Tile over linoleum?
April 6, 2009 2:23 PM   Subscribe

Can I lay tile over (real) linoleum? Maybe I should prime the existing floor first?

I am remodeling a small bathroom and recently bought some reclaimed tiles for the floor. Around 2001, I had Marmoleum brand (aka the "real" linseed oil stuff) linoleum installed. (The existing floor seriously needed replacing and, since I was having the Marmoleum put into the kitchen I was doing at the time, I had them do the bathroom too, knowing I couldn't live with the color for very long.)

Can I put the tiles down on top of the linoleum? The plywood sub floor under the linoleum was new in 2001 and is in the pretty good shape, as is the linoleum itself. I don't think I can rip up the linoleum without ruining the sub floor. They're stuck together pretty good.

My thinking is that since the existing floor is basically water proof ... why not just tile over it? As long as the tile mastic adheres ok to the current floor, I should be good to go, right? Maybe giving the floor a coat of primer will help with the adhesion? Is there something basic I'm missing here?

I'd really like to avoid the expense, effort and environmental implications of buying new tile backer board unless it's really necessary.
posted by and hosted from Uranus to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How long do you want the tile to look good? A year or two or longer?
posted by bluedaisy at 2:25 PM on April 6, 2009

Ceramic tile? Vinyl tile? How thick is the subfloor?
posted by electroboy at 2:28 PM on April 6, 2009

Anyway, the basic thing you are missing is the expansion and contraction of the subfloor.

My in-laws have a ceramic tile installation business. My hubs is asleep so I can't recall the details. I'll check with him tomorrow if there's not a good answer here.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:32 PM on April 6, 2009

If the sub-floor is good, and if you secure the linoleum floor with screws (lots of them), then you can do it.

Buy your mortar from a tile shop, and ask them about it. It is do-able. With a few pointers, the right mortar, a secure floor, it can be done no problem.
posted by Flood at 2:32 PM on April 6, 2009

I'm conservative on these things and wouldn't do it. A new subfloor is relatively cheap compared to the issues with having to fix it a year from now if it doesn't work.
posted by GuyZero at 2:48 PM on April 6, 2009

My wife and I basically were in this situation seven years ago. We screwed down cement backer board over the linoleum. This gave us a flat and rigid surface that has held the tiles without any problems all this time. It was not so expensive or difficult to do.
posted by pointilist at 3:18 PM on April 6, 2009

There's another issue as to why you might remove the linoleum. Are the floors level at the threshold? Sometimes you remove old flooring before tiling to avoid height differences. Will you be able to close the door with the new height?
posted by birdwatcher at 4:44 PM on April 6, 2009

I guess I shouldn't have posted right before leaving work. Thanks for the replies so far.

Ceramic tile? How thick is the subfloor?

Ceramic tile. 1/2" subfloor.

bluedaisy, hopefully more than a year or two, but it is being installed by an amateur to begin with. (me)

birdwatcher, height won't be an issue for just the tile (though I couldn't put backerboard and the tile in without removing existing floor).
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 5:13 PM on April 6, 2009

You don't have to remove the linoleum, but you should put concrete backer board over the linoleum before installing the tile.

You don't want ANY flex at all - this is the reason for the backer board. They sell it in different thicknesses - so you may be able to find a thin sheet that won't raise the height too much.

The tiles and the grout will flex and crack without that backer board. In the old days, they would lay mortar down, by nowadays it's done with backer board and then thinset.
posted by Ostara at 5:26 PM on April 6, 2009

I had the same situation. I screwed cement backboard to the existing floor. You will need it. I applied the tile with thinset. The backboard I used wasn't very thick but it did raise the floor. Something to think about.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:45 PM on April 6, 2009

My husband (a professional tile guy) says to put down concrete board over the linoleum. Even a quarter-inch concrete board will do. He says: good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 10:21 PM on April 6, 2009

He also said that the issue is that the vinyl will become like a floating layer and will not really stick to anything.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:02 AM on April 7, 2009

Okey doke. Thanks, ya'll.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 4:34 AM on April 7, 2009

You don't want ANY flex at all - this is the reason for the backer board.

That's incorrect. The flexural displacement is only due to the joist spacing and span and the subfloor material. The backer board makes it easier for the tile to adhere and provides dimensional stability (low shrink/swell). Basically takes the place of mortar, but like mortar, doesn't add any structural strength.

1/2" subfloor might not be enough. Most tile manufacturers recommend 3/4"-5/8" plywood or OSB for the standard 16" joist spacing. It's usually expressed as a maximum deflection, where MaxDeflection= L/360, where L is the joist length. Since that's not easy to determine, it's safest to go with the manufacturer's recs.

Here's some info on one of the standard backerboards.
posted by electroboy at 7:45 AM on April 7, 2009

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