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The Ultimate Guide: How to Install Vinyl Tiles over a Wood Floor

June 22, 2020
While many homeowners long for a hardwood floor, others are desperately seeking ways to cover theirs up. Some houses have wood flooring that is either inferior wood or is badly scratched or damaged. Likewise, some houses — particularly older homes — were built with a hardwood subfloor that isn’t of a high enough quality (or is too worn) to refinish and expose.

If you’re wondering how to install vinyl tiles over a wood floor — or if it’s even practical to do so — the good news is that vinyl flooring will generally adhere to most types of subflooring, including wood. As long as the subfloor is made of a solid material (not carpeting, for example), the biggest challenge isn’t whether or not the vinyl will adhere to the subfloor material; but rather, whether or not the subfloor will be smooth enough.

However, if you’re working with existing wood flooring, then you’ll have to follow a slightly different method than you would with existing vinyl flooring or laminate flooring.

When installing vinyl floor tiles or vinyl planks, it’s crucial to have a smooth, seamless surface for placing your tiles — otherwise, your floor will be uneven. Wood flooring can be an acceptable surface for vinyl tiles, but you might have to take steps to ensure that it’s as smooth and even as possible. For example, you’ll probably have to sand the wood in order to level any uneven seams or rough areas. Likewise, many builders recommend covering the existing wood flooring with a one-quarter-inch plywood substrate and then laying the tiles on top of the plywood.

With all of this in mind, here’s a look at how to install a vinyl floor over a wood floor.

Tools You’ll Need for Installing Vinyl Tiles

  • Vinyl tiles or planks
  • Sandpaper and a sander
  • Wood sheathing, plywood or lauan
  • Tile cutter or utility knife
  • Grease pencil or chalk
  • Construction-length measuring tape
  • Tile glue (if you’re not using peel-and-stick tiles)
  • Trowel (for spreading glue)
  • Face mask
  • Wet cloths and mineral spirits (for cleaning glue residue on tiles)
  • Wet wipes for cleaning your hands during installation

Precautions to Take Before Installing Vinyl Tiles over Wood Flooring

Before starting the installation, it’s important to take a few precautions not just for your safety, but also to ensure that your installation will go smoothly — and will last.

If you use glue-in tile, you’ll need to apply and spread glue on the subfloor first. You’ll also need to wipe off any glue residue between the seams.

Here are some of the differences between stick tiles and glue-in tiles:

  • For the most part, stick tiles are easier to install; but peel-and-stick tiles can be more difficult to reposition because they adhere instantly. If you want to pull the tile up and put it in another way, it might be difficult. With glue-in tiles, the glue takes longer to dry — sometimes up to a day — so you have plenty of time to reposition them if you want.
  • Inferior-grade stick tiles can loosen and curl up at the edges within weeks or months after installation, but this virtually never happens with glue-in tiles. If you’re using stick tiles, be sure to get top quality tiles from a known maker.
  • If you use peel-and-stick tiles, your subfloor needs to be extremely smooth and even. With glue-in tiles, the glue adds a cushion that’s a bit uneven; and this cushion will cover seam separations and uneven patches. Thanks to the glue cushion, the tile will be more smooth and even.
  • If you’re planning to use glue-in rather than peel-and-stick tiles, it’s advisable to wear a face mask to protect yourself from glue fumes. Also, glue fumes can be especially harmful to kids and pets, so be sure to keep them out of the room while you’re working, and try to ventilate the area with a fan or two.
  • Be sure to remove everything from the area and clean (and dry) space thoroughly. Even tiny bits of trapped dirt and soil can prevent tiles from adhering properly.
  • Before installation, carefully remove the baseboard along the walls. Replace it only after the installation is finished.

How to Install Vinyl Tiles over a Wood Floor

  1. Sand the wood floor (make sure it’s thoroughly clean and dry) until it’s as smooth and even as possible, with no bumps or rough areas. You can make things easier by using a sander. You’ll probably need to go over it several times, starting with heavier-grit sandpaper and progressing to lighter-grit paper. For refinishing hardwood floors, some builders recommend starting with 30-40 grit, then working up to 50-60 or even 80-90. You won’t be refinishing your hardwood, but this will give you an idea of the proper grit gauge.
  2. If your wood subfloor is smooth and even, you can progress to step 3. However, if it’s still somewhat rough, bumpy or uneven, it’s a good idea to lay a layer of specially-processed plywood sheathing, or plywood or lauan boards (also called Philippine mahogany) to the subfloor. The plywood or lauan should be about one-quarter of an inch thick.To apply the sheathing, first, cut it to the dimensions of the room. For plywood or lauan, adjust the boards so they’ll cover the floor, then trim the edges so they’ll fit along the wall. Spray the sheathing/plywood/lauan with spray adhesive, then press it firmly to the floor.
  3. Now it’s time to measure. The important thing to remember is that you’ll want to work from the center of the room outward. With a chalk snap line and a measuring tape, measure the center points of the four walls. Snap a chalk line between all of the facing walls — this will form a cross in the middle of the room with four quadrants.
  4. Go to the center point and start laying the tiles in one of the quadrants, working outward from the center. Continue with each quadrant until all four quadrants are completed.For stick tile, just peel the paper lining off and stick the tile in place. For glue-in tile, apply tile adhesive on the section of the subfloor you’re working on, spreading the glue evenly with a trowel. Many builders recommend using a roller to ensure the tiles are even and secure. Just move the roller, going in one direction, over the tile after you’ve applied it to the floor. Be sure to push the roller in the opposite direction from your installation. For instance, if you’re laying the tile going from left to right, then push the roller from right to left.
    **Hot tip**: While you’re laying the tiles, keep a package of wet wipes close at hand so that you can quickly wipe off your hands if they become too dirty or covered with glue. This way, you can keep your new tiles clean.
  5. At this point, you’ll have gaps between the walls and the edges of the tile you’ve laid. This is the part that most resembles filling in puzzle pieces because you’ll have to cut and trim pieces of tile to fit in the various odd areas of the room. To fill in these gaps, take a tile and trim it with a cutter or utility knife so that it fits in between the edge of the already-laid tile and the wall. For laying tiles underneath door jambs, repeat the process, trimming each tile until it fits. 
Important note: Don’t walk on the sealer or the seams of your vinyl flooring for at least 24 hours after installation. Some manufacturers recommend staying off the new flooring altogether for 24-48 hours, to give the adhesive time to set and seal thoroughly. You can check with the manufacturer of your tile to see what they recommend.

Protecting Your Vinyl Tile Floor

Now that your floor is installed, you won’t have to worry about maintenance, because vinyl is remarkably easy to clean. The main thing to remember is to soak up spills immediately, no matter how small, and dry the area thoroughly.

If you see any edges or corners start to stick up, or notice any lifting or humps in your floor, then buckling has already begun, and you might have to replace the affected tiles. Fortunately, in many cases, this can be prevented by being vigilant about spills.

When washing vinyl tiles, be sure to use a cleaner that’s compatible with your floor. Read the label carefully, and if necessary, contact the manufacturer to see if a product is safe or not.

This vinyl floor do’s and don’ts will help protect your floor so it will look better and last longer.

Do’s: How to Take Care of a Vinyl Floor

  • Wipe up spills as quickly as possible so moisture won’t accumulate.
  • Use floor protectors and furniture pads underneath your furniture, particularly on heavy pieces.
  • Sweep as often as necessary to remove dust and dirt build-up.
  • Mop every week with vinegar and water or a mild compatible cleaner.
  • Use a doormat — this will keep dirt from being tracked onto your floor.
  • To protect your floor, consider adding a urethane supplementary coating. This will help repel and resist dust, dirt, and stains.

Don’ts: Things to Avoid with a Vinyl Floor

  • Don’t walk on vinyl if you’re wearing certain types of high heels or cleats — these can scratch your floor.
  • Don’t use abrasive cleaning solutions or cleaners that aren’t compatible with your flooring materials.
  • Don’t use abrasive, hard-bristle brushes or steel wool pads for cleaning — these will scratch the vinyl.
  • Don’t use rolling casters — these scratch and leave track marks.
  • Don’t use too much water in cleaning — and be sure to dry the floor thoroughly.
  • Don’t use wax polish. Instead, you can periodically apply a commercial polish that’s formulated specifically for vinyl flooring.
  • Don’t use a beater bar on your vacuum — it will damage the floor.

Buying Vinyl Flooring at Express Flooring

If you’re looking for quality vinyl flooring and you’re in or near Tucson or Phoenix, Arizona, you’ll want to call or phone Express Flooring for a free in-home estimate and design consultation. With a million feet of in-stock flooring inventory, Express Flooring carries all the top brands of vinyl flooring, as well as a full range of laminate flooringceramic tilecarpet flooringstone flooring, and hardwood flooring.

Best of all, we bring the entire store to your living room, so you don’t even have to leave the house. Our design consultants will bring you samples, swatches, and catalogs so you can choose the perfect flooring from the comfort of your living room. Once you find what you’re looking for, we’ll give you one low flooring sale and installation price, so you’ll know exactly what you’re going to pay.


We use only top-notch, licensed professional installation experts, and they’ll even move and replace your furniture. Plus, we offer a lifetime installation warranty, as well as an affordable financing plan and lots of discount deals.


Why Buy from Express Flooring?

  • Next-day delivery
  • Store-to-your-door shopping (seven days a week, including evenings)
  • Top brands of all kinds of flooring
  • Licensed professional installers
  • One low bundled flooring sale and installation price
  • We remove/replace your furniture
  • Affordable financing
  • Year-round sales
  • Discounts for seniors, teachers, public service workers, and government employees

If you’re looking for a great flooring sale and installation deal and you live in the Phoenix or Tucson area, be sure to call or email Express Flooring for a free in-home flooring estimate and design consultation. Once you schedule your appointment, you could be just a few days away from owning elegant, luxury vinyl flooring that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

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