Vinyl floor tiles separating

A common problem with peel and stick vinyl tiles is separating. If you experience vinyl floor tiles separating, here’s how to keep it from happening again. And you may be able to fix it. If you can still get tiles to match, you even have several options for fixing it, depending on what you’re comfortable with.

Why are my vinyl floor tiles separating?

vinyl tile expansion gap
Vinyl floor tiles separating is caused by leaving too much of a gap between the tiles and the wall, as you can see here.

The main reason vinyl floor tiles separate is too much of a gap around the edges between the tiles and the walls. Unlike floating floor types like laminate and floating vinyl plank floors with a locking mechanism, or even wood floors, peel and stick vinyl floor tiles don’t need expansion space between them and the wall. They don’t want an expansion gap either.

You don’t have to get your vinyl floor tiles perfectly flush up against the wall. But the less gap you leave, the less the tiles can move. Even when vinyl tiles stick to the floor well, they still slide around a little. If you cut a tile 1/8 of an inch short and leave a gap, the tile will find that gap and pull itself tight against that wall eventually. Then your gap will be in the middle of the floor, instead of hiding under your baseboard where you want it.

Don’t feel bad though. I’ve even seen this happen with floors put down by professionals.

Ways to fix vinyl floor tiles separating

There are several options for fixing vinyl floor tiles separating, even if you don’t catch the problem especially early.

Fill the gap in place with caulk

The easiest way to fix vinyl floor tiles separating is to simply fill the gap in place. Clean out the gap so there isn’t any dirt or debris in there. Then, if you can find some latex or silicone caulk that’s a fairly close color match for the edges of your tile, just fill in the gap with the caulk. This sounds like it shouldn’t work, but I have a floor I repaired with caulk two years ago that’s held up very well.

The color match doesn’t have to be perfect. A color somewhere in the neighborhood of your edges will look better than that glimpse of subfloor you have now. But the closer the match and the narrower the gap, the less noticeable the repair will be.

Fill the gap in place with more tile

If you have any extra tile, you can cut yourself a piece of tile to fill the gap. This ensures a better match than you’d get with caulk, if the gap is big enough, and if you can measure perfectly and cut a straight enough line.

Measure the gap on both ends since it may not be the same. Mark the distance from the edge on either side of the donor tile, then connect the two marks with a straightedge. Carefully cut along the line. Clean out the gap, mask off the edges with some masking tape to keep adhesive off the adjacent tiles, and put a bit of vinyl adhesive down in the gap. Let the adhesive set up until it’s tacky, not wet. Then peel the back off your thin strip of tile and press the strip down into the gap.

If you can get the line straight enough, this repair can be very difficult to notice.

Move the tile back

A more difficult but more professional-sounding repair is to move the tile back. If you apply some heat with a heat gun or even a hair dryer, you should be able to peel up a corner with a putty knife. If you work slowly and carefully enough and continue to apply heat, you can lift the tile without damaging it.

Remove the baseboard and apply a bit of vinyl floor adhesive to the spot where you removed the tile. Let the adhesive set up until it’s tacky and translucent. Then put the tile back down, cinching it tight against the adjacent tiles. Roll it with a floor roller to really cinch it down tightly against your subfloor.

Now, to keep the tile from migrating again, squeeze some caulk into the gap between the tile and the wall. Let the caulk set up, then replace the baseboard. The caulk in the gap will help keep the tile in place.

Replace the tile

If you have spare tiles or can get a matching replacement, you can replace the tile entirely. First, remove the baseboard. Then, before you remove the tile, lay the new tile face down tightly up against the wall. Mark the edge of the tile on both ends with a pencil, then use a straightedge to draw a line connecting the two marks. Cut the tile along the line and check the fit with the cut edge up against the wall. If it’s not quite right, trim it back until it fits well.

Once you have a good fit, heat up the old tile and remove it. For best results, put some vinyl floor adhesive down and let it set up. Then peel the backing off the tile, position the tile in place, and roll it. The replacement tile will stay put and help keep the adjacent tiles in place too.

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