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We're having an HVAC unit replaced. The unit has been removed and the contractor is coming back Monday to start installing the new unit. We'd like to do something about the terrible floor that is in that closet.

The existing floor is many layers of old, uneven, cracked tile. The topmost later is a vinyl sheet that covers most, but not all of the floor. What can we put over this that would be fast and easy?

Would vinyl sheet be resilient enough to smooth out some bumps? Is there something we can apply to the old floor to even it out some?

We don't need anything nice or pretty - just something a little more sanitary. We don't want to make this a major project, but would like to take the opportunity to make a small improvement.

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IMO - It shouldn't be ridiculous to tear up any and all linoleum and tile with a good floor scraper down to the subfloor. Then a nice piece of plywood cut to fit and a bit of paint is a great way to go.

Otherwise, I'd mix up a batch of a Floor Leveling Compound, then a nice piece of linoleum (sometimes had for free as a drop from your local flooring depot).

I'm tend to lean on the "just tear it all out" kind of project, but a leveling compound will not only give you a level floor, it will definitely fill any gaps, crevices, etc.

  • Thanks! This is an old building and there may be some old layers we don't want to disturb. I've been googling and see lots of leveling compounds for concrete floors. Would they work ok for a non-concrete floor, or is there a special kind I should look for? – Scott Saunders Oct 16 '15 at 20:00
  • I would do a bit of research, since I won't pretend to be an expert on the product, only having used it once. I believe they all have different instructions, depending on the application. Some require a liner for application over subfloors, but assuming you don't have any voids that go all the way down to your neighbor below, you should be fine. – BrownRedHawk Oct 16 '15 at 20:04
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    They are "made for concrete" because they are designed to spread out in a thin layer, and if they don't have a strong base, the thin layer is prone to cracking which may or may not be noticeable to the installed flooring. That said, pouring it all over your old flooring will certainly cause it to crack over time, but since we're talking about a small closet (no foot traffic), I still think this is a good answer and probably the cheapest and quickest solution. You'll probably not notice any cracking anyway with linoleum on top of it. – JPhi1618 Oct 16 '15 at 20:27
  • @JPhi1618 I would agree with that to a point, with the exceptions of products like USG's "DuRock Multi-use Self-Leveling Underlayment" which is specified for use for direct application to a wood subfloor. If there's a will there's a way. Better living through science and all that. – BrownRedHawk Oct 16 '15 at 22:12
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If you just put something else down "quick", you're contributing to the problem, not solving it. As others have said, rip it out down to the subfloor, and then put new flooring down.

While you are right to be concerned about asbestos. The tiny amount that may be in the closet, is probably about as harmful as breathing in secondhand smoke once. Obviously, if you have any vulnerable folks in the home (kids, elderly, asthmatics, etc.), make sure they're not home while you rip the floor out. Keeping the floor damp while you rip it out, will reduce the dust and the risk of asbestos becoming airborne. Also make sure you wear a properly fitting dust mask, and gloves.

At the end of the day, it's your home, and you're free to do what you want. My recommendation is to remove the problem, and start fresh.

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Get a cold chisel (sometimes called a flooring chisel) and breakout the old tile. For something like a closet, this should only take a couple of hours at most. Once the tile is out, put a new subfloor down. If the original subfloor is wood, use 1/4 to 1/2 plywood screwed over the old floor into the joists. If it is concrete, you just might need to scrape it until smooth as you probably do not have the time to put self leveling concrete down.

Once you have a clean subfloor, lay the vinyl on top.

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If you don't need to match the floor level, I'd consider a layer of backerboard set in thinset on top of the existing cruddy floor. You get the filling effect plus a more durable component. But it will bump the floor up a certain amount. You can cover that with sheet vinyl or not as you choose.

Old buildings and "plastic" (vinyl-like, composition, whatever that's not ceramic) tile does provide the specter of asbestos for any tear-out process. If its just linoleum over ceramic tile, tear away, but that seems unlikely with "many layers"

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