Taking out old floors takes a lot of time and hard work. What if you could just put tiles on top of linoleum floors? People who like to fix things themselves always look for quick ways to do jobs. This could make the work much faster and easier.
Also, many people who own homes know that new floors can make your home worth more and feel nicer.
Let’s talk about what you should and shouldn’t do when putting tiles on top of old floors.
Table of Contents
Things to Keep in Mind
- Condition of Old Flooring: Is your old floor damaged? If it has tears or is in bad shape, it’s better to take it out before you start tiling. Make sure your linoleum or vinyl floor is stuck down well. If it’s not, or if it’s loose, you shouldn’t put tiles on it. Over time, this kind of flooring won’t hold up.
- Type of Old Flooring: The best kind is a big sheet of vinyl or linoleum that sticks well to the floor underneath. But you can put tiles on top of small vinyl tiles if they are really stuck to the floor. If your floor is like this, then yes – you can put tiles on top of linoleum or vinyl.
- Floor Height: Check the thickness of your vinyl floor. It’s usually 12 mm or thinner, which is usually okay. Make sure the new height will be fine near doors, toilet bases, and along the walls.
- Subfloor Level: The floor under the linoleum or vinyl must be good and level. If it’s soft, thin, or damaged, it might move too much. This could cause your tiles or the stuff between them (grout) to break.
- Safety Concerns with Old Floors: If your vinyl or linoleum was put in before 1990, be careful. It might have asbestos, which can cause cancer. Don’t touch it yourself. If you need more time, get it tested.
Preparation to Lay Tiles on Linoleum
If you decide to put tiles on linoleum floors, here’s what you need to do first.
- Clean the Old Floor: Make sure your old floor is clean. It shouldn’t have any wax, sealants, or dirt on it.
- Make the Surface Rough: Some vinyl floors are very smooth, which makes it hard for tiles to stick to them. It would help if you made the surface rougher. Use rough sandpaper (80-100 grit) with an orbital sander.
- Avoid Cushioned Flooring: Don’t put tiles on floors that have cushioning or a foam back. These will need to be more steady. Only put tiles on vinyl or linoleum; that is one layer.
When Can You Use a Sub-layer?
- When It’s a Good Idea: If you need to check if the old floor is strong enough, putting a sub-layer is a good idea. This doesn’t mean you’re putting tiles directly on the linoleum, but it means you don’t have to take out the old floor.
Benefits: A sub-layer makes the surface more even and helps the mortar stick to the tiles better. If the old floor might not work well with the tiles, it’s best to use a better sub-layer.
In short, you can put tiles on old linoleum floors if the floor is steady and level. This saves you time and effort!
What You'll Need
- Thin Set Mortar
- Grout (Pre-mixed or Powder)
- Tile Sealer
- Tile Spacers
- Trowel (1/4″ or 1/2″)
- Tile Saw
- Bubble Level
- Rubber Float
Additional Tools and Supplies
- Knee Pads
- Grout Sealer Applicator
- Rubber Mallet
Steps to Lay Tile Over Linoleum
Step 1: Get the Floor Ready
- Clean the Floor: First, take off all the dust, dirt, or any other stuff from the floor. The mortar sticks better to a clean floor.
- Sand the Floor (If Needed): If your laminate or vinyl floor was made after 1990, sanding it can make the surface rougher. A rough surface helps the tiles stick better. After sanding, clean up all the dust with water. Let it dry before you do anything else.
Before you start putting tiles down, take off the baseboards. Be careful to remove all nails and any caulk leftovers from the walls and floor.
Step 2: Dry Lay the Tile
- Plan the Layout: Before you start installing, lay out your tiles on the floor. This helps you see any tricky cuts you need to make to avoid tiny cuts of tile and an uneven layout.
- Measure and Find the Center: Measure your room to find the middle. Put your first tile (the keystone tile) at this center point. Then, lay out the rest of your tiles according to your planned pattern. Make any adjustments now.
- Cut Tiles Without Stress: By dry laying, you get the chance to cut your tiles calmly, without rushing because of drying mortar.
Don’t skip dry laying. If you start tiling right away, you might end up with a messy pattern. Also, you might need to be faster, and the mortar could dry before you finish.
Step 3: Apply Thin Set Mortar
- Mix the Mortar: Use a big bucket and a mixer for this. Start by adding water, then the powder.
- Get the Right Consistency: Mix until it’s as thick as peanut butter.
- Apply the Mortar: First, spread a thin layer of mortar on the floor. Use the flat end of your trowel to press some mortar into the floor. Then, use the notched side of the trowel at a 45-degree angle to make straight lines in the mortar. Do this in one direction. These lines will collapse later and stick to the tile well.
- Check Your Work: Now and then, lift a tile to see if it’s covered enough with mortar. Remember, you need to work fast because the mortar dries quickly.
Don’t add water to thin-set mortar that’s starting to dry. Adding water to drying mortar weakens its strength and can lead to failure. Therefore, only mix as much mortar as you can use in a short period.
Step 4: Place the Tile
- Press the Tile into the Mortar: Put the tile gently on the mortar. Move it a bit from side to side, at least a quarter inch each way. This helps to cover the tile well and gets rid of air pockets underneath. Air pockets might make the tile break later.
- Keep the Tiles Level: Use a large bubble level to check if the tiles are flat. If a tile isn’t level, tap it gently with a rubber mallet and check again.
- Use Tile Spacers: Put spacers between each tile. This helps keep the grout lines even. Tiles can move while you work, so spacers stop them from getting uneven.
For Beginners: If you’re new to tiling, think about using tile levelling spacers. These not only keep the space between tiles even but also help level each tile. If you’re worried about getting the grout lines and floor level right, these are a good option.
Check which trowel notch size you need for your tiles. This affects how well the mortar sticks. Generally, mosaic tiles need “v” 1/4″ notches, 16-inch tiles need 1/2″ “u” notches, and larger tiles need 3/4″ “u” notches. Use a chart for reference.
Step 5: Fill the Tile Joints with Grout
- Wait for the Mortar to Dry: Let the mortar set for at least 24 hours before grouting.
- Mix the Grout: Follow the instructions on the package for mixing. After mixing, let the grout sit, or “slake,” for about 10 minutes.
- Apply the Grout: Use a rubber float to press the grout into the tile joints. Work in small areas. Push the grout in at a 45-degree angle. Use the long side of the float to scrape off any extra grout before you move to the next area.
- Clean the Tiles: After the grout has been set for 30-45 minutes, use a slightly wet sponge to clean off any extra grout from the tiles. Be careful not to make the grout too wet. Rinse and squeeze out your sponge often.
Allow your grout to rest for 10 minutes after mixing. This resting period, known as “slaking,” is crucial for initiating the chemical bonding process within the grout. This step is necessary to avoid the grout becoming prone to chipping and cracking over time.
Step 6: Clean Off Grout Haze
- Wait Before Cleaning: Grout haze, a thin layer left after grouting, should be dealt with after 24 hours. However, it’s best to check the instructions on your grout package for specific timing.
- Remove the Haze: Use a microfiber or cheesecloth with water to scrub the tile surface in circular motions. This process reactivates the grout, making it easier to remove from the tile’s surface.
For Tough Haze: If the haze is hard to remove, try using distilled vinegar or a commercial haze remover.
Step 7: Apply Sealer to the Grout
- Wait for the Grout to Cure: Allow the grout to cure completely, which typically takes 2-3 days. Sealing is crucial for protecting the grout. Unsealed grout can absorb water and dirt, leading to damage over time. Therefore, sealing is a vital step.
- Apply the Sealer: Use a foam brush, an old brush, or a bottle applicator to apply the grout sealer along the grout lines.
- Let It Sit, Then Wipe: After applying, let the sealer sit for 3-5 minutes. Then, use a towel to wipe off any excess.
With this, the sealing process is complete!