Can You Tile Over Vinyl Floor? Yes, But...

Installing Ceramic Tile
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Cutting out a step when installing flooring is enormously helpful.  This is why many people want to know if you can install ceramic or porcelain tile directly onto vinyl flooring, without first removing the vinyl.

In some cases, you can do this.  But as a blanket recommendation, remove the existing vinyl first.  Details follow:

You Have:

Existing vinyl flooring in any of three forms--roll sheet, square, or luxury plank.

 It is in relatively good condition--perhaps a few gouges and numerous light scratches.  

Subfloor and joists below the vinyl appear to be in good condition.  At least, this is your best judgment as evidenced by walking on the floor.

You Want:

Ceramic or porcelain tile as your ultimate, top floor covering.  You do not want to remove the existing vinyl, preferring to mortar the tile directly on top of the vinyl.  

Chief Recommendation

Conventional wisdom and good sense says that all floor installation works best when the existing floor covering, even vinyl, is removed.  Reasons include:

1. You Can Assess Condition of Subfloor

Pulling off a layer allows you to assess the condition of layers below.

Is the subfloor in good condition? Is there rot? In cases where the flooring is soft, tilted, or threatening to give way, you may even need to go all the way down to the joists to check the condition.

2. You Avoid the Wedding-Cake Effect:  

Layering builds your floor's total height even higher.  

Since vinyl flooring is so thin--12 mm at its thickest--this is less of an issue than with laminate, engineered wood, or solid hardwood.  Still, it is best to avoid extraneous layers.

3. Your Vinyl Might Not Be Right For This

To install tile over vinyl, you need sheet vinyl flooring, not square tile or plank vinyl.

Because sheet vinyl is one, continuous piece, you will get a higher quality installation without the ceramic tile on top shifting. With vinyl tile or plank, the possibility of shifting is too great.

Second, you cannot tile over a cushioned vinyl floor, even if it's sheet vinyl. These floors go under brand-names such as Armstrong CushionStep, Flexitec, or DuPont Elevations.

4. Your Vinyl Might Not Be Installed Correctly

The vinyl flooring itself may not be installed in a manner that would allow ceramic tile to go on top.

Check to see if only the edges of the vinyl floor have been attached to the sub-floor. Sometimes, nails, adhesive, or staples are the only attachment the vinyl has to the subfloor--no adhesive in the middle.  You will gain a higher quality tile-on-vinyl install if the entire vinyl surface is solidly attached at all point.

Paradoxically, if you have a perimeter-only attachment system, it becomes that much easier for you to do the correct thing:  pull the vinyl and start your tile installation on a fresh base.  It is relatively easy to remove and dispose of sheet vinyl attached only at the edges.

How You Can Make It Work

Option #1:  Tile Directly Onto Vinyl

  1. Check that the subfloor and underlayment total at least 1 1/4". Tile, mortar, and grout bring significant added dead weight to your flooring system.  This means you will need a hefty substrate that will have minimum deflection.
  1. Lightly sand down the vinyl flooring with a disk sander. If the floor is small enough and you do not mind getting on your knees, you do not need to rent a floor sander--use your power hand-sander.
  2. Thoroughly wet-clean the tile.
  3. Apply tile to the vinyl with thinset.

Option #2:  Add Intervening Underlayment

While not strictly a tile-on-vinyl method, this does eliminate the need for removing the vinyl.  The downside is that you are adding even more layers--and height--to the floor.

  1. Screw cement backerboard such as Durock directly onto the vinyl.  Make sure that screws reach the joists.
  2. Tile over the cement board as you normally would.