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Sheet Vinyl Flooring (Part 1)

If you have beautiful floors, time to kill and money to bum this article probably isn’t for you. But if your floors leave something to be desired and you’d like to save some time and money, read on.

Since its introduction in the 1960s, sheet vinyl flooring has been the choice of folks who don’t to sweat over their floors-either caring for them or paying for them.

As ever, vinyl is perhaps the least costly stuff to put between your feet and the subfloor. But today’s improved materials and designs make vinyls tougher and more eye-pleasing than ever.

Making A Choice

A sheet vinyl floor will cost you between $5 and $40 per square yard, and as with most things, you get what you pay for. More expensive, higher quality vinyl generally has a thicker “wear layer,” which makes it tougher and longer lasting, and thicker backing, which makes it more sound absorbent and easier on the feet. The easiest way to judge the thickness of flooring is to simply look at it. If you want to be precise, a salesperson at a flooring store can look up exact measurements for both the wear layer and the backing.

The warranty a floor carries is another measure of quality. Any flooring you buy should be warrantied against manufacturing defects. A long-term warranty–5 to 10 years–tells you the manufacturer is confident in the product.

Tips: If your room is small, you may be able to get a high-quality floor at a low price by picking up a remnant, but your choice of patterns will be limited.

Lay or Pay?

Once you’ve chosen a pattern, you have to decide whether you want to lay it yourself or pay a pro $7 to $12 per square yard to do it. Minor preparation work, like filling small holes, is included in the cost of installation. But major work, such as putting down underlayment, will cost you extra (about $10 per square yard, materials included).

Tips: If you decide not to lay the flooring yourself, you can still save money by installing the underlayment yourself.

  • Laying sheet flooring isn’t especially difficult. If you have some experience with tools, you can probably do a first-rate job in one weekend. But you have to be as careful as a surgeon; one false move can leave a permanent scar on your floor.
  • Some sheet flooring is more DIY-friendly than others. Basically, there are two types of sheet vinyl: rotovinyl, made from sheets of vinyl only; and inlaid, which contains vinyl chips. Note well: The only thing an amateur should do with inlaid flooring is walk on it.
  • The other type, rotovinyl, comes with either felt or flexible backing. And both can be installed by DIYers. Felt-backed rotovinyl is fairly cooperative, but you have to be careful not to tear the felt off the facing. Flexible-backed rotovinyl–with brand names such as Dynaflex, Interflex, Perimiflex and others–was designed with DIYers in mind and is the most accommodating. It’s generally more expensive than felt-backed vinyl, but you won’t have to rent a floor roller or buy as much adhesive.

Tips: If you have squeaky floors, the best time to silence them is before you install new floor covering.

A Maze of Methods

Most felt-backed floors, such as the one we show here, must be glued down all over. Flexible-backed vinyl should be glued or stapled around the edges and at seams only. Different brands-and even different pattern designs-can require different adhesives. Seemingly small mistakes can lead to big headaches, so always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, right down to the size of notches in the trowel you use to spread the adhesive.

Tips: Most manufacturers offer thorough, specific directions to follow when installing their products. A flooring retailer can provide them.

Many home centers and flooring stores sell installation kits for under $20 that include a large paper template you tape together, lay in the room and cut to fit. You then lay the template on the flooring, cut around it, and presto, you have a perfectly tailored sheet of vinyl.

Tip: You can make your own template out of just about any type of paper; large sheets of thick paper work best.

Tip: Armstrong’s installation kit carries a guarantee. If you use it to lay one of their DIY floors, follow the enclosed directions precisely and still screw up, they’ll replace the floor-free.

The professional techniques we show here are usually faster than the template method. But if the room has a complex shape, or if your cutting and fitting skills are shaky, a template may be the way to go. No matter which route you choose, these pages will help you do it right.

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