I'm planning to replace the linoleum floor in my kitchen in the next few months. According to a friend, I do not need to remove the existing linoleum and can just lay down new flooring on top. However, this just strikes me as wrong.

So, should I remove the existing linoleum or not?

  • Not sure if it matters, but I'm considering bamboo, cork tiles, or marmoleum as the replacement.
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    when was your house built? (60's to mid 80's asbestos was pretty common) Also, is the linoleum coming up anywhere? – dotjoe Sep 3 '10 at 2:27
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    Do you have linoleum (sawdust + linseed oil + rosin) or the vinyl flooring that has mostly replaced it? They're different materials. – Jeremy W. Sherman Oct 1 '12 at 18:13

If it were me I would remove it. No reason other than I like to start fresh when remodeling, and I don't feel like I did a good job unless I do.

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    I agree - The way I see it, I know exactly what I've done, and that it's quality work. Who knows what the original builder or previous homeowner did that I can't see. I wouldn't want to put in a new floor and find out later there were problems underneath it. – Doresoom Sep 2 '10 at 20:54
  • Choosing an answer was a little difficult. After a better look at my floor, I have at least 3 layers and maybe 4 layers of linoleum already, plus some other problems. And this is intended to be a long-term remodel, so I want it right from the bottom up. – wdypdx22 Sep 3 '10 at 17:03
  • Be careful about asbestos... multiple layers indicates it's likely one of those is asbestos-backed. As long as you spray down the linoleum you're removing with water, you should prevent any asbestos airborne dust, but if you're unsure/wary have a sample tested. – r00fus Oct 13 '10 at 0:18

Removing old linoleum flooring is difficult to do and as long as the current linoleum is flat and level then you should be fine laying a new surface on top of it. With that said though, when I remodeled my bathroom I did remove the old linoleum to put a new tile floor down. I actually found removing the linoleum fairly easy as I was able to peel most of it up in a single sheet and then I just scraped the remaining loose adhesive off the floor before putting down the backer board. (But I am not sure this would be the typical linoleum floor removal experience... maybe my linoleum floor was not properly installed originally.)

If you are going to keep your current linoleum down, the biggest thing to watch out for is that the new flooring will add height and could affect the thresholds and/or appliances. In the case of my bathroom remodel above, it is a good thing I did remove the old linoleum because the new tile floor is just at the level of the threshold. If the linoleum was there then I would have needed to raise the threshold.

Many flooring choices can be laid directly over your old vinyl flooring, as long as it is flat and even. Keep in mind that anything you add to the floors on top of your old flooring will make the thresholds that much higher too; it can also impact any appliances that fit under the counter, like your dishwasher. You will want to consider this before you do too much work. You may find that the height change may cause a tripping hazard. Reference: http://www.theflooringlady.com/removing_vinyl_flooring_000805.html

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  • I had to saw out my sub-floor to get the linoleum out of my bathroom. I think the moisture created some kind of super glue because it was not coming up no matter what I used. It was fused to the sub-floor. – dotjoe Sep 3 '10 at 2:17
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    Thank you for the info. After another look I found that I have 3 - 4 layers already with some other problems as well. – wdypdx22 Sep 3 '10 at 17:06

I am a professional floor covering installer with 30 years of experience. I have 18 employees, and do all commercial work. I am a Forbo Master Mechanic. And the list goes on.

Almost all manufacturers state that you must install any new floor on a properly prepared substrate directly for your new floor to be covered under any warranty.

In California it is against the law to install a 3rd layer of flooring. The problem is you don't know where your weak link exists, and your new floor will most likely fail. All new floors will create stress in time, and pretty quick too. That being said you will have quite bit of stress in the form of shear. The adhesive you will most likely use will have enough strength to hold against shear, but at least one of the layers below will not. So my professional advice is don't do it.

As a professional this is a job I would walk away from, If I could not remove the existing material because a customer wanted to save money.

As far as Asbestos being present in any of the layers is concerned, there is a high likelihood. All 9 inch resilient tile has Asbestos in it. Most resilient sheet goods do not. No Linoleum has ever been manufactured with asbestos, and the two main ingredients in linoleum is actually Linseed oil, and Cork flower. That being said though, many of the mastics used prior to 1984 a percentage of chrysolite Asbestos material. Black mastic is a big red flag and needs to be sampled and tested from any structure built before 1984. This information is in the Code of Federal Regulations 1910. and it is also true if you are removing any painted surface i.e. baseboards due to the presence of Lead in older paint.

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In some cases (such as mine), you'll find that the old stuff isn't glued down properly, forcing you to remove it when you otherwise could have gone over top...

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If you prep your surface first (clean it thoroughly), and it is mostly intact (especially at the edges) you should have no problems laying new rigid flooring over top. I have heard of kitchen remodels where they find 4-5 layers of linoleum!

You do have to account for the increased thickness with cabinets and appliances.

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  • pretty soon you'd have an elevated kitchen floor. watch your step. lol – dotjoe Sep 3 '10 at 2:28

I removed my bathroom linoleum in my old house and was left with the black tar paper stuff stuck really good to the floor. After using water and a heat gun on parts of it, I discovered a trick and am excited to share. I used a wallpaper scoring tool called Tiger and ran it all over the black paper. I then put an old towel on top of it and poured very hot water with a little blue Dawn added to it all over the towel. I covered it with a sheet of plastic and left it for several hours. I was amazed that the paper scraped off with a 3" putty knife in huge pieces! Not little bits almost on fire from the heat gun. I know you will all say that it's probably asbestos but being wet definitely kept it from getting the air. Hope this will help someone!

Update: I did the above proceedure on a large area and left it overnight. The whole thing lifted up in one piece!

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Remove the old layers. Rolling a heavy appliance (refrigerator) over the flooring can leave tracks (dented lines). This can be exaggerated with multiple layers. The tracks on my floor prove this.

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