What Type of Protective Flooring Goes Under Vinyl Tile?

Updated February 21, 2017

Vinyl tile can serve as a long-lasting means to cover a floor quickly and easily, using simple tools. The subfloor for vinyl tile, especially self-sticking tile, needs to be completely level and free from oil, dust and dirt. A number of wood or masonry products provides a good surface for the vinyl tiles, with the exception of luaun, an inexpensive alternative to plywood, and particle board, a composite material that swells or disintegrates when it gets wet.


Concrete is an excellent underlayment for vinyl tiles, providing good adhesive properties for the glue on the tiles. When installing the vinyl tiles on concrete, you need to inspect the surface to make sure that the floor does not have major cracks. Concrete is easy to repair by using concrete patching products readily available in home improvement stores. Once the material is thoroughly dry, vacuuming the floor thoroughly removes any dust or dirt so that each tile sits level on the subfloor.

Backer Board

Backer board is a material made with concrete fibres and is a good choice for both vinyl tile and ceramic tile flooring. The backer board does not readily absorb moisture and is easy to install over particle board subfloors or seriously damaged concrete floors. The material is especially good in kitchens and baths where water can seep under the tiles. Backer board needs to be nailed or screwed to the subfloor, and the installer must make sure the fasteners sit below the surface of the floor and filled with adhesive so the heads don't show through the tile. Installers also fill the joints between the sheets and tape over them for a smooth finished floor.


Plywood is a strong building material that comes in different thicknesses. Quarter-inch plywood is suitable as a subfloor for vinyl tiles. However, the nails or screws that secure the plywood need to be driven below the top surface of the wood and filled with plastic wood or filler, as should the joints between the plywood sheets. Vinyl tiles must lay completely flat on the surface to give a smooth appearance.

Gypsum Fiber Panels

Gypsum fibre panels provide a good underlayment for vinyl tiles. The panels are easy to cut, come in different thicknesses and sizes, and show high resistance to water---an important consideration when using vinyl tile in kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms or basements. The product is made from gypsum and cellulose fibre. Besides not attracting moisture, this material is slow to burn, unlike plywood. According to the National Ag Safety Database, 3/8 inch gypsum panels resist fire for 20 minutes, while 1/2 inch panels resist the fire for 40 minutes.

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About the Author

Jackie Johnson is a published writer and professional blogger, and has a degree in English from Arizona State University. Her background in real estate analysis prepared her for objective thinking, researching and writing.