When people discover luxury vinyl tile’s (LVT) stunning colors and natural textures, their next question is often “but can I put it over my old floor?” The quick answer is yes. But to ensure both LVT and luxury vinyl planks’ (LVP) optimal resiliency and durability, you’ll want to follow some best installation practices. Whether you’re installing your LVT and LVP over concrete, vinyl, wood, or ceramic tile, your new floor will perform as well as how you prepare the surface below. That preparation must provide a level, smooth, and dry surface on which to install your new LVT and LVP.
When installing LVT or LVP over concrete, your first consideration is moisture. Concrete slabs are notorious for drawing moisture, the result of poor drainage, improper sealing, or a lack of a vapor retarder installed directly below the slab. If your slab is a new pour, depending on your local climate, flooring professionals usually recommend letting your slab cure a minimum of 90 days before installing any type of floor. Don’t take a short cut when curing your concrete slab. Impatience may cause microbial growth or alkaline damage to your vinyl or adhesives. Flooring contractors use a variety of methods to test moisture in concrete. A common one, the RH Test, which measures the concrete’s relative humidity by placing a probe in the slab. You want no more than 85 percent relative humidity.
Once you’ve determined you’re in the clear moisture-wise, make sure any cracks or nicks in your concrete are filled and smoothed. Your floor likewise needs to be level. Rapid setting self-leveling compounds are a quick leveling solution and provide up to an inch and a half of underlayment. The layer, once set, further protects your LVT or LVP from alkalinity and moisture.
Vinyl and Resilient Floors
When installing LVT and LVP over an existing vinyl floor, the most common question we hear is “should the old vinyl be ripped out?” The quick answer is yes, but with an important caveat. LVT and LVP can work over vinyl, but make sure it’s only one layer of vinyl. Also, your new LVT and LVP will eventually conform to imperfections in the substrate, so if there are gouges, deep scratches, or patches of the old vinyl missing, those are problems. By the time you’ve fixed any flaws, added leveling compound, and cleaned up, you could have had the old vinyl recycled and an underlayment ready to go. In the long run, it’s probably easier if you go ahead and rip out the old. Plus, you’ll get a better end result with a quarter-inch plywood underlayment. Like concrete, you need a smooth, level surface to work with.
Important caveat! Possible asbestos in the old vinyl or resilient flooring is another deciding factor on whether to rip out or cover the old floor. Resilient flooring, backing, the felt lining, and old adhesives may contain asbestos fibers and/or crystalline silica. This is serious! Avoid creating dust. Inhalation of asbestos or crystalline dust is a cancer and respiratory tract hazard. Unless you’re certain that the previously installed product is a non-asbestos containing material, you need to proceed as though it contains asbestos. It’s your health, your family’s health, and the health of those working on your remodel that’s at stake. For more information on how to determine if your flooring has asbestos and what to do if it does, see the current edition of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) publication “Recommended Work Practices for Removal of Resilient Floor Coverings.”
When installing LVT or LVP over hardwood, you must first deal with signs of life’s ups and downs left on your old wood floors. Long scratches from furniture moves. Water stains where pipes failed. Varnish, wax, and seam dirt. That history has to be either sanded smooth or covered with a one-quarter inch plywood underlayment.
If you’re working with a suspended wood subfloor, it should have a minimum of 18” of well-ventilated air space clearance above the ground. A moisture vapor retarder should be installed correctly (with proper overlapping widths and lengths) over the crawl space. At no time should you apply sheet plastic over the bare wood floor, for then moisture can collect against the wood’s surface.
If your old hardwood floor was installed directly on concrete, you need to tear it out and prepare the concrete substrate for your new luxury vinyl flooring. And as always, level, smooth, and dry are your substrate musts.
LVT may be installed over ceramic tile, but ceramic tile poses unique challenges in terms of preparation. First, you have to decide if placing your LVT or LVP over the ceramic tiles will raise the level of the floor too high. The aggravation you may encounter at thresholds, heat registers, baseboards, and built-ins may be worse than the time and mess of tearing out the tile. Second, if you leave the tile in place, you must deal with the tiles’ joints and any broken or chipped tiles. Tom Silva of This Old House says that can be done easily enough by removing broken tiles and patching those areas with mortar. You will also need to fill in grout lines with thinset mortar. The tools are simple: a putty knife, trowel, and sponge. Again, your final underlayment must be level, smooth, and dry.
Laminate flooring should be removed first. Laminate floors don’t age smoothly. Laminate’s edges tend to bulge and curl up when exposed to any moisture. You will get far better results by removing the old flooring and installing an underlayment of smooth, one-quarter inch plywood.
How do underlayment requirements differ between LVT floating floors and glue-down LVT?
DuChâteau has two innovative luxury vinyl tile lines, one a floating floor and the other a glue-down option. DuChâteau’s Vinyl DeLuxe® Grand Collection with LuxCor® click construction has an attached HushWalk underlayment. A floating floor, the Luxcor® Click technology is designed to expand and contract freely. For these reasons, the DuChâteau Vinyl DeLuxe® Grand Collection cannot be glued, nailed, or fastened to the substrate in any way. Make sure to install your cabinets, vanities, island counters and other permanent features first. Then, fit Vinyl DeLuxe® Grand Collection planks around them. Leave a quarter-inch space for expansion and contraction. For more installation details, consult our Installation Guide for DuChâteau’s Vinyl DeLuxe® Grand Collection floating floor.
DuChâteau’s Vinyl Deluxe® Classic Collection is a glue-down LVT. This line features breathtaking wood textures, patterns, and colors. The Classic Collection may be installed on a well-prepared substrate that is smooth, firm, level, clean, dry, and prepared for the purpose. See Installation Guide for DuChâteau’s Vinyl Deluxe® Classic Collection for more specifics on how to properly install our glue-down LVP on your particular surface.
Explore our luxury vinyl
Explore DuChâteau’s sophisticated palette of possibilities. From the dark, mysterious Gothic in our Grand Collection to the cool, low-maintenance Arctic that is part of the Classic Collection, DuChâteau has a new luxury vinyl floor for your remodeling plans. Learn more about our luxury vinyl projects and products. Get inspired! We’re here to answer your questions!