Are you tired of your old, scratched, and discolored flooring? New flooring can brighten and rejuvenate a room and improve your home’s value. If you’re wondering about installing vinyl plank flooring over linoleum or if you should tear it out first, we can help!
Vinyl planks are strong and stand up to daily wear and tear well. They can easily be laid over existing linoleum flooring. Just remove the furnishings and baseboards, repair any damaged sections, clean the existing floor, and lay down the new vinyl plank flooring.
In this article, we’ll discuss if you can lay new flooring, especially vinyl plank flooring, over old linoleum, or if the old should be removed first. We’ll explain what is required and, step-by-step, how to install vinyl plank over linoleum. Our goal is to provide you with the information necessary to install vinyl planking over old linoleum.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
Can You Put New Flooring Over Old Linoleum?
Linoleum, or lino as I knew it in my youth, has been around in one formulation or another for more than 160 years. It’s an inexpensive rollout flooring available in a plethora of colors, patterns, and finishes. Plus, it’s easy to keep clean and typically wears well, is water-resistant, and can last for decades – I’ve seen some that is more than 70 years old and still going strong.
Lino is commonly found glued onto concrete or subflooring in kitchens, bathrooms, mudrooms, hallways, parlors, basements, and even in commercial establishments. Though it can seemingly last forever, it does wear, scratch, and fade. Replacing or covering it can brighten and improve the look of a room or the whole house, so whether you’ve lived there for years, or just moved in, it may be time.
The condition of the linoleum is the main determining factor for replacing it, so if it is lifting, ripped, or torn, or is already several layers thick, you may want to remove it. Additionally, the new flooring on top of the old may make appliances sit too high, doors scrape, or alignment with another flooring difficult. Otherwise, leave the lino in place as it protects the subfloor and helps to keep wooden subfloors flat. Old linoleum can be covered with new linoleum, hardwood, carpet, cork, ceramic tiles, peel-and-stick tiles, and vinyl.
Another important consideration is the age of the linoleum. Some older products contain asbestos which is a major health risk, but only if it is being torn out. So, if you plan to remove it, have it tested for asbestos, otherwise, cover it up with your new flooring. If it contains asbestos, follow appropriate HazMat protocols when removing it.
Can You Put Vinyl Plank Flooring Over Linoleum?
Covering existing linoleum with new linoleum or other flooring is an age-old practice. Vinyl plank flooring is no different and it’s a common practice for both professionals and DIYers to lay the new planks directly over old lino. The old flooring should be fully bonded to the floor with no lifting, and free of tears, rips, and holes.
Laying vinyl plank flooring over linoleum saves time, energy, and money. Removing old linoleum isn’t an easy process and can leave glue and backing stuck to the floor, and even damage wooden subflooring. Leaving the old lino in place protects the subfloor and provides a smooth surface and solid base for the vinyl planks.
Do I Need to Remove Linoleum Before Laying Vinyl Plank?
Vinyl planks can be laid directly over existing linoleum flooring. So, you don’t need to rip out the old to install the new. Not only will you save money and time, but the old lino protects the underlay and provides a smooth, water-resistant surface for the vinyl planking.
If the lino is in poor condition though, as in it is lifting, ripped, torn, or has moisture damage, consider using self-leveling or adhesives to address the damaged sections. Alternatively, cover it with a new 1/4″ underlay and lay the vinyl planks down. Should the linoleum need to be removed, have it tested for asbestos before ripping it out.
The thickness of the new flooring over the old may cause other issues. Floor transitions may become trip hazards, appliances may not align with countertops, doors not swing freely, and baseboards and heaters may not fit properly. If the combined thickness will pose a problem, you may wish to remove the old linoleum anyways.
Installing Vinyl Plank Flooring Over Linoleum: Step by Step
Linoleum provides a water-resistant and smooth base upon which to install vinyl plank flooring. Before you begin, ensure that the added thickness of the new flooring won’t interfere with doors, appliances, thresholds, baseboards, or baseboard heaters.
Make sure the lino fully adheres to the surface below, and any damage is repaired so it won’t show through the new layer over time. If the old linoleum is ready, here’s a step-by-step guide for installing a vinyl plank floor:
Measure and multiply the length and width of the room to be surfaced with the vinyl planking to determine the surface area. Divide the area by the area covered by a box of flooring, and round up to the next whole number to determine how many boxes are required. It’s better to have too much than too little. A good rule of thumb is to buy 10% more than needed for cuttings and waste.
When purchasing the boxes of vinyl planking check that the lot numbers match on all the boxes. There can be slight color differences between lots which may be visually noticeable. You’ll need a good sharp utility, flooring knife, or shears and metal straight edge, so if you need them, get them too.
Vinyl planking may be click-in-place and float on the old floor, it may be peel-and-stick, or it could require an adhesive. If an adhesive is required, purchase enough of an acrylic-based vinyl flooring adhesive for the floor area, plus a trowel for spreading it. The acrylic-based glue won’t loosen if the floor gets wet, and it can handle temperature variations too.
Once you purchase the flooring, store it in or near the room for 48 hours or more to adjust to the house temperature and humidity levels. Acclimatizing the flooring helps minimize expansion or contraction after it has been laid.
- For large surface areas, consider borrowing or renting a floor roller to help stick the vinyl flooring to the linoleum.
Move out all furniture and floor-based ‘stuff’ for a clear work area. Remove thresholds and baseboards or 1/4-round trim if you want the floor to wall joint hidden. Raise or loosen baseboard heaters or lift out floor registers for proper fitting.
Disconnect, drain and lift out the toilet if the flooring will go underneath it. Use a piece of the new flooring to mark its thickness against the door trim and jamb molding, and then use a hand saw or other tools to trim the wood for a good fit.
Sweep or vacuum and wash and rinse the linoleum floor and let it dry before you begin. If the floor seems to have wax on it, use white vinegar, cream of tartar, or both in the cleaning water to remove the wax. You may need to wet the floor and use a nylon scrubby to remove waxy buildup.
Measure out from all walls 1/4″ and snap or draw a line. The 1/4″ gap allows for perimeter expansion, and is usually covered by the baseboard or 1/4-round trim. If all the vinyl planks are the same width, calculate how many rows will be required to cover the floor.
Decide which direction the planks will run lengthways. They typically run parallel to the longest wall or room dimension. Measure the room and divide by the length of one plank to determine how many full planks will fit, and the length of the cut piece to finish a row.
Since rows are typically staggered so end seams aren’t positioned the same, consider how the cut-off piece can be incorporated to help stagger the joints, minimize waste, and not have pieces less than 8” in length butting to the wall – smaller pieces won’t look good and are difficult to keep in place.
Divide the width or opposing dimension of the room by the width of the plank to identify how many rows of full planks will fit, and how wide the last row will need to be. The last row against the wall furthest from the starting point typically doesn’t require a full board width, so those planks will need to be cut lengthwise to fit. Consider how best to make the narrower row less visibly obtrusive, possibly split the starting row and the finishing row for symmetry.
Pro Note: Check to see if the room corners are square. If one or more walls are out, that can throw the whole alignment out. Either begin laying from the square-most wall, or draw-snap a line perpendicular to the threshold and measure back to the start wall so the starting row can be trimmed or cut to ensure the long seams between rows are parallel to the perpendicular line.
Laying the first row parallel to the longwall or perpendicular line is crucial to the visual aesthetics of the new flooring. The greater the dimensions of the room, the more noticeable seam line deviations will be. Layout the first row and check its alignment and accurately determine the length and location of any necessary cuts.
Determine which end plank will be cut to fit, and at which end the shorter plank will be unless there will be a shortened plank at both ends. Try to make it so end pieces are 8” or longer.
Remember to cut off click-and-hold ends, or lapped for joining the butt ends at the starting end of the first plank where it butts to the wall. Additionally, remember to maintain the 1/4″ expansion gap at the wall perimeter – consider using spacers so the gap is maintained when tapping or connecting successive rows.
- Orient the first row so the tongue-and-groove, top lap or click-in edge is closest to the wall. You may wish to cut the tongue or top lap off if the baseboard won’ cover it or fit with it.
To cut or trim vinyl planks, place a board or piece of plywood underneath the plank to be cut. Make sure the measurements are correct. Use a metal edge – ruler, square, trowel edge – to align the cut, firmly draw the utility knife blade along the line to score the cut.
Some planks can be snapped once they are scored, or may need to be scored on the back as well. Otherwise, apply more pressure on the second and third (or more) repeat cuts to penetrate through the vinyl. If the planks are difficult to cut with a utility knife, use a miter, circular, band, or jig-saw.
The type of vinyl plank flooring being used determines this step.
- If self-adhering or peel-and-stick, remove the protective paper and press the planks of the first row into place.
- If interlocking, click-and-go, or lapping for a floating floor, connect the ends of the planks and position them into place.
- If adhesive is required, spread the glue onto the floor so it’s the appropriate thickness, usually 1/8”, and press and hold the planks into position. Try not to spread more glue than necessary for the planks being laid.
Layout and cut the second row in preparation for securing the first row in place. Cut the first plank in the second row, and all subsequent rows, 8” shorter than the starter in the previous row’s starter piece, unless it should be full length. This will stagger the end seams for a stronger bond and better-looking pattern. Cut-offs from previous rows can be used at either end of subsequent rows, provided the pieces are at least 8” in length.
Pro Note: Many pros will prepare 6 to 10 rows of planks for trial fitting prior to securing together or to the floor. It’s a good way to check the pattern, and if using adhesive, makes it easier to spread more than a row at a time.
With the second row cut and ready, install it using the appropriate method.
- Remove the protective paper, lay the plank into place, and press it down to secure it tight to the previous row.
- With interlocking, click-and-go, or lapping for a floating floor, connect the edges of the new row with the previous planks and position them into place. Use a block of wood or scrap piece of flooring against the long edge and tap with a mallet or soft-faced hammer to lock or secure the edges together.
- Spread the adhesive onto the floor and press and hold the planks into position. Try not to spread more glue than necessary for the planks being laid. Wipe off any glue that oozes up between the planks with a damp cloth and then dry with a dry cloth.
Repeat Step 9 and install the remaining floors, remembering to stagger the end seams by 8” and to maintain the 1/4″ perimeter gap.
Installing the last row or rows that go around floor-mounted cabinets, toilets, floor ducts, or into doorways typically needs to be cut. For planks that need to be notched for floor ducts, toilet flanges, or doorways, make a template with cardboard or paper, trace it on the plank, and cut it out as in Step 7.
For the last row or those that run along cabinets, measure the distance between the next to last row and the wall or cabinet. Hopefully, it’s the same at both ends, otherwise, the cut will need to be angled for each piece. Cut and install as in Step 9.
With the floor installed, reinstall baseboards and 1/4-round – make sure the nails go into the wall, not the floor. If the floor is self-adhering or glued down, roll a floor roller over it to help remove air and level out the glue. Wipe up any adhesive that oozes out with a clean cloth. Allow self-adhering floors or those glued to the linoleum to dry for 24 to 48 hours before placing furniture or using the room.
Pro Note: You may wish to leave a window or door open to dissipate any new-floor smell.
How Flat Does Floor Need to Be for Vinyl Plank?
Laying vinyl planks over linoleum is a common practice. A flat surface is important, not necessarily a level one. However, if the floor sags or dips more than 3/16” anywhere beneath the length of the plank, it may have difficulty staying in position or joining to the other pieces.
Consider using some self-leveling compound to smooth out dips or damaged portions of the lino. Additionally, unevenness, ripples, or marks in the linoleum can transfer through the thin vinyl planks, so a smooth surface is important.
If the subfloor or joists are the reason the floor isn’t flat, you may want to have a Structural Engineer check what is causing the sag. Often sag between the joists is due to moisture damage to the subfloor strata, age, or too much weight.
It may be time to remove the 3 or more layers of linoleum already in place, lay down 5/8” or 3/4” OSB or plywood subflooring, and install your new vinyl plank flooring on a solid, smooth, maybe even level, surface. Should the problem be the joists, that’s an issue best solved by the Engineer.
Laying vinyl planks over existing linoleum is a great way to update the look of a floor and room. Just clean out the room, remove the baseboards, make any necessary repairs, clean the floor, and lay down the vinyl planks. With the room empty, and before the new floor goes down, consider painting the ceiling and walls for a whole new look! Hopefully, the information and step-by-step process will assist your installation of vinyl plank flooring over old linoleum.