How to Prepare Your Floor for Vinyl Flooring

Updated April 13, 2018

Vinyl flooring is durable, easy to care for and surprisingly easy to lay. The most important part of laying vinyl tiles or sheet vinyl is preparing the floor beforehand. Even the smallest debris or most out-of-the way nailhead will eventually poke up through the flooring, so the better your prep work, the better your new floor will look. Whether you are laying vinyl over an existing floor, or on new construction, let's ensure that it all goes smoothly.

Empty the room and remove all baseboards and trim. If you are flooring a bathroom, also remove a pedestal sink and toilet. It's easy to work around a vanity cabinet, so if you have one, it can stay in its location.

Use the broom or vacuum to thoroughly sweep all debris from the room.

Mop the existing floor with the degreaser and let it dry thoroughly.

Pull up the old flooring if it is sheet vinyl, or vinyl tiles. If it was laid down before 1989, it may contain asbestos in the backing. Pull up a corner, if the backing is black, stop and call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at (800) 638-CPSC. They can tell you about testing for asbestos and give you some guidelines for removing it safely.

Scrape up any old adhesive and stubborn pieces of old flooring with the metal scraper. The blow-dryer will soften any old glue and make it easier to remove. Sweep or vacuum the floor again.

Repair any cracks, holes or dents with the levelling compound. Let it dry, sand it smooth and sweep up the debris.

Lay down a subfloor of 1/4" plywood to ensure the smoothest possible application of your vinyl tiles or sheet vinyl. This is optional.


Lie on the floor and shine a flashlight along it to check for any debris, depressions or nailheads sticking up that you may have missed. Test for moisture on plain concrete by taping a piece of cling film to the floor and leaving it overnight. If there is condensation underneath in the morning, you will not be able to lay sheet vinyl.


Self-stick vinyl will not adhere to all materials, so ask the manufacturer for any recommendations as far as special adhesives or fillers that work best on your existing floor.

Things You'll Need

  • Broom and dustpan or vacuum cleaner
  • Metal scraper
  • Blow dryer
  • Mop, bucket and degreaser
  • Levelling compound
  • Hammer
  • Optional:
  • 1/4" plywood to cover the whole floor
  • Hammer
  • Nails
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About the Author

Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.