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Install Vinyl Tile Flooring

Applying vinyl tile to an old floor is an inexpensive way to greatly improve the look of just about any space, from kitchen to bath to laundry room.

Vinyl tile flooring.

Tools & Materials

Materials

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Estimating Material Needs

To compute how many tiles you'll need for a floor project, measure the length and width of the room and multiply these numbers to find the area of the room.

For example, if the length of the room is 12 feet and the width is 10 feet, the total area will be 120 square feet. If necessary, divide irregularly shaped rooms into smaller sections. Figure the area for each section, and add them all together to get the total.

Finally, to determine how many cartons of tile you'll need, divide the square footage to be covered by the square footage contained in a carton. For our example above, if the tile carton holds 15 square feet, you'll need 8 cartons (120 / 15 = 8) plus extras (about 10%) to make up for waste and for future replacements.

Choosing Tile

Consider purchasing self-adhesive vinyl tile. It's easier to work with and prevents adhesive from oozing through the cracks between the tiles. Once the layout work is done and the floor is going down, laying these tiles is a simple matter of peeling and sticking. Vinyl tile is available in squares or planks.

Preparing Floors for Vinyl Tile

Remove all trim from around the floor. If you intend to reuse it after installing your new flooring, pull any nails through the trim from the back side. This step reduces splitting, so you can use the trim again.

Your new vinyl tile installation is only as good as the underlying floor, so clean the floor thoroughly. The surface must be smooth and free from debris, grease or wax. Uneven floors, bumps or dips can cause blemishes that will show over time.

Concrete
Vinyl tile can be installed over concrete if the concrete is clean, smooth and dry. Repair any holes or cracks. You can sometimes lower high spots using a coarse-grit abrasive on a belt or disc sander. Any minor bumps can be removed with a cold chisel driven by a baby sledge hammer. Be sure to wear safety glasses.

Vinyl flooring
Vinyl tile can be laid over old vinyl flooring that's in good condition. If the old floor has a rough texture or some dents and dings, smooth on a skim coat of embossing leveler with a straight edge trowel. This creates a smooth surface and prevents the new tile from eventually taking on the texture of the old floor. Remove damaged or loose vinyl flooring. 

Floors requiring underlayment
If removing the old floor is too difficult or impractical and the floor is too damaged to use an embossing leveler, cover it with a new layer of plywood underlayment. Unless otherwise directed by code, 1/4 inch BC grade plywood makes a good underlayment.

Caution

Always wear a respirator when removing old flooring. Be aware that some older flooring materials may contain asbestos. It's recommended that you test older flooring materials before removal, and have a professional remove them.

Preparing the Surface

Instructions

Step 1

Before installation, consider the extra thickness of your finished floor. Using a small piece of underlayment as a spacing guide, cut through the bottom edges of any door mouldings that protrude into the room to allow space for the new underlayment to slide underneath.

Step 2

Nail down any loose flooring with 6d or 8d ring-shank nails.

Step 3

Stagger the seams of the ply panels in the underlayment.

Step 4

Set the nails below the floor surface, and fill any holes or cracks with filler.

Step 5

When installing the new underlayment, stagger the seams of the ply panels, and leave a 1/32-inch gap between the panels to allow for expansion. Leave a 1/8-inch gap along the walls. Always use the fasteners and fastening pattern recommended by the vinyl floor and plywood manufacturer.

Step 6

If necessary, use ready-mix floor leveler to smooth out any uneven areas where the ply panels meet. Allow it to dry and sand smooth.

Layout of the Floor Area

Floor tiles are best centered in the room at a doorway for visual appearance. You may want to use a prominent window instead. Keep this in mind when you lay out the floor tile in your room.

Instructions

Step 1

Measure to find the center of two opposite walls. Use these points to snap a chalk line across the length of the room in the center of the floor, dividing the room in half. Then snap another chalk line perpendicular to the first so the two lines cross in the center of the room. Check where the lines cross with a carpenter's square to make sure they're square.

Step 2

Trial-fit a row of tiles down both lines to the width and length of the room. (Don't use adhesive or peel off the protective backing yet). By laying out the tiles in this way, you can get an idea of any adjustments that need to be made to your original reference lines. You want to work with as many full tiles as you can. Also, you want to end up with at least half a tile width in the areas where the tiles meet the walls. Adjust the reference lines as necessary to achieve a satisfactory layout.

Installing Vinyl Tile

Instructions

Step 1

Begin laying the tiles from the center of the floor where your two adjusted reference lines cross. Start by laying a tile at the intersection of the lines, then use the lines as a guide as you work your way outward toward the walls in each quadrant.

Step 2

If your tiles aren't self-adhesive, spread vinyl flooring adhesive with the trowel's notched edge, combing it out in beaded ridges according to the manufacturer's directions. Spaces between ridges of adhesive should be almost bare.

Step 3

If adhesive oozes up between the tiles, wipe it off immediately with a solvent-soaked sponge or rag. Consult the manufacturer's instructions to determine the appropriate solvent.

Step 4

After you've installed several rows of tile, bond them firmly to the floor by applying pressure and rolling over them with a floor roller or rolling pin.

Good to Know

When you must kneel on freshly laid tile to continue with the installation, put a piece of plywood between yourself and the tiles. It will distribute your weight and reduce the possibility of individual tiles slipping.

Step 5

After laying all the whole tiles that will fit, begin cutting and adhering tiles to fill around the perimeter of the room.

Step 6

Cut tiles to fit against the wall.

Step 7

For tiles that simply need to be cut to length, place the tile directly on top of the last full tile near the wall. Place another tile against the wall, overlapping the loose tile. Mark and cut the first loose tile using the overlapping tile as a guide. The cut tile will then fit against the wall.

Step 8

For irregularly shaped tiles, make cardboard templates first to prevent waste.

Step 9

Allow the floor to sit undisturbed for the recommended period of time before walking on it.