January 21, 2020

Vinyl-floor installation takes preparation, time, and proper tools

The thought of installing sheet-vinyl flooring can be intimidating, especially considering that one or two mistakes can ruin the whole sheet. The problem is compounded by the fact that few rooms are truly square, and they have obstacles and offsets to accommodate.

How do professional installers keep from making costly mistakes? When a room is complicated, a pro will make a paper pattern of the room and transfer that pattern onto the vinyl. As such, the paper becomes a one-of-a-kind template and every wobble and bobble, every offset and obstacle is factored in before cutting.

However, according to Peter Golding, owner of Golding’s Floor Coverings in Hampden, floor installation “isn’t always done that way. You can lay the floor in, and there are certain vinyls that can be trimmed to fit right into the room.”

Golding referred to such cut-to-fit vinyl floors as “innerflex floors,” manufactured “for floors that move,” such as flooring installed in mobile homes and prefabricated housing. An innerflex floor works well in conventional construction, too; “in the winter, the subfloor dries out and shrinks a little bit. When the humidity comes back, it swells again. You could get a crack or a bubble, depending on which season you’re in,” Golding said. “These floors `flex’ with changes in temperature and humidity.”

Once a homeowner has decided to install a vinyl floor, The first thing to decide is whether to take up the existing flooring. If the floor has suffered water damage and dry rot, or could simply use a layer of underlayment to make it more uniform, then make those corrections before installing new vinyl. Otherwise, new vinyl can be laid directly on top of the old.

There are two types of vinyl for this kind of installation. One requires gluing the entire floor, the other just the perimeter. If the existing flooring has an embossed surface pattern, these depressions must be filled with an embossing leveler. Without it, the old floor’s pattern will show through the new flooring.

An innerflex floor can be stapled to the baseboards, which can then be set in place to cover the staples, Golding said, adding that “you can glue it around the edges to get it to hold.”

Another type of vinyl flooring is called a “full spread” floor that lacks an innerflex backing. Apply glue to the floor, Golding said, “and then you lay the vinyl into it.”

And because resilient flooring is designed to repel just about everything, the surface must be degraded and prepared with an etching solution and primer.

Highlights of the installation begin with floor preparation. Remove the baseboard shoe molding with a small prybar. If your room is a bathroom, you’ll also need to take up the toilet. Any caulk along a tub or cabinet must be sliced away with a razor blade or blade scraper. Next, cut the surface glaze on the old flooring with etching liquid. Rubber gloves must be used because the liquid is very caustic. Once the etching has dried, apply two coats of primer. The second coat should be at right angles to the first.

Golding suggested a tip: “To tell if the floor must be etched, add a drop of iodine to a spot on the floor, wait 10 seconds, and then wipe it up. If there’s a stain there, you can lay the new floor right over it. If there isn’t (a stain), you have to scratch it or etch it.”

And he recommended that before “you lay a new floor over an old floor, strip it with a wax remover to remove old detergents or finishes that would hinder the adhesive.”

To make a paper template, lay the paper sheets around the perimeter of the room, then fill in the middle and tape all the sheets together. To hold the paper in place, cut 1-inch triangular slots every couple of feet and lay tape across the slots. To determine the exact perimeter of the floor, insert a ball point pen into the roller disc that comes in the Armstrong kit, and trace around the room.

Once the outline is complete, roll up the paper and lay it over the vinyl. Draw a cutline directly onto the vinyl. Install a hook-shaped blade in the kit’s transfer tool and then cut the vinyl by drawing the blade along the cutline. Apply vinyl adhesive to the floor. Cover only half the room at a time.

Lower the vinyl sheet onto the adhesive, then roll the surface smooth using a flooring roller or kitchen rolling pin. Seal around the entire perimeter of the room — and around any plumbing fixtures — with latex tub-and-tile caulk.

When laying vinyl next to carpet, use a metal tack strip. Nail the strip onto the vinyl and bend it over the carpet. When laying vinyl next to hardwood flooring, buy a hardwood reducing strip and glue or nail it in place.

Once a vinyl floor has been installed, there’s the issue of maintenance. According to Golding, some people think there is none to do.

“They think they have `no-care’ floors. The perception they put on TV is that they don’t have to do anything with them,” he said. “You buy a no-wax floor, and it truly is no wax, but you have to maintain it correctly.

“If you use a detergent-based product, you’re going to get a film on the floor, and it will dull it,” Golding said. “You should use the manufacturer’s products for cleaning. Approximately once a year, you should use their stripper to clean the floor well, then apply their polish.

“Just walking on the floor, you’re going to put some tiny scratches on it, and dirt will get down in those scratches. The stripper will remove the soil from those scratches, and the polish will fill those scratches back in,” he said.

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