Can You Tile Over Vinyl Flooring? A Comprehensive Guide

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Tiling over vinyl flooring can be a game-changer for homeowners looking to revamp their space without completely replacing the existing floor. But, can you actually tile over vinyl flooring and is it safe for your floors? The answer is yes but with careful planning and attention to detail. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the process of tiling over your vinyl flooring, including essential steps like evaluating your current floor, assessing the subfloor, and choosing the right tile type.

Key Takeaways

  • Evaluate existing vinyl flooring for damage and material composition.
  • Assess subfloor structure, repair or reinforce as needed.
  • Follow the step-by-step process below for tile installation over vinyl flooring, including preparation, underlayment sealing, and grouting.

Evaluating your Vinyl Floors

Before you can embark on your tiling journey, you need to assess the condition of your existing vinyl flooring. Here are a few things to look for:

Material composition

Not all types of sheet vinyl flooring can be used as a base for ceramic tile. These include:

  • Old vinyl:  Usually in homes built before 1980, old vinyl may have asbestos. In this case, either have a professional remove the floors completely or leave them as is.
  • Cushioned vinyl: This can become unstable over time if tile is placed on top.
  • Luxury vinyl planks (LVP): This only applies if the LVP has been installed as a floating floor with no adhesive. This makes it unsuitable for putting ceramic tile directly over them.

Structural integrity

Tiling over buckled or curled vinyl isn’t recommended, as it can lead to an unstable surface for your new tile floor. 

If you discover any loose spots, tears, or lifting corners in your vinyl floors, it’s necessary to level the area before tiling. In some cases, you can fill tears in wood flooring before installing new tile, but it’s crucial to ensure a stable and level surface.

Assessing the Subfloor

After evaluating your vinyl flooring, it’s time to turn your attention to the subfloor. The subfloor is the layer of material installed on top of the floor joists and beneath the finished flooring, providing a level and stable surface for the actual floor. You need to assess the subfloor to ensure it can bear the additional weight of tile on top of the existing flooring.

Check for Structural Integrity

When examining the subfloor, be on the lookout for any damage, softness, or unevenness that may require repair or reinforcement. A subfloor with structural integrity will be level, sturdy, and free of squeaks or creaks.

A structurally sound subfloor shouldn’t display the following issues:

  • Sinking sections
  • Cupping or warping
  • Cracked or popped tiles
  • Signs of moisture damage

Paul McCrae, renovations contractor of over 12 years, says this is especially for older homes with old floors. “Some of the old versions [of vinyl planks] were horrible,” he says. “The sun would come in and focus on the floor installed next to a large window or door, and the floor would expand and contract, pulling itself apart at the seams.”

If you find any of these issues, you may need to repair or reinforce the subfloor before proceeding with your tiling project. This will ensure a solid foundation for your new tile floor. Failure to do so could lead to an unstable tile floor, resulting in costly repairs or even the need to redo the entire installation.

Repair or Reinforce if Necessary

If you find that your subfloor needs reinforcement due to softness, thinness, or lack of stiffness, consider using materials like plywood and cement backer board to strengthen the subfloor. Installing a layer of new plywood subfloor over the resilient flooring is a highly effective solution. This should be followed by a layer of thin cement board. This will create a stable base for your tiles and ensure that your new floor can support the added weight of the tiles and underlayment.

Keep in mind that strengthening your subfloor may increase the height of your floor, so be sure to account for this when planning your project. With a solid subfloor in place, you can confidently proceed with the tiling process.

Tiling Over Vinyl Flooring: Step-by-Step Process

After removing old flooring with adhesive residue, it’s recommended to mechanically remove approximately 80% of the residue, exposing the concrete floor beneath for tile floors installation.

Now that your vinyl flooring and subfloor have been assessed and prepared, it’s time to begin the process of tiling over your vinyl floor. Remember, careful planning and attention to detail are key to a successful tile installation over vinyl flooring. By following these steps and guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful, durable new tile floor.

Preparation and Cleaning

Proper cleaning and preparation are crucial to ensure proper adhesion and leveling when tiling over vinyl flooring. 

Start by thoroughly cleaning the floor with TSP (trisodium phosphate) to eliminate dirt, soap, and oil residue. After cleaning, use an oscillating sander to prepare the flooring and remove any remaining dirt within the fibers. Next, lightly sand the vinyl flooring with a power hand sander to create a rougher surface for the mortar to stick to.

Applying Mortar and Underlayment

Once your vinyl flooring is clean and prepared, it’s time to apply mortar and underlayment to create a stable base for your tiles. Most manufacturers of tile cement have developed a specialty thinset mortar for setting tile that adheres well to sheet vinyl flooring. 

Next, lay down cement board panels, such as HardieBacker or Durock, as an underlayment for your tiles. Cement board panels provide a durable, stable surface that will support the weight of your tiles and ensure a successful installation. The best size for these panels is 1/4” thick to prevent the floor from raising too much. 

Sealing Joints and Edges

With your underlayment in place, the next step is to seal the joints and edges between the cement board panels. This is an important step, as it prevents water infiltration and subsequent damage to the underlying structure.

To ensure a secure seal, you can apply mesh tape with a smooth trowel or drywall knife to fill all gaps between the panels or apply a silicone sealant using a caulking gun. This will help to create a watertight barrier and provide a level surface for your tiles.

Laying Tiles and Grouting

Now that your surface is prepared and sealed, it’s time to lay your tiles. Here’s how:

  1. Begin by applying thin-set mortar to the cement board panels using a notched trowel, spreading it evenly across the surface.
  2. Next, lay your tiles, starting in the center of the room and working outward.
  3. Use spacers to ensure uniform spacing between the tiles.

After laying your tiles, you’ll need to apply grout to finish the installation. Here’s how:

  1. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Use a rubber float to spread the grout evenly across the tiles, firmly pushing it into the grout lines at a 45° angle for maximum penetration.
  3. Once the grout is applied, use a damp sponge to remove any excess grout.
  4. Allow the grout to dry completely before walking on the floor.

Tips for a Successful Tile Installation Over Vinyl Flooring

To ensure a successful tile installation over vinyl flooring, I’ll share some tips for choosing the right tile type, ensuring proper adhesion and leveling, and planning your layout.

Choose the Right Tile Type

Selecting the right tile type for your project is crucial to ensure a successful installation. Factors to consider when choosing the best tile type include durability, appearance, and compatibility with your existing vinyl flooring. Ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tile are all suitable options for tiling over vinyl flooring.

Proper Adhesion and Leveling

Ensuring proper adhesion and leveling is essential for a successful tile installation over vinyl flooring. Start by thoroughly cleaning and sanding your vinyl or laminate flooring to create a clean, abrasive surface for the thin-set adhesive to bond to.

When applying the thin-set mortar, use a notched trowel to spread it evenly across the surface, working quickly, as the adhesive is designed to dry quickly. Following these steps will help to ensure proper adhesion and leveling, resulting in a smooth and stable tile floor.

Plan Your Layout

Planning your tile layout in advance is crucial for a successful installation. 

  1. Take into account the size and shape of the room, as well as any obstacles or unique features that may affect your layout. Be sure to measure the length, width, and square footage of your room, to determine the size and style of tiles you want to go with.
  2. When establishing a layout guide, identify the midpoint of each wall and draw a line connecting to the opposing wall.
  3. Lay your tile in sections starting from the centre of the room and avoid ending with a row of narrow tiles along any wall. 

By carefully planning your layout, you’ll ensure a visually appealing and functional tile floor that enhances your space.

Transform Your Space with Tile

Tiling over vinyl flooring can be a transformative and cost-effective solution for homeowners looking to update their space. By carefully evaluating your vinyl flooring and subfloor, following a step-by-step process for tiling, and considering alternative options and expert tips, you can achieve a beautiful and durable new tile floor. With the right planning and attention to detail, your tile installation over vinyl flooring project will be a success, enhancing the aesthetics and functionality of your home for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to remove vinyl flooring before laying tile?

I recommended removing vinyl or linoleum flooring if it was made before 1980, as it may contain asbestos. The subflooring should also be assessed to ensure it’s strong enough to support tile without flexing or shifting.

What flooring can be installed over vinyl?

Tiles and laminate flooring are the best option for installing over vinyl. If you want to install carpet, a layer of plywood will need to be laid first.

What should I do if my vinyl flooring is damaged or uneven?

Replace the damaged planks or repair any damage appropriately. Then, level the area to ensure a stable surface for your new tile floor.

How can I ensure proper adhesion and leveling when tiling over vinyl flooring?

To ensure proper adhesion and leveling when tiling over vinyl flooring, clean and sand the surface thoroughly, evenly apply thin-set mortar, and use spacers to maintain uniform spacing between tiles.

This will help to ensure that the tiles are properly adhered and that the floor is level. It’s important to use the right type of mortar and to use spacers to maintain uniform spacing between tiles. This will help to ensure that the tiles are properly aligned and that the floor looks good.

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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