Preparing for a new floor can be a simple task or a lengthy, difficult chore, depending on the condition of the existing floor and on your choice of new floor coverings.
The following descriptions summarize the preparation steps for various types of existing floor materials. In some cases, you have several preparation options from which to choose. By carefully considering the options and choosing the most suitable method for your needs, you can avoid wasting time with unnecessary labor. Keep in mind that the goal of any preparation for new flooring is a structurally sound, smooth, and level surface.
Old Resilient (Vinyl) Flooring
Option 1: Your existing resilient floor can serve as the foundation for most new floorings, including resilient flooring, hardwood, or carpet, but only if the existing surface is relatively smooth and sound. Inspect the existing flooring for loose seams, tears, chips, air bubbles, and other areas where the bond has failed. If these loose spots constitute less than 30% of the total area, you can remove the flooring at these spots and fill the voids with floor leveling compound. Then, apply embossing leveler to the entire floor and let it dry before laying new resilient flooring.
Option 2: If the original resilient flooring is suspect, you can install new underlayment over the old surface after repairing obviously loose areas.
Option 3: If you are installing ceramic tile, or if the existing surface is in very poor condition, the old resilient flooring should be removed entirely before you install new flooring. If the old flooring was glued down with full-bond adhesive, it is usually easiest to remove both the flooring and underlayment at the same time. If the old underlayment is removed, you must install new underlayment before laying the new flooring.
Old Ceramic Tile
Option 1: If the existing ceramic tile surface is relatively solid, new flooring usually can be laid directly over the tile. Inspect tiles and joints for cracks and loose pieces. Remove loose material and fill these areas with a floor-leveling compound. If you will be installing resilient flooring, apply an embossing leveler product over the ceramic tile before laying the new flooring. If you will be laying new ceramic tile over the old surface, use an epoxy-based thin-set mortar for better adhesion.
Option 2: If more than 10% of the tiles are loose, remove all the old flooring before installing the new surface. If the tiles don’t easily separate from the underlayment, it’s best to remove the tile and the underlayment at the same time, then install new underlayment.
Old Hardwood Flooring
Option 1: If you are planning to install carpet, you can usually lay it directly over an existing hardwood floor, provided it is a nailed or glued-down surface. Inspect the flooring and secure any loose areas to the subfloor with spiral-shanked flooring nails, then remove any rotted wood and fill the voids with floor-leveling compound before installing carpet.
Option 2: If you will be installing resilient flooring or ceramic tile over nailed hardwood planks or glued-down wood flooring, you can attach new underlayment over the existing hardwood before installing the new flooring.
Option 3: If the existing floor is a “floating” wood or laminate surface with a foam-pad underlayment, remove it completely before laying any type of new flooring.
Underlayment & Subfloor
Underlayment must be smooth, solid, and level to ensure a long-lasting flooring installation. If the existing underlayment does not meet these standards, remove it and install new underlayment before you lay new flooring.
Before installing new underlayment, inspect the subfloor for chips, open knots, dips, and loose boards. Screw down loose areas, and fill cracks and dips with floor-leveling compound. Remove and replace any water-damaged areas.
Without exception, carpet must be removed before you install any new flooring. For traditional carpet, simply cut the carpet into pieces, then remove the padding, and the tackless strips if they are damaged. Remove glued-down cushion-back carpet with a floor scraper, using the same techniques as for removing full-bond resilient sheet flooring.