Can you put laminate over a tile floor? That’s a fairly common question. But unfortunately, like so many things, the answer is, it depends. In many cases you can install laminate over tile, but in some cases, you can make a problem worse by doing so. Here’s how you can know.
You can install laminate over tile if the tile floor is in reasonably good physical condition. But installing laminate over cracked, uneven tile will result in wavy, uneven, undesirable laminate.
Considerations when putting laminate over tile
The idea with laminate is that it floats over whatever you put it on, so you don’t need a perfect surface underneath it. That, along with the cost and general ease of installation, is why laminate is so appealing. A do-it-yourselfer on a budget can install a laminate floor inexpensively and give a room new life in a weekend.
But while the floor underneath doesn’t have to be perfect, if the floor underneath has integrity issues, those will affect your laminate. If the surface under the laminate isn’t mostly even, the laminate will develop contours over time, the same way a particleboard shelf will bow with a lot of weight on it and inadequate support.
That said, if the floor is level and structurally sound, and just discolored, the laminate will do well going right over it. In fact, if your existing floor has asbestos tile, covering it with laminate or another floating floor is a very safe, economical way to abate it.
Don’t forget to consider whether the floor will get wet
But there’s one more thing to consider when putting laminate over tile. Tile thrives in rooms that can get wet, like kitchens and bathrooms. Laminate can deal with minor spills if you clean them up quickly, but it doesn’t hold up to moisture like tile does. Laminate is a real liability in a kitchen or a bathroom. It will look good for a while, but once water damage sets in, it’s not going to look nice anymore.
If you want the ease of a floating floor in a kitchen or bathroom, get resilient floating vinyl instead. It’s more expensive than laminate, but still reasonably affordable and holds up to moisture the way you’re used to tile holding up to it.
What to do if your tile is in bad condition and you want laminate
If you have a tile floor and want to cover it with laminate, chances are it’s because it’s damaged and doesn’t look good anymore. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of poorly-installed tile out there. A lot of do-it-yourselfers install tile right on the wooden subfloor, without putting down a cement backer board. The problem with this is the wooden subfloor can flex, but the tile cannot. So you end up with grout breaking and coming up, or even the tiles themselves breaking or coming loose.
If you put laminate over a situation like this, the tile floor underneath will continue to deteriorate. And after a few years, you’ll have to rip out two floors and replace them.
The previous owner of my house installed tile without a cement backer board. In less than a year, I started having problems. I replaced it with a floating floor–linoleum in my case–but I ripped out the tile before doing so. It was an extra step, and it added several hours to the project. But my floating linoleum has held up much better than the tile floor it replaced.
If the floor isn’t that far gone, and just has problems isolated to a few areas and is structurally sound underneath, you can apply a floor leveling product, such as Henry Patch and Level, to smooth out that area so the laminate will have the support it needs. If you have an asbestos floor with some missing tiles, filling in those missing spots allows you to level the floor without disturbing the rest of the tiles.