I am renovating a small bathroom at my home and want to replace a 14-year old Tarkett vinyl floor. The flooring is sound, no water damage, tears, or wear-through spots. I have been advised, by two different flooring suppliers, to apply a Portland cement based floor-levelling compound over the existing vinyl flooring and then install the new vinyl flooring directly over this.
A flooring installer, who is a friend of the family (with about 25 yrs experience), does not recommend this, and says that I should peel off the old floor, leaving the grey backing layer behind, and then float the floor with the same Portland cement based levelling compound. He suggests that the floor leveller will not adhere to the glossy surface of the old vinyl, and that the “cushion” of the old flooring can also cause problems.
I don’t know if my installer friend is a bit “behind the times” or if the two suppliers are looking at this as a “quick and easy install”.
There are many different styles and manufacturers of vinyl flooring varying in quality and composition. There are solid vinyl styles that are completely synthetic from top to bottom and others that have a paper or composite backing covered with a top vinyl layer or layers. All of these are moisture resistant, with the solid vinyl being the most waterproof. All should perform well in wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens and the higher cost material is often more durable and longer lasting. The composition of the old flooring, previously installed, and the new flooring will play a large part in the decision of which way to proceed.
If the old flooring has a high gloss surface and is a high-quality product, the floor-levelling compound may have a difficult time adhering to the surface. If the flooring has a dull or rough surface, the Portland cement based compound may cover properly. If the flooring is quite thick and has a heavy backing, it may flex and move somewhat over time, causing the leveller to deteriorate and the flooring to lift.
Another consideration is the method of installation of the old flooring. Most vinyl composite floorings have been installed by gluing the entire surface, but some may be glued at the perimeter only. If this was the method used, it will be more easily removed, and should be taken up before applying the new material. If the old flooring has lost its adhesion or come loose in the middle or at the edges, removal is also advised. If the flooring is still tightly glued to the subfloor in all areas, removal might not be required.
Doing a test patch and leaving it uncovered for a couple of weeks may help determine if the levelling compound will hold up. If it lasts uncovered without cracking and damage, during normal use, it will surely work when covered with new flooring. If it cracks and breaks when walked on or flakes off in the first day or two then removal of the old flooring surface should be considered.
I have seen several installations where the surface of the old vinyl flooring has been peeled off and the loose sections of the backing removed, with only a thing layer remaining. Levelling compound will normally adhere well to this thin layer, as long as there are no loose sections and the new vinyl may be installed. Another equally common method is to remove any loose vinyl flooring or top layer and then installation of a thin subfloor before replacement with new flooring. The subfloor is often a product know as Proboard, which is a moisture resistant particle board that is approximately 6mm thick. This subfloor is often glued and air stapled or hand nailed down, using special fasteners. In my opinion, this is the best method, but certainly has a higher cost and is more labour intensive than the other methods.
It is interesting to me that you received advice for the simplest method of installation from two different suppliers. I have seen printed instructions from vinyl flooring manufacturers, in the past, for specifications on subfloor requirements and installation techniques to allow warranties on their products. If these methods were not followed to the tee, the flooring warranties were void.
You should take into consideration the advice from both his friend and the flooring suppliers, but should contact the manufacturer of his specific flooring for proper methods of installation. High quality flooring may have a very long life expectancy, if maintained properly, and long warranty periods. The maker of the flooring is the ultimate authority on proper installation method of their product. Their flooring may have specific requirements unique their product that will differ from others. After selection of the new flooring, a call to the manufacturer or their local representative or visit to their website may give a definitive answer to the questions above.