Is peel and stick tile any good?

Is peel and stick tile any good? That’s a fair question, considering its low cost. And if you just buy the cheapest peel and stick you can find and slap it down without any preparation or thought, you probably won’t be very happy with it.

That said, if you do good prep work and think about it, you may find peel and stick vinyl tile more durable than costlier floor types.

The biggest advantage of peel and stick vinyl tile is that you can lay it yourself. One time when I needed to renovate a basement in a hurry, I hired two teenagers to help me. They’d never done anything with vinyl tile before. We put down a few hundred square feet of 29-cent peel and stick tile in a couple of hours. It held up fine.

Yes, you read that right. Sometimes I use the cheap stuff. When I pay less than a dollar per square foot, I see little or no difference in durability. Menards sells a vinyl tile made by Armstrong that normally costs around 35 cents per square foot. Every once in a while they put it on sale for 29. I wait for the sale and buy a few cases. It doesn’t say Armstrong anywhere on the box, but after you peel away the backing, you see the name on the underside. This cheap tile won’t win any awards, but it doesn’t look bad. Some of the tile that costs twice as much looks worse.

Durability

Like I said, I’m a landlord. I’ve lost count of the number of foreclosed houses I’ve walked through. That means I’ve seen about everything. I’ve seen properly laid vinyl tile hold up in conditions that destroyed other floor types.

But I’ve also seen destroyed vinyl tile. Maybe the person who put it down didn’t put it down right. Maybe someone abused it too much. It’s not indestructible. But it can hold up pretty well.

Obviously, I use vinyl tile in rental properties. But I use it in mine too. The vinyl tile in my house outlasted the ceramic tile that was in the kitchen when I first bought it. I guarantee that ceramic tile was a lot more expensive.

Installation

The key is cleaning up the floor before you put the tile down, then putting down good primer to help it stick well. It also helps to let the tiles acclimate to the room for a day or two before you lay them down.

Professionals start in the middle of the room, lay down a chalk line, and then lay the tile along that line and work toward the corners. This gives you good, even courses and helps you avoid really thin strips along one or more edges of your room.

If you’re replacing old tile, you can cheat. Pull up the old tile–as long as it’s not 9-inch tile, which is usually asbestos–but leave one row in or near the middle of the room. Put your first row down right next to that row you left. Put down a second row if you wish. Then come back and take up the row you left.

What if you find asbestos tile? Clean it really well, put some leveling compound in any holes you find, and lay the new tile on top of it. Removing the asbestos tile isn’t worth the health risk. But if you leave it alone, it won’t hurt you.

For any number of reasons, it’s possible you may end up with gaps. I have a trick for dealing with gaps too.

Ideally, you want to let the floor set up overnight before you subject it to heavy traffic. I also like to put an acrylic finish over it. It helps make the vinyl more water resistant and makes it easier to clean. Both of these things help it to last longer.

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