Help, I’ve got one of those tile over linoleum conundrums
October 14, 2020 4:50 AM   Subscribe

I hired a tile guy to remove the linoleum in my kitchen and bathroom before tiling. I’m not on site but I can tell from pics that he left linoleum down. He tiled most of the kitchen but hasn’t grouted yet. Do I ask him to rip up a line of tiles to check? Do I let it go? I hear there are two schools of thought on whether it matters that there’s linoleum under the tiles.

Greetings, MeFites. It probably matters that I’m handling this from a distance. So when the installer sent me close up pics of the different grout colors to choose from I saw linoleum around the tiles. It looks like they went right over it. In other pics I can see they did remove the linoleum down to the concrete. My guess is they removed what came off easily and left the rest. They did remove all the linoleum in the bathroom and haven’t started tiling in there yet.

It was installed yesterday, so it’s had time to set. I did some research and I understand at this point pulling up tiles is a big deal. This is a rental so I’m worried about tenants having to deal with tiles coming up over time.

When I asked them they said they left a little bit of linoleum that was too hard to take up and it’s the size of a tile. Problem is, in the pics it looks like more than that was left down. But the pics are close up so it’s hard to tell exactly how much. Since then they’ve tiled 3/4ths of the kitchen but not grouted. The bathroom is down to the concrete, not yet tiled.

My questions are:

1. Do I stop the job right now and make sure they take up all the linoleum? How would I do that?

2. Is it reasonable to ask them to remove a line of tiles so I can see underneath or do I let them remove what they say is the small piece of linoleum they left down and hope for the best.

3. Now I’m wondering if they’ll prepare the concrete correctly (remove the glue, prime it). Should I try to check that too or hope for the best? A lot of hoping!

Thanks for any advice the Hivemind can offer me!
posted by lillian.elmtree to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have a contract that specifically says they will remove the linoleum?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:48 AM on October 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

In our (c) 1979 house, the contractor ended up tiling over the original kitchen linoleum (after pulling up sheet vinyl flooring) because of the way the linoleum had been adhered to the subfloor when it was installed. Taking it up would have destroyed the subfloor and required rebuilding the entire floor structure. And in fact, our tile guy is at my house now, putting tile over tile in my bathroom for exactly the same reason. So maybe what was under the linoleum had something to do with it?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:14 AM on October 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Note that a lot of older linoleum floors have asbestos in them. Leaving them in place is fine and putting new flooring overtop of it -locking the asbestos in place - is often recommended, because taking it out safely is a specialists job that can be quite expensive.
posted by mhoye at 6:31 AM on October 14, 2020 [10 favorites]

I am entirely not an expert on this subject which I have literally never thought about before, so take this with a *huge* grain of salt, but what concerns me about your description is that they took out some but not all of the lino. Did they then level the whole floor to account for that one remaining section of lino?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:19 AM on October 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

There are two factors here: (1) Is it in the contract that they'll remove the linoleum, and then they didn't? (2) If it's not mentioned in the contract either way, what is best and safest for the workers, your tenants, and the property?

(1) If it's in the contract that they'll remove the linoleum and they didn't, they very well might have had a good reason not to. Ask them. If that's the case, you need to talk to the manager or the owner of the company because the quote you got and what you're paying them for doesn't match. If your quote was itemized (I hope it was?) you can simply agree not to pay the amount quoted for the removal, and be done. Not a huge deal.

(2) I think you've got to talk to the contractor about why the linoleum was left in place, especially if it was in your contract to remove it. Was there a misunderstanding, or a language barrier? Did they peel up one piece, realize they were glued to the subfloor, and decide to tile on top instead? Do they suspect asbestos?

I think it's easy to assume that the laborer is taking a shortcut, and hoping you'll never notice once the tiles are down. But there are a lot of other possibilities that don't point to you being deliberately being taken advantage of, and everyone will likely be happier if you go down those routes first. This could be a simple misunderstanding, but it could also be the laborer and contractor saving you from an incredibly expensive and miserable headache.

You literally have a picture of the tile going in over the linoleum, so that part is not in dispute!
posted by juniperesque at 7:28 AM on October 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Ask here.
posted by jon1270 at 7:38 AM on October 14, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks for your responses, everyone. I put the job on hold this morning. (I’d asked someone to manage it but it was essentially being unsupervised). His partner texted me that they were backing out of the job.

Linoleum removal was not in the contract but a verbal agreement that was mentioned in texts. (Normally I’m more careful but I had someone else handling it.) I was clear from the start the linoleum had to be removed because it has water damage. Also it was never disputed. As I mentioned, he said they only left a small piece down, and that he’d pull up a tile to remove it—except that from the photos it looks like there’s more.

@juniperesque, thanks a lot for your detailed response. I did ask him about it and, as I mentioned, he said they left that piece of linoleum down because it was too hard to take up. He never mentioned asbestos or subflooring issues. I would think he would’ve said something if that were the case. He made it seem like no big deal, that it was a quick fix.

The linoleum was installed 15-20 years ago so no asbestos there, however there may be another layer of linoleum underneath which would’ve been installed late 70s or early 80s I’m guessing.

@jon1270, I appreciate the link, that’s a great site and I plan to post. I believe their stance is that all the linoleum should be removed otherwise the subflooring is compromised.

At this point I’m wondering if I should pull up a strip of tiles to see how much linoleum they left down or or finish the job as is—the old conundrum! Thanks again for everyone’s responses!
posted by lillian.elmtree at 10:32 AM on October 14, 2020

The tile in our home [older home, but we recently purchased] is cracked in numerous places. We had a contractor come in to give us an estimate for replacing it, and we asked why it would have become so damaged. He explained it's because it was installed over linoleum, doesn't have a solid/flat foundation and so it causes the tiles to crack. This was one explanation from one contractor, but it seems legit. He showed us by removing the refrigerator, and then later when we removed the dishwasher, it's clear the linoleum is still there and extends under the tile. I would presume yours may need to be removed, unless it can be made solid/flat, so tiles won't crack.
posted by racersix6 at 5:41 PM on October 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

We just had a tile floor put in. The installer told us he could put it over the linoleum, but he wouldn't guarantee the work against cracking. We ended up using a heat gun and scraper thingie to get up the last of the linoleum.
posted by kathrynm at 4:36 PM on October 15, 2020

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