Introduction: How to Install Commercial Grade Resilient Tile

Picture of How to Install Commercial Grade Resilient Tile

This Instructable shows you how to install Resilient tile, also known as "Vinyl Composition" or "Asphalt" tile, the type found in most commercial settings, like grocery stores. It's probably easier than you think!

Step 1: Do the Math and Get Supplies.

Picture of Do the Math and Get Supplies.

I measured the length and width of the kitchen, rounded down to the nearest foot since there are cabinets/countertops taking up floor space, and multiplied the two to get my square feet. The tiles are a square foot each, so I made sure to get a little more than my kitchen needed, which was 256. This way when you're learning to measure and cut tiles for corners and doorframes, you have spares. If you're like me, you'll need those spares! A gallon of adhesive says on it that it does up to 350 square feet, but I ended up using a gallon and a little less than half of another. Be prepared! Once you lay your adhesive, you may not be able to go back to the store if it is closed already, and it has a 6 hour working time.
-Notched trowel
-Tile Roller (rental costs ~$15/day)
-Utility Knife
-Tape Measure
-Chalk line
-Wood filler
-Putty Knife
-Claw Hammer
-Mini Prybar (not pictured)
-Basic hand tools (pliers, adjustable wrench, screwdrivers, etc....)
Speaking of math, the tile is $30.60 for 45 tiles, and adhesive is about $20/gallon. For my room of 256 square feet, this added up to about $250, so that's one thing to consider. On the other hand, this is the most durable flooring you can possibly buy, unless you've had epoxy painted concrete or ceramic tile, which is way harder to lay and way more expensive. Someone told me they had this stuff last them 50 years, and it's still in perfect shape!

Step 2: Remove Appliances and Old Flooring

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Wow! look at how ratty my old linoleoum is! It has shrunk and separated as much as 3 inches in some places, and it has a big bowed out part near a corner. This has bugged me for the 8 months I've lived here. Luckily I have a landlord who will barter for rent money. I was fortunate in that my floor had underlayment, which is basically thin plywood squares stapled to the subfloor, installed before the shoddy linoleum job was done. If your subfloor is in very bad shape, you will have to install the underlayment. This is like nailing in giant wood tiles over your old floor. You can get underlayment at the Lowes or Home Depot you will be going to for your tile stuff, so look under your floor covering while doing your planning. So let's tear out all baseboards, move fridge, disconnect electricity, water supply, and water drains from the dishwasher and move it, and in my case, a small section of countertop, too. Linoleum is usually adhered around the edges only, and if yours is not separated, you can cut a border around the room, remove the bulk of the flooring, and then rip off the adhered border in strips. This will sometimes pull up large splinters as shown. Fill the holes with wood filler, let it dry, and sand it level with the rest of the floor. Also sand any questionable areas where any old adhesive remains using 80 grit paper. Try to get everything as smooth and dirt free as possible, but it doesn't have to be 100% perfect.

Step 3: Establish a Starting Point

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Ahh, nice big empty naked room, ready for action. Remember measuring for the square feet? Now we are doing it again to find the center of the room, and dividing the room into 4 parts. This also helps to get the border tiles an even width, which makes them easier to cut. So measure length, divide exactly by two, and snap a chalk line. Do the same for the width. Then square these two lines with the square. If they're not square, just re-snap a line and make it so. Now the fun begins...

Step 4: Lay Adhesive

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Using your notched trowel, start in one corner, working towards the center of the room. Scoop up some adhesive on the notched side, and tap it to the floor where you want to start, spreading the adhesive in semicircle/rainbow swaths. Try to overlap them in such a way as to not show the starting point where you slopped the adhesive down. The main goal here is to get the quadrant of floor covered consistently in little tiny rows of adhesive beads no thicker than what the notches in the trowel will spread them to be. If you don't get the hang of it, or you are afraid you'll screw this step up, practice on a piece of smooth plywood until you get it. I did one of the quadrants of the floor outlined by the chalk lines first. Read the instrctions on the container, and follow the dry time.

Step 5: Lay Tile!

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So you've followed the instructions and waited until the adhesive was tacky to the touch, but none came off on your finger when you touched it (approx. 30-45 min.) Good. You now have SIX HOURS to lay the tile! (this is the working time given my Armstrong's tile adhesive) This is fun until you get to the borders. That's when you start having to cut tiles and that's not as fun. So enjoy laying the whole ones while you can! Once you get to that inevitable point though, just measure to the wall twice, as the walls of the room are not really exactly square, then use the straight edge of the square to guide your utility knife as you score twice with a new blade and snap. I used 2 double sided blades during the whole project. For corners and around doorframes, it's a little more complex, but a little trial and error, lots of measuring, and a ton of scoring and snapping later, you've got some good looking edges. Just for the record, the photo of me snapping a tile, that was one of the unsuccessful attempted doorframe corners. Just keep at it 'till you're satisfied with the way it looks. Remember you can caulk gaps of 1/8"+ later. When you're done with a section, use that tile roller you rented, walking it back and forth in both directions (right-left, forward-back) to make sure your tile bends to the little contours of the floor. Some people get away without rolling by paying a couple of nervous heavy men to come in and pace around the kitchen to squash down their tiles. I prefer the roller method.

Step 6: Repeat Until Finished.

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I would like to say that if you're thinking about kneepads, WEAR THEM! There's a reason flooring people wear them. My knees are so very, very beat after this, even if just for being bent the whole 12 hours I was working. Also, if you can, take a break. It helps your concentration to stop and eat once in a while. And for fu... um, goodness sake, don't work so hard and long that you end up passed out on the floor with a stupid grin on your face like me!


dgsmimi (author)2013-04-08

great job! thinking about putting black tiles down myself...glad to get a preview :)

dgsmimi (author)2013-04-08

Helpful hint: Pre-lay and cut the tiles before using adhesive, then you are not stressed about the adhesive drying before you lay/cut the tiles, be sure to mark where the cut tiles go before you take them up ;-)

toongoon (author)2008-11-25

Hey, I want to add my thanks for providing this helpful walkthrough. I installed a vct kitchen floor a few months ago, and the installation went great, with much thanks to your instructable. Would you mind telling me how cleaning has gone for you? I followed the manufacturer's recommendations, and covered the floor in five coats of acrylic polish, without buffing. However, now that some time has passed, the finish on the floor isn't looking so sharp. Have you had to buff? Or have you run into any maintenance obstacles? Thanks again for your post - it looks great!

Zombie Stomp (author)toongoon2008-11-25

Good job, especially on putting so many coats on. Did you strip it before putting on the first wax? My tile said to do so, but that is usually just to get the tile clean and it adds a little "tooth" to the surface of the tile so that the wax adheres a little better. When you decide to re-wax it, you will want to rent a little buffer and get a coarser stripping pad or two. Doing it this way saves a lot of scrubbing if you were to just use the stripper and scrub by hand, I did it that way and it sucked. Make sure to get a couple mop heads- one for the stripper and another to apply the wax. The dull appearance you see is just the dirt on the floors dulling the shine. You could probably buff it, but I don't have any advice to give in that department since I haven't done it. Your wax is still there though, it's just dull. If you mop it with a nice thick string mop, and strain it very well and dry-mop it, you should see the water beading up still. There are also matte finish waxes available so the dulling is less noticeable.

toongoon (author)Zombie Stomp2008-11-25

Thanks for the great advice. No, I didn't strip it, as the Armstrong instructions said it was ready to use, and stripping wasn't recommended on new tile. It sounds like you used actual floor wax rather than acrylic polish? How does the wax hold up? And how frequently do you have to apply it? I'm wondering if that would be a better way to go, and if so, it sounds like I should strip the current finish, and start over with wax. Any comments? Thanks again.

Zombie Stomp (author)toongoon2008-11-25

No, I was just calling the acrylic polish "wax". Clear acrylic is what you use on this stuff. The Armstrong instructions are right, it's just been so long since I used this stuff that I probably forgot that you don't have to strip it is you just wax it before it gets dirty or is walked all over. If a high-gloss is important to you, you could probably buff with a white buffing pad. You might do well with a high- speed buffer for that. I don't know how long it's been, but you could go ahead and strip/re-wax it, and get a compact household buffer and buff often enough that it doesn't dull to the level that it has. Good work!

toongoon (author)Zombie Stomp2008-11-26

That's great. Now, I know what to do next. Sounds like I was on the right track, and just needed some good reassurance. Thanks for the the help!

bvgott (author)2008-10-22

We put in commercial grade tile in our basement quite a few years ago. It needs a deep cleaning/stripping and waxing. Do you have any suggestions on products to use to do it ourselves?

DGCYS (author)2008-09-13

If you are not putting on a baseboard, When you go to caulk the edges take your sander and sand a tile or two. Collect this dust and mix it with the caulk to get a matching color on the edges.

BeckyMissy (author)2007-11-04

Good Job. Can the VCT tile be installed directly over painted concrete? Is the underlayment necessary? Thanks! (author)BeckyMissy2008-09-03

Hi Becky, the underlayment might be required if your floor surface is rough or if it has wide joints, say from a tongue and groove gap that's widened over time. Any depressions or bumps will eventually telegraph through the tile. If you have nice a nice solid plywood subfloor, you can use general purpose joint compound to spackle over the seams and screw heads. Make sure you sand well and vacuum all the dust.

Zombie Stomp (author)BeckyMissy2007-11-04

All you need is a clean, smooth surface. This will insure that you lay good, consistent beads of adhesive with your notched trowel. Cleanliness of the surface is important so that the notches in the trowel don't become clogged with globs of dirt caked adhesive. Concrete is the best to lay it on.

BeckyMissy (author)Zombie Stomp2007-11-05

Thanks so much for your reply. Armstrong recommends that paint be removed from the concrete, prior to installation of VC tiles. It is a painted concrete floor that we would be installing over. Do you recommmend another brand of tile? Again, Thank you!

Zombie Stomp (author)BeckyMissy2007-11-08

I have never laid tile over painted concrete. I laid it over concrete that had the ragged remains of tar paper that they had laid down using asphaltic adhesives, and they also laid their tile with asphaltic adhesive. Having to fully remove all that paint sounds like it's a little much. There should be a solution for you to not have to do that. I think that every case is different, I think they say that to protect themselves from those possibly trying to lay tile on top of high quality, high gloss floor paint, which could separate from the adhesive. I personally think if it's a nice porous surface, it should work fine. If that means you have to sand the paint using a buffer or floor sander of some sort, so be it. But if you have flaky floor paint that would be a reason to remove it all. You want to basically avoid your adhesive layer becoming separated from temperature changes leading to expansion and contraction or crappy floor paint.

BeckyMissy (author)Zombie Stomp2007-11-10


BeckyMissy (author)BeckyMissy2007-11-05

I would have to remove the paint from about 2,000 sf !

goodfishfive (author)2008-03-04

Thanks for the instructable. I found enough Armstrong resilient tile in the attic of our shop to do half of our basement floor. We have 6 different colours of tiles in various amounts of each so we're using a spreadsheet program to experiment with different layout options. Your tips have been very helpful. I'll post some pics when we're finished.

I look forward to seeing that! I like the colorful jobs, and the fact that you're taking that much time to lay out the pattern makes it sound like there will be no ugly color combinations! Thanks for the compliments, I'm really glad to make this project seem attainable to anyone who found it interesting but was afraid to try.

ogeezer (author)2007-11-18

Its pleasing to see a professional job done by a Do-It-Yourself enthusiast, who knows the best laid flooring tile is started in center of the room, and laid outward from there. Not only does this allow for speedy installation, it permits the perimeter border to be uniformly sized.

dog_poker (author)2007-11-17

Very nice. I just bought the same color tile today at the depot. I also bought white, will do a checkerboard pattern in my basement. Thanks for the help, the Armstrong guide is pitiful. Good idea about the knee pads, I will have to dig mine up from my attic renovation.

toprope (author)2007-02-01

Especially in large areas, you might consider using a paint roller to apply the glue. It takes less than most people think. If it is done in a heated area it will seal very well in a short time. If unheated it will have to wait until summer.

Zombie Stomp (author)toprope2007-05-09

The adhesive must be applied with the notched trowel and then dry until tacky. The ridges of adhesive are tacky on the outside and when the tile presses down they ooze just the right amount of unhardened adhesive, giving it the perfect tack. The fact that the ridges of adhesive stick up from the subfloor helps to adhere the tile to the countour of the floor that you can't see. This is how I see it, anyway. It makes sense that they designed it to work that way, and since they don't say you may roll it on in the instructions, I doubt it would work at all- unless you have done it with good lasting results. Then I'm wrong.

toprope (author)Zombie Stomp2007-05-09

Yes I have, with good results. It was a camp dormitory concrete floor about 30'x25'. Used square foot vinyl tiles.

MD_Willington (author)2006-12-19

Looks great... makes me want to try this on my floor.

christy (author)2006-12-18

Zombie Stomp - I think i used the exact same floor as you have. It looks like a charcoal gray color - we put it in our kitchen and both bathrooms. The only thing that was really hard about it was going around door frames, etc. Also, be sure to put on a couple coats of that liquid wax (it's made specifically for this type of floor) to make it nice and shiny and give it some more liquid resistance.

Zombie Stomp (author)christy2006-12-18

Yeah, I've stripped and waxed many square feet of asphalt tile floor. It's kind of fun too. I'm going to wait until I get the stripper/buffer machine from my boss when I do the floors at my day and night job, so I can strip my floor too, for maximum adhesion, plus to get the tile adhesive off where some got slopped on top. I'll get around to it...

nobody (author)2006-12-17

Using a respirator would've been a good idea. Asbestos is a bitch.

Zombie Stomp (author)nobody2006-12-17

Check your data first- Asbestos is not only a bitch, but it is also illegal to put in new tiles. On the box, is specifically states not to sand, beadblast, scrape, or otherwise mess with old tile or cement, as they may contain asbestos. When removing asbestos, which is about the only thing you're allowed to do with it anyway, one must seal off the room airtight, and wear white airtight suits. So believe me, I'm informed about the topic of asbestos.

jthome73 (author)2006-12-15

Dude, Bro., That was fu - - uh, effin awesome! Very, very, very nice job. Both the tile job and the instructable are fantastic. I am quite impressed, dude. I have one more thing for you to add to your last page of instructions. It should go somethin' like this: "If your older brother used to be a carpenter and he still has a bunch of carpenters tools and such just layin' around, ask him if he might have oh, say, TWO PAIRS OF KNEE PADS YOU COULD BORROW!" Keep up the kick-ass work, bud. Love, Jesse

christy (author)2006-12-15

After doing this in three rooms after we moved into our house, I wanted to add a tip for cutting the tiles. If you use a blow dryer on it's highest setting and point it right at where you are wanting to cut, it softens the tiles up a bit so they are less brittle. Have fun!

Zombie Stomp (author)christy2006-12-15

I didn't use a hair dryer, but maybe it would have kept a lot of those corner tiles from snapping on me. Do you have some pictures of your newly tiled rooms? I was wanting to go with a classic black/acrobat green checker pattern, but one housemate hates checked patterns, so we both love Black, so I went for that. This is my first instructable. Thanks for commenting.

ehmbee (author)2006-12-15

Nice-I was thinking what to do in my kitchen renovation, and your shade of tiles might just be perfect! There's old, vintage resilient tile in there now and it's true-it lasts FOREVER. My stuff is over 50 years old and, were it not for moving some peninsulas around, would be good for another 50.

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