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Can You Lay Linoleum Over Plywood

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I’ve been looking into fixing the flooring in one of the rooms in my house, and I noticed it has plywood underneath. I’m interested in whether I can lay linoleum over it. I got some advice from experts and here’s what I found.

As a general rule, you can lay linoleum over plywood. Linoleum is rarely layed on a subfloor directly, and plywood is typically used before laying linoleum over concrete, tiles, and wood. A good rule of thumb is to use a ¼ inch (6 mm) sheet of plywood on top of the subfloor that you’re installing the linoleum on to.

Linoleum floor installation

There are a few unique things about installing linoleum on to plywood that you need to be aware of. In this article I will explain everything you need to know about whether you can lay linoleum over plywood. As well as, exactly how to do it.

Should You Lay Linoleum Over Plywood

Linoleum hardwood style flooring

Because there are so many flooring options that give a different look and feel you may be wondering whether it’s a good idea to lay linoleum over plywood. Or is there a better option?

On the whole, laying linoleum over plywood is cheaper and is more comfortable to walk on than other flooring options such as hardwood, and tile. However, it is prone to swelling if excessive water is present. As a result, you need to use a sealer in rooms that are more prone to moisture.

As plywood absorbs moisture it swells, and it can puff up making your floor all uneven. The edges of the plywood are also susceptible to splitting and splintering when it swells up. Interestingly, plywood is actually highly recommended to be used under linoleum when installing it over concrete, tile or hardwood.

But, with an existing plywood floor, the main consideration is that it’s structural sound for people to walk on. The plywood needs to be around 1 inch thick (2.5 cm) to be really solid. However, generally people use ¾ inch (1.9 cm) plywood for flooring or as a subfloor.

Therefore, you need both a ¾ inch plywood subfloor, and it’s a good idea to lay another ¼ inch of plywood to make the subfloor extremely smooth, and flat.

Now that you’re aware of the key considerations when laying linoleum over plywood here’s exactly how to do it.

How To Install Linoleum Over Plywood

Plywood floor board

Surprisingly, installing linoleum over plywood is quite easy. Here’s a broad overview of the entire process.

To install linoleum over plywood you first prepare the surface of the plywood. It needs to be both flat and smooth. After that you measure the linoleum, cut it to fit roughly, and then lay it out. After that, you trim it around any furnishings and walls. Finally, you glue or tape it down, trim the edges, and seal it.

Tools Needed

The tools you will need to lay linoleum over plywood are:

  • Measuring tape
  • Vinyl cutter
  • Knife
  • Levelling compound – if your plywood isn’t level
  • Vinyl glue or double sided tape – depends on the linoleum you’re using
  • Broom/vacuum
  • Spray on adhesive – depends on the plywood
  • Linoleum – of course

Preparing the plywood

Linoleum has a tendency to show any imperfections that are present on the subfloor. For example, if there are small bumps on the plywood, or cracks in the joins of the plywood, then over time the linoleum will mould to the shape of the subfloor. And any cracks of bumps will show through.

Therefore, it’s better to fill in any holes or cracks using a filler. For bumps or parts that stick out you should sand them flat, or scrape them off using a scrapper. And also, remove any nails, screws, or staples that are sticking out.

If the nails are holding the plywood in place you should use a nail punch to reduce the risk of creating a dent in the wood.

You’ll also want to ensure the floor is as level as can be. To do that use a bubble level and check the floor for any areas that aren’t exactly flat. If you notice there are, you can build up any low areas using a levelling compound.

Now, you’re ready to move on to the next step which is to measure and lay out your vinyl.

Measure and lay out the linoleum

To measure the linoleum, create a sketch of your room on paper and write down each of the measurements using your tape measure.

Before cutting the vinyl to fit, add 3 inches (7.5 cm) to the edge of your measurements to allow for when you trim and cut the vinyl at the end to get a really nice finish. Then simply cut the vinyl to fit using your measurements, and lay it out roughly in the room.

You should leave the vinyl to sit in the room overnight, or for 12 hours to let it acclimatize to the temperature and humidity of the room.

Trim the edges

Next you’ll want to trim the edges around the corners, and around furnishings such as vanity units, and toilets.

To do that you fold the edge of the linoleum softly against the obstacle. You then cut lines from the center of the linoleum to the edge. But, this technique is quite tricky and it’s best to see someone do it.

Once, you’ve cut the linoleum so that it sits flat against the furnishings in the room, then simply cut off the excess linoleum so that it sits perfectly against where the furnishing meets the floor. After that, trim all of the remaining edges around the perimeter of the room using your knife.

For long straight edges use your vinyl cutter. As it makes the job much easier. Now, you’re ready to secure the linoleum to the plywood.

Secure the linoleum to the plywood

There are two main types of linoleum. The first type is stuck to the plywood subfloor using glue, and the second type is secured using double sided tape. In order to know which type of linoleum flooring you have, look at the manufacturer’s instructions which will come with your linoleum floor.

Attaching the linoleum to the plywood using glue

To secure it to the floor using glue, it’s best to start at one edge. Pull back the linoleum until half of the plywood is exposed. Then spread the glue all over the part of the plywood that’s exposed and even it out.

It’s best to follow the instructions from the manufacturer in terms of how long to leave it, and whether you need to wait for it to go tacky before placing the linoleum on top of it. Next, gently place the linoleum on top of the glue and press it down using a piece of wood. And use the straight edge of a piece of wood to push the linoleum into the glue.

The goal is to get the glue to touch the entire underside of the linoleum, however, because you can’t see it, you do your best to approximate it, do your best.

Interestingly, for the type of linoleum that you secure using double sided tape, you typically only need to secure the corners or along the perimeter of the room, rather than covering the entire floor – like you do with glue.

Attaching it using double sided tape

To do that you attach a strip of tape along the perimeter. However, you may need to use an additional spray on adhesive. It’s up to your judgement whether you think you need to spray down some adhesive first.

The major way you’ll know is if you lay down the tape, and it barely sticks to the plywood. This means the plywood is too porous or has too much dust. When that’s the case, spray some adhesive along the perimeter of the room first, and then attach the tape to it.

After that, you can remove the protective strip on the double sided tape to expose the sticky top side. Then attach the linoleum to it, and press it down into place.

Finally, if it’s a room that’s prone to moisture such as a bathroom, kitchen, or laundry, then you should seal the edge where the linoleum meets the walls and furnishings using a sealant. It’s very simple to do, put one line of sealant around the entire perimeter of the room.

You can use a special tool to smooth it out or use a wet finger. Now, let it dry, and you’re all done.

Well, there you have it: everything you need to know about laying linoleum over plywood.

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