One of the questions we frequently find in our inbox or hear on the phone:
How do I remove bitumen from my wood blocks?
In the olden days, bitumen was considered The product to stick down wood blocks or original mosaic floors (and plastic tiles). Simple, cheap and doing its job, until....
The bitumen gets brittle and looses its grip between block/fingers and the underfloor. Leaving you with more and more loosening blocks (and we've heard plenty of stories of little fingers disappearing in vacuum cleaners). Plus more often than not, reclaimed blocks are offered with bitumen still attached.
If it wasn't for the fact that:
- bitumen is no longer allowed to be used in the house
- modern adhesives do not bond with bitumen residue
the problems wouldn't be so difficult to solve.
If the blocks are thick enough, the best way to remove the bitumen residue, specially if it is a thick and.or irregular layer, is to use a thickness planer. You might lose the tongue and groove, but with the modern adhesives this is not such a problem. Once firmly stuck down in their bed of adhesive (applied with a notched trowel to a clean floor) and given 24 hours to bond the blocks will go nowhere and are ready for sanding.
Or, using the features of bitumen to your advantage, you place the blocks in a freezer. The cold will make the bitumen even more brittle and easier to chisel off. A stain of bitumen left on the blocks after the chiseling is not a problem, the only thing to be aware of is that it then might take 48 hours for the blocks to fully bond when stuck down with adhesive again.
What not to do:
Trying to sand the bitumen off. This will cause friction = heath = melting bitumen = clogging up your sanding paper and even spreading bitumen back onto just cleaned areas of your block.
Remember two things:
- the more bitumen you can remove, the better it is in the long run
- although it can be quite a bit of work, you are restoring a wonderful and long lasting floor of which you will be proud of once the hard work has been done, plus are re-using a hardwearing floor covering and saving the planet's resources.
Call it a work of love, love for natural products and nature, all in one.
If you need information and "7 easy steps" to repair/restore your own original parquet floor, read our special and much read/used guide.
Beneath the steps you will also find highly recommended products to use, but none of the chemicals some recommend to remove bitumen the "quickest" way. Chemicals are not really quicker and definitely not "user or nature" friendly!