How to Remove Bitumen from Wooden Floorboards

So I had what seemed like an impossible task. Stripping the bitumen from the original Victorian floorboards.

Back in the Victorian era people used to put a large rug / carpet in the middle of the room and paint around the edges with a bitumen / tar type substance. This is a massive challenge to strip back.

Sanding doesn’t work

Sanding it doesn’t work. The tar melts and smudges and clogs up the sanding belts. I searched Google for days looking for some help, but there wasn’t a lot of info. People ask the question, but don’t really get a real answer.

White spirit doesn’t work. Nitromors strips a tiny bit off but not a lot, plus it’s pretty darn expensive.

Tonight I’ve found something that works.

TAR REMOVER is the answer. It cost me £1.99 for 375ml from B&Q. The Nitromors was about £12 for the same amount.

How to remove the horrible black stuff

Tar remover is your friend (test an inconspicuous area first jut to be sure!)

tar remover

Step 1: Pour some tar remover onto the abrasive side of a kitchen scourer

pour tar remover onto scourer

Step 2: Rub it into the floorboards vigorously

rub into floorboards

Step 3: Scrub the floorboards vigorously with a wire brush

scrub floor with wire brush

Step 4: Use a shave hook on worse areas

scrape with shave hook

Step 5: Brush the wood shavings away

brush the evil stuff away

Step 6: Repeat steps 1-5

Step 7: Wipe with white spirit

before

after

It takes a LOT of elbow grease. I probably did the equivalent to one whole floorboard in 2 hours. You have to scrub like crazy, but it actually works.

This should now be good enough to sand. If not, repeat it all again.

Precautions:

  • Ventilate the room as much as possible
  • Wear a face mask
  • Take a break to get some air

Because after working for a couple of hours my eyes, nose and throat are burning.

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