Soft vinyl floor tiles are very versatile and make an excellent hardwearing floor in any room. The tiles can be stuck to the floor with tile adhesive or they may have a self-adhesive backing, so all you do is peel off the paper covering it. Tiles precoated with adhesive are quicker to lay, and there is no mess. They are light to work with and if you make a mistake, you only ruin one tile rather than a whole – and expensive – sheet of vinyl.
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How to lay sheet vinyl.
What to buy
When you are calculating the area of your room, remember to measure any alcove or bay separately and add it to the total. Also be aware that the size and number of tiles per pack do vary. Buy all your tiles at the same time. Check that the batch and item numbers are the same on ach pack, since there may be slight colour differences between batches. When you get home, stack the tiles in the room where you are going to lay them for 24 hours, so they become acclimatised.
Preparing the existing floor
The old floor must be sound, dry and level. If you want to lay new tiles over old ones, these must be firmly stuck down – otherwise, remove them. If you have a timber floor, screw down any loose boards and then lay hardboard or plywood over it (do not lay tiles directly on floorboards – the boards may start to show through and cause premature wear). Lay hardboard smooth side up, and fix it with 25mm ring-shanked nails. Timber treated with wood preservative is not suitable as a sub-floor, even if overlaid; you must replace it. Make sure there are no proud nail heads. Seal porous surfaces such as cement, plywood, hardboard or chipboard with a suitable primer.
Don't be tempted to start laying tiles along one wall and then work your way round the room. The wall may not be straight and the room is unlikely to be square. It is better to find the centre point of the room and work from there towards the wall in each direction. You will then have a symmetrical design, with no unsightly narrow gaps at the skirting.
1 First measure one wall, calculate its mid-point and mark this on the floor. Repeat with the opposite wall. With a helper, stretch a chalk line between the two marks and snap a line across the floor. Calculate and mark the mid-point of this line. Tie about 1m of string to a pencil, and while your helper holds the end of the string firmly on the mid-point of the line, pull it taut and scribe an arc on the line either side.
2 Now get your helper to hold the end of the string on the point that one arc intersects the line, and with the string pulled taut draw arcs at a roughly 45º angle either side of the centre line. When you repeat this from the other side, the arcs should intersect.
3 Stretch a chalk line between these intersecting arcs and snap a line across the floor. You now have two lines intersecting at a perfect rightangle in the centre of the room.
Laying self-adhesive vinyl tiles
Once the intersecting lines have been marked, you need to decide the position of the first (key) tile, which will determine where the other tiles will go. To do this, dry-lay some of the tiles from the centre line to check how they fit at the skirting.
1 Starting at the centre line, drylay a row of tiles from the line to one of the walls.
2 When you reach the wall, check to see if you are left with a narrow gap (as above). This should be avoided – a thin strip of tile at the skirting will look ugly and may not stick well.
3 To avoid such a narrow gap, move the starting line back the width of half a tile. Repeat the dry-laying from the start line in the opposite direction and then towards the other two walls. Adjust the start line as necessary, until there is a reasonable gap of about half a tile all round the room.
4 Peel the backing paper off the first tile and press its edge against the start line. Lower the rest of the tile on to the floor and press down.
5 Lay the next tile on the other side of the chalk line, butting against the first tile. Form a square with two more tiles, and then lay tiles around the square to form a pyramid shape. Continue positioning the tiles until half the room is covered (except for the gaps at the skirting). Then tile the other half of the room. Position all the whole tiles before filling in the gaps at the edges and tackling the areas where there are fittings.
6 To cut the tiles for the gaps at the skirting, place the tile to be cut exactly on top of the last full tile. Place another tile on top, with its edge touching the wall. Using a chinagraph pencil, mark along the edge of the top tile on the face of the tile below.
7 Put the marked tile on an old piece of board, place a straightedge along the marked line and cut part-way through the tile with a craft knife.
8 Break the tile by bending it at the cut line until it snaps.
9 With the backing paper still on, check that the cut tile will fit into the gap without being forced, then remove the backing paper and stick it in place. Repeat the marking and cutting process all the way around the edge of the floor.
Laying non-adhesive vinyl tiles
If you've chosen non-adhesive tiles, use the glue recommended by the manufacturer and apply it according to the instructions. The floor must be level and free from any sign of damp. Work out the start line in the same way as for self-adhesive tiles.
1 If you are laying the tiles on a porous surface such as concrete, apply primer with a paintbrush to seal it.
2 Working from the centre line, spread the tile adhesive evenly over the floor with a notched spreader. Check with the manufacturer's instructions, but for most adhesives you should cover an area big enough for about 15 minutes' work.
3 Carefully lay the tiles over the adhesive while it is still wet. Press the tiles into the adhesive, ensuring that every part of each tile is in contact with the sub-floor. Check that the tiles are level and butted tightly up against each other.
4 Roll a small roller over the tiles, particularly at the edges and corners, to make sure they are well stuck down.
5 If any adhesive comes through the joins, wipe it from the surface of the tiles immediately with a damp cloth or sponge. Adhesive that has started to set can be removed with white spirit. Cut the tiles and stick them in place.
Tiling around basins and lavatories
To cut a tile to fit around a large awkward shape such as a basin pedestal, you need to make a template out of very thin card or paper to use as a cutting guide. Depending on your tiles, the object you are tiling around, and the layout of the room, you may require templates for more than one tile.
1 To make a template, cut a piece of thin card or paper the size of one of the tiles. Cut slits on the side where the pedestal will fit. Position the template against the pedestal with the flaps fringing it. Press the flaps against the pedestal with a blunt knife. Tape the paper to the floor and draw a pencil line where the pedestal and the floor meet.
2 Remove the template and cut away the flaps, leaving the pencil guideline.
3 Place the template on a tile. If the tiles have a directional pattern, make sure the tile you are going to cut is the right way round. Draw the guideline on the tile and then cut it with a craft knife. Peel off the backing paper and fit the tile.
Cutting around pipes
The best way to cut a hole in a soft tile for a radiator pipe is to make a home-made punch from an off-cut of copper pipe the same diameter as the central heating pipe. You need a piece about 150mm long. Sharpen the inside of one end with a round metalworking file.
1 Hold the tile against the pipe and draw a line on it each side of the pipe to mark its width.
2 Move the tile so the marked edge touches the wall. Mark on the tile the distance to the front of the pipe.
3 Rest the tile on a block of wood. Position the sharpened off-cut of copper pipe where the lines meet. Hit the other end of the pipe with a hammer to punch a neat hole through the tile.
4 Cut a straight slit between the hole and the edge of the tile. Dry-lay to check the fit, then stick the tile firmly in place.
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