When tiling over existing vinyl flooring on a plywood subfloor, it’s not necessary remove the vinyl flooring as long as you apply a layer of cement backer board first to provide a stable surface for the tile.

Here’s how to go about tiling a floor over vinyl flooring:

  1. Check Floor: Examine the floor to make sure the subfloor is sound, firm, and flat with little or no bounce or movement.
  2. Remove Molding: Remove any doors, quarter round molding, and/or baseboards from the room.
  3. Cut Cement Backer Board: Cut pieces of cement backer board with a circular saw to fit the floor (wear dust and eye protection).
  4. Mix Thin-Set Adhesive: Mix up thin-set adhesive in a bucket using a mixing paddle chucked in a drill.
  5. Apply Adhesive to Floor: Use a notched trowel to apply thin-set adhesive to the vinyl flooring.
  6. Position Cement Backer Board: Lay the cement backer board on the floor while the thin-set is still wet.
  7. Attach Backer Board: Attach the backer board to the floor using self countersinking screws, such as Backer-On screws available at The Home Depot.
  8. Apply Adhesive to Seams: Coat any seams in the cement backer board with thin-set adhesive.
  9. Tape Seams: Apply mesh fiberglass tape over the seams in the still wet thin-set.
  10. Coat Tape: Apply a coat of thin-set over the fiberglass tape and allow the adhesive to dry.
  11. Determine Tile Layout: Decide how the tiles will be arranged on the floor.
  12. Mark Reference Lines: Pop chalk lines at right angles in or near the center of the room where a joint in the tile will occur.
  13. Apply Adhesive to Backer Board: Use a notched trowel to apply thin-set adhesive to the cement backer board in the area you will start applying the tile.
  14. Lay Tile: Lay the tile in the thin-set, using the chalk lines for reference, making sure tile are properly spaced, aligned, even, and level.
  15. Cut Tile: Cut the tile where needed to fit the walls of the room using a wet saw or manual score and snap tile cutter.
  16. Allow Adhesive to Set: Wait the recommended time for the thin-set adhesive to set before walking on the floor (usually overnight).
  17. Apply Grout: After the thin-set has set, mix and apply grout to the joints in the tile.
  18. Remove Excess Grout: Use a damp sponge to remove any excess grout from the surface of the tile.
  19. Install Moldings: Reinstall doors, quarter round, and/or baseboards.

The tile used on this project is available at The Home Depot. Watch this video to find out more.


Danny Lipford: Now, this is a house that’s owned by a friend of mine, Brad, who’s done a lot of work on it over the last few months, but you’d be surprised at how many projects you can do around your home that cost less than $100 for all the materials. And we’re going to focus on a lot of those projects on this week’s show.

Now, Brad started a project this morning that is a type of project that we get a lot of emails on, and that’s how to install a tile floor over an existing wood floor. Let’s check in and see how he’s getting along on that project. The mudroom between Brad’s kitchen and back porch has some old, worn, self-adhesive vinyl tiles on the floor now. So he wants to upgrade the look and create a more durable surface.

After removing the two doors that open into the space, he takes measurements for the cement backer board that has to go down first. This stuff is the crucial first step, because it isolates the tile from the wood subfloor so that there’s no cracking when the wood and tile expand and contract at different rates. A layer of thin-set adhesive goes down before the backer board, which is then secured with special screws designed to countersink into the hard surface.

The seams between the pieces of backer board are coated with more thin-set and covered with mesh fiberglass tape. Finally, Brad puts one more coat of thin-set over the tape, and he’s ready to begin the tile layout.

Danny Lipford: All right, what’d you end up with here? Some kind of slate.

Brad Rodgers: Slate, yeah.

Danny Lipford: This stuff is odd looking.

Brad Rodgers: Yeah, I know. I just picked that up this morning at about six o’clock.

Danny Lipford: The next step is to figure the layout, which is a little tricky since these doors aren’t quite centered. Normally, you’d start any tile job right down the middle, and then lay off from there, so they’re even. But here, I’m not really sure you wouldn’t want to bias it over here like this.

Brad Rodgers: Yeah, I think it’ll work. And I know what you’re saying about the line not being directly in the middle.

Danny Lipford: But it’s closer here than it would be if you centered it up.

Brad Rodgers: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: And then, let’s see, as far as this distance. Let’s see, so sixty-four. So, if you laid them straight, you’d have about a four-inch cut on one side or the other. So, that’s the other decision is whether or not you would want. Let’s see, with a four-inch piece you could have a four-inch piece there, a four-inch piece there, or a two and a two. What do you think?

Brad Rodgers: Uh . . .

Danny Lipford: You want to flip a coin? Once we establish the two layout lines that are perpendicular to each other, we can mix more thin-set to begin laying tile. And then, like I say, as far as the selection of these pieces, since they’re kind of, there’s gonna be a random look to them, you don’t want the same kind side by side.

Brad Rodgers: Yeah, some of them are more colorful than others. That one that you set there against the wall.

Danny Lipford: Which one you want? Which one you want? You want to put two of those spacers on each one. Otherwise they’ll rock back and forth.

Brad Rodgers: Got you.

Danny Lipford: What do you think? This one? Where?

Brad Rodgers: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I think it’d look all right against the wall.

Danny Lipford: From here, the process is mostly repetitive until we get to the point where we have to start cutting tiles. While I make the cuts, Brad continues applying the thin-set and laying the tiles, being careful to keep the grout lines consistent with spacers. There are a few notches to be made here and there, but, otherwise, this is a great tile project to get your feet wet. Not just because of the low cost, but because the size is manageable in terms of time spent.

Danny Lipford: Hey, Brad, when I first saw what you picked out here for the tile, I wasn’t really sure that it was gonna look right here, but with all the different colors and the textures, it really turned out well.

Brad Rodgers: Yeah I think so, too. And once we get the gray grout on there, it’s gonna tie it all together.

Danny Lipford: Applying grout is less precise than laying the tile, but it does require some effort. The idea is to rake the grout over the gaps between the tiles, forcing it in as you go, and leaving it level with the tiles’ surface. After that, it has to be cleaned several times to remove the excess grout from the surface of the tile. But the effort really pays off because once Brad’s baseboards are back in place, this mudroom has a great new look, and he has only spent about $95 for tile and materials.

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Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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