Vinyl self-stick tile flooring

When we moved into this house, we lived with the horrible bathroom floor for a few months.  The only reason we didn’t change it sooner is that doing so required removing the toilet (our only one) and we needed to do some planning ahead so we wouldn’t end up in a pickle.  Seriously, have you seen a floor more atrocious than this?  I don’t even know how or why anyone would create let alone purchase a floor like this:

I think it was once light pink and light yellow with dark pink and yellow sparkly things in it, and maybe that was in style at some point?  And check out the nice crack down the middle.  We wanted a new floor and we wanted it to be inexpensive, DIY friendly, quick to install (remember the toilet issue) and the kicker was the floor was already slightly higher than the hall floor and we didn’t want it to get much higher.  There is an even older floor under the one pictured above, and we thought there was some chance of the oldest floor or maybe both layers having asbestos.  We could have had them tested, but that’s yet more work and expense, and it just didn’t seem worth it at the time, so we decided to leave both layers intact and lay new flooring over them.  With the height constraint, ceramic tile (plus cement board) was not going to work.  Sheet vinyl is not that easy to install.  Vinyl self-stick tile seemed like the best solution.  It’s not too difficult to install and it’s so cheap that if we decided to replace it later, no problem.  Especially considering how tiny the bathroom is.  We got Armstrong vinyl peel-and-stick tiles from Lowes.  I am positive the color was called River Slate or something very close to that, but I can’t find it online so maybe they no longer make it.  This color is close in case you’re looking for something similar.  Fortunately I did keep several extra tiles “just in case.”  Just in case of what?  I don’t know.  And could I even find the extras in the garage?  No.  Why am I asking myself questions?

In addition to looking horrible, the existing floor was not perfectly flat, so we had to use some self-leveling concrete.  We mixed it up thicker (probably too thick in retrospect), so it didn’t level itself, but we worked it with plastic putty knives and got it pretty flat.  Once it was dry, I applied some primer to help the tiles stick.

Oh yeah, we removed the sink along with the toilet and decided to get new ones of both while we were at it.  I’ll tell you about that later. 

After that, it was smooth sailing.  I followed the directions that came with the vinyl tiles, laying them out ahead of time to make sure we wouldn’t end up with any weird slivers of tile at the edges.  Then I started in the middle, laying one row and working out from there.  You can cut it with regular scissors, how easy is that!?

And yes, we installed the new toilet as soon as the tile under it was done.  ‘Cause having no toilet in the house is kind of a bummer.  The sink could and did wait.  There was always the kitchen sink, and I even used the tub spout to wash my face and hands for several weeks until we installed the sink.  I’m trying to remember back why that was.  I think we needed to do some work on the plumbing serving the sink first, and at the time, we really only had weekends to do stuff like that. 

I liked the look of the faux slate vinyl tile.  The one thing I did not like about it was that it wasn’t a waterproof layer.  For some reason that freaked me out - I feel very strongly that a bathroom floor should be impervious to moisture.  Probably nothing terrible happens, and lots of people use this tile, but I was just not happy.  Also, the faux grout lines that came with the tile looked good from afar, but up close you could see the crack between the tiles, especially at the corners.  I didn’t like that either.

I was pretty sure that you can’t grout these tiles because unlike ceramic, vinyl is flexible, and as I learned in a free Home Depot workshop on tiling, grout will crack if there is any movement whatsoever in the tile.  Maybe you can grout it though - if anyone has info on this, please let me know.  Anyway, I had decided that grout was a no-go, but I thought caulk might work.  It’s flexible and waterproof.  I bought some gray silicone caulk, did a couple of tests using tile scraps on a piece of cardboard, and decided the best method was to use blue painters tape along the edges of the tile (as the silicone caulk will leave a very shiny spot if you get some on the tile and then wipe it up), put in a small bead of caulk, smooth it with the pointier end of a pot scraper (similar to these - and they do make tools to smooth caulk but I had this around the house already plus it’s cheaper), and then pull up the tape before the caulk sets.  It actually looked pretty good.  For a few months, it stayed perfectly intact.  Then in one spot it got pulled up.  A while later, in another spot the same thing happened.  It always seemed to happen when we had guests over, and I’m thinking maybe it’s because we wear slippers in the house and our guests may have had shoes on.  I’m not at all blaming the guests.  If flooring gets damaged by people walking on it with shoes, that’s a fault of the flooring, not of the people. 

Actually, I’m amazed the damage to the caulk has been minor for over a year.  We have a couple of spots like in the picture, but I’m probably the only one that notices them.  And I guess I got over my impenetrable surface obsession, considering I haven’t fixed it for over a year.  One reason I haven’t fixed it yet is that I’m thinking siliconized acrylic would a better choice than 100% silicone caulk.  Silicone doesn’t stick to things as well as acrylic, and it won’t even stick to itself, making this kind of repair difficult.  I originally went with silicone because a tile guy told me that acrylic isn’t as flexible (could eventually crack), doesn’t last as long, and isn’t as good in general.  Since then I’ve heard from other people that that used to be true, but the new blends are quite good. 

Over the last year I’ve learned of some new products I would choose over self-stick tiles if I had it to do over again.  There are some vinyl tiles and planks that click together to become a virtually seamless layer that is installed as a floating floor (not glued to the layer below).  That would resolve all of my issues.  I’d also look into low-VOC or VOC-free options if I went with vinyl.  And I would research this Durock tile membrane as a possible substitute for hardy board to use under ceramic tile, which is what I’d like to have if it wouldn’t make the floor too much higher than adjacent flooring.

Maybe I’ll change it one of these days.  I really like this fancy heating duct cover we got.  That will stay.  And I’d probably go with a similar style.  After living with it for over a year, I’m still loving the slate look.

We put in a new vanity/sink and a wall cabinet over the toilet too.  And a new toilet made sense since we already had to remove the old one and install one.

That’s about 70% of the work we’ve done in the bathroom so far.  More on that later.

-Kelly