When you need to remodel a bathroom or a kitchen, vinyl flooring products like planks, sheets, and tiles are always a great choice.
They are a low-cost option that can provide impressive durability and resistance to moisture. You can hardly find any other material with the same capabilities at the same price point.
Vinyl flooring products aren't hard to install. You can easily do it yourself with some basic equipment and skills and complete a small room within one or two days.
The default installation method for vinyl is to put it over a plywood underlayment. It serves as a subfloor and holds vinyl tiles or planks together.
However, there are some situations where you may not want the existing floor. For instance, some areas already have coverings and you may think about putting the vinyl flooring over those coverings instead. Is it possible? Let's find out.
Vinyl Flooring Over Other Materials
Like any remodeling idea, preparation is key to the success of the project. In particular, you will need to properly prepare the base (substrate) when you want to install a vinyl floor. Getting this right determines you can have a beautiful and long-lasting surface.
If you don't want to remove the old floor, it becomes the de facto underlayment of your vinyl flooring. That is why you must apply the same requirements as a regular plywood subfloor.
Both solid and engineered hardwood can serve as the subfloor for vinyl products. However, you should remember some important tips.
You must fix the gaps of the wood first if it has been heavily gapped. An old solid floor can swell or cup over time as well. These conditions can make installation over wood a challenge. You may even have to use an intervening subfloor to strengthen the bonding.
Laminate can totally act as the subfloor for your new vinyl flooring. When in contact with water, laminate flooring can swell like solid hardwood. You should pay attention to areas with a high level of moisture like around the refrigerator, sink, or dishwasher. Mop your flooring often with the products in the “best mop for Vinyl flooring” list.
It is easy to pull up floating laminate floors as they have no attachment to their subfloor at all. If you have such flooring, you may get better results when you remove it and avoid putting a new floor on top of it.
Like wood and laminate flooring, you can directly install vinyl flooring over porcelain and ceramic tile flooring as long as it has thin grout lines.
You should fix or fill in missing or cracked tiles first. Wide seams should also be taken care of as they can cause slight depressions to your vinyl flooring.
If the existing ceramic or porcelain tile flooring has deep or wide seams, prefer using an underlayment over putting the new vinyl flooring on top of the tile.
Factors You Have To Consider
Most of the time, you can directly put vinyl flooring on an existing floor. In general, most materials can stay below and act as the substrate for vinyl flooring when they have all the proper attributes of a good subfloor. As long as there is nothing that prevents it from getting the job done, you can go ahead with your remodeling project.
Remember that vinyl is a soft, flexible, and thin material for flooring. You can't expect to smooth out or bridge over imperfections on the substrate.
Only thick and flexible materials like engineered wood or solid hardwood have this capability. They can work well with some surface embossing like seams, holes, and gaps.
On the other hand, those imperfections can be a huge problem for vinyl flooring. They could telegraph or transfer the upper flooring. A large hole could even create craters on the vinyl flooring over time.
Standard vinyl flooring installation typically requires large-format boards to act as the substrate. They can be MDF or plywood board sheets of various sizes, such as 4x8 inches.
It is a companion to the subfloor and needs to be there before you lay out the vinyl tiles or planks. Large-format sheets are usually the preferred choice as they don't have many seams, can smooth out surface embossing and small hoses, and add strength to the vinyl flooring.
Those characteristics are factors you should look for when making an assessment of whether your existing floor can act as the substrate for the new vinyl flooring.
When the installer removes the floor coverings, they can evaluate their conditions. If you don't want to remove the existing coverings, it is hard (and even impossible) to assess the subfloor's condition. It could be rotted or cracked, and you have no way whatsoever to find out.
To prevent this, make sure the existing coverings, subfloor, and any other underlayment are durable and robust enough to withstand the installation of a new floor.
When you have large-format boards (the traditional substrate option), there are only a few seams, and they are generally not a problem, even in high-moisture environments like the kitchen.
Solid hardwood makes a stark contrast with dozens or hundreds of seams. And if the flooring has other issues like wide gaps due to water damage, you should not use it as the substrate for your vinyl flooring. Otherwise, even the best floor mop for Vinyl can’t save it.
In general, you should sand down high spots and fill low spots in the substrate. These tiny imperfections might not be transferred to the upper vinyl flooring right away. But over time, low hills or crates could be formed on the surface.
One of the biggest advantages of vinyl, laminate, and tile floors is their surface embossing. It makes the floor look more natural and realistic by providing slight lows and highs. Embossing helps the covering stimulate natural materials, such as stone and wood.
However, noticeable embossing in the substrate isn't a good idea. It can telegraph to the upper vinyl flooring and pick up the underlayment's texture. Thick vinyl is less prone to this problem.
You can use an existing floor as the substrate for your new vinyl flooring. Just make sure that it can meet the requirements for a regular underlayment. If you are still unsure about maintenance of vinyl flooring, check out this guide: Best mop for Vinyl floors: TOP Options for Long-Lasting Flooring article