If you’re ready to update that old floor, an easy way to do it is to install a peel-and-stick vinyl tile floor right over it. Vinyl flooring is durable enough to last a long time if it is properly installed. As long as the preexisting floor is solid and flat, with no areas coming up, you don’t have to remove it!
Vinyl floor tiles are hands down, the fastest and easiest way to spruce up a kitchen or bathroom, but in the event of remodeling, this means that you already have a floor, good or bad, in place. This bring up the question of whether you should remove that old floor? The optimum condition is to have a substrate of one-quarter inch plywood or another smooth underlayment, rather than flooring. But vinyl tile can be laid over old 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 flooring. 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.
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.
NOTE: 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. Be sure to always wear the proper safety gear such as goggles, gloves and masks for your specific situation.
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 moldings that protrude into the room to allow space for the new underlayment to slide underneath. If laying the new tiles over preexisting linoleum, run your belt sander over the linoleum surface, from one end of the room to the other, to dull the surface. Vacuum up the dust.
In many cases, you can install vinyl floor tiles on top of your existing floor, but it depends on what type of floor you already have and what shape it is in. Since vinyl tiles don’t do a very good job of “smoothing over” imperfections in your flooring or underlayment, then the floor would need to be in very good shape. In general, it’s more difficult to put vinyl over tile than the opposite; installing tile over vinyl. If you are laying new tiles over preexisting ceramic tiles, you’ll want to remove any broken pieces and smooth out and large dip and bumps with a tile floor filler.
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.
When choosing a 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. Other installation methods are floating and glue-down, Vinyl tile comes in various thicknesses, colors and patterns. Some types are groutable for a look that replicates a stone or porcelain tile floor.
The layout of tiles in the floor area 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.
Divide the surface into four quadrants, finding and marking the middle of each edge of the floor with your tape measure and pencil, and then using a chalk snap-line to lay two perpendicular lines dividing the floor in half in both directions. Use a square at the point where to the lines intersect, at the middle of the floor, to make sure they’re 90 degrees off each other. If you are installing a tile border, you’ll need to mark your quadrants carefully inside the border after you have installed it.
Precut and layout your basic floor pattern before installing. You will fine tune the cuts as you start to install the flooring. I wanted to use a tile that only came in 24×6 inch pieces. Before I started, I cut 90% of the tiles in half to make 12×6 pieces. You can easily do this by carefully scoring each tile with a utility knife and metal straight edge. Draw a line between the two marks. Using the straight edge again, cut down the line with a utility knife. You may have to cut twice to slice all the way through. Don’t cut on top of your new tile floor! Do this on top of a cutting mat or sheet of plywood or thick cardboard.
Bend the tile along the score and it will snap apart. Then flip over the tile to carefully cut the paper backing to keep it intact on each piece until you are ready to peel and stick it.
Pull the paper backing off the first tile. Set the tile firmly to the surface, at the center of the floor where the two lines intersect, so it’s bordered on two adjacent sides by the lines. Peel off the paper from your next tile. Press it to the floor nest the first one, butting the edges against each other first and then pressing down the rest of the tile. 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.
Repeat, setting each new tile off the previous ones, building out from the middle of the floor toward the edges, using the lines to keep the grid straight. Lay all the full tiles that will fit, leaving space around the perimeter of the floor where there will be partial tiles. I chose to lay the border first and then measure and work with the center space second because to the shape of the bathtub.
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.
Measure the remaining space between the last full tile in each row and the wall. Transfer the measurement to the tiles. Cut them with a utility knife, by scoring a line on each tile at the mark, then snapping them in two at the line. Set the cut tiles with the cut sides facing the wall.
Allow the floor to sit undisturbed for the recommended period of time before walking on it. This step if very important! I was so eager to get my floor finished, I didn’t let line set enough. As careful as I was, there was still some shifting of tiles which became apparent after I started grouting! It was too late to fix them at that point. Luckily it’s not terribly noticeable to the common eye.
To use grout only for approved “Groutable Tiles.” Only use pre-mixed vinyl tile grout for your peel-and-stick tiles. Color options vary to match the tiles’ ceramic look. Follow all instructions for installation listed on the packaging. Don’t underestimate the importance of tile spacers when grouting. You might feel you can eyeball the spacing between tiles, but self-adhesive tiles tend to shift easily. So, make sure you use spacers. A good rule of thumb is to use spacers the same size as the thickness of the tile.
Peel-and-stick vinyl tile is among the easiest DIY flooring options out there. You only need a basic understanding of flooring in order to transform a room. These projects can be finished in a couple of days. Once installed, you’re getting a well-designed and durable new floor that can be installed anywhere in the house. You can choose from several types of realistic patterns to give you the look you want for your home. If your room allows for it, you can install base moulding or an apron to finish off the tile.
It’s been a little over 2 years since installation of the vinyl tile, so here’s a little update. The floor has held up better than I imagined! We have been so pleased with it. The bathroom where I installed the tiles, is the one the gets the most traffic in our house. This flooring has been a champ.
Upon examination, I can see that the color has slightly faded, and the flooring has conformed to the subfloor. Both of these things were expected, and haven’t taken away from the beauty of the tiles. We also have the step stool being kicked around by the kids, and the flooring has not been phased!
As with any tile, we have been extra careful about not allowing water from the bathtub and shower to flood the floor (which can be a challenge with children). Just like with any other type of tile, if too much water finds its way underneath there might be a problem with the tiles popping up. But that has not been an issue here thus far! We do use a bath mat and dry up water right away. The flooring hasn’t bubbled or shifted, and the grouting hasn’t cracked.
Here are some pictures of the floor, after a couple of years of wear and tear: