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Laying Sheet Vinyl Floor Covering

Carefully review these tips and suggestions on how to lay roll goods floor covering before beginning the job. Following these directions can save you time, money and effort.

PREPARING THE FLOOR SURFACE

  • There are basically two ways to install sheet vinyl flooring. The first is to apply adhesive to the entire floor area. The second is to use staples and adhesives around the outside edges and at seams. The first method is usually used for flooring with a lesser quality material. It can also be used if you are sure you will not need to take the flooring material up in the future.
  • The edge or perimeter method is used with better quality floor coverings. It is the recommended method if you want to change your flooring when you remodel in the future.
  • The first step in laying any type of roll goods floor covering is preparing the base floor. It must be smooth and even before the roll covering is applied. All high or low spots must be removed.
  • You can check for high and low points in a floor by using a straightedge and a flashlight (see image). Hold the straightedge flat against the floor, as illustrated. Play the beam of light along the straightedge from the rear. Light filtering under the straightedge indicates high or low points in the floor.
  • If you're installing the floor covering over a wood floor, plane down all high spots. On a masonry floor, you may need to patch or seal certain sections before laying the floor covering.
  • Regardless of the type, the floor base should be clean. Vacuuming and thoroughly scrubbing the floor will help the adhesive to hold (see image). It will also reduce the chances of ruining your new floor.
  • Always allow the floor to dry completely before laying any roll goods floor covering.
  
  • Check all the mouldings in the room where you will be putting down flooring. Wherever possible, your new flooring should slide under these mouldings. If not, you can either trim them or remove and replace the mouldings. If neither of these are possible, you will need to trim your flooring to fit around them.
  • To trim the bottom of mouldings, such as door trim, lay a piece of cardboard on the floor next to the trim. Place a fine-toothed saw on top of the cardboard. Carefully cut the bottom of the moulding (see image).
  • To remove trim, such as quarter-round, use a small pry bar or screwdriver and a putty knife (see first image below). Quarter-round is usually nailed to the baseboard and not to the floor. Carefully slide your putty knife between the trim and the baseboard. Next, place your pry bar or screwdriver between the trim and the putty knife blade and pry the trim loose. The putty knife blade protects the baseboard.
  • Carefully remove any nails that were left in the baseboard. Remove any nails that were left in the trim with a pair of pliers or vice-grips. Do not drive them back through the trim. Instead, pull the nail the rest of the way through the trim (see second image below). The painted or stained surface of your trim will not be damaged as much.
  • You may need to install a new base as an overlay to provide a good base for the floor covering (see third image below). Sheets of plywood or hardboard make good overlays.
  • Always allow about 1/16" space between sheets used as an underflooring to allow for expansion and contraction.
  • Secure this underlayer sheeting to the floor with cement or use nails spaced about 6" apart over the entire floor surface.
  • Sand off all edges where the sheets join to eliminate any rough spots.
  

MAKING A PAPER PATTERN

  • Perhaps the easiest way to lay sheet vinyl is by using a paper pattern of the floor. Installation kits are available that contain paper, guides and instructions. You can make a pattern with brown kraft paper, a pair of scissors, straightedge, utility knife and some masking tape.
  • Begin by laying the paper down along the longest wall with the fewest obstructions. If you cut your flooring the exact size of the room, it is likely to roll up or buckle. Allow about 1/8" between the pattern and the wall (see image).
  • Keep adding paper until you reach the opposite wall. Use masking tape to tape the paper together. Cut small diamond shapes about every 2' to 4' in all directions on your pattern. Place masking tape over these cutouts to hold the pattern in place.
  • Keep the paper as smooth as possible. Use plenty of tape along the edges of the paper to hold the pattern together. Use small sheets of paper to fit around pipes, toilets, cabinets, appliances and heating vents. Cut and fold these smaller pieces to fit. Then tape them to the pattern (see image). If you make an opening too large, use tape and paper to correct the size.
  • After you have completed the pattern, use a felt marker to mark the side of the pattern.
  • Carefully roll or fold the pattern. Take it to a large clean floor area. A garage floor that has been thoroughly swept works well.
  • Most sheet flooring today is sold in 12' widths. If you have a room that is larger than 12' in length and width, you will need to make a seam. Plan for seams to be in low traffic areas if possible. Use the pattern of your flooring to help hide the seam. For example, if your pattern has heavy lines, such as sides of boards or grout lines, make your seam along these lines.
  • To make the seam, lay the larger piece of flooring down first, right side up. Then place the smaller piece, right side up also, so the two pieces overlap by at least an inch. Most importantly, lay them so the pattern on both pieces match (see image). Tape the two pieces together.
  • Use a straightedge and sharp utility knife to cut through both layers of flooring. Depending on where you are working, you may want to lay pieces of cardboard under the flooring so you don't damage the floor. Remove the two trimmed edges. Carefully put the seam together again and retape the seam.
  • After the seam is made, you are ready to cut the flooring. Place the pattern, right side up, on top of the flooring. If you haven't already done so, remove the tape covering the small diamonds and replace it with new tape. Be sure the pattern is laying so that the seam is where you planned and that it is laying flat.
  • To cut the flooring you have two options. You can trace the pattern onto the flooring using a straightedge and a marker. And then cut it with heavy shears or snips. Or you can use a utility knife and straightedge and cut around the pattern. Either way, be very careful.
  • After you have finished cutting the flooring, carefully roll it. The way you roll it can make the job easier. For example, rolling it toward an edge that goes next to a cabinet makes fitting it under the toe plate easier. Also, remember the length. If you have to go around any sharp corners, roll it so it is as short as possible.

LAYING ROLL GOODS

  • You may need a felt lining or base coat. However, you can lay most roll goods directly on any solid and even surface.
  • Begin laying the floor with the edge with the most obstructions. Position it carefully so you do not tear the floor covering. Unroll the flooring a little at a time. You may need to keep the roll higher at the opposite end to make installation easier.
  • After the flooring is in place, glue any seams. Pull one edge of the seam back and tape it with masking tape. Using the other edge as a straightedge, place a pencil mark on the floor. Pull back the second edge of the flooring and tape it back.
  • Using the recommended adhesive, spread it along the pencil line. The adhesive should extend no less than 2" on each side of the line. The full width of your notched trowel is probably the easiest measure. Do not spread the adhesive all the way to the wall. Leave about 12" between the end of the adhesive and the wall (see image).
  • Remove the tape from one edge of the flooring and press it down into the adhesive. Release the other edge and carefully align it with the edge that is already down. Press it down firmly into the adhesive. Remove any excess adhesive that might have come up through the seam. Seal the seam with the recommended seam sealer.
  • If you are going to use moulding, you can use a staple gun to secure the edges. Start at the seam and be sure the staples are close enough to the wall so the quarter round will cover them. For areas such as doors where the staple will show, use adhesive or metal moulding strips. If you are not using quarter round, you will probably want to use adhesive around the edges.
  • If you decide to use adhesive on the entire floor, follow the same directions for cutting the flooring. Follow the manufacturer's direction for applying the adhesive. Make the seams as described before.

DOING TRIM AND FINISH WORK

  • Finish your flooring installation by checking it over carefully. Remove any excess adhesive from the flooring surface with the recommended cleaner.
  • Install the quarter round. It should be nailed to the baseboard trim or wall, not through the floor. Do not force the quarter round down tight against the flooring. Using colored finish nails will reduce the need for puttying nail holes and refinishing.
  • Reinstall any thresholds that you may have removed. Any flooring edge that is in a doorway and is not covered by a threshold needs to be protected. Use a metal moulding strip designed for this purpose. They are available for going from roll flooring to roll flooring or tile, roll flooring to carpet or roll flooring to wood flooring.
  • You should not move any heavy furniture or appliances onto the new flooring for at least 24 to 48 hours. This will allow the adhesive used on seams to dry. It will also allow the new floor time to shape itself to the floor.
  
TOOL AND MATERIAL CHECKLIST
YardstickHammer
FlashlightScrub Brush
Roll Goods MaterialScissors
Notched Adhesive SpreaderMasking Tape
Plywood/HardboardPlane
StraightedgeChalk or Carpenter's Pencil
Utility KnifeAdhesive
Seam Sealer KitBroom
Floor Cleaning MaterialsSandpaper
Installation KitStaple Gun/Staples
Tin Snips or Heavy Shears 

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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