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Unread 10-14-2020, 12:34 PM   #1
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Another tile over linoleum issue with tiler quitting job

Hi JB Community,

I’m new here and glad I found this forum. So I’ve got a rental house in another state with 3/4ths of a kitchen tiled (no grout) with linoleum lurking underneath. My tile guy quit. So my question to you is, what would you do?

Here’s the story:
I asked the tiler to remove the linoleum in my kitchen and bathroom before tiling. I can tell from the pics he sent that he left some linoleum down, which they’ve since tiled over. There may even be a 2nd layer of linoleum underneath. (See 1st pic).

When I asked him about it, he said they left it because it was too hard to take up. He also said there’s just a little, the size of a tile and he would remove it. Since the pics show more than a piece the size of a tile I told him I’d like to see a pic when they pull it up.

All that happened yesterday. They were really focused on getting me to choose the grout. This morning I asked them to stop the job until we had a chance to figure this out and said I’d be supervising it from where I am. Then they backed out.

Someone asked me if linoleum removal was in the contract. It was a verbal agreement that was mentioned in texts. (Normally I’m more careful but I had someone else handling it.) I was really clear the linoleum had to be removed because it has water damage and they’ve never disputed that. In fact he made it seem like getting that remaining piece up was doable.

In case you’re wondering if he left the linoleum due to asbestos or a poor subflooring, he never mentioned either. In fact, he made it seem pretty straightforward. The linoleum was installed 15-20 years ago so no asbestos there. But if there’s another layer underneath it would’ve been installed in the late 70s or early 80s, I’m guessing.

I thought maybe I could remove a strip of tiles in the middle of the kitchen and see how much linoleum is down there—or should I just grout and hope for the best? Luckily the bathroom was stripped down to the concrete.

Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer me!

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Unread 10-14-2020, 04:01 PM   #2
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The floor they went over,is it VCT? In the pics,looks to be 12x12 squares. What thinset did they use?
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Unread 10-14-2020, 06:50 PM   #3
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Hi Rich,

Sorry I don’t know the type of thinset. I wish I had asked. That’s sheet linoleum, though. The tile is 12x24 porcelain. Lmk if you have any more questions.

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Unread 10-14-2020, 07:31 PM   #4
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Without knowing what's underneath in the layers, and, the specs on the supporting joists, the linoleum may be the least of your potential problems!

Often, they use a sheet of 1/4" ply underneath the linoleum, and that tends to be problematic. A house that old might have planks underneath all of that as well. The linoleum, unless cleaned really well, is likely to have some wax and other crud on it that, regardless of the thinset used, could create a bond breaker. Given a short time, the tile might just pop off if you tried. On a tile that large, it's hard to get full coverage underneath if you're not really careful and are using good technique (not evident here!). Prep is the biggest thing before putting down the finished layers.

Linoleum itself doesn't have any asbestos in it, the adhesive holding it down could, depending on how old it is.
Jim DeBruycker
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Unread 10-14-2020, 08:30 PM   #5
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Welcome, Kay.

Let's clear up the subfloor below the tile in question. You say the bathroom was on concrete, presumably Slab On Grade concrete, but is the kitchen floor the same? I think Jim, above, was presuming a wood framed subfloor.

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Unread 10-15-2020, 08:52 AM   #6
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Thanks for your help so far! Here are a couple of more pics of the subfloor in the kitchen and bath.

The house was built in 1976 and we’ve had it since 1986. Originally there was sheet linoleum or vinyl tiles in the kitchen, which may be the brown stuff in the very first photo I posted. We redid the floor 20+ yrs ago with the black-and-white sheet linoleum. Can’t recall if we took up the old flooring or what it looked like (house was empty for a long while).

I’m kinda stumped what the next step should be. Maybe take up a line of tiles to see how much linoleum they left underneath? The linoleum had some water damage from rain water coming in through the back door, so I’m a little worried about how secure it is.

Also I was wondering how should the concrete floor be prepped. Is it ready to go as is?

Thanks again for any advice you can offer me!
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Unread 10-15-2020, 08:54 AM   #7
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Appreciate the welcome, CX! I was really glad to find this community.
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Unread 10-16-2020, 06:35 AM   #8
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As you can imagine, Kay, it's a challenge for any of us to assess the suitability of the concrete floor for a tile installation without seeing it. Nevertheless, there are some general rules.

Any previous floor coverings should be removed completely. If the previous flooring remains in one section, but not in others, there will be a difference in height. Perhaps the tile installer can compensate for that difference by adjusting the amount of thinset mortar under the tile but attempting to do so brings its own challenges.

If there is any loose flooring it must be removed.

Any adhesive left from the previous flooring must be removed. The adhesive will prevent the thinset mortar from bonding to the concrete, the tiles will come loose. Removing the adhesive is no easy task.

Tiling over existing tile can be done in certain circumstances but I've not read anywhere that tiling over vinyl or linoleum is acceptable.

It appears you have a lot going on there; water damaged flooring, some of the old flooring is still installed, adhesive remains where old flooring was removed. I'm sorry to say that none of this is good.
If I recall correctly my memory is excellent, but my ability to access it is intermittent.
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