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I just tore up my old linoleum flooring and will be installing new linoleum in the next few days. Some internet research has revealed that I need to make sure the floor is level and, if it is not perfectly level, pour leveler over it.

Let's assume that my floor is not perfectly level. What are the implications of installing the new floor even if the unlevelness is completely unnoticeable? I am not one for cutting corners on home improvement work, but if it's truly not necessary to make it perfectly level then I would be okay with skipping that step.

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Is this on a wood floor or on a concrete slab? – Karl Katzke Oct 2 '11 at 1:08
up vote 8 down vote accepted

You likely need flat, not level.

And for that, all you really need is some sort of a long, straight edge. A yard stick works pretty well ... just place it down anywhere you think there might be a dip or bump, and if the yard stick is flat against the floor its whole length, you're fine.

As for the implications of not having it flat, I'm not sure for linoleum. For floating floors it's really hard to get everything to click together, and you'll end up with spots that bounce a little too much when you walk over it. You can actually have a little imperfection, which will be mentioned on the package (eg, 1/8" over 4')

As for not having it level, things set on the ground will roll away.

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It seems like if it was adequate before the linoleum was ripped up, the new floor should behave the same way (assuming everything was scraped up completely). – Steve Jackson Sep 23 '11 at 3:04

The floor doesn't have to be completely flat as long as any bumps or hollows are relatively shallow (like rolling hills rather than mountain peaks and valleys).

If there are gaps or ridges in the floor then this will create areas where the linoleum will wear more than the rest of the floor. This is because there will be movement of the linoleum where it can rub against the floor. In extremis this could cause tears and holes in the linoleum and seriously reduce it's life.

If it's a wooden floor you might want to caulk any large gaps between floorboards and then sand it prior to laying the new linoleum. Another possibility is laying a base layer of thin plywood sheets over the floor first. This will even out any serious bumps and cover over wider gaps. Make sure that this layer is well stuck/nailed down first.

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As others have said, you want flat (aka "true") more than level.

If you have areas in your floor that are uneven, but you do not wish to add an entire new layer (which I generally think is a bad idea cause you end up with floors 2" thick with 9 layers of junk in them...) then you can find a floor leveling compound which you spread into the low points to fill and smooth the rough/uneven spots.

You can find this in the same area at Home Depot or Lowes that you'll find flooring adhesives - in/around the flooring sections usually in the tile area.

They sell it in pre-mixed tubs that make it quite easy to work with - or you can even buy a batch of self-leveling concrete if you want to get perfectly true AND level - but be warned, if you have any gaps in the floor, plug them before using concrete or you'll get concrete dripping into the sub-floor and putting a dimple in your otherwise level area.

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If the floor looked flat before with the old linoleum them I wouldn't mess with it. I used floor leveler under linoleum once and it was a nightmare. The leveler is expensive: I spent more on it than the flooring. It didn't dry smooth and after it dried little concrete nuggets kept appearing from no where no matter how much I swept. I kept pulling chunks out of the glue while troweling it on, and after the floor was down I saw a couple of chunks under it.

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