The kitchen in our 80-year old home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has very worn linoleum flooring on a plywood-looking substrate. We tried removing some of the linoleum and it crumbles or separates from the backing. What would cost more--preparing the floor for new vinyl sheet flooring or preparing it to install wood laminate flooring?
Casey ~ Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Hi Casey, I have a concern that the old linoleum flooring you have could have asbestos in it and when you mention that it is crumbling that could be very bad. I would strongly suggest that you have a company that specializes in asbestos inspections come out and take a look to see what you have there. I'm not sure how big Lancaster is and whether an inspection company would be located there; you may have to try the largest city in Pennsylvania that is closest to Lancaster.
Most of the time if asbestos isn't disturbed and isn't crumbling, you can cover over it without problem, but I'm not sure if you are going to be able to do it in your case. You mention that it is already crumbling and if you cover over it with underlayment and then put down your vinyl flooring or wood laminate flooring, you may have a problem with your floor height matching your adjacent flooring surfaces.
Concerning the costs of preparing a floor for vinyl flooring or wood laminate flooring and which might be less; the prep work is going to be very similar. Both products require that they be installed over a good quality plywood underlayment. You can get away with underlayment that is 5/8 inch thick, but 3/4 inch is better. All the underlayment joints should be filled in and smoothed over to help prevent any problems after the vinyl or wood laminate flooring is installed.
I suggest you have the old tile removed, by an expert if it turns out to be asbestos, and then do a good inspection of the existing plywood subfloor. If it looks to be in good shape with no soft spots or delamination, I would go over it with 5/8 inch underlayment material to have a good base for whichever flooring you decide to use. If you think the 5/8 inch underlayment is going to bring your floor up too high, I would remove the existing subfloor and install new 3/4 inch underlayment which should put your new floor at about the same height as the existing linoleum flooring is.
I don't know if this was a project you planned to do yourself of if you were planning on hiring a flooring contractor. If you are planning on hiring a flooring contractor, get a least three bids for the project. Removing old floors and installing new underlayment is something they do every day and with the state of the economy you may get a very good price for the job.