Tiling over linoleum is not generally recommended, and laying tile over linoleum can be a health hazard if not done correctly. Depending on how long ago the linoleum was installed, you might need to be concerned about asbestos fibers. The fibers are contained in the backing of the linoleum. So if your linoleum flooring is pre-1990, it is important to have it tested before doing any work with it - especially any type of sanding.
Why tile over linoleum?
When you are looking at your kitchen or bathroom and thinking you'd like to freshen it up or you want a change, the idea of laying tile over the linoleum seems reasonable. It's not. However, if you go about it the right way, it can be done.
- Is the linoleum cushioned? Cushioning becomes compressed over time, creating an uneven surface. You do not want to tile on an uneven surface.
- How well is the linoleum secured to the subfloor? The best subflooring is exterior grade plywood at least 1" to 1" double layered. If the subflooring is made up of particleboard or luan, there is potential for layers of board to separate or come apart, again creating an uneven surface. If the subflooring is inadequate, it also may not hold the weight of a layer of ceramic tiles without cracking.
- Be sure your floor is solid enough not to flex. Flexing will crack your grouting and tiles once you tile over the linoleum.
- Make sure your surface is very clean before applying any type of bonding material.
- The level of your floor will rise about a half-inch, so you may need to make adjustments to doors accordingly.
- You will need to make numerous cuts in the tile to accommodate plumbing and other fixtures.
Other Tips for Tiling over Linoleum
- Often, when linoleum is installed, only the edges and center are spot glued. Portions of the linoleum floor can come up at any time.
- You can make a tighter floor for your tiles to lay flat by using 1 to 1" rust-proof screws or nails roughly every six inches on the linoleum flooring.
- Pay attention to manufacturer recommendations when choosing a latex thin-set mortar for your project.
- If you have tested your linoleum, or it was installed after 1990, it is a good idea to sand or scarify the surface (then clean thoroughly) before applying the bonding material. Roughing up the surface will allow for a better bond with both the tile and the linoleum.
- Don't forget you will need to remove any baseboard or stripping before tiling.
How Backer Board Can Help
Backer board is a drywall-type product that can be made from a variety of moisture-proof materials, from cement to gypsum. Cement is often recommended due to its longevity.
Essentially, you are simply putting down another layer to have a better surface to tile over your linoleum. The backer board must be on the same plane and plumb with the wall to be laid correctly. It can be cut with a circular saw, but is better scored with a sharp tool and snapped for less mess and dust. Once the backer board is secured, apply mortar and tiles as in any tiling project.
While putting tile over linoleum is not an ideal way to tile your floor, it can be done in a pinch. Just make sure the linoleum surface is even, sturdy and extra clean before you begin.
Beyond preparing your flooring surface for tile, you need to plan out your grout options. Figure out what it will cost to tile your floor. Once you've installed your flooring, keep it in good shape so it will last.