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My kitchen floor has old linoleum. I want to put down sticky tiles over the old linoleum. The linoleum has a few holes. Is there something that I can use to caulk the holes before putting down the sticky tiles?

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For small holes I just use spackle. Mix it up and use a putty knife working any air bubbles out. You may need a second application if the holes are deep.

If the holes are larger, after I have a nice even fill and when dry I will use a paint primer so the tiles will stick better, this is a good idea with self leveling compounds also so the tiles will stick and not have the edges roll up.

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    What is "spackle"? I've always considered it a generic term for white wall repair paste, which I'd consider too soft and brittle for floors. Can you be more specific? – isherwood Oct 29 '18 at 20:26
  • It is a brand similar to wallboard compound but in between that and plaster as far as density much harder to sand. – Ed Beal Oct 29 '18 at 23:56
  • Where does one find this particular brand? Normally it's a generic term: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/spackle – isherwood Oct 30 '18 at 13:27
  • In my area the home stores have it in a green box , it is similar to hot mud not gypsum and it doesn't shrink like gypsum and is tougher than self leveling compounds, I agree spackle is a generic term, I looked on line and did not see it but I have an old box on the shelf in my shop will get try and forward the mfg info tonight. – Ed Beal Oct 30 '18 at 14:12
  • @isherwood since these are self stick tiles does the type of Spackle actually matter? can you think of a type of spackle that wouldn't work? – virtualxtc Oct 30 '18 at 19:22
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You can use what's called "underlayment leveling compound". There are generally two varieties, regular, which you trowel on and level yourself, and "self leveling" that is more liquid, which you pour on and let set, it naturally seeks level. The problem with the self leveling in this case will be the edges of the holes in the old linoleum may end up as ridges that show through your new floor. I would use the old fashioned type and level it myself.

Side note: some old flooring contained asbestos and if you knowingly cover it up, in some places you can be prosecuted long after you have sold the house when/if it is discovered. You can send a piece of it off to be tested, but I have just opted for full removal of old linoleum. It's hard work, but worth it in the long run (to me anyway).

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    As I understand it, covering asbestos is OK - except for disclosure. But if you "opt for full removal" and the old flooring has asbestos then you must take precautions, which normally means a real abatement company (and a lot of $). Covered asbestos is harmless unless disturbed - the process of removing it is far more dangerous. – manassehkatz Oct 29 '18 at 19:35
  • Agreed, but the disclosure part of it might bite you. I once disclosed that a house I was selling MIGHT have had old asbestos based linoleum in the kitchen at one point (the house was built in 1910, so a lot of things happened before I was even born). I had put down new vinyl flooring over the old stuff, but I think there was another older layer under that too. I had to rip it all up to make the sale go through, even though the possibility of asbestos linoleum was two layers deep. – J. Raefield Oct 30 '18 at 2:11
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The most universal answer for how to fix holes before tiling would be to mix up and use a small batch of the thinset you will be laying the tiles into and scrape it level with your existing floor as you would joint compound / spackle on a wall. A subsequent skimcoat with your thinset mortar can help you level out any other imperfections.

That said, as Ed eluded to in his answer, you can pretty much fill the hole with anything (mortar, cement, sparkle, painters putty) as long as it will stay put when you go to 'key in' and 'comb' your thin-set mortar.

However, it's best to try to match the consistency of the material you are repairing to avoid cracks in your grout lines. Thus for linoleum an electrostatic compound like concrete patch repair or painters caulking / putty would be ideal.

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    This is for self stick tiles as I read it, way overkill imo to use thin set and self stick tiles won't hold as well. – Ed Beal Oct 29 '18 at 23:59
  • I missed the "self stick". Gonna up vote your answer. Not sure if I should leave mine since someone might end up here from a search querry... – virtualxtc Oct 30 '18 at 19:20

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