Vinyl provides a tough, easy-to-clean floor surface which is ideal in kitchens, bathrooms and other areas of the house where floors are likely to be subjected to heavy wear or spillages. It’s also straightforward to lay. Vinyl can be laid over concrete, wood or tiles. Don’t attempt to lay it over old vinyl, linoleum or cork; these should be removed or covered with hardboard.
PREPARING A WOOD FLOOR
To prepare a bumpy wood floor for laying vinyl, cover it with large sheets of flooring grade chipboard or hardboard. Stagger the joints between sheets. If you are using hardboard, place the shiny side down as the rough side provides a better grip for the vinyl.
Vinyl flooring was developed in the 1960s and revolutionised the smooth (and resilient) flooring market. At first it was a thin and rather unyielding material. But it was something which could be laid fairly easily by the DIY enthusiast; and this was a breakthrough because its predecessor, linoleum, had had to be professionally laid.
Since then, vinyl flooring has been greatly improved and there are now several different types available.
Types of vinyl
The cheapest type of vinyl is known as a ‘flexible print’ and has a clear wear layer on top, with the printed pattern sandwiched between this and the backing. Then there are the cushioned vinyls, which are more bouncy underfoot and have a soft inner bubbly layer between the wear layer and the backing.
They are often embossed to give them a texture, which is particularly successful when the embossing enhances the design, as with simulated cork or ceramic tile patterns. Finally, the most expensive type is solid flexible vinyl, made by suspending coloured vinyl chips in transparent vinyl to create colour and design which goes right through the material and consequently wears longer.
All three types come in a wide variety of colours and designs ranging from geometric and floral patterns to simulated cork, wood block, parquet, ceramic tiles, slate and brick. Some ranges include special glossy no-polish surfaces. Also, there is a special ‘lay-flat’ type which does not have to be stuck down, except on very heavy wear areas or at doorways.
Some vinyls can be folded without cracking, but as with carpets, a good guide to durability is price: the more expensive the flooring, the longer-lasting it is likely to be. Buying vinyl To work out the amount of vinyl you’ll need, measure up the floor using a metal tape; note down the measurements and then double-check them. Draw a scale plan of the room on squared paper, marking in all the obstacles, door openings and so on.
Take the measurements and plan to your supplier, who will help you to work out quantities. Remember to allow for walls which are not quite true and for trimming the overlap. Whatever the type, vinyl is available in standard sheet widths. Choose one in a wide width for use on a floor where you do not want to have a seam. (A wide sheet can be difficult to lay so make sure you have someone to help you – If you are going to lay sheets of a narrower width which will have to be joined, remember to allow for pattern matching when buying.
Check the manufacturer’s instructions for fixing and order the correct adhesive and other sundries. Make sure you get the right amount; there is nothing worse than running out of adhesive halfway through the job. A roll of vinyl is usually 30 to 40m (100 to 130ft) long and the retailer will cut off the length you want, re-rolling it for you. Take the roll of vinyl home and leave it, loosely rolled, in the room where it is to be laid for about 48 hours, This will allow it to become acclimatised and it should then be easier to lay. Do not stand it on edge as this can crack the material and take care not to damage the ends when you are transporting or storing the roll.
Preparing the sub-floor
Vinyl must be laid on a sound, reasonably smooth and even sub-floor if the best results are to be achieved and the flooring is to give adequate wear. The floor must also be free from dirt, polish, nibs of plaster or splashes of paint, but above all it must be damp proof, so deal with this first.
In an old property with no damp-proof course (dpc), it may be necessary to install one or to have some other form of dampproofing carried out. The floor may have to be rescreeded or old floorboards taken up and replaced. But whatever is needed must be done before laying the new flooring. A cover-up job will never be satisfactory and the new material will start to perish from the back.
Remember that screeding a floor will raise its level and so doors will almost certainly have to be taken off their hinges and trimmed at the bottom to accommodate the new floor level. Where the existing floor covering does not provide a suitable surface for laying vinyl you will have to remove it. You can remove old vinyl by stripping it off from the backing, then soaking any remaining material in cold water, washing-up liquid and household ammonia before scraping it off with a paint scraper. With a wooden sub-floor you should remove any protruding tacks, nails or screws, or punch them down level with the floor.
Any rough or protruding boards should be planed smooth and wide gaps between boards filled with fillets of wood; small holes or gaps can be filled with plastic wood. If the floor is very bumpy it can be covered with man-made boards.
Fitting seamed lengths
WHERE TO SEAM
If you are going to join vinyl, avoid having seams in doorways or heavy traffic areas:
• seams on wood floors should run across the boards
• seams over chipboard or hardboard should be no closer than 150mm (6in) to the joints in the board sheets.
Measure for the first length of vinyl along the longest unobstructed wall unless this brings a seam into the wrong position.
After measuring you can cut the first length from the roll. Butt the edge of the vinyl right up to the skirting at one end of the room, tucking the overlap underneath the skirting if possible so you don’t have to trim this edge. Then cut the material off across the width, allowing for an overlap at the other end, at doorways and obstacles. To fit the first doorway you will have to cut slits at the door jambs and then ease the vinyl round the door recess and supports, cutting off a little at a time, until you get a perfect fit.
Next, either tuck the overlap of the vinyl under the skirting which runs along the length of the room if you can, or trim along the wall or skirting, allowing for a good (but not too tight) fit. Smooth down the flooring as you work along its length and then cut the vinyl to fit at the other end. If the wall is uneven you will have to ‘scribe’ its contour onto the vinyl.
You pull the vinyl slightly away from the wall and then run a wooden block, in conjunction with a pencil, along the wall so its profile is marked on the vinyl. To cut along this line you can use a knife and straight edge (with the straight edge on the vinyl which will be used), or if the line is very wobbly, use scissors. With the first length fitted, you can then place the next length of vinyl parallel to the first, matching the pattern exactly, and cut off the required length, again allowing for extra overlap at the ends and sides.
Some kitchen and bathroom floor layers cut all the required lengths first before fitting, but if the room is not perfectly square and several widths are being used, there could be a mismatch. If the two sheets overlap, the excess will have to be trimmed away. Place one on top of the other, aligning the design carefully, and cut through the two sheets together at the overlap, using a knife and straight edge. Remove the trimmings and then adjust the second sheet to fit doors, skirtings and so on, trimming where necessary. Where there are more than two sheets, repeat the fitting procedure, making sure the pattern matches. If you are renewing the skirting, to get a perfect fit you can fit the material first and put the skirting on after the vinyl is laid. Remember, though, that this may make it difficult to take up the floorcovering when you need (or want) to change it.