DIY Vinyl Tile Flooring Installation
A few months ago, Porter and I spread out "enabler" tendencies beyond our house.
If you've read my tornado book, Twisted: A Minneapolis Tornado Memoir... you may recall my friend Peter the ROCKSTAR. After the tornado, he came to our rescue with landscaper equipment and busted his butt to help us dig out from all of this. A lifesaver - and we barely knew him, at the time. Now, we are so happy to have him and his wonderful girlfriend Michelle as friends.
A few months ago, Peter had to leave home for a week, to volunteer with a big fundraiser. Michelle was planning to use that time to paint a few rooms in their house, and asked if we wanted to come paint with her.
Sure we did! An opportunity to start paying it forward / back!
Except... we can't leave anything as simple as that. While we could paint the bathroom, the walls in there had some dings and dents. We asked if we could fix those, first. Same goes with some minor wall repair in the bedroom. It's all good, right?
Remember that kid's book about giving a mouse a cookie, and about how if you give him that, he'll ask for all this other stuff as well? We... are just like that. Why paint the walls, when we could fix them first? HEY! CAN WE RE TILE YOUR BATHROOM!?
Peter put his foot down on letting us completely renovate the bathroom (boo!), but joked that we could re-tile the kitchen if we wanted. I honestly don't think he understood that it wasn't a joke, it was permission.. 🙂
So, after he left, we went shopping for tile with Michelle. There's this really great tile we bought at Menards after the tornado - it's self adhesive vinyl tile, but textured and designed to look like stone. It is BEAUTIFUL in our kitchen, and works perfectly - we don't have the cold or slippery concerns that stone tile would have, in a room apt to have water spilling on the floor.
Also, we wouldn't need to worry about reinforcing the floor for the added weight, pulling up the existing vinyl sheet flooring, or dealing with floor leveler - unlike stone tiles, there was no risk of the tile cracking if it's even slightly out of level.
While Porter does NOT like vinyl tile as a rule, he was fine with this. It was actually designed to be used with a vinyl grout, which also took away from the cheese factor of regular vinyl sticky tiles. All around, a great product.
Beyond the long term implications of the flooring choices, this had two other things going for it - it was relatively economical, and very easy to install. Can't say enough good things about it, especially after all the hassle that went into tiling our bathroom (Although, I have to say - having Fibonacci sequence tiled into the wall is so far BEYOND awesome, that the hassle was worth it!), and kitchen counters/backsplash (Ditto on hassle for 159 digits of pi!).
So, given that a new year usually brings with it a to-do list of home improvements for the coming year, we'd like to show you how to install this type of tile.
Before starting, we thoroughly cleaned the floor. Tiles should be laid down on a clean, flat floor. As some of the old vinyl tile sheet was sticking up on a few edges, etc, we had to repair that first - we used a staple cut to tack those edges/corners down.
Now, decide where you want your tiles to start. For this installation, we measured the room's main area length and width, then divided that by the total width of a tile (including the grout line extension.) As it didn't divide cleanly, we divided the remaining measurements in two - to have an equal amount of small piece on either side of that initial row.
Using that information on where to place the first row - both in terms of length and width of the room - We laid our first row. Now, most/all such tiles will have arrows printed on the back, with the instructions to orient all tiles so that the arrows are all facing the same way. With this particular style of tile, it was even easier than that - two of the adjoining sides had a dropped extension for grout. All we had to do was to keep the corner of those two lines facing the same way ("Upper left", in this instance):
Remove the paper backing, carefully line up the edges with tiles that had already been placed, and slip it into place:
Firmly press down on the tile to secure. You may want to use a rolling pin or a tile roller:
Continue laying whole tiles, using previously laid tiles as a guide:
While it would be perfectly ok to lay the tiles as a straight up grid, we decided to do an offset pattern. To do this, I started each successive row of tiles offset from the one before, using half the measurement of a tile as a guide to place the first one. (If the tiles are 12", offset them by 6", etc - Be sure to include the grout measurement when doing this!).
For that matter, if you don't mind all the extra cutting, you could snap a chalk line diagonally across a room and end up with a diamond pattern.
Once you've gotten all of the whole tiles down that you can - left with an outer edge of untiled floor - it's time to go back and cut/fill all of those little pieces.
For each section, measure the length and width - measure the width at both ends, as many houses/rooms aren't perfectly square.
Mark the measurements down on the back of your tile, being careful to do it in such a way that the orientation of the tile will be correct when placed:
Use a box cutter and a metal ruler to cut straight lines.
Once all of the tiles are laid and pressed down well, it's time to grout. We used a vinyl grout made specifically for vinyl tiles. Using a grout float, we pushed grout into the grout lines, then carefully scraped extra grout from the tiles on either side of each line:
Work with a small area at a time, as drying grout gets difficult to work with:
Using a wet sponge, wipe away excess grout from tiles a bit at a time - you'll need to clean your sponge and swap out for clean water fairly often.
Once all of the grout is applied and wiped clean, allow it to dry - undisturbed -for at least 24 hours, or however long is specified on your grout directions.
Depending on the size/dimension of your room and the pattern placement you go with, this is a project that can be done SUPER quickly. Ours - two rooms - took about a day to tile (1 person), and another to grout. If you go with a straight grid pattern, it would take even less time, if you go with a diamond pattern, plan on more time.
Peter came home at the end of the week, shocked at what we'd done. Even months later, they are both delighted with their new floor, with one caveat:
They don't sweep as much, and shock themselves when they do. This is something we've noticed, as well - white floors don't camouflage dirt, so you know exactly what you're getting into when you sweep. These floors do SUCH a good job of masking dirt.. it can be a bit unnerving if you procrastinate at all on sweeping!