Intro: 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.
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.
-Tile Roller (rental costs ~$15/day)
-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
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
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
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!
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.
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!