Economical and Practical Floor Coverings

Vinyl floor coverings in sheet and tile form are perfect for use in kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms and WCs where a durable, smooth and easy-to-clean floor surface is required. Sheet floor coverings are now made in widths of up to 4m (13ft) — wide enough to cover all but the widest rooms in a single piece. Tiles are usually 300mm (about 12in) square, although other sizes, and occasionally interlocking shapes, are also available.

Laying floor tiles

Like other floor coverings, floor tiles will give their best only if the floor is smooth.

Minor cracks in timber and chipboard floors can be filled with an all-purpose filler, and at the same time the floor should be checked for protruding nails which should be hammered into the surface or extracted.

If there are many cracks, or the boards are uneven, the floor should be resurfaced by nailing down sheets of hardboard over it.

Solid floors should also be checked over. Again, minor cracks can be smoothed with filler, but if the floor is uneven it should be resurfaced using a self-smoothing screed. This is a watery cement mortar-like material which is poured on to the floor, roughly spread out, and then left to smooth over and harden. At the same time as these repairs are being carried out, the floor should be checked for dampness and steps taken to eradicate this problem.

Ceramic tiles need a particularly stable sub-floor. A solid floor is ideal, but in the case of a timber floor the surface should be covered with sheets of 9.5mm thick plywood, or tongued and grooved flooring grade chipboard fixed down to the floor with countersunk screws at 300mm intervals. In this case, a floor bonding agent should be brushed over the surface before the tile adhesive is spread.

Marking out

All types of tiles are laid from the mid-point of the room to give border tiles of equal width around the perimeter. Use two chalked string lines to mark the centre point, then loose lay a row of tiles from the centre to check that the border tiles are at least half a tile wide. If they are not, move the string line half a tile width off centre and remark the line.

Then, again, loose lay the tiles to check to see that they fit properly and give the desired effect.

Laying tiles

Work from the centre point, spreading adhesive to cover about 1 sq. m at a time. Lay the main area of the whole tiles first, then cut and fit the border tiles.

Some vinyl tiles are self-adhesive. Simply peel off the backing and press them into place.

Carpet tiles are usually loose-laid, and in this case temporarily tack down the first few tiles in the centre of the room (stick them down if the floor is solid) to stop them moving when the other tiles are butted closely against them. When all the tiles are laid, pull out the tacks.

After four days, ceramic floor tiles must be grouted with floor grout.

Laying 2m and 4m wide sheet vinyl

Sheet vinyl is a soft material and it tends to show any unevenness in the floor surface, so the first step is to ensure that this is perfectly smooth and dry.

All types of vinyl should be allowed to relax before laying and this involves leaving it loosely rolled, pattern side inwards, for at least 24 hours in the room where it will be fitted. If the room is heated, this will make the vinyl more supple and easier to handle.

If laying the vinyl coincides with room redecoration it is possible to make the task of fitting a lot easier and neater if the skirtings are removed temporarily and replaced on top of the vinyl which then needs only to be roughly trimmed around the perimeter of the room. Modern skirtings are usually surprisingly easy to prise away from the wall and nail back again.

If the room is a complicated shape and 4m wide vinyl is chosen, which can be rather awkward to handle in a confined place, it is a good idea to make a template using paper-felt underlay or brown paper cut to the room shape. The template is placed on the vinyl which is cut roughly to shape, about 50mm oversize, and then lifted into position for final laying.

Whether or not a template is used, the next step is to get the vinyl into the room with the surface smooth and surplus material lapping against the walls. Make sure that the pattern lines up with the longest wall that will be seen as you enter the room.

Remove doors to make fitting easier.

Fit internal corners by marking the approximate corner position on the back of the vinyl, then trim the corner little by little until the vinyl fits perfectly. At external corners and around door frames, make slanting release cuts from the edge of the vinyl to where it touches the floor.

Finally, trim all around against the skirting. The neatest method is to mark a cutting line as accurately as possible with a series of dots on the back of the vinyl, rule a line to link the dots, and then trim to the line with scissors.

With 2m wide vinyls, there will probably be a seam between adjacent sheets, and this can be trimmed by overlapping the sheets, and then, by using a steel rule as a guide, cutting through both sheets together using a sharp trimming knife. This method cannot be used with bold patterns.

Lay-flat vinyl needs only to be stuck down at doorways using double-sided adhesive tape. Conventional vinyls must be stuck down along all edges and seams using a 75mm wide band of vinyl flooring adhesive.