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We here at Country Custom Tile are asked frequently by Do-It-Yourselfers, Can I install tile over vinyl ?. There is no simple yes or no answer. It can be done with the proper preparation and investigation into the condition of the vinyl and how well its bonded to the surface below.
The sheet vinyl must be clean and free of dirt or other bond breakers. This is true of any surface to which you are trying to bond the tile. Mortar and adhesive manufacturers require clean surfaces for bonding. In order to get good solid bonding, the adhesives must be able to intimately contact both bonding surfaces (in this case the back of the tile and the vinyl). In the case that either of the surfaces are dirty with grit, oil, wax, or other bond inhibiting films, a good bond cannot be achieved due to the fact that the adhesive isn’t able to contact the necessary surfaces, physically or chemically.
Because the vinyl often has a very smooth surface finish, scarification is required to enhance its bondability. Sanding or scarifying enhances the probability of strong physical bonding between the adhesive, tile, and the vinyl by providing more surface area on the vinyl. This greatly improves the chances for mechanical “locking” and better physical contact.
Some of the no-wax floor finishes ( urethane coated) are intentionally very smooth so the floors maintain their shine. In these cases, scarifying will help create a better bonding surface.
WARNING: If you are going to scarify or sand the floor prior to installing tile, it’s important to know if the vinyl contains asbestos. Flooring containing asbestos should definitely NOT be sanded! If you’re unsure, you can cut a small sample (only a small piece is generally needed a 1-inch by 1 inch) and have it tested at a local asbestos laboratory (found in the Yellow Pages) for a nominal fee if time permits. The health risks of sanding a floor containing asbestos has to do with the harmful airborne particles which will be generated.
The sheet vinyl must be single layer only and well attached. It should not be perimeter glued (it often is!).
In some cases a cushioning layer is installed underneath the vinyl or the vinyl sheet itself is cushion backed. For tiling purposes, this will allow too much movement in the system and may lead to a failure in the tile. Even if the tile and vinyl form a good bond together, if the vinyl isn’t secured to the surface or allows too much movement, the tile could fail. In addition, in the case of future repairs where one tile had to be replaced, removing a tile from a vinyl surface which is poorly bonded to the subfloor could lead to damage in adjacent grout and tile.
The vinyl must be bonded using a full spread adhered system . This also provides stability in the vinyl as a substrate. A system which is only tacked at the perimeters will again allow too much movement.
Defects poking up through the vinyl may cause problems for the tile installation in the same way they do on other subsurfaces.
Should I actually AVOID tiling over vinyl?
Although it may seem intimidating or more risky than tiling over other surfaces, well adhered vinyl with the proper surface treatment to enhance bonding, will work well and may even resist limited horizontal movement. I still don't recommend it.
So What's The Final Answer On Vinyl?
Be sure and stay with your product manufacturer’s recommendations. Be sure and check with the mortar manufacturer for their specific installation advice. Installing tile over vinyl is relatively common these days, most of the manufactures do have products specifically designed to bond tile to vinyl. " I still don't recommend it "
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