Can You Install Vinyl Tile Over Wood or Other Flooring?

Installing vinyl flooring tiles
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Vinyl tile and other types of vinyl flooring are excellent choices for remodeling a kitchen or a bathroom. Vinyl flooring is economical and durable. Its resistance to moisture is unparalleled by other types of flooring. It is easy to install by yourself, and you can generally have a small room completed within a day or two.

Is it possible to install your vinyl tile and other types of vinyl flooring directly on top of an existing floor? As with many other remodeling projects, preparation is a major part of the job. With flooring installation, preparing the correct base—or substrate—is critical for a long-lasting, beautiful floor. It is even more important with thin floor coverings such as vinyl flooring.

Install Vinyl Tile Over These Floors

With the proper substrate, you can install vinyl flooring over:

  • Concrete flooring
  • Laminate flooring
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Solid hardwood flooring
  • Engineered wood flooring
  • Ceramic or stone tile

Popular Vinyl Reflooring Projects

Vinyl Flooring Over Wood Flooring

Solid hardwood or engineered wood flooring may serve as bases for vinyl flooring. If the wood is heavily gapped, these gaps must first be fixed. Old solid hardwood can cup or swell over time, too. This condition would make direct installation over the wood difficult. Wood flooring of this type would need an intervening underlayment.

Vinyl Flooring Over Laminate Flooring

Laminate floor may act as a substrate for vinyl flooring. Like solid wood flooring, laminate can swell when subjected to water. It may be necessary to fix high-moisture areas first: around the dishwasher, sink, and refrigerator.

Vinyl Flooring Over Ceramic Tile

Vinyl flooring can be installed directly over ceramic and porcelain tile flooring. Cracked or missing tiles should be fixed or filled in. Wide seams between the tiles can create slight depressions in the vinyl flooring. If the tile floor has wide or deep seams, use an underlayment rather than installing the vinyl directly on the tile.

Criteria for Proper Vinyl Flooring Substrate

In most cases, you can install vinyl flooring on top of existing flooring. Generally, there is nothing inherent about the lower floor covering's material that precludes it from acting as a substrate for the upper vinyl flooring. As long as that lower floor covering has all of the attributes of a proper substrate, it can be used.

Keep in mind that vinyl flooring is thin, soft, and flexible. Vinyl flooring cannot effectively bridge over or smooth out substrate imperfections in the way that thicker, inflexible floor coverings can. Solid hardwood or engineered wood, for example, can bridge gaps, holes, and seams, as well as smooth over surface embossing. With vinyl flooring, any one of those imperfections could transfer, or telegraph, to the vinyl flooring above. Even worse, large holes could cause parts of the vinyl flooring to form craters over time.

Often, a substrate of large-format boards, such as 1/4-inch thick, 4-foot by 8-foot plywood or MDF particle board sheets, is used as an underlayment before the vinyl flooring is installed. This substrate is an addition to the subfloor. Large-format underlayment sheets work well for vinyl flooring because they add some strength, have few seams, and bridge over small holes and surface embossing.

Sturdy and Solid

Removing floor coverings helps the installer assess the condition of the subfloor. By not removing the existing floor covering, it is difficult to see if the subfloor is cracked, rotted, or otherwise is not in good condition. Make sure that the existing floor covering and the subfloor and any possible underlayment are sturdy enough for the installation of the vinyl flooring.

Seamless or Tightly Seamed

Large-format boards provide an installation surface that has few seams. In a kitchen floor that is 16 feet long by 12 feet wide, for example, six underlayment boards would be used, resulting in only a few seams. By contrast, a solid hardwood floor used as a substrate may have hundreds of seams. If that hardwood floor has other problems, such as wide gaps between the floorboards (often the result of water damage), it would be unsuitable as a substrate for the vinyl flooring.

No Holes or Other Imperfections

High spots in the substrate should be sanded down and low spots should be filled. While small imperfections might not immediately transfer to the vinyl flooring surface, over time they may expose themselves in the form of low craters or hills that gradually form on the surface.

Little or No Embossing

One of the desired visual qualities of some tile, laminate, and vinyl is surface embossing. Embossing provides slight highs and lows that help make the floor covering look more realistic (like the material they are emulating, such as wood) or simply to aid their appearance.

Pronounced embossing can eventually telegraph to the surface of the vinyl flooring. While this usually does not apply to thicker (6.5 mm) vinyl flooring, this may be the case with thinner boards in the 3.5 mm or less range.

Dry

Trapping moisture between vinyl flooring and its substrate may create mold and mildew since the moisture has no avenue of escape. Newly poured concrete flooring must fully cure and dry out before vinyl flooring is laid on top.

Acceptable Height

Whenever adding one flooring on top of another flooring, height becomes an issue. If the previous version was presumably an acceptable height, will the higher version be too high? Using vinyl flooring as a top layer is one of the better choices in this respect since it adds less height than other types of flooring.