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Featured Article

Installing Vinyl Tile

Skill Level: Intermediate

Applying vinyl tile to an old floor is an inexpensive way to significantly improve a room's appearance. It is a simple makeover that most do-it-yourselfers can successfully complete, requiring only a bit of patience and attention to detail. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

Tools & Materials

  • Goggles
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Notched trowel or spreader
  • Clean rags
  • Carpenter's square
  • Utility knife
  • Sponge
  • Vinyl tile
  • Vinyl tile adhesive
  • Solvent cleaner

Estimating Material Needs

To compute how many tiles you will 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' and the width is 10', the total area will be 120 sq. ft. (12'x10'=120 sq. ft.) 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 will 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 sq. ft., you will need 8 cartons (120/15=8) plus extras (about 10 percent) to make up for waste and for future replacements.

Choosing a Tile

If you have a choice, consider purchasing self-adhesive vinyl tile. It is easier to work with and prevents adhesive from oozing through the cracks between tile. Once the layout work is done and the floor is going down, laying these tiles is a simple matter of peeling and sticking

Preparing Vinyl Tile for Floors

Vinyl tile expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. It is important to let the tiles rest in the room where they will be installed for at least 24 hours before beginning your project. Failing to do so can lead to problems once the floor is finished.

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. Clean the floor thoroughly. The surface on which you are installing tile 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 is in good condition. If the old floor has a rough texture and/or some dints and dings, smooth on a skim coat of embossing leveler with a straight edge trowel. This will create a smooth surface and will prevent the new tile from eventually taking on the texture of the old floor. Damaged or loose vinyl flooring should be removed.

Caution: Always wear a respirator when removing old flooring. Be aware that some older flooring materials may contain asbestos. It is recommended that you have older flooring materials tested before removal, and that materials containing asbestos be removed by a professional.

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

Making Preparations

  1. Before installation, take the extra thickness of your finished floor into consideration. Using a small piece of underlayment as a spacing guide, cut through the bottom edges of any door mouldings which protrude into the room to allow space for the new underlayment to slide underneath.
  2. Nail down any loose flooring with 6d or 8d ring-shank nails.
  3. Set the nails below the floor surface and fill any holes or cracks with filler.
  4. When installing the new underlayment, stagger the seams of the ply panels, and leave a 1/32" gap between panels to allow for expansion. Leave a 1/8" gap along the walls. Always use the fasteners and fastening pattern recommended by the vinyl floor and plywood manufacturer.
  5. 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.

  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 are square.
  2. Trial fit a row of tiles down both lines to the width and length of the room. (Do not use adhesive or peel off the protective backing). 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. What you are trying to do is 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 the Tile

  1. Begin laying the tile 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.
  2. If your tiles are not 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.
  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.
  4. After you have 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. Hint: When you must kneel on freshly laid tile to continue with the installation, put a piece of plywood between yourself and the tile. It will distribute your weight and reduce the possibility of individual tiles slipping.
  5. After laying all the whole tiles that will fit, begin cutting and adhering tiles to fill around the perimeter of the room.
  6. 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.
  7. For irregularly shaped tiles, make cardboard templates first to prevent waste.
  8. Admire that lovely new floor. Then allow it to sit undisturbed for the recommended period of time before walking on it.


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