How to Install Self-Stick Vinyl Tile

Looking for an easy, affordable, and time-conscious way to transform your floors? Self-stick vinyl tile is the solution. Here's how to install it.

Self-stick vinyl tile (also called peel-and-stick tile) is a do-it-yourselfer's dream material. It requires only basic skills, minimal time, and a few tools. However, self-stick tile also requires a precise eye when setting the first tile and those in the first row adjoining it. How straight the remaining installation looks depends in large part on the accuracy of the first row.

We'll walk you through the entire installation process for self-stick tile. Our steps do include the application of a primer, but some manufacturers don't recommend a primer. Others do, but only on porous surfaces such as plywood. Consult manufacturer's directions before applying. 

Also understand that once the tile comes into contact with the floor, the adhesive is unforgiving; you won't be able to adjust the tile's position. If you misalign a tile, you'll probably have to pull it up and replace it. The tile will likely be damaged, but you might be able to find a place for it as a cut tile in a corner. Also, the paper backings on self-stick tile are slippery underfoot. Place a wastebasket at your side as you lay the tiles. Don't remove the tile backing until you're ready to set the tile. Dispose of the backing immediately.

You can expect to spend about 2 hours tiling an 8x10-foot floor. Before you begin, repair and clean the floor.

  • Start to Finish 8 Hours
  • Difficulty         Projects Kind of Easy
  • Involves Cutting Tiles

What you need

Tools

  • Long-handled roller
  • Measuring tape
  • Heavy-duty scissors
  • Putty knife
  • Utility knife
  • Chalkline
  • Straightedge
  • Square
  • Seam roller

Materials

  • Primer
  • Self-stick tile
  • Cove molding

How to do it

Step 1 Prime Subfloor

Prime the subfloor, if necessary, with the product recommended by the manufacturer. Most primed surfaces benefit from two applications; the first one thinned and the second full strength. Both coats will go on easily with a long-handle roller.

Step 2 Dry-Lay Tiles

Snap chalk lines from the midpoints of opposite walls to locate the center of the room. Square the lines with a 3-4-5 triangle and dry-lay the tiles along each axis. Move the layout until you have even tiles at the edges, then resnap the lines.

Step 3 Set First Tile

Arrange the tiles loosely along the layout lines with the arrows (grain) facing in the same or opposite directions (depending on the look you want). Starting at a corner of the tile and working slowly, peel away the paper backing. Don't pull fast; you might tear the backing, and a fresh edge is difficult to raise from the center of the tile. Set the corner of the tile at the intersection of the lines and press it down. Then roll it with a small roller.

Step 4 Lay Rest of Tiles

Using the layout configuration of your choice, continue setting the tiles, making sure each one butts squarely against its neighbors on two sides. Don't forget to maintain the arrows consistently. If you mistakenly lay a tile with the wrong orientation, warm the tile with a hair dryer to soften the adhesive and pry it up immediately with a wide putty knife. The tile is likely to be damaged.

Step 5 Cut Tile with Scissors

Mark the tile for cuts around obstructions but leave the backing on before cutting it. Using heavy-duty household scissors, cut the tile along the lines. Peel off the backing and dispose of it immediately. The backings are slick, and if you step on one you might fall.

Step 6 Position in Place

Position the tile carefully, placing the leading corner or edge against the neighboring tiles or the obstruction before you press it in place.

Step 7 Score Molding

To fit an inside corner, score the back of the molding with a utility knife and cut a V-notch in the coved base. If you can't get the molding tightly in the corner, cut the material on your score marks. Cut and install all corners first, then cut and install straight runs to fit between them.

Step 8 Warm Molding

To fit an outside corner, warm the molding with a hair dryer before adhering it to the wall. You can increase the flexibility of the molding by paring away a thin layer from the back. Don't cut through the material.

Step 9 Apply Adhesive

Cut all butt joints using a square to guide the knife. After applying the adhesive, roll the molding with a J-roller and press the flange against the floor and wall with a piece of 1x scrap.

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