1st time DIY Alterna over vinyl preparing floor

Discussion in 'Vinyl Flooring Q&A' started by njpaula, Aug 7, 2016.

  1. njpaula

    njpaula Member


    Today, we started preparing our small upstairs bathroom to put in Armstrong Alterna tiles. Our house was built in 1994.

    We have pulled out the original vanity and toilet, and now we are pulling off the existing baseboards.

    Our plan, is to lay the alterna over the existing vinyl flooring. I've included two pictures of areas of the floor that I am questioning now that we've taken things out.

    1) The vinyl is not cushioned. It's very thin. I think that it is glued down -- although the spot under where the vanity was located is curling up.

    2) I tried looking under the air vent to see what kind of subfloor exists. I think it looks like there is 1/4" luan over plywood.

    My concerns are: when we pulled the vanity out we noticed several areas where the installers put in some sort of wooden shims. After looking more closely, we can see that they did not extend the luan completely to the back corner of where the vanity was. Please see pic.

    I'm concerned that the vinyl was ripped in that uneven way along the back of the wall. I had hoped the vinyl would be even back there. I'm not sure how to even it out, or if we should try ripping the vinyl completely out. I wanted to avoid that if possible, but we find it crazy that they did not put luan all the way to the edge of the room. The new vanity will cover that spot -- but still.

    My plan right now, is to clean the vinyl super well. Scuff it with sandpaper, and lay the tile over it. But that spot along the wall worries me. I wasn't sure if I could fill it in with something?

    Thanks in advance for your advice!

    Attached Files:

  2. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    Is the alterna glue down? (I can't remember)

    The Armstrong sheet vinyl (Cambray?) doesn't look bonded well. What I do is remove, scrape any felt backing, loose adhesive, then feather finish/skimcoat wood substrate, let dry, layout tile, snap lines, spread adhesive, (wait time?) then set/roll.

    Oh the void, not even a concern.
  3. njpaula

    njpaula Member

    Thanks, Mike!

    The alterna is glue down.

    If we pull the vinyl, what would we use to skimcoat it?

    I thought that I read somewhere that it isn't good to glue tile to the wood subfloor? That you would (should) put down something like ditra or hardiboard? Would the skimcoat take the place of that?

    I was thinking that maybe the vinyl could act as a sort of water membrane in case there is ever a large spill and any of the grout might have a hole/crack in it. That's why I have been keen to keep it in place.

    If we do decide to skimcoat -- would we just put in a few layers where the void is?

    Thanks again!
  4. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    There should be a 3-5 lb bag of patch on shelf of box store where vinyl is stocked.

    That product may be able to be grouted with acrylic grout that would seal all areas better, even a tube of color match caulk near ceramic tile grout can be used.

    Ditra, Hardiboard,tile over wood was the category of Ceramic in which you may have changed product to vinyl tile.

    Putting that product over sheet vinyl check directions for acceptable materials to go over. Sorry I don't remember every situation, they also change things so it's best to follow their recommendations, then question any subtleties etc. but I personnally wouldn't go over, some have, but adhesive instructions are crucial, if you decide to go over vinyl, that's nonporous substrate, follow correct trowel size and proper timing in installing.
  5. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    Paula, sometimes our pros use terminology that is like a foreign language to a DIYer. And sometimes they don't proof read what they type to make sure it comes out legibly.

    From your photos, it looks like a cheap cushioned vinyl glued down to a plywood underlayment over the subfloor. Judging by the haphazard way the vinyl, underlayment and even sheetrock was installed, I'd be hesitant to leave the sheet vinyl down as a base for new flooring. I might not even trust the underlayment was installed properly - with enough fasteners.

    Take all the baseboards off. Try not to damage them, so you can re-install them after the new flooring is done.

    Peel and scrape up the old vinyl. You'll need a razor scraper and some extra blades to make the job fairly easy. You'll want to get the paper backing and as much of the glue off as possible.

    If you are installing a new vanity with the same footprint as the old, you don't have to add underlayment, if you don't want to. But if it were me, I would. It's optional. Use the same thickness and use plenty of ring shank nails (if you have access to a pneumatic quarter-inch crown stapler, that's what many pros would use). A fastener every couple inches along the plywood butt edges, every 3 or 4" everywhere else. Add fasteners to the existing plywood, if it hasn't been nailed just as well.

    The floor must be smooth and flat, or those imperfections will show through to the shiny surface of the new material. Yes, even those embossed grout lines from the old vinyl will show through. You can find Portland cement based floor patching compound at the lumber yard. Follow the mixing instructions and, with a flat bladed trowel, drag a pile of the mixture around on the floor to fill all the low spots, cracks and nail heads. Let it dry, scrape any ridges or lumps and patch again, if necessary.

    Now follow the instructions for installing the new flooring. Proper adhesive is important, so is the trowel notch size. And if you are supposed to roll the flooring, roll the flooring. When the material is installed, put the new vanity in. Shims may be necessary to make it level. Cut the protruding shims off with a sharp utility knife. If there's a gap, you can fill it with a bead of caulking. Put your baseboards back, then the toilet and the door. If you trimmed flooring to a tub or shower, use a bead of caulk along that too.

    PS: the pic below shows the scraper blade in backwards for safe handling. You will have to make sure the sharp edge is out before you start scraping. That may seem obvious to you, but it isn't to a lot of people.

    Attached Files:

  6. njpaula

    njpaula Member

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks so much for your reply. Let me see if I understand your suggestions.

    1) Pull out old vinyl
    2) Scrape dried adhesive with the tool you posted
    3) Make sure current luan is secured properly
    4) Cut and add a piece of luan where they didn't put any before to fill that void
    5) Mix and trowel on floor patch (what Mike called skim coat) and let dry
    6) Follow manufacturers instructions on installing the LVT

    Thank you!
  7. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    :yesss: Except... I don't like lauan. I prefer good quality plywood. The difference in price is negligible for a small room like a bath and worth the investment for other rooms. But in your case, it's under the cabinet, so...
  8. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    I thought the Lauan was a guess and it was 1/4" plywood. I can't condone it either, though we've used it before.

    Underlayment grade plywood is best.
  9. njpaula

    njpaula Member

    It's whatever you can see in the picture where we're pulling back the vinyl. You can see it most clearly on the right. I don't know if it's luaun or plywood. I may be using the wrong word. It's some sort of thin wood on top of the plywood. How would I be able to tell exactly what it is?
  10. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    It does look like lauan, plywood is easy to tell, there are layers glued together, approx 1/8" thick each, and you see grain of wood. There are other types of underlayment, sometimes there are markings, hard to tell under vinyl.

    Most issues with lauan is its density, dents easy. Works good for interior doors. Cuts rather easy you can almost use a utility knife.
  11. On the register picture that appears to be Luann. Most actual wood underlayments are 5-7 ply products - even in 1/4" thickness. Luann is really designed to be used as a paneling or for facing material to give a presentable surface. It doesn't really meet the structural requirements for wood underlayment. Most of it comes out of South America. Several years back we had a lot of issues with Luann staining through vinyl floors. This has calmed down, but I think because most flooring folks switched to using actual underlayment rather than Luann, not because they improved the product. It can also have a lot of voids in the inside the product. I've actually had claims where people in heels went right through it.

    You want an actual underlayment with a manufacturer's warranty such as Halex, Multiply or Traxx. These will be smooth, sanded on one side, and constructed with a water resistant adhesive so they won't de-laminate when adhered to. They'll also be warranted to be free of voids and suitable to your application.

    Good luck and please post back some pictures to show us your handy work when you're all done.:yesss:

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