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How to Install Vinyl Floor Tiles

The easiest way to deal with an old, ugly vinyl floor is to learn how to install vinyl floor tiles over it. In the basement bathroom of my old home, an ugly 1970s vinyl floor made the whole space look hideous. The quote I got from a home remodeling contractor made it clear that I could not afford to tear out the old vinyl floor and replace it with tiles. It was just too expensive.

Instead I learned how to install vinyl floor tiles over the existing vinyl floor. I tiled the bathroom in two hours and was using the bathroom again that same evening. The vinyl floor tiles look beautiful, especially since I chose ones that create fake grout lines. I then filled the cracks between the vinyl floor tiles with caulking to complete the grout illusion. Here are the steps I followed to install my vinyl floor tiles. The project is easy enough for one person (man or woman) to do by themselves in a few hours.

Step #1. Buy Vinyl Floor Tiles

Home improvement stores sell vinyl floor tiles in boxes. The cost is far lower than real tiles so you can buy an extra box to keep for future floor repairs. Vinyl floor tiles are self-adhesive. Choose ones that will look good in your home. 12 x 12 Vinyl floor tiles look the best. Any bigger, and it becomes easier to notice that the tile is a fake. Be sure to choose vinyl floor tiles that have an imitation grout line all around them.

You can also buy larger tiles that look like a square of 4 tiles with grout lines between them. However, I don’t like this solution because invariably, once your install the vinyl floor tiles, some areas will have cracks (between the vinyl floor tiles) and some won’t. I’d rather have these cracks evenly distributed. I then seal the cracks with caulk, but something of their presence still remains, as if it is part of a natural grout line.

Step #2. Clean the Old Vinyl Floor

To install vinyl floor tiles over an existing vinyl floor you must first remove any debris that will interfere with gluing the new tiles. Sweep or vacuum the floor thoroughly, making sure you get in corners. Next, wash the floor with hot water and a brush to scrape away any dirt that may still cling to the old vinyl surface.

Step #3. Strip the Old Vinyl Floor

To insure a lasting installation of vinyl floor tiles over your existing, ugly vinyl floor it’s important to follow the basic cleaning with a heavy duty stripper. Use a floor stripper and cleaner with rubber gloves to protect your hands and a brush to scrub the floor. Keep a window open to let out the strong cleaner scent. Wipe the floor when you are done to remove all oil residue and stripper residue.

Step #4. What You’ll Need to Install Vinyl Floor Tiles

To install vinyl floor tiles over an old vinyl floor make sure the old floor is clean and dry. You’ll need a sharp utility knife to cut the vinyl floor tiles where necessary. Begin at the back of the floor, so you can install vinyl floor tiles in front of you, then keep moving back. In this way, your weight will not settle on the fresh tiles until their glue solidifies. You don’t need to add any glue to the self-adhesive glue already present on the back of the vinyl floor tiles (and currently covered with a sheet of paper).

Step #5. Install Vinyl Floor Tiles

You might be tempted to begin installing vinyl floor tiles at one corner of the back wall and move slowly to the opposite corner. However, this method my leave you with a small space at the edge of the room. You will then need to cut the tile to fit the narrow space. This method is fine if the room is large, but if the area is small, it’s best to lay the first vinyl floor tile at the center, then move sideways in both directions. When you get to the edge, you will then have the same exact space left over on both sides. You can then cut tiles to fit the space, and the right and left sides of the small room will look symmetrical.

To install the vinyl floor tiles, peel the tile backing in the direction of the arrows printed on the paper. Hold the tile by its sides not to stick your fingers to the glue, then press the tile in place. Install vinyl floor tiles to complete the first row, then install the second row in the exact same locations below the first. Always make sure to push a newly installed vinyl floor tile up to the one installed above it. In this way, try to minimize the cracks between the tiles.

Step #6. Seal the Cracks Between the Vinyl Floor Tiles

This step in the installation of vinyl floor tiles is optional, but I recommend it. Using a caulk gun smear a thin line of caulk along the cracks where the vinyl floor tiles connect. Use your fingers to push the caulk into the crack and seal it. Wipe the area clean with a moist paper towel. You’ll notice that the crack just disappears into the fake grout design embedded in the vinyl floor tiles. Allow the caulking to dry for an hour before walking on the floor to avoid driving dirt into the cracks.

Unlike tile that requires much more work and a longer rest period before the floor can be used again, installing vinyl floor tiles is easy and quick, and you can use the floor again within an hour.

For more of my simple home improvement solutions, see my 10 Best Home-Improvement-Projects Anyone Can Do.

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