DO-IT-YOURSELF : The Art of Installing and Repairing Vinyl Tile Flooring: Keep It Smooth

From Associated Press

A big advantage of vinyl tile flooring--and the reason it is so popular--is that it is easy to install and easy to repair.

Before installing vinyl tiles, store them in the room that you’ll be putting them in for at least 24 hours to stabilize their temperature.

Empty the room and remove the shoe moldings or cover moldings around the perimeter of the floor.


Installing Tile Flooring

You can install vinyl tiles over most smooth, solid, flat, clean surfaces. If you want to cover old tiles or a surface that is not smooth, install a layer of 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick plywood first. Use thicker plywood if the floor is very uneven. Secure with panel adhesive and box nails. Leave a 1/32-inch expansion of space between panels.

Caution: If you will be removing old tile flooring, wear a sanding respirator. Old vinyl may contain asbestos; have it tested and, if necessary, professionally removed.

To remove old tiles, warm them with a hair dryer or clothes iron set on moderate heat. Pry the tiles up with a broad putty knife. Scrape all the lumps of old adhesive from the subfloor; if any is left, bumps will appear in the new tiles.

Install tiles from the center of a room out, doing one quarter of the floor at a time. To locate the center, snap a chalk line between the centers of each pair of opposite walls. Some jobs need lines to cross at the visual center of the room, not true center. Make sure the intersecting lines meet at a 90-degree angle by checking them with a square.

To establish even borders around the room, lay loose tiles along the chalk lines. Adjust the center until the borders are at least half a tile wide and snap new chalk lines if necessary.

Working on one quarter of the floor, install the tiles from the center out in an upside-down pyramid. Spread adhesive to the recommended thickness and align the tiles along the chalk lines. To keep adhesive from oozing up, drop the tiles gently into place. Avoid sliding them.


Cut border tiles after the full-sized tiles are installed. To mark a tile, place the tile to be cut upside down on the fixed tile in the last row, aligning the two tiles’ edge. Place a second tile on top, and slide it against the wall. Mark the tile to be trimmed along the edge of the top tile. Then cut it with a sharp utility knife.

Transfer odd or curved shapes into tiles by making a cardboard template. Or use a compass. Follow the contour with the point, transferring the outline to the tile with the pencil.

Use a template to fit around free-standing fixtures. Put a piece of paper on each side of the fixture, and scribe the shape with a compass. Tape the template to the tile and cut out the shape. Slit the vinyl from the edge to the cutout, then press the tile in place around the fixture. Trim as needed with a sharp utility knife.

With a rented 100-pound tile roller, or a rolling pin bearing your full weight, force out any air bubbles, and press the tile into the adhesive. Roll in two directions--along the length of the room and across its width. Allow the adhesive to set for the time recommended on the label before walking on the new flooring.

Simple Tile Repairs

To flatten a curled tile, cover the tile with aluminum foil. Using a clothes iron set at moderate heat, warm the tile to make it pliable. Carefully lift the curled corner with a putty knife. Scrape the old adhesive from the floor and from the bottom of the raised corner of the tile. Dab fresh adhesive on the underside of the tile; avoid over-gluing.

Wipe up any excess with a solvent recommended by the manufacturer, usually mineral spirits. Weight the tile down, until the adhesive is dry. One way is to use a bucket of water, putting scrap wood underneath to distribute the weight evenly.

To replace a damaged tile, cover it with foil and warm it with a clothes iron. To avoid marring the edges of surrounding tiles, cut into the center of the damaged tile with a utility knife, then pry the tile up from the center outward. Remove the old adhesive from the floor with a putty knife or scraper.

Test-fit the new tile and carefully trim it to size if required. Use the warm iron over foil to make the tile flexible. Apply adhesive and drop the tile into place. Clean off any seepage with a recommended solvent, and weight the tile down until the adhesive is dry.