Can You Install Vinyl Flooring Over Carpet?

Rentals and other temporary accommodation often come equipped with carpet. Carpet that may or may not be to your taste, and it’s often old and not particularly nice. Or carpet that looks like it will get dirty if you look at it wrong… taking your security deposit with it. So you may be wondering, can I change the floor on my rental without throwing away the old carpet? Can I install vinyl flooring over carpet?

Vinyl Flooring Over Carpet: What You Must Know

If you got here, you are aware of the goodness of vinyl tile squares or LVT and how practical, water resistant, dirt resistant and noise cancelling it is. Very much unlike carpet. And you know you can install vinyl flooring yourself, which is a great way to save some money. But can you install it over an existing carpet, without ruining the carpet? After all, once your tenancy is over you want to get your security deposit back. The answer is yes… with more or less difficulty.

The main issue with having carpet under vinyl flooring is that is doesn’t really work as a proper underlay. Unless the vinyl floor is installed properly moisture could accumulate underneath and ruin the carpet. At the same time, a high pile carpet won’t offer enough support for the vinyl planks and they will wobble and bend, resulting on a very unappealing floor. So if you are installing vinyl flooring over carpet you must be very careful with the installation, and in the case of high pile carpets you need to cover them with a hard surface so you can install the vinyl properly.

Also, it’s very important to keep in mind that if you install vinyl flooring over carpet it is unlikely to age as well as if you did it over a proper hard wood and underlay. Which is fine if you’re looking to rent for a few years and just return the property to its original status afterwards. But if you actually intend to live there for a long time, you are better off removing the carpet. If you have a choice, get rid of the carpet and start your vinyl flooring installation on clean, flat wood subfloor.

Installing Vinyl Flooring Straight Over Carpet

If you are looking at a hard, low pile carpet that is correctly installed (so no wrinkles and no folds) you may be able to install LVT vinyl planks straight on top of it. This will only work with a hard low pile carpet that is properly level. To see if the carpet is level, lay down in the floor on one side of the room, and look at the carpet from the side. Then move to another wall, and look again. Can you see dips or buckles? If no, you are in luck and the carpet was properly installed on an even subfloor and you can install vinyl flooring over it.

If the carpet is not smooth and level chances are the vinyl planks won’t have the required support and won’t click properly together, or they may squeak and make noises when you walk on it. Using vinyl tile squares instead of planks may help with it, provided the carpet is mostly even. However, trying to install a flat hard floor over a bumpy surface is never going to end well.

Provided you are satisfied with the status of the carpet, you should be able to install vinyl planks or tiles straight on top of it. In order to be able to remove the vinyl flooring when you are ready to get the carpet back, you need to use a vinyl click system, and not one that requires being glued down. Think of the carpet as an underlay.

However, in order to avoid a disgusting surprise when you remove the vinyl after a few years, steam clean the carpet first and let it dry perfectly. Otherwise dirt and moisture will get trapped under the plastic underlay of the vinyl, and that can lead to mould growth and stains that are impossible to remove as they have been there for too long. This can also happen if a spill is not cleaned immediately and liquid seeps under the vinyl, so be very careful if you install vinyl flooring over carpet.

The instructions to install click vinyl planks vary slightly by manufacturer, but they are usually very similar. If you intend to re-use the vinyl in the future, it pays to be careful and not force the planks into place. This way it will be easier to disassemble the floor when you want to remove it. However, don’t expect all the planks to survive the removal process. If you choose vinyl planks with a good UV resistance rating the color will remain as new for several years.

Installing Vinyl Floor Over Thick or Uneven Carpet

If the carpet is not perfectly level, or you have a high pile fluffy carpet, you won’t be able to successfully install vinyl flooring over it without some more effort. In the case of high pile “luxury” carpet you may permanently damage the textile if you install another floor on top of it, so I would really re-consider the idea unless that’s a risk you are happy to take.

As with low pile carpets, start with steam cleaning the carpet and making sure all stains are removed and the carpet is perfectly dry. This is even more important with this sort of carpets, as you can end up with a disgusting mess of mould and bacteria growing in the dust stuck on the high pile.

In order to install vinyl floor over high pile carpet you will need to put plywood planks (they don’t need to be very thick) on top of it, to create a suitable surface to install vinyl flooring. This can increase the cost, and often makes it not worth doing it unless you have a real problem with carpet.

After securing the plywood planks on top of the carpet you should be able to install vinyl flooring as usual. If you are using several plywood planks to cover the entire room make sure the seams are attached together (you can use tape for this) and as flat as possible. If there are spaces in between the plywood planks the vinyl won’t sit right and it will move as you walk on it.

If you use this system, you can use any kind of vinyl, not only vinyl planks. You can use peel and stick vinyl flooring or even roll vinyl but if you are going through this problem I would go for something that looks nice and luxurious, such as hardwood vinyl flooring. However, only click vinyl has a chance to be re-usable after you remove it so it’s the most rental friendly option.

You can install vinyl floor over carpet, and depending on the carpet it may even be a quick affair. But if you have a choice, it’s must easier and durable to remove the carpet and install vinyl floor over the wood subflooring instead. Depending on how long you keep the flooring and the quality and status of the carpets before, they will be fine afterwards. You will most likely need to steam clean them again to help a high pile carpet recover its plushness and to remove any remaining odour.

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