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How to Tile Over Vinyl Flooring

How to Tile Over Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is rather inexpensive and easy-to-install compared with other types of covering like natural stone, porcelain tile or timber. This makes it a frequent choice for DIY projects, especially when homeowners are on a tight budget or in hurry. However, over time vinyl flooring loses its initial look or simply goes out of fashion, and then the homeowners face the need for the floor renovation. But vinyl floors are not easy to remove because of the adhesion that improves with time. And that’s where you can start wondering whether it is possible start tiling on vinyl flooring. As usual, we are here to give you the right answer and all instructions you need to implement your project successfully. Thus, let’s find out what experienced installers and do-it-yourselfers suggest.


The good news is that you really can save your time, money and effort on removing your old vinyl covering – generally, tiles can be laid right on it. Moreover, when it comes to old flooring, installed prior to the 1980s, it is even advisable to leave your vinyl floor in peace – its removal can lead to filling the air with harmful ingredients, including asbestos fibers and more (PVC is not that innocent as you can expect). That’s why if you do choose to remove your old vinyl flooring, it is better to entrust this task to professionals who can do it safely. On the other hand, additional floor coating can even improve the reliability of your tile installation under certain conditions, since it is able to mitigate limited horizontal movement. However, this applies only to sheet vinyl flooring as opposed to vinyl tiles or planks.

The other news (and it is not as bad as you can think) is that you can’t lay ceramic tile over vinyl without any preliminary examination and preparation. The key point in any tile installation is even, static and rigid surface that could withstand high load (since tile with mortar are rather weighty) and provide good adhesion. So, you need to start with thorough inspection of your existing flooring. Can you lay tile over vinyl? Let’s check the following aspects to answer the question with reference to your specific situation:

  • Is your existing flooring undamaged? If it features loose spots, tears or lifting corners, you cannot tile right over it without prior leveling. If it is even and well-adhered to a subfloor, then you can lay tile, just providing proper treatment of its surface for better adhesion.
  • Does your floor covering adhere to a cement subfloor? If not, you will need to create a new underlayment that will be able to ensure required strength and stability. Note that the vinyl flooring has to be fixed to the subfloor with the help of adhesive over the whole surface, not only along the edges. If it is not, then again, you need either to remove the existing covering or to provide proper underlayment.
  • What is about the height of your current floor? If you have answered positively to the previous questions, then you need to take into account only the height of tile with a layer of mortar under it and to add it to your current floor height. If you have answered negatively, you also need to add the height of a new subfloor. Is such a height acceptable for you with due regard to tubes, doorways, furniture and so on? It may turn out that it smarter to remove the existing floor in order to have some height reserved.

If after the inspection you made up your mind to lay ceramic tile over vinyl without any removal, then follow our further instructions.


If your vinyl flooring is in good repair, dead level and well-adhered to the cement underlayment, all you need to do is provide good adhesion of your tiles to the vinyl surface.

clean the vinyl surface
  • Clean the surface from grit, dirt, grease, wax and any other contamination, which can worsen adhesion. Use a scrub brush wet with water and don’t worry about scratching the surface – you need to scratch it anyway.
  • Since typically vinyl covering features smooth surface, you need to sand it down in order to get a rougher surface for better mortar sticking. When sanding, don’t forget to wear a protective mask and safety goggles (do you remember about possible harmful particles?).
  • Get your mortar mixed and apply it to the vinyl surface with a notched trowel. Spread the thinset evenly with its flat side and then stripe it with the notched side to improve adhesion and prevent air gaps. Press each tile into the mortar, observing neat rows and using spacers for ensuring uniform joints. Tap the tiles slightly to remove the air and check that neither of them is raised over others. Don’t forget to remove excessive mortar in order to avoid hard cleaning. Let the tiles dry as it is recommended in manufacturer’s instruction.
  • Mix your grout and apply it to the tile surface, pushing it into the joints with the help of a grout float and working at a 45° angle for better penetration. Let the grout dry a little and remove its excess from the tile surface. Then allow the grout harden completely before cleaning the surface from any haze.

If you are going to tile over vinyl floor, which is not properly fixed or attached to an old wood subfloor, then you need to arrange an additional underlayment. If you try to skip this stage, your tile installation will be prone to bending loads and local movements – and this will result in tile and mortar cracks with the following collapsing. Besides, a weak wooden base can simply fail to withstand the heavy weight of your tile installation. Thus, you need to take the following steps:

install cement backer boards
  • Install ½ inch thick cement backer boards over your existing flooring, leaving gaps of approximately 1/8 inch around boards for the expansion. Fix the boards with corrosion-resistant screws spaced at intervals of 6-8 inches. Make sure you have screwed them down right to the joists. Seal the gaps with appropriate sealant compound. Clean the surface prior to the next step.
  • Lay your tiles as it is described above.
lay tile over cement backer boards

Now, you can enjoy your tile installation, which will last for years, if done properly.

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