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Installing Vinyl Flooring over Layers of Old Flooring

TeschND | Posted in General Questions on

My house was built in 1904, it’s a farmhouse on an operating farm. It gets pretty gross around here sometimes, despite my best efforts. With a gaggle of kids and animals, I decided to rip up the carpet because it was … well, gross.

I encountered a couple of layers of flooring under the carpet – 1 layer of tile tile, from the 1940’s – assuming of the asphalt/asbestos variety, and then the original flooring which appears to be just lumber. Not wood flooring as you would expect it to be, but actually just 2×4’s or something similar with gaps in between. (I only got a peek because I didn’t want to pull back too much tile).

My question is this — since I have opted to put down vinyl sheet flooring, due to the gaggle of kids, animals, and dirt mentioned above, I want to know if I can leave the current flooring intact, glue down a layer of 1/4 inch XPS to the current floor and the place vinyl on top. Will this offer enough support to “smooth out” some of the ripple of the flooring underneath, and will this cause the sheet vinyl to pull/tear/ripple over time?
I am trying to create some extra foot cushion, and extra insulation at the same time. We live in the very Northern part of the US.  I am trying to get away from having to lay down all new OSB, due to cost. I would also be open to other alternatives.

Thanks for any advice!

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  1. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #1

    I would not want a squishy layer under sheet vinyl flooring. I don't even like it under rigid flooring, though that seems to be a trend. I would use a rigid underlayment, which as far as I know is typical under sheet vinyl. It could be 1/4", 3/8" or 1/2" A/C plywood, nailed or stapled into place. The vinyl manufacturer should provide installation instructions.

    1. TeschND | | #2

      Thanks for the reply. We are really looking for something to add some warmth. We get the worst of the Alberta clippers here, and frequently see sub zero temperatures, i've been here 5 years, and have seen actual temps down to 35 below zero with wind chills in excess of 60 below zero, so the more warmth and insulation we can add, the better off we are!

      1. Expert Member
        Michael Maines | | #3

        1/4" XPS is about R-1, so it's not doing very much insulating. Do you have access to the underside of the floor? It sounds like you might be in climate zone 7, the coldest in the continental US; the IRC building code for that zone calls for at least R-38 in floors.

        If you don't have access to the underside of the floor, I recommend using a thicker layer of foam insulation above the floor, but put plywood or OSB over it as a subfloor for the vinyl. Every time you double the R-value you slow heat loss by half, so the more R-value you can get, the better.

        I don't understand your original comment about gapped 2x4s but if air can blow through your floor system, that is the first thing to address--the floor system needs to be airtight.

  2. TeschND | | #4

    You are correct, climate zone 7.

    Here's a photo of the floor for reference.

    It's not cold - per say, since it's on my second floor, it gets the heat from the downstairs, and everything that im sure seeps from the duct work. (that's a project for another day). The cast iron pipes are being replaced before new flooring goes in, as you can see that where the cut out is, that's where the pipe goes under the floor and into the bathroom. You can also see the crack in the cast iron just at the top of the stairs.

    Sounding like insulation then OSB is going to be my best bet.

    1. Expert Member
      Michael Maines | | #5

      Got it. That looks like a softwood subfloor that has been painted, or possibly a finish layer over a subfloor, probably about 7/8" thick. It sounds like your concern is about conductive heat loss--i.e., the floors feel cold on your feet. Different materials feel warmer or colder based on how quickly they draw heat from your body, even when they are at the same temperature. In this case, a thin layer of foam would help slow that conductive heat loss from your feet to the wood. You might considering using cork composite floor tiles, which feel much warmer than wood or vinyl, and in some cases have a slightly squishy feel that might appeal to you.

      1. TeschND | | #6

        That's what im looking for! Just not quite sure how to say it. Im definitely new to this. Im a nurse, definitely not a contractor. I appreciate all the help and I am sure I will be back for more in the future! I appreciate you walking me through this!

  3. Sardalivan | | #7

    It all depends on what kind of vinyl coating you have chosen. In the last few years, coating on glue has become popular. On the reverse side is an adhesive coating on which a protective paper is applied. Before installing the plates, you only need to remove them, glue the vinyl to the base, and smooth it with a roller. The plates do not need any consumables to increase adhesion. You can only glue the product a second time after updating the glue layer. However, the coating on the glue is not suitable if you glue it on the carpet. I advise you to read some tips on Crafty Club about laying the floor.

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