Though linoleum floors are soft to the foot and low maintenance, they are also prone to scratches and sunlight damage. These factors mean that homeowners often prefer to replace their linoleum floors with laminate. But does that mean you need to remove the old flooring first?
You can install laminate over old linoleum flooring, provided the linoleum is clean and level first. Additionally, the floor should be in good condition – with no large cracks or dents – and there should be no moisture damage. Installing underlayment beneath the laminate is a must to ensure success.
The rest of this article will examine considerations you should keep in mind when installing laminate over linoleum, how to install an additional laminate layer and the advantages and disadvantages of choosing laminate instead of linoleum.
Can You Lay Laminate Over Linoleum?
You can lay laminate over linoleum, and many homeowners do so because it’s faster and cheaper than ripping up old flooring. However, this will depend on the stability of the floor, the possible presence of mold or asbestos. If you are unsure, call a professional to get an accurate evaluation.
As well as laminate, you can also lay other floorings, such as carpet, tile, and hardwood over linoleum. Still, you need to keep the above factors in mind before making any final decisions.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors below.
Is the Floor Stable?
Sometimes, the subfloor under the linoleum is not stable enough to bear the weight of the underlayment required to prep the surface for laminate installation. This is a common concern if your home is older or was poorly built.
In such a situation, it’s best to first install a new subfloor and then lay down the laminate.
You should be able to see or feel if the floor is unstable. It may present as cracks or creeks, or you may see dents in the linoleum from years of use.
Is There Visible Mold?
Mold can be a significant issue on linoleum floors, and before you start laying down laminate, you need to confirm that the linoleum is entirely mold-free. If even the slightest bit of mold is present, it will continue to grow under the laminate and damage both your old and new floors.
Mold will not only eat into the subfloor but also into your new laminate. If you think you have mold, chances are you will need to remove the linoleum completely before adding over the new underlay and laminate.
Could You Have Asbestos?
If the linoleum on your floors dates back before 1986, there is a chance that it contains asbestos.
This may come as a surprise, but you do not need to call a professional to handle removal if the flooring is in good shape. If you work safely and cover it well, you can do the work on your own.
However, if you see dents or cracks to the point that the particles are disturbed, you will need to seek a pro. First, take a small sample of the floor and send it to a lab for testing so you can determine whether you need professional help or if you can handle it yourself.
If it comes back positive, your best bet is to hire a team to safely remove the asbestos for you.
Should You Put Laminate Over Linoleum?
We’ve established that it’s possible to lay laminate over your linoleum, but is it recommended?
You should put laminate over linoleum if you want a more modern and solid new floor that’s easy to install. Plus, since it isn’t glued down (like linoleum), changing your flooring will be easier down the line. Although, with its long life span, it should stand up to years of wear and tear.
Laminate and linoleum are surprisingly similar flooring materials and can even be difficult to tell apart at first glance. Some common factors include:
- Both are relatively long-lasting and water-resistant.
- Neither is completely waterproof.
- Both options are child and pet-friendly, making them ideal for family homes.
- Both are low-maintenance flooring options, making them a good choice for people who don’t have a lot of time to spend on home maintenance.
- They’re available in several different colors and patterns, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find an option that suits your home décor.
With all this in common, you might be wondering why you would want to cover one with the other.
As with any product, there are some differences between these two materials that will play a significant role in helping you determine which is the right option for your needs. These include but are not limited to:
- Ease of installation
- The overall look and feel of the material
- It’s longevity
- Maintenance issues
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that may help you decide whether or not you should cover your linoleum with laminate flooring.
Ease of Installation
Laminates are almost always floating floors, which makes them extremely easy to install. In fact, you don’t need to spend money on hiring professional help – with laminate floors; it’s easy to do it all by yourself.
Conversely, linoleum floors are usually glued to a subfloor. While it is possible to install it yourself, it’s usually best left to the professionals if you don’t have prior experience.
This means that while the flooring material itself is budget-friendly, the installation will require investment from your side.
Not only that, but if your old linoleum isn’t completely perfect, it will show more on new linoleum than on laminate flooring.
Overall Look and Feel
Linoleum is made using a number of natural materials, including:
- Linseed oil
- Wood flour
- Pine rosin
These create a surface that is soft to walk on, making linoleum a great option if you’re looking for comfortable floors but don’t want to worry about the hassle of carpeting.
Laminate, on the other hand, is a solid floor. It includes a hard wear layer that protects the surface from damage, but this flooring is not quite as comfortable for your feet.
However, the overall look of laminate flooring is much more polished and modern than linoleum making it a smarter choice for years to come.
It is possible to find eco-friendly laminates – however, it’s a challenging process, and you may not be able to find something that fits both your budget and your preferred look.
Still, laminate is an all-natural product that is both biodegradable and compostable. When removing laminate in the future, you should be able to remove it without damage – unlike linoleum that is glued down and will break as you strip it free from the subfloor.
Since linoleum is soft, it scratches easily. In fact, even high heels or the edges of furniture being moved around can cause damage. It is possible to buff out these scratches, but that requires you to take the time to carry out maintenance.
Laminate, on the other hand, is highly scratch-resistant. This makes it a great option in homes with energetic children or pets, as well as in locations that see heavy traffic, such as your kitchen.
This is one of the biggest differentiators between the two materials. Both linoleum and laminate can be budget-friendly, with laminate available in several different styles and qualities that can fit any budget.
However, over the years, linoleum has developed a reputation for being outdated and somewhat less desirable. Even cheaper laminate is seen as a better option than linoleum due to this.
While both options can increase your home’s resale value compared to bare concrete floors, laminate is often seen as the preferable option.
Laminates can hold up and retain their look over the years, barring any major damage to the surface. Linoleum, on the other hand, can quickly suffer from sunlight damage.
Additionally, if not cleaned frequently, it can start to yellow over time, allowing its actual age to show.
How to Install Laminate Over Linoleum
Installing laminate over linoleum is usually a relatively straightforward process that you can complete without professional help.
To install laminate over linoleum, follow these simple steps:
- Gather your tools, including a hammer, level, and pull bar.
- Ensure the floor is flat.
- Prep the area by removing molding and cleaning carefully.
- Install underlay before adding laminate.
- Cut and install laminate starting on the far wall.
- Adjust the door casings to fit the planks.
- Install trim and molding.
Step 1: Gather Your Tools, Including a Hammer, Level, and Pull Bar
Having the right tools is essential for a safe and successful job. You’ll need everything from a pry bar and hammer to a jigsaw and table saw for this.
If you don’t have any of these tools, you can rent certain items from your local home improvement store. However, if you’ve never used a power saw before and feel unsure, it’s best to call a contractor to do the job for you.
To install laminate over linoleum, you’ll need the following:
- Pry bar
- Oscillating Saw
- Flush-cut Dovetail Saw
- Handsaw or Table Saw
- Tape Measure
- Pull Bar
- Finishing Nails
- Molding (optional)
Step 2: Ensure the Floor Is Flat
You’ll need to begin by making sure the floor is flat. Use a level to confirm this by moving around the room and taking measurements at different points.
If the floor is not flat, you will likely need to have someone come in and remove the old flooring to level it out. However, if it’s just a very small part, you may be able to piece the linoleum to let out any air bubbles. Just be sure to thoroughly reseal the area with a strong adhesive.
Step 3: Prep the Area by Removing Molding and Cleaning Carefully
Once the floor is flat, you’ll need to remove the molding. This is the trim around the room under which the edges of your flooring sits. Make sure to be careful when doing so, as you can reinstall the pieces later once you have finished laying down the laminate.
Next, clear any visible debris that may be present on the surface of your floor. Once that is done, clean thoroughly with a mild detergent, vacuum, scrub, and mop.
Leave to dry completely so that the moisture doesn’t damage the underlayment. This should be at least a few days to be absolutely sure there’s no moisture left.
To be totally sure, add a couple of fans or dehumidifiers to the room.
Step 4: Install Underlay Before Adding Laminate
This step is crucial – you will need a foam underlay below laminate floors.
Make sure to use underlayment with an attached vapor barrier, such as QuietWalk Plus QW100PLUS Underlayment, to provide additional protection against the action of moisture. Some laminate planks come with attached underlayment, allowing you to skip this step.
Step 5: Cut and Install Laminate Starting on the Far Wall
Once the flooring is prepped, cut the first row. Unless you’re very lucky, you’ll need to cut or rip the first row of planks to size using a power saw or handsaw.
Install the First Row
Make sure to leave a ¼ inch (0.635 cm) gap between the planks and the wall to allow for expansion and contraction, and start installing the first row with the tongues facing the wall.
If you’re unable to connect planks tightly by hand, you can use a hammer or a pull bar to help. Cut the last plank of the row to fit, and save the scraps if they’re at least 12 inches (30.48 cm).
Install Additional Rows
Continue installing the laminate flooring, remembering to stagger the seams at least 12 inches (30.48 cm). You can start each new row using the scrap wood you cut from the last plank of the previous row to give a nicer, more natural aesthetic.
If you don’t have smaller offcuts, carefully lay out the general design, and cut a few boards to size.
Install the Final Row
Depending on the amount of space you have available to you, you may need to install this row at an angle to get a good fit.
If necessary, pry into place using a pry bar. As with the first row, make sure to leave a ¼ inch (0.635 cm) gap between the laminate and the wall for expansion and contraction.
Step 6: Adjust the Door Casings to Fit the Planks
Door casings are added to hide the point where the door frame meets the wall or floor. In the case of installing flooring, you will come across the casings when you come to the doorway.
It is preferred to have the flooring covered where it meets the door frame, which is where you usually see some kind of transition piece.
Use the door jamb to cut any door casings to size. They should fit above the planks, allowing the flooring to slide snugly under the casings.
Step 7: Install Trim and Molding
If the old piece came away easily, you can replace the molding back into place. In some cases, you may just need to brighten them up with some paint.
However, some people choose to buy new trim and molding even if the old didn’t get damaged. These can easily be added with a nail gun and some wood glue.
Be careful not to nail through the floor into the underlayment – nails should only go through the trim and the wall.