Laying Vinyl Tile the Right
By: D David
Vinyl Tile is still one of the best floor
coverings to choose for kitchens and bathrooms. Ceramic tile is
great, but the cost to have a professional install it can be
prohibitive. The answer, vinyl tiles installed by you. You will
save a lot of money you can use toward other home improvements
you want to do.
Vinyl tile is also a great choice for other
reasons. There are some beautiful choices of both style and
color. There are so many different patterns and colors to
choose from that you will want to take your time in choosing
something that will enhance the beauty of your kitchen or
In addition to that, vinyl tile is much
better than linoleum for practical reasons. With a linoleum
floor, one accident and the whole floor is ruined basically,
because it is all one piece. When you buy vinyl tile, you buy
extra squares. If an accident ruins one or two tiles, you
In this article I will help you learn how to
install your own vinyl tile floor with confidence. I?m going to
teach you the old school way of laying this beautiful floor
covering. I call it old school, because I learned from tile
layers that had been doing it for years before I
First, we need to start with the basics. I
don?t know what is on the floor where you plan to put down
vinyl tile, so I?m going to show you what our preparation goals
are. We want a nice smooth surface to lay our vinyl tile
Some people will tile over existing tile.
This can be okay, but it is not the preferred choice. To do
this right, you need to remove whatever flooring is there now,
until you are down to either a smooth cement or wooden
If there are cracks and valleys or unleveled
surfaces, they need to be filled and smoothed out before we can
start laying your vinyl tile. On cement or wooden surfaces, you
can use cement to fill in and smooth the surface. You can also
install plywood over the existing floor to achieve the surface
your vinyl tile needs. You caulk in all the joints after
installing the plywood. You can use Durok as
The goal, as I said before, is to have a
smooth surface before you begin to lay vinyl tile. Otherwise,
your tile will crack wherever pressure is placed on the tile
over existing rough areas.
Now, buying the vinyl tile you want is next.
There is self-adhesive vinyl tile that is very inexpensive.
However, remember you get what you pay for. The adhesive on
these tiles is not of great quality and you will be replacing
them often. They are usually very thin as well, so they are
The thicker the vinyl tile, the more
expensive and durable it is. That is the rule of thumb. Choose
vinyl tile that has about 1/8? thickness or above and you will
have a floor that will last a long time. So choose your style
and color wisely. It will be with you awhile.
Now, the tools you will need are next. You
will not need a tile cutter. That isn?t the old school method.
Using a tile cutter is tedious and slow, and your edges will
never be tight. You will need a good razor knife, a small
butane torch, a trowel with teeth along one edge for applying
the adhesive, some old rags, and some mineral
lot of experts will tell you to always begin in the center of
the room when laying any kind of tile. However with kitchens
and bathrooms, this is not always or even often the best
method. Starting at one wall and working toward your cabinets
is much better, because most of your tiles that need to be cut
will be under the edge of the cabinets and not
Starting along one wall, trowel on your
adhesive, making sure there are ridges by using the toothed
edge of your trowel. Do not go too far away from the wall as
you will be laying tile there and don?t want to have to reach
while doing so.
Let the adhesive dry for about 15 minutes so
it?s very sticky. Lay your first tile at the corner and
continue to lay a row, making sure you keep your tiles aligned.
As you get to the end of your row, do not worry about the area
that is left over where a whole tile will not fit in. We will
take care of that last. However, remove the adhesive from that
area so it won?t dry before we get back to
The adhesive you applied should have gone
just a little further out than the row of tile itself, so now
you have a row, with a little adhesive area waiting for the
Now start back at the beginning. Apply a
little more than a row?s width of adhesive, let it dry, then
lay another row of tile, again making sure you align the tiles
with each other so your lines are straight..
Once you have done the entire floor except
those areas where a whole tile would not fit in, let the floor
dry until tomorrow. Do not allow anyone to walk on the floor.
The adhesive takes time to dry.
Now, once the adhesive is dry, we are ready
to do the cutting in portion of your vinyl tile job. You should
be able to walk carefully on the tiles without moving them by
now. If not, you may have used too much adhesive and will have
to wait longer, until you are sure it is dry.
Now, let?s cut it in. Go to where your first
row that ended with a little space left over. Apply some
adhesive to that area, plus on the floor, along the wall where
you are going to put in your cut pieces of vinyl tile. Let that
dry, just as you did before for 15 minutes.
Now, take a full vinyl tile, matching it up
with your tiles already on the floor at the bottom, lean it at
an angle to the wall. Let me explain so you are sure to
understand. You place the tile against the edge of the last
tile in the row as if you were about to lay it down, but just
let it lean against the wall at whatever angle it has
Now, you will need your razor knife and your
small butane torch. Be careful with the little torch that you
don?t burn anything, please. If you are not comfortable with
handling a small torch, this method is not for
Place the fingers of one hand on the top of
the tile along the wall with very slight downward pressure.
Wave the flame of the torch back and forth across the center of
the tile about where you would like it to bend. Don?t let the
flame linger on the tile to melt it. Keep a distance so it only
gets heated up.
As it gets hot, the pressure from your
fingers will begin to push the vinyl tile downward, bending it
into place. As soon as the tile is bent to the point where it
is flat against the floor and the rest against the wall, set
down your torch, pointing it carefully away from anything or
anyone, and take your razor knife and cut along the bend right
at the wall. It will cut like butter.
Now that tile fits perfectly to the contour
of the wall. It also, because of the light pressure you applied
as you pressed it down, has tightened up that entire row, so
the vinyl tiles will not separate later. This is a floor that
will last a long time and answers the problem of the tiles
Continue that same process for each row and
everywhere the tiles need to be cut in. Then clean up. You are
now an old school master at laying vinyl
One last warning, as I said before, if you
are not comfortable using flame, you should go ahead and use a
tile cutter. It may not be as tight, but you can still do a
good job with it without endangering yourself. This article was
intended to pass on an old school method I learned and have
used to lay many beautiful tile floors that lasted for years. I
hope that by passing it onto you, the old way will not be
David Dugan has a website,
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