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Can And Should You Put Wood/Hardwood Floor Over Linoleum?

Most people would like to cover over some unsightly linoleum that may have been put down by somebody’s grandparents. The good news is, if there is linoleum in your home and you want to make the transition to hardwood flooring, there’s not typically a need to remove it.

Linoleum is glued down and therefore, it makes the ideal base for a solid hardwood floor. As long as linoleum is in good shape, free of mold and visible damage, and installed over an appropriate subfloor it can provide a solid base for a hardwood floor installation that will last a lifetime.

Wood floor plank installation

It is also equally as easy to remove a hardwood floor from linoleum, although the linoleum might be permanently damaged, depending upon the type of floor that you used.

Most true hardwood floors are nailed down, so the nails and staples are going to puncture the linoleum. After a nailed down floor is removed, the linoleum will also have to be removed. It may still be suitable for the base to a new floor but it will need to be inspected.

A floating engineered wood floor will not likely damage the linoleum. In fact, it may even protect and preserve the linoleum so that it will be in good condition when the floating wood floor is removed. That is, of course, provided the linoleum was in good shape when the floor was first installed.

In this article, we will discuss a true hardwood floor that is nailed in place.

Can and Should You Put Wood/Hardwood Floor Over Linoleum?

Measuring floor plank for installation

One of the most important factors for a quality hardwood floor installation is having a solid base. Some homeowners will spend a lot of time, effort, and money putting down a subfloor when they have something that is perfectly suitable right in front of them.

You can put your hardwood floor directly over the linoleum, provided it is in good shape. If there are any dips, cracks, holes, mold, or other damage, it needs to be corrected before the hardwood floor is nailed down. At times, there is no other choice but to remove the linoleum or put a subfloor over it.

Although it certainly is possible and perhaps even preferable to install a hardwood floor over an existing linoleum floor, there may also be some problems associated with it. One of the biggest issues is the possibility of height differences when making the transition to another part of the home.

Using the proper transition strip can help you to overcome this problem. Typically, if you are going from hardwood floor to tile or carpet, it is an easy transition. If you are going from hardwood to hardwood and there is laminate flooring under one room and not another, some finesse is necessary to make it look good. When done properly, the transition should be difficult or impossible to see.

Should You Use A Moisture Barrier Over Linoleum For Wood Floors

Flooring plank installation with hammer

Hardwood floors are beautiful and durable but they are also susceptible to damage, especially from moisture. That is where a moisture barrier comes in.

A moisture barrier is required when a hardwood floor is installed over a crawlspace or concrete slab. Linoleum acts as a moisture barrier in hot and humid climates and most professionals do install an additional moisture barrier.

The primary reason why a moisture barrier is used is due to moisture that can build up under the hardwood floor. When air gets under the subfloor, as is the case with a crawlspace or basement, then moisture can build up because of the temperature differences. Eventually, that moisture can damage the hardwood floor and ruin it.

If you have a linoleum floor in place, there is not typically a need to install any additional moisture barrier. Vinyl flooring is not permeable, so in hot and humid climates, vapor will not easily be able to get through it and reach the underside of the hardwood floor.

One other consideration to adding an additional moisture barrier over linoleum is that it would raise the level of the floor slightly. Although it is easy to transition when you have a slight surplus to makeup, adding an additional surplus in height could make for an awkward transition when you exit the room.

Tools Needed To Install Wood Floor Over Linoleum

Wood floor plank being measured on installation

When you are preparing to install a hardwood floor over linoleum, you need to gather the tools. Some specific tools may be necessary and many weekend warriors are not going to have them readily available. This is a good time to build up your tool collection or you can rent some tools at your local hardware store.

Pneumatic Flooring Stapler – This is really the hero of your hardwood flooring project. It serves several purposes, including attaching the floor without damaging it and tightening up the floor joints as you go.

Drill with Bits – Unless you have a power nailer, you will need to face nail the first piece in place. Drill small pilot holes for those nails to avoid splitting the floor.

Hammer and Nail Set – This is for finishing off face nailing the first run against the wall (and under the baseboard). Set the nail to avoid future issues.

Power Saw – It is best if you have a table or miter saw but a circular saw will do for smaller jobs.

Tape Measure – This is standard for any DIY project.

Utility Knife – Helpful for opening boxes and a variety of other tasks.

Safety Glasses – Invest in a good pair of safety glasses. They will protect your eyes and new glasses are easy to see out of and work with.

Work Gloves – You can use all-purpose gloves for this task. It will save you a lot of bumps and bruises.

Kneepads – Unless you enjoy hobbling around for a few days after you finish the job, invest in some kneepads.

Dust Mask – The dust you create and breathe in while installing your hardwood floor can be toxic.

Undercut Saw – For cutting the doorways at the base so the floor fits under it perfectly. You can use a power saw but a flooring cutter hand-tool will also work fine.

Hardwood Floor Jack – This will keep your seams tight on the last few rows when you are no longer able to use the pneumatic flooring stapler.

What To Use To Attach Wood/Hardwood Floor Over Linoleum?

Handyman holding floor plank for installation

We have already discussed some of the tools used to attach the hardwood floor over linoleum. Let’s expand on the subject so you understand exactly what you are going to do before you do it.

A hardwood floor is attached to linoleum and the subfloor using nails and staples. Nails are used along the first and last row through a process known as face nailing. The individual planks are stapled in place using a pneumatic flooring stapler.

A number of factors need to be considered when you are choosing the size nail and stable for the hardwood floor installation. If you are installing over linoleum with a relatively thin, 1/2 inch thick subfloor, then a 1 1/2 inch long cleat nail will be used. If it is a 3/4 inch subfloor, a 1 3/4 inch long cleat nail will be used.

If you are installing a hardwood floor over linoleum and the subfloor is installed over concrete, care needs to be taken that you don’t hit the concrete with the cleat nail. Choose one so that the nail does not only penetrate the subfloor but penetrates the subfloor far enough that it gets a good grip.

Your choice of staple is also going to be important. In most cases, a 15GA staple is sufficient unless you are installing into a 1/2 inch thick subfloor, in which case you would use an 18GA staple that is 1 1/2″ long.

Preparing to Lay A Hardwood Floor Over Linoleum

New flooring after installation

As is the case with any home DIY project, the finished product is only going to be as good as the preparation. Preparing the linoleum floor as a subfloor for the hardwood is vitally important.

Before you install a hardwood floor over linoleum, the existing linoleum needs to be examined carefully. Check for any damage to the linoleum that could show up under the hardwood. You should also check for mold and make sure that the floor is level. Clean the linoleum thoroughly before starting the install.

Since the linoleum floor is typically glued down and solid, you will not need to worry too much about the preparation of the floor. Just go over it with a fine-tooth comb and look for any issues that could show up in the finished product. A linoleum floor provides a stable base for hardwood, as well as providing a suitable moisture barrier.

It is also important to acclimate the hardwood before you install it. Check the boxes for the manufacturer’s directions but typically, you will need to have it in the room for at least 48 hours before the install takes place. A hardwood floor can shrink or swell significantly, ruining the project if it is not acclimated first.

How To Lay Wood/Hardwood Floor Over Linoleum?

A couple measuring floor planks for installation

The process of laying a hardwood floor over linoleum is similar to installing hardwood over any other type of subfloor. Take the following steps and you will have a hardwood floor you can be proud of.

Step 1: Measure the room carefully – Don’t just start on one side of the room with a full-width run and imagine you well end with a full width on the other side. Measure carefully to ensure that you have enough width in the first and last rows.

Step 2. Strike a line before you begin – You can’t use the wall as a straightedge, as they are rarely ever straight. Use a chalk line to get the first row as straight as possible.

Step 3. Facenail the first row – The first row should be nailed in place close to the leading edge. It will be covered by the baseboard. Use a drill if you don’t have a power nailer to keep the board from splitting.

Step 4. Stagger your seams – Be cautious that you are not getting into a pattern in your flooring as you install it. One possibility is the ‘H joint’ pattern, which is unsightly and affects the integrity of the floor. You should also try to avoid stair-stepping.

Step 5. Attach the floor with a pneumatic flooring stapler – Using a pneumatic flooring stapler with a mallet attaches the floor neatly without damaging it. It also tightens up the seams as you go. Do not staple too close to the end of the plank.

Step 6. Undercut doorways at transitions – The transition strip should neatly fit under the doorway.

Step 7. Switch to a nailer on the last four rows – When you get closer to the end of the job, you will no longer have room to use the pneumatic flooring stapler. Switch to a nailer and take your time so you don’t damage the floor.

Step 8. Keep your joints tight with a floor jack – It may seem like a small part of the project, but those last rows should be as tight as the rest of the floor.

Things To Consider So You Can Easily Remove Hardwood Floor Over Linoleum

Top view of guy in white hard hat installing floor planks

The process of removing hardwood floor from over linoleum is not difficult but it does take some work. The easiest way to do it is to cut the hardwood so that it comes up in smaller pieces. You can then chip it up with a prybar and mallet.

There are a number of different options available for removing hardwood floors from over linoleum. The real choice is, do you want to salvage any of the floor for use or donation or is it going to be taken to the curb? This will make a difference in the option you use.

You also need to consider safety when removing a hardwood floor. A lot of little pieces are going to be flying and you are going to be swinging a mallet all day long, so many hands and fingers are damaged in the process. Make sure that you wear quality safety glasses and some all-purpose gloves.

Tools Needed to Remove Wood Floor From Over Linoleum

Guy lifting flooring planks with hammer and crowbar

Just as it is necessary to get tools together for any other DIY project, it is a good idea to have everything you need before you begin to remove the hardwood floor from over linoleum. As a weekend warrior, you will likely have many of these tools available. Others you may need to borrow or purchase.

Kneepads – I could have included this in the safety consideration above, but it is worth its own mention. Kneepads are going to save your knees in ways you can’t even imagine.

Circular Saw – If you are going to be cutting the hardwood floor into smaller pieces, a circular saw set at the appropriate depth can do it without damaging the subfloor under the linoleum.

Prybar with Mallet – Having a quality prybar is going to be one of the best choices for removing the hardwood floor. This may be a good time to purchase a 2-inch pry bar so you have plenty of muscle without using all of your own muscle.

Nail Claw – Although you could use a claw hammer to remove the staples, a nail claw is going to make your life a lot easier. It gives you the leverage necessary to remove the staples with ease.

Vice Grips – Not all of the staples are going to submit to the nail claw, so a good pair of vise grips will be there to save the day. If you don’t have a pair of vise grips already, it’s a tool that you will go to time and time again.

Magnetic Sweeper – A large magnet will save the day when all is said and done. You can pass it across the floor to pick up all of those staples that have been left behind.

Preparing to Remove A Hardwood Floor From Linoleum

Hammer and crowbar on wood floor

The most important part of preparing to remove a hardwood floor is gathering the tools and coming up with a plan. You should consider how much of the floor you are willing to waste and then get to work.

The first step in the process is to cut the hardwood floor into smaller pieces. Set the depth of your circular saw so that it will cut through the hardwood floor almost entirely without cutting into the linoleum.

After the hardwood floor has been scored in this way, you can begin chipping it up with the prybar and mallet. Make good use of both the short and long ends of the prybar because they each have their own purpose.

After removing as much of the wood as possible, go around and pry up all of the staples. This is going to be a very difficult and tedious job. Wear your kneepads, you will need them!

Finally, clean the room by sweeping the floor with a magnet and then sweeping it with the broom. Take the wood out to the curb or donate what can be donated.

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