Vinyl Tile Cutter

Cutting sheet vinyl–accurately–is a monumental pain, and it’s nice when a good crew of pros does it for you. So, you might start to think:  Hmm, tile vinyl flooring…easy.

By contrast, vinyl tile (i.e., usually twelve inches square) seems like a walk in the park.  What could be easier?  Slice the stuff apart with a utility knife, and you’re done.  Right?

Difficult to Cut with Utility Knife

Not so fast.  Sure, you can cut with a utility knife–and even using a tile cutter, you’ll still be using a utility knife for many cuts–but problems do happen:

  • Wiggly cuts due to your straightedge moving.
  • Unsightly seams and gaps because you did not position your utility knife perpendicular to the tile when cutting.
  • And that other minor detail–injury.

A vinyl tile cutter works just like a paper cutter.  Stick the tile in and slice away!  An accurate, straight, and perpendicular cut every time.  But is it worth buying the thing?

Buy a Vinyl Tile Cutter?

Vinyl Tile Cutter

I would say yes.  You can rent a vinyl tile cutter, and even though rental charges are cheap, it really limits your tile installation time.  With any kind of rental, you know that another day is another dollar (or ten).

So, the real entry-level El Cheapo is this one, the Roberts Quick-Cut Vinyl Tile Cutter, which takes tiles up to twelve inches square.  It’s available at your local orange-and-white big box home improvement store and lots of other places, as well.

When I checked it was fifty bucks.  Now, it’s not a fine piece of machinery, by any means.  I suspect that it will get you through 3 rooms before falling apart into a million pieces, but what did you expect?  It’s not like you’re going to start your new vinyl tile installation career with this thing.

How to Get Rid of Vinyl Flooring Bubbles

Sheet vinyl flooring can develop bubbles of trapped air.  Since these bubbles are covered by a seamless sheet of vinyl on the top, and by the underlayment or subfloor on the bottom, they will never go away.  How do you get rid of them?

One of the reasons you bought sheet vinyl flooring in the first place is its seamless nature.  With tile vinyl floor, you have seams everywhere.  These seams are bad because they can let moisture seep through down to the underlayment.  It should be noted that most seams hold up well–but there is always the possibility of failure.

By contrast sheet vinyl has almost no seams.  Good for daily living, bad for trapping in air bubbles.

Bubbles under sheet vinyl flooring occur during installation, not after.

Keep in mind that the following method only works for relatively small bubbles (up to 6″ diameter).  Larger bubbles require you to cut out a section of the flooring and replace.

Renting a 100 pound roller is a good idea is you want the job done right.  Our improvised “ironing” method mentioned in this article doesn’t work nearly as well.  You can rent a roller for almost nothing at any local rental yard.

Vinyl Flooring Roller

To get rid of these trapped pockets of air under your vinyl, use a canvas needle (a sewing needle used for sewing canvas) or even the tip of an X-acto knife or utility knife, and puncture the bubble.

Most people will not happen to have a floor installer’s 100 pound roller on hand, but if you do, go ahead and use it to flatten the bubble.  Lacking a roller, you can kneel on a short piece of 2×4 wrapped in a towel, and “iron” it out.

Complete by sealing up with a vinyl flooring seam sealer found at most hardware stores.

Stapling Sheet Vinyl Flooring

Installing sheet vinyl flooring can be a big pain in the ass, with first cutting out the template, cutting the vinyl, dealing with the goopy and stinky adhesive.  Wasn’t sheet vinyl flooring supposed to be pain-free?  Yes, it can be–when you staple the sheet vinyl instead of deal with adhesives.

Methods – From Hard to Easy

The catch here is that you must be installing the sheet vinyl on plywood underlayment.  Obviously, if you’re installing on concrete slab, staples are not an option.  From hard to easy:

  • Adhesive only
  • Adhesive plus staples
  • Adhesive on perimeter only
  • Staples only – perimeter

We’re just dealing with the last one.

Not Your Usual Stapler

Power Stapler

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use that spring-loaded stapler hanging in the garage.  It’s not so much the vinyl flooring you have to content with; it’s the plywood.  You won’t be able to drive staples into plywood with your manual stapler.

You need to either buy or rent a power stapler that can drive staples with a minimum 3/8″ length.  Make sure that the staple can be fully driven in, without the top of the staple showing.

How to Staple Sheet Vinyl Flooring

Think that stapling down sheet vinyl is a no-brainer?  Well, it pretty much is.  But there are a few rules of procedure you’ll need to follow, else you end up with bulges.

  1. Make sure the sheet vinyl is completely smooth, with no bulges.
  2. Drive staples about 1/4″ from the edge of the vinyl.
  3. Occasionally, take your nose out of your work and make sure that the entire floor is staying smooth.
  4. Complete an entire wall.
  5. Next, staple the adjoining wall–not the opposite wall.  Stapling the opposite wall will cause problems later on.

Subfloor for Resilient (Vinyl) Flooring

Resilient flooring seems like one giant piece of duct tape:  it will stick to anything.  Well, it can’t.  And that’s why choosing the right subfloor is pretty important before laying resilient flooring.

In case you didn’t know–and why should you?–resilient flooring is the oh-so-sensitive term nowadays for the more hated term, vinyl flooring.  Got that?  Moving on…

Concrete

Roughening a Concrete Floor Before Vinyl Floor Installation
Roughening a Concrete Floor Before Vinyl Floor Installation

Smooth, level, patched, and dry concrete subfloor can be used directly for resilient flooring.  No underlayment needed.

Plywood

Plywood Subfloor
Plywood Subfloor

Half-inch or greater underlayment graded for such use by the American Plywood Association.

Existing Vinyl Floor

Yes, You Can Put Vinyl Over Vinyl
Yes, You Can Put Vinyl Over Vinyl

Sorry, did I use the word vinyl?  I mean resilient flooring.

Clean resilient flooring on a good base can be used as the subfloor for new resilient flooring.

Do Not Use as a Subfloor

  • Wood floorboards
  • Particleboard
  • Hardboard
  • Exterior-grade plywood
  • Cement-based backer board
  • Asphalt tile
  • Rubber tile

Tip: Remove Resilient Flooring with Hair Dryer

Want a quick tip on removing vinyl flooring?  Before anything, I’ve got quick note:

Make sure your resilient flooring or the adhesive below does not contain asbestos.  This tip really kicks up the wind and loosens asbestos.  Even fairly new resilient flooring (let’s say in the last 25 years or so) can have asbestos in the mastic.

So – here goes.

Use a putty knife to gently pry up the resilient flooring tiles, while keeping a 1,600 watt (i.e., a pretty hefty hairdryer) focused on the top of the tile.  You’ll want to point the heat right above the area where your putty knife is…but don’t point it under the tile.

This mild heat is usually enough to loosen the resilient tiling.

Using Vinyl Flooring Adhesive with Sheet Vinyl

Though not as wildly popular as they once were, vinyl floors do remain a viable option for homeowners. Some rooms, like a laundry room, are seemingly made for it. It’s easy to clean up and given its array of patterns, you can quickly spruce up a room from the floor up using such a system.

If you decide to install vinyl flooring, you’ll need a few supplies:

  1. Vinyl roll sheets
  2. A paper template
  3. Utility knife
  4. Vinyl floor adhesive

These are your basic supplies. Of course, you’ll also need supplies to prepare your subfloor, which should be level, devoid of any highs or lows. Once the vinyl sheet is laid over the pre-existing floor, you do not want any pockets of air. It should be flush against the subfloor, smoothed out so that the surface is completely flat.

Vinyl Flooring Adhesive

Creating Your Vinyl Floor Template

When laying down vinyl sheeting, it’s advisable you create a paper template first. This can easily be made from shipping paper or with newspaper taped together.

Creating a paper template enables you to measure out any angles or tricky spots, as well as the total amount of vinyl sheet needed. Mistakes can be quite costly, as you’ll essentially have to start from square one.

Once the template has been pieced together, simply use a utility knife to precisely cut the vinyl sheeting. The vinyl cutout can then be put into place, ready for the vinyl floor adhesive.

Entire Floor vs. Perimeter

When installing a vinyl floor, the biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether to apply adhesive to the entire floor or to only the perimeter.

These days, applying a bed of adhesive to a vinyl floor is less common. However, there are instances when you might consider it:

  • If the material you’re using is of lesser quality.
  • If you are certain you won’t pull the floor up in the future. Again, this could be the case for a laundry room or other permanent small space.

More common is applying vinyl floor adhesive to only the perimeter of the sheeting. Even though this is typically reserved for higher-quality vinyl, it also protects you in the future, should you choose to make a change. By applying the adhesive only to the perimeter, removal, replacement, and repair become much simpler.

Installing Vinyl Flooring on Concrete Floors

Vinyl can be installed over a variety of surfaces, but moisture is always a concern. Concrete floors are the most susceptible to moisture collection, given their high alkalinity (pH). Vinyl floor adhesive won’t work as well if any moisture is trapped beneath the vinyl sheet. If moisture exists, it will ultimately lead to curling, discoloration, and adhesive failure.

Certain measures should be taken if you wish to install vinyl over concrete. Namely, you should test the surface for alkalinity. How much is there? If it’s too high, you may want to reconsider your flooring choice. Laminate flooring for instance, may be a better alternative. The chance of your vinyl floor adhesive failing, may be too costly a risk in the overall big picture.
Vinyl Flooring Template