Install Attractive, Durable Vinyl Tile Flooring

Dear James: The recreation room where the kids play needs new flooring. A floor as tough as a grocery store floor would be perfect for the way they spill drinks and make a mess. Are there any floors that are both durable and attractive? — Barb W.

Dear Barb: Those grocery store floors take a real beating every day, but probably nothing compared to the abuse a couple of playing kids can dish out. Actually, commercial quality vinyl floor tiles would be an excellent choice for your recreation room. It is not difficult to install yourself, so you can save the labor costs.

Within the past five or ten years, there have been many attractive vinyl floor tiles made available that are becoming more popular for residential use. Vinyl tiles are not damaged by water or other spills, so they are often used in laundry rooms, basements and any area where extreme durability and moisture resistance are required.

The array of colors and patterns of vinyl tiles is nearly endless. The newest ones, simulated hardwood planks, are not the standard 12 x 12 inch tiles. They are actually long, narrow planks, usually three inches wide, and look like real hardwood flooring. With the realistic grain patterns, once it is installed, it is difficult to distinguish from the real thing.

Another attractive vinyl tile option is simulated marble in rich brilliant colors like white, green, rose, almond, black, etc. Simulated natural stone, also in many colors, is available. To get really fancy, select tiles that create an inlaid wood look with a border. It includes all the special pieces of tile that are needed.

You should be able to install the vinyl tile yourself. It is available in commercial quality grade, usually about 1/8 inch thick, or in thinner grades with self-adhesive backing. The commercial grade is probably your best choice. The tile manufacturers also supply the floor adhesive to use with it. It is a good idea to use the adhesive from the specific tile manufacturer to be certain it is compatible with the tile material.

If you have any problems finding commercial quality vinyl tile, contact the following companies for names of local sources: Amitco International,; Armstrong,; Congoleum,; Forbo Linoleum,; and Tarkett,

It is important to start with a smooth floor when installing vinyl tile. Small bumps or particles on the floor will eventually show through to the vinyl tile surface. To find all of these spots, lay a trouble light on the floor. The light shining across the floor will reveal any high spots. Sand or scrape them off and then thoroughly clean the floor.

Most rooms are not perfectly square, so you must decide how to line up the tiles. For the best possible appearance, consider from where the floor will be viewed most often, usually at a doorway. That sight line will be the best spot to make it even and in line with a wall.

The edges of vinyl tile are machined very crisp and true at the factory, so when it is properly installed, the joints will be almost invisible. You will have to cut some of the tiles yourself. A sharp knife will work, but it is probably best to rent a mechanical tile cutter at a tool rental shop.

Most manufacturers recommend that the vinyl tile be seated down into the adhesive with a heavy floor roller immediately after it is installed. Don’t skip this step. Most tool rental shops will also have a floor roller.

The key to keeping your vinyl tile floor beautiful is regular cleaning. Vinyl tile is durable, but sand and abrasive grit will eventually damage its surface. Most manufacturers also offer special cleaners and polishes for their flooring.

Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit