A new vinyl tile floor is an inexpensive way to upgrade any room's appearance. Although primarily used in heavy traffic and wet areas (mud rooms and bathrooms), vinyl tiles can improve the appearance of any floor that has gone past its "best before" date. Vinyl tiles are straightforward when it comes to the installation process. DIY'ers can install the floor themselves if they take their time with the floor preparation and layout.
Step 1 - Choose the Tile
Vinyl tiles are usually 12" x 12", so each one covers exactly 1 square foot of floor. Prices range from about 75 cents to $3 each, and you can expect the more expensive tiles to look good for longer. The better grades of tiles come with 15 or even 20-year warranties.
By far the easiest vinyl tile to install is the "peel and stick" variety. These come with adhesive already installed by the manufacturer, and all you need to do is peel off the backing paper and press the tile in place. There is no oozing glue to worry about, and there won't be any annoying fumes in the house.
Step 2 - Calculate the Amount of Tile Needed
Estimating the number of tiles needed to do a job is straightforward. Measure your room's length and width and multiply the measurements together. (For example, a 10 foot by 12-foot room is 10 x 12 = 120 square feet, so that you will need 120 tiles.) Tiles come prepackaged in boxes of 10 or 12, so you will have to calculate accordingly. It's a good idea to get extra tiles in case of error, or if something happens and you need to replace a tile in the future.
Step 3 - Prepare Your Floors for Vinyl Tile
Vinyl tile can be installed over virtually any underlying surface - sheet vinyl, existing vinyl tile, or even concrete - as long as it's in good repair. Cracks, bumps, and dips will need to be repaired before you install your tile.
Remove any trim around the floor edges. If you are doing a bathroom floor, it will be a good idea to remove the toilet. Bring your new tiles into your home a day or two before you plan on working with them so they can get acclimatized to your home.
Existing vinyl floors: If the floor has some dents, dips, or even a strong pattern, you are well-advised to apply a leveler/primer layer. Spread this compound smoothly with a wide-bladed putty knife or a straight-edged trowel. This will give you a smooth surface for your tiles and prevent the underlying flooring from "burning through" and becoming noticeable under your new tiles.
Concrete floors: Patch any holes or cracks and remove any bumps or ridges using a cold chisel or heavy grit sandpaper on a belt sander. A quick sanding of the whole concrete floor will also help the tiles adhere to the surface, particularly if the floor has been painted.
Step 4 - Plan the Layout
You want to lay out vinyl tiles with the pattern centered on the most noticeable part of the floor. Following this concept, you use whole tiles in the center of the floor and work your way out to the edges where the cut tiles won't be as noticeable.
Start your layout by measuring to find the center point of two opposite walls and draw a chalk line between these two points. Now measure to find the center points of the remaining walls and draw another chalk line between these two points. You will have divided your room into quadrants. Use a carpenter's square to ensure that your lines cross at 90° angles and adjust them if they are off.
Step 5 - Lay Them Out
Starting at the intersection of the two chalk lines, dry fit a row of tiles the room's length and width to determine how they will actually fit when they reach the wall. You want the rows right against the walls to be at least a half tile wide and approximately the same width on both sides of the room. If your tiles don't end up with the proper spacing, adjust your center reference lines accordingly.
Step 6 - Install the Tiles
Once you're happy with your center reference lines and the resulting layout, you can begin installing the tiles. Start where your reference lines cross and lay the first tile beside where the lines cross. Then using the lines as a guide, work your way out to the walls. Press each tile firmly in place, and after you have installed a few rows, use a tile roller to bond them firmly in place. Install all the whole tiles before starting to work around the edges.
Step 7 - Cutting Tiles
You can cut straight edges in vinyl tiles using a sharp utility knife. For curves or irregular shapes, aviation or tin snips will do the job.
Here is the easiest way to cut the tile: Start by laying the tile to be cut on top of the last row of full tiles. Now, place another full tile up against the wall, so it overlaps the loose tile. Using the second loose tile as a template, mark the first loose tile. Cut along the mark and you will have an exact fit to go against the wall.
Irregular shapes or cutouts for plumbing pipes are best handled by making a cardboard template and then using that as your guide for cutting.
Step 8 - Finishing Up
After all of the tiles have been laid, reinstall your moldings to cover the small gaps at the edges and sweep to remove any dirt or debris. You can walk on it now, but you're well advised to let the glue set up for a few days before you wash the floor.
Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with articles published in both the United States and Canada. He has written on a wide range of topics but specializes in home maintenance and how-tos.