Vinyl tile

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Vinyl tiles make a very low cost, easily laid and easily cleaned floorcovering.

  • Cost is from about £1 a square metre to around £5 in 2008.
  • Their nature and method of fitting makes them suited to laying over an extended period, just using 10 minutes as and when you get the time to lay some.
  • Vinyl tiles can look somewhat cushioned, but are in fact fairly hard.
  • They feel warm to the touch.
  • The vinyl surface survives most things, but not metal appliance feet being dragged over them, dog claws or abrasive cleaning (eg scourers). Any hard materials that scrape the tiles ruin them quickly, as the patterning is only a very thin surface layer. This makes them not well suited to high wear areas.
  • Waterproof, warm, and easily wiped clean makes them a good option for bathrooms.



Vinyl tiles often imitate other things, such as ceramic tiles or timber, but they tend to make unconvincing imitations. Some tiles don't pretend to be something they're evidently not, but instead make the most of the appearance vinyl can provide.

A minority of vinyl tiles come with a very rough surface. While these can look pretty initially, they make cleaning difficult.

Plan layout

Plan your tile layout to avoid ending up with thin strips of tile at edges, or an asymmetric layout. Finding the exact centre of the room, spreading out from there often works well. When doing this take care to get the centre position correct and to line the tiles up accurately with the walls.

If you decide to use whole tiles starting from one edge, often it works well to pick where the eye is initially drawn to in the room and begin the whole tiles from there.

Floor preparation

2 issues can affect vinyl tiles, damp and unevenness.

An uneven floor surface can be a problem. The tiles are very thin, typically around 2mm, and a step change in height of just 1.5mm on a floor will result in premature tile wear or cracking if its walked over, or cause the tile edges to lift and break. Uneven concrete can be filled, uneven timber can be sheeted over first.

As these tiles are rigid but a little flexible, they can hide surface defects in positions where they won't be stood on. If the surface defect doesn't rise above its surroundings, you can just tile right over it. As long as it doesn't see foot traffic it should be fine.

Damp in a ground floor concrete slab causes most tile adhesives to turn to mush. If there's no DPC, either use a genuinely waterproof adhesive, or line the floor slab with a waterproof coating first. Very damp slabs are best not tiled until the damp is resolved.


Place metal ruler on tile, score repeatedly with a knife, snap the tile. Scoring should go something like halfway through the tile, not just mark the surface.


Cutting tiles around toilet, basin pedestal etc requires using a template. Cut a piece of card to fit the space (the card packs the tiles come in are ideal for this), then place the card onto a tile and score along the edge of the card. With curved cuts, often it isn't possible to bend the tile much before the wrong bits snap, so you'll need to cut right through with the knife rather rely on snapping.


Vinyl tiles tend to come with adhesive ready applied. This can suffice on a bone dry flat floor, otherwise something stronger is likey to be needed. It doesnt always prevent edges lifting, and can be replaced with something more effective if you want a more reliable job.

Adhesive removal can be done with bogroll and paraffin. Wipe a 2" border around the tile edge with this, going over it repeatedly to remove all adhesive. There's no need to remove adhesive in the central area of the tile, its the edges where something tougher is needed.

Various adhesives can be used where the floor remains completely dry. Concrete ground floors without a modern DPC cause most adhesives to fail though, including many generally described as waterproof, eg polyurethane.

Damp tolerant adhesives:

  • contact adhesive - quick, very fumey, repositioning an issue, removal an issue.
  • bitumen - cheap, some brands no fumes, very slow drying, repositioning and removal are straightforward. (Bitumen redissolves with paraffin.)

(It has also been noticed that waterproof ceramic tile adhesive sticks tenaciously to these tiles, but this doesn't survive continuous wetness.)


Take care over gaps, push each tile up against its neighbour to get rid of even tiny gaps, otherwise the gaps will add up over distance, making good alignment impossible later on. This is easy, but can be overlooked by first timers.

With wet glue that dries, put weights along all the tile edges while the glue dries, otherwise edges fail to stick flat. Bricks on polythene are good, the polythene prevents the bricks getting stuck or scratching the tiles.

Bitumen roofing adhesive takes a couple of days to dry. Some brands whiff while drying, but this wasn't an issue with Wickes.


Inability to survive scraping and scouring, so not for hard wear areas.

Edges can lift, then they get broken by shoe impact. Use a suitable decent adhesive rather than relying on what comes on the tiles, and keep a few spare tiles (stored flat).

Damp causes tiles to lift unless the original adhesive is replaced with something suitable. Adhesives sold as waterproof are often only waterproof as long as they get to dry out at times. Polyurethane is one such, it gradually turns to mush on a damp slab.

Vinyl tiles prevent damp evaporation. An old slab prone to damp can become wet when covered with impervious tiles, and this can sometimes lead to dampness in walls. So use with some caution on damp floors, which sometimes rely on surface evaporation to stay more or less dry.

Old vinyl tiles (before the the mid 80s) contain asbestos, and should be double bagged for disposal when removed.

A smooth floor is needed for them to last well, else early wear & premature breakage can occur. A step change of just 2mm is enough to cause a tile to shear in two. Filler easily solves this. Such uneveness can also cause tile edges to lift.

Vinyl tiles should be stored completely flat. If not, they slowly curl, making sticking them down flat almost impossible. If this happens, put each box of tiles on a totally flat floor and weight them down for a couple of days.

Imitation wood planking vinyl tiles are very cheap, but the patterning is a very thin layer, typically a fraction of a mm deep, and can show wear badly in some situations.


Use only non abrasive cleaning materials. Don't use an upright hoover on them, the abrasive particles trapped in the spinning brushes will soon ruin the finish.

Over time the gloss surface will become more matt. I forget what's recommended, was it floor wax?

See Also