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Tiling an uneven floor

I need to tile over some really crappy, 30yo, worn-down sheet linoleum. The house itself is ~1890 and while my father did a lot of work on it, he went with sheet lino in the dining room and kitchen due to uneven flooring that he didn't want to make a huge project out of. I want to avoid rolls of lino. What is the best way to deal with the uneven floor?

Originally, we'd bought a treatment for the floor that would allow us to tile over the top of what's already there. However, it's been suggested that vinyl tiles will just pop up regardless because the floor is not completely level. At the dining room to living room doorway there is even a 12 inch, 9 degree slope instead of a step.

Pulling up the floor and replacing it is beyond the scope of what we're willing to do. We just want a new floor surface, that will stick, that isn't sheet linoleum.

Suggestions and ideas?

Re: Tiling an uneven floor

The first step to tiling is to make sure the floor joists meet the minimal requirements to support a tile floor without the tiles popping off sooner or later. The floor will need a deflection of L360 or greater for ceramic tile. Check out the various flooring forums to calculate the deflection, using one of their deflecto-meters, once you have gathered the proper information on your flooring joist size, spread and spacing.

The minimal plywood for tile is 5/8" thick, but most pro's wouldn't think of using anything less than 3/4". No sheathing grade, no grade Below C, no CDX.

The tile floor will only be as good as the substrate. The old linoleum can stay as long as it is very well adhered over 100% of the surface, you use an excellent quality thinset listed for such use, the flooring system meets the L360 deflection, and the plywood is good. It is optimal of course to remove the sheet goods and apply CBU or ditra as per the manufacturer's recommendations.

Re: Tiling an uneven floor

all good points from houston.

i wont let my tile guy put down tiles on a floor thats has any less than 1 1/8" of substrate, meaning 3/4" floor sheathing then 3/8" underlay.

now if the house has old tongue and groove boards this is a different story, i will put down 1/2 if not 5/8" plywood for underlay and glue it down as well. reason being the old boards can make for an uneven floor which can telegraph though 3/8 plywood. just be sure to renail or screw down all the boards before putting the underlay down

Re: Tiling an uneven floor

With a house that old I wouldn't tile because the structure probably wasn't intended to carry that much weight. I'd shim to flat (which may not be level), sheet with a decent substrate, then go with laminate flooring which will match the character of the house. If the existing floor is sound enough you can shim at 8" intervals matching the joist layout on every other shim and use 1/2" sheeting to save weight. I'd also check what's underneath now- it the floor has already been re-sheeted you may do better to dig down and remove it, then go with something solid like 3/4" t&g Advantek. Laminate flooring won't go over every hump and dip but will conform to slow curves. Check the manufacturer's specs before starting to be sure it will work in your case.


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