One Tile, Two Tile, Three Tile, Floor

March 02, 2012   //  Posted in: DIY, Flooring, Kitchen   //  By: Emily   //  13 responses

The kitchen floor overhaul I’ve been anticipating since the day I moved into the house finally got underway last week. The pergo flooring never quite matched the hardwoods that flowed through the rest of the house, and while it was in good condition, I always planned to do something different in there to really differentiate the space. Starting with the actual removal of the floor, I also followed up closely by organizing the tile layout plan and doing prep work so that when I had a good few days to tile my brains out, I was ready to get down and dirty.

Actually, there’s nothing dirty about a floor install, especially when you’re working with sticky vinyl tiles. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be so anal about keeping the area clean that you’ll begin to feel like you’re working in a plastic bubble that miraculously repels all signs of dog fur, dirt, and grime that would inevitably make that cautiously applied vinyl tile anti-stick, and repel like a cat approaching water. Even my hands and knees were as clean as could be, as I prepped the floor tile-by-tile by wiping the ground thoroughly with a denatured alcohol saturated rag.

Always plan to clean the surface throughly. We prefer denatured alcohol to do the job.

As I already kind of explained in the last post about prepping the floors (when I got all Pythagorean with right-angle verification) that I planned to start installing the concrete-looking tiles in the back center of the kitchen, although in a space that wasn’t flush against a wall.

Planning the kitchen floor tile placement.

The lines that we had chalk-marked and then sharpie’d onto the old linoleum mapped out my path, and I got started pretty easily and then worked by way through the room.

Pete was out of town for this whole process, so I tackled the whole gig solo over two days, working for about 8 hours from beginning, to final grouting wipe down. Easy enough for anyone to figure out and do well too, and for just about $200, it was an easy and reasonably affordable transformation.

Making tiling progress.

Instead of taking loads of photos outlining the process step-by-step, I recorded myself for about 6 of the 8 hours using Pete’s Canon G12, only taking video breaks when the batteries died and when the memory card had maxed out (neither time I actually realized it had happened, whoopsy, and that’s why the video stops mid-grouting). Somehow, I was able to condense and edit this 6 hours of footage down to a high-speed 1-minute-19-second adventure in kitchen floor action (cutting extended periods of time like when I would dance around on the tiles to make sure they were adhering really well, and when too much of my butt was showing… no underpants shots allowed, this isn’t that kind of site).

And with that, enjoy! There’s a little music too, but nothing inappro for the office if you’re in your cubicle. Crank it.

I may be avoiding a literal step-by-step since it’s already been done, but I do have a whole list of things to remember when you’re planning a vinyl tile installation:

  • Wash that floor well. Like I mentioned, I used denatured alcohol to wipe down each spot in advance, and carefully swept and cleaned the room multiple times to make sure there was no dirt and grime preventing the tile from adhering completely.
  • The paper backs of each vinyl tile are typically marked with arrows. Lay the tiles with the arrows facing the same direction to ensure that they flow together well.
  • Do a little dry layout as you’re going. Sometimes you’ll find that the tiles are cut in such a way that multiple tiles can have the same swirls, colors, and details, cut from the same cloth if you will. If those matchy pieces are located too closely together or in a sequence, it can quickly begin to look like a patterned floor instead of a random organization.
  • Plan for appliances. As I tiled to a point where I was nearing the fridge, I rolled it out of the way and then took the time to both tile and grout in that area. Doing it all at once, allowing the grout to dry for a few hours before moving the fridge back, eliminated extra rolling of appliances on the brand new tile. Maybe they wouldn’t have damaged anything by being rolled around a little more, but I wasn’t taking the risk. I did the same with the oven (as you probably noticed in the video), that time letting the grout dry overnight before I moved it back.
  • Make yourself as heavy as humanly possible. I walked/danced/jumped on each of the tiles to make sure they were stuck fully. It’s important that each tile, especially each corner, is totally affixed and not popping loose before you grout. (Weak spots will be noticeable by crackling and squeaking when you walk over them.) So eat the rest of that box of mac and cheese. Drink lots of water Biggest Loser-style. Wear layers.
  • Be resourceful. When you use half a tile in one spot, look for an opportunity to use the rest of the tile somewhere else before cutting into a new one. This comes into play around the perimeter of the room, when you’re inevitably going to have to cut the tiles into smaller pieces to make them fit. Truth: Being mega efficient with my tiles made it so I didn’t even have to crack open my 4th box of tiles, meaning I can return $50 worth of unused tiles to the store (keeping a few extras in case someday we need to replace any). HIGH FIVE.
  • And while you’re being efficient, remember that the cut edges of the tiles always, always, always need to lay on the outer edge touching the wall. The base shoe trim will cover the ragged edge, and you’ll keep the manufacturer’s edge facing into the room. Always line those manufacturer’s edges up to one another.
  • Use fresh utility blades. I’m a major offender of this one, but it’s so much easier to cut the tiles when your utility knife is sharp and fresh. After 2-3 tiles, you’ll definitely see dulling with the blade. Resist the urge to work it to the bone, they’re cheap.
  • Mix the grout in really small batches. I can’t stress how small each of my batches were (maybe 1 cup at the most), because not only does it dry out fast, but it does take longer than you’d think to thoroughly go around the room (when you’re working alone, at least).
  • Think smaller than your standard float. I still couldn’t imagine using a heavy grouting float on these floor tiles (especially since it’s recommended that you keeping the face of the product clean and as grout-free as possible). As shown in that above picture, and like we did when we were installing this tile in the bathroom, I found a simple putty knife to be light and flexible enough to butter the grout into the cracks and remove the excess. Worked like a charm.
  • Prepare to clean… a lot. And finally, remember that it’s going to take at least 3 solid washes with a damp cloth to completely remove the film that presents on the floor post-grouting. It’s inevitable, really messy, but worth it. Put on kneepads, it took me an hour to clean the little kitchen up.

The final before and after? Aw yeah, it’s finally that time!

If you’ll recall, here’s the floor I was starting with.

Faux hardwoods. Time to get rid of this laminate.

And the during.

Uggles. 1940's flooring.

And more during, handsome lookin’ grout.

Wonderful kitchen grouting!

Aaand, the afters! (Notes: Still no thresholds, because I haven’t made a decision about them yet; no, the dog’s water dish is not the same dish that I mixed grout in; and also, the base shoe not at all installed yet, it’s just resting there. I’ve been busy, yo.)

Finished kitchen floor.

Finished kitchen floor.

Finished kitchen floor.

If you want to skip ahead, here’s how the kitchen looked once the cabinets were stained, and the countertop was replaced:

Kitchen transformation progress as of February 2013. Cabinets have been gel stained dark brown, countertops updated with acrylic white.

  • Michelle
    6 years ago - Reply

    Well I’m totally impressed by these floor tiles. They look so good and I never thought I would say that to vinyl tiles! I forwarded this to my husband because I think this would work out great in our bathroom.
    Awesome job!

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      I really think they’re a good alternative, I wish you could tell how they felt underneath by reading this post, because it’s pretty nice. Not cold, smooth but not slippery/glossy like the linoleum beneath it or some of the older style vinyl tiles. Glad you liked too!

  • Martina@BuildingBeauty
    6 years ago - Reply

    Nice job they look really great! One of our biggest hold-backs in considering vinyl tile was that we didn’t want to end up with something that looked & felt like linoleum. The wheels are turning now.

  • Carolyn Bridges
    6 years ago - Reply

    I love the look of grouted tile. I recently used TrafficMaster Allure. I don’t like the visible lines between the tiles. I thought about regular grout and am afraid that it would crack. What kind of grout did you use with the vinyl self stick tiles?
    Thanks, Carolyn

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      I used normal, sanded polymer-fortified grout. Because my grout lines were 1/8″ thick, I decided to get the sanded variety over unsanded although I think at 1/8″ you could go either way without a problem. I chose a color called Delorean Gray, which happened to be the same shade as the store display and is light, but not too light that I think it’ll end up stained over time.

      No cracks yet, and I’m planning on going over it with a floor grout sealer to waterproof it a bit since kitchens are prone to high traffic and spills.

      Good luck!

  • Heidi
    6 years ago - Reply

    That looks fantastic! Much more appropriate for a kitchen than the Pergo. And I’m surprised at how much light it reflects. I bet you feel like you won a whole new kitchen (except that you did all the work). Congrats!

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      You’re right on about the light reflection – it definitely feels a lot brighter and defined as a space without the pergo… Can’t wait to do more things to the room in the future… like the cabinets and countertop :)

  • Roeshel
    6 years ago - Reply

    Great tutorial, Emily and the tile is gorgeous!

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Thanks Roeshel!

  • BD
    6 years ago - Reply

    Cool idea, Emily! An inventive idea for upgrading peel-and-stick floor tiles, I would never have thought to grout them.

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Thanks Bridget! These ones are designed to be grouted – the edges aren’t cut to sit flush to one another, they’re actually beveled a little bit. If you ever try to install, make sure your floor is totally level and not bouncy! We have had some issues with the grout popping up in areas. Boo!!!

  • Kirsti
    6 years ago - Reply

    This floor looks great! Would you mind sharing how well the tiles and grout are holding up and what type of tile you used? Thanks.

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      One year in, we’re very happy with the tiles but not very happy with the grout. We used the tiles in both the bathroom and the kitchen, and one big difference is that we relayed the underlayment beneath the bathroom floor and made sure it was very level. The kitchen floor happens to be more uneven and has some bounce, and in some areas the grout has loosened or been swept away completely. The tiles are by TrafficMaster, a resilient tile. More on that product here:

      Hope this helps, Kirsti!!

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