underlayment

If the underlayment is glued down to the subfloor, it will be impossible to remove it without damaging the subfloor if you just attempt to pull it off. To reduce the possibility of this happening, use the circular saw to cut the particle board into 2x2 foot pieces.

Step 3 – Prying Up the Underlayment

Insert the flat end of the super bar into the edge of one of the saw cuts and start prying it up off the subfloor. Do this around the edges of the piece until you can fit the crowbar under the underlayment.

Step 4 – Loosening Fasteners

Use the crowbar to work around the edges of the piece before prying up the middle. Since particle board is relatively weak, it is possible that fasteners will pull through the underlayment and be left in the floor.

Step 5 – Removing Fasteners and Mortar

Remove fasteners left in the subfloor using the super bar. Gently remove any mortar on the subfloor using the floor scraper. Dispose of all waste immediately to avoid splinters or any more severe injuries due to sharp nails.