Installing Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl sheet flooring comes in both 6 and 12-foot widths. Because it can be installed in kitchens and bathrooms without seams, it remains a favored choice floor covering for those type rooms. If seams are inevitable, installation can be planned so seams occur in inconspicuous, low-traffic areas. This reduces the risk of water seeping through the seams and causing damage.

About Sheet Vinyl

Sheet vinyl resists water; it is practical, durable, and cushions the feet. Like any other type floor coving, it is available in different grades and qualities. Rule of thumb, the higher the concentration of vinyl in the sheet floor covering, the more resilient and long-lasting it will be. Thickness is another indication the floor will wear well. Solid vinyl is best, as well as the most expensive.

It is available in both full-spread and perimeter-bond types; full-spread has a felt-paper backing. It is secured using an adhesive that bonds it tightly to the floor. Perimeter-bond has a smooth, white PVC backing; it is laid directly over underlayment and secured in place using a special adhesive around the perimeters.

vinyl flooring

Underlayment and Installation Success

There are several factors that contribute to whether or not sheet vinyl installation is a success or a failure. At the top of the list for installation success is underlayment surface. It must be smooth, even, and clean. Made from a material approved for that purpose; free from any ink, factory stamps, or paint. Otherwise stains or discolorations could bleed through.

Lauan plywood is construction grade plywood, made from a tropical hardwood. Type 1 exterior grade lauan plywood is the only type accepted by most sheet vinyl manufacturers as an appropriate sheet vinyl subfloor. Other types of plywood that may be more suitable as sheet vinyl subfloor include poplar or birch.

Using lesser grade plywood as sheet vinyl underlayment is not recommended, as hollow spots in between the veneer face layers can cause “spongy areas” on the floor. Other poor quality underlayment choices contain water soluble extractive chemicals that can cause staining.

A good thing to remember is that just because one type underlayment is recommended as the best choice by one vinyl sheet manufacture, that same underlayment may not be the best choice for another. It is important, therefore, to carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the product you are going to install.

Other secrets for installation success include:

  • Clean, accurate cuts – the vinyl must fit perfectly along the contours of the room, matching the outline of the floor.
  • Using a paper template will help insure cuts will be accurate. (See directions for making a template below.)
  • Full-spread vinyl can be installed over any flat, level surface recommended for underlayment material as long as it is clean and free from ink, factory stamps, and paint – as noted above. Perimeter bond vinyl that will be stapled around the perimeter will require a wood substrate.
  • Before applying new adhesive to the floor, remove any old. Old adhesives can react with chemicals in new adhesive and create stains.
  • Always use the recommended adhesive for whatever type sheet vinyl you are installing. Note: Some manufacturers require you use their name brand glue and will void their warranty if another type of glue is used.
  • Apply adhesive sparingly; use a 1/8-inch or 1/4-inch notched trowel for application.

Reduce the risk of failure

To reduce the risk of failure when installing sheet vinyl, remember the following:

  • Avoid using an adhesive not specifically recommended by the sheet vinyl manufacture. Not only can this void any warranty, but some type glues contain chemicals not compatible with the components used in sheet vinyl. This can cause discolorations to leach through the vinyl, creating unsightly stains.
  • Sheet vinyl seams require extra attention. Cracking and separation can result from using an “off the shelf” products unapproved by the sheet vinyl manufacturer.
  • Avoid using poor quality plywood as underlayment, as well as any material not recommended by the sheet vinyl manufacturer.
  • Avoid using poor quality floor mates on sheet vinyl after it has been installed, as discolorations can develop.

How to Make a Paper Template

Place paper that is 12 to18-inches wide along the walls of the room you plan to install sheet vinyl; butchers or brown wrapping paper works best. Be sure and leave a 1/8-inch gap between the wall and paper. Cut out triangular holes in the paper at about 18-inch intervals using a utility knife. Fasten the template to the floor using masking tape over the holes.

Work with one piece of paper at a time in making your template. As you work your way around the perimeter of the room, overlap pattern seams about 2-inches and tape together. Slide paper under door casings. Fit around pipes the following way:

  • Tape sheets of paper on either side of the pipe.
  • Measure the distance from the wall to the center of the pipe; subtract 1/8-inch (to account for the 1/8-inch wall to paper gap).
  • Transfer the measurement to a separate piece of paper; use a compass to draw the pipe diameter onto the paper.
  • Cut the pipe hole with scissors or a utility knife; cut a slit from the center of the cutout to the edge of the paper.
  • Fit the cutout around the pipe; tape the pipe-hole template to the adjoining template sheets.

Once the paper template is complete, identify the top side with a mark. Carefully roll or loosely fold the template for carrying.

Cutting Sheet Vinyl for Installation

Unroll the vinyl flooring, pattern side up, on any large, clean, flat surface; dry and free from debris. If installation requires more than one piece of vinyl, plan seams carefully.

Position pieces so the seam will be located in an inconspicuous, low traffic area of the floor. Cut the seam to fall along patterned lines or simulated grout joints so it will be less noticeable. Overlap edges of vinyl sheets by at least 2-inches and tape together. If possible, avoid standing or kneeling on the vinyl while working.

Situate the paper template over the sheet vinyl carefully; tape it securely in place. Trace the outline of the template onto the vinyl using a non-permanent fine tip felt marking pen, and then remove the template. Cut along the tracing lines using a sharp utility or linoleum knife. Use a straightedge as a guide when making long cuts.

Cut holes for pipes and other permanent obstructions; cut a slit from the pipe-hole to the nearest edge of the flooring. Whenever possible, make slits along decorative pattern lines. When complete, roll – do not fold – the flooring, and then transfer it to the installation area.

Preparing for Installation

Once the sheet vinyl has been cut, and rolled loosely for transportation to the installation site, you are ready to install it.

Make sure the floor surface is clean; completely free of dirt and debris. Unroll the flooring and carefully position it; slide the edges beneath undercut door casings. For two-piece installations, trim the excess (2-inch overlap).

Use a framing square as a guide to cut the seam along patterned lines; be sure and cut through both pieces of vinyl. Remove the scrap pieces; the two sheets of vinyl should be pattern-matched. Make sure flooring is perfectly in place before applying adhesive.

Perimeter-bond Vinyl Installation

If installing perimeter bond vinyl, begin to attach the vinyl to the subfloor / underlayment at the seams. Gently fold back the seams about 1-foot. Use a notched trowel or wallboard knife to apply a 4-inch wide swath of flooring adhesive to the subfloor.

Place the seam edges on the adhesive, one at a time; press gaps together with your fingers, making sure each seam is tight. If needed, use a hard rubber roller (also known as a J-roller), wallpaper seam roller, or rolling pin; press firmly and roll evenly.

Apply flooring adhesive underneath flooring cuts at pipes or posts, and around the entire perimeter of the room. Use the roller to ensure proper contact with adhesive. If flooring is being applied over wood underlayment, use 3/8-inch staples driven every 4-inches around the perimeter of the vinyl to further secure it to the subfloor. Make sure, however, staples will be hidden by base molding once it is in place.

Full-spread Vinyl Installation

Once the flooring is perfectly in place, pull back half of the flooring and apply a layer of flooring adhesive over the underlayment. Use the adhesive sparingly, but cover the area completely. Lay the flooring back onto the adhesive.

Use a heavy flooring roller to roll the vinyl in even rolls, moving toward the edges of the sheet. The roller helps to create a stronger bond and eliminate air bubbles. When finished, fold over the un-bonded section of flooring and repeat the process. Using a clean damp rage, wipe away any adhesive residue from around the edges of the vinyl.

Arrange metal threshold bars cut to fit across doorways; position over the edge of the vinyl flooring, and nail in place.

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