Introduction: Installing a Luxury Vinyl Tile Floor
In this article, we'll be going over the steps to install a new Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) floor.
I really like this product because it looks like ceramic tile, but it's not. It's not fragile or prone to cracking, it's not cold underfoot, it's not hard if you were to fall on it, it's not nearly as slippery when wet. At the same time, it retains much of the durability and all of the style of ceramic tile. It also doesn't require special tools to cut and it has very short dry times compared to ceramic tile. Most people will think you have a traditional tile floor until they touch it, then they'll be amazed!
LVT flooring is a popular choice for foyers, kitchens and bathrooms. It is durable, easy to install and maintain. I've installed quite a few of these floors and I've been very pleased with the process and outcomes.
To complete this project you'll need a few things.
LVT Flooring (I prefer Armstrong or Mannington products. Both are made in USA and are high quality)
Demo Tools (Hammer, Pry Bar, Scraper, etc)
Step 1: Prep Floor
First we'll need to ensure the subfloor is suitable for the install. Ideally, you'll have a flat and smooth surface for installing your LVT.
This foyer had natural slate tiles that were glued to a plywood subfloor. The tiles popped off cleanly and easily. They were improperly installed and had very poor adhesion - hence the need for a new floor. After the tile and grout were removed, we were left with a relatively smooth wooden sublfoor. Perfect for installing LVT.
Other rooms will likely have different flooring installed and require different prep. If there is a linoleum/vinyl sheet good installed, you can go right over it (provided the sheet is not bubbling, peeling, loose, etc). Other floors that leave a rougher surface after demo will require the installation of 1/4" or 5mm underlayment plywood. This plywood should be fastened to the subfloor with narrow crown staples and all seams should be filled with Ardex Feather Finish
Step 2: Dry Fit Your Layout
I always start by figuring out my pattern and layout. I place the tiles on the floor and make sure the pattern aligns well along the walls/corners. Ending on whole pieces typically looks the best along transitional areas.
I decided to install this floor with a diagonal pattern. I started along an edge with another floor and used my speed square to place tiles at a 45 degree angle. Using 1/8" plastic spacers between tiles, I placed a few whole tiles and got a feel for my layout.
Once I was happy with how the layout was looking, I traced around the tiles with a pencil and snapped a few chalk lines to provide reference points.
Step 3: Spread the Glue
LVT uses pressure sensitive adhesive to adhere the tiles to the subfloor.
The adhesive can be troweled on with a very fine 1/64" notch trowel, or it can be rolled on with a paint roller. I generally prefer to use a paint roller, but didn't have one handy for this project, so I used my trowel.
Read the instructions on the specific glue you purchase, but typically you'll want to allow a time for the glue to sit and off-gas before applying the tiles. Many of the glues will change color or opacity when they're ready to set. This glue turned from a bright opaque blue to a translucent lighter blue.
Step 4: Cut and Set Your Tiles
Once the glue is set up, you can start setting your tiles. I like to set as many full tiles as possible before moving onto the cut tiles. Start by placing the tiles on the lines you drew/snapped on the floor. Using the plastic spacers to keep your grout lines even, keep placing full tiles everywhere they fit.
You can walk on the tiles as soon as they're down, so don't worry about that. In fact, it's pressure sensitive adhesive, so applying pressure is a good thing. Once I'm sure the tile is properly positioned, I like to stomp on all the corners and really set it.
Tip for measuring diagonals: Measure straight out from corners and use your speed square to mark lines perpendicular to that. It takes a little getting used to, but once you can wrap your head around measuring things at a 45 degree angle, it's really not much different from laying a square pattern.
Step 5: Pull Spacers and Roll Out
Once everything is set in place, pull the spacers and use your roller to apply even pressure all over the floor.
A 100lb roller is the proper tool, but some people feel the need steal that heavy piece of metal out of the back of my truck on more than one occasion.... so I've been using a more compact roller that requires elbow grease to get the same results. If you have a small work area, you could probably get away by just stomping all over in a tight crosshatch pattern.
Step 6: Grout the Lines
Grouting LVT is very similar to grouting ceramic tile.
The process is the same - you apply grout to the joints, dress the lines with a damp sponge, then do a final cleanup with the sponge. The only difference is you need to use a grout that is flexible/compatible with LVT flooring. I personally recommend Mapei CQ FlexColor pre-mixed grout. I really like the workability and performance of the Mapei CQ line.
I like to use a minimum of 2 people for grouting. One person spreads the grout and the other cleans. The spreader should keep the float at a 45 degree angle and try to pick up any excess grout. Work the grout with the long edge of the float. Try to fill as much as each line with a stroke as possible. The cleaner should keep the sponge moist but not sopping. First cleaning swipes are to make the lines look uniform and even. Secondary swipes should be one smooth motion, flip the sponge to a clean spot, one smooth motion, wash/ring the sponge. Keeping the sponge clean every other swipe and frequent water changes are the key to easy clean up. If the spreader gets too far ahead of the cleaner, they should grab a sponge and help with cleaning up. Don't work too far ahead or the excess will dry on the surface and it'll be a whole lot more work.
Step 7: You're Done!
Once everything is all dry, you might have a slight haze to wipe off with a dry microfiber towel.
Other than that, you're done! Enjoy your beautiful, durable new floor!