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Much of the vinyl tile sold today has a peel-and-stick backing. It's a good product that makes the job of installation a little easier, which is why homeowners love it. Installing it is much like installing other vinyl tiles, except you have no adhesive. What the manufacturer's directions often fail to tell you, however, is that you need to prime the floor with a latex floor primer first. Unlike adhesive that you trowel, the adhesive on self-stick tiles never truly dries. This seldom presents a problem, as long as the floor is properly primed. The primer creates a surface to which the adhesive clings, an especially important factor when the subfloor is porous plywood or concrete.
Like other vinyl tiles, self-stick tiles vary slightly in color from batch to batch. To camouflage any shifts in color, alternate between two boxes when applying the tile. Have an empty box handy to hold the paper backing as you peel it off the tiles.
Prep the floor
You can apply self-stick vinyl over concrete or a 1/4-inch plywood underlayment (other than lauan). If you're applying over concrete, make sure it's smooth and clean. If you're installing over any other subfloor, cover it with a 1/4-inch underlayment that's smooth and clean. Space the panels 1/32 inch apart and stagger the seams. Fill the gaps with a filler recommended by the tile manufacturer.
Prime the floor
If the manufacturer doesn't recommend a primer, ask your retailer to recommend one. It's generally not a paint product, but a thinner mixture that seals the pores of the subfloor and creates a surface that the tile will stick to easily. A typical application requires two coats; a coat diluted with water, followed by a full-strength coat. Pour the primer into a roller pan and apply it with a longhandled paint roller.
Mark layout lines
Snap chalklines across the room to find the center. Check for square with a 3-4-5 triangle and move the end of one of the lines, if necessary, to bring the lines into square. Lay a trial run of tiles to gauge the size of the tiles that will meet the wall. If they will be less than half a tile wide, move the lines as needed, until the tiles at the edges are the same width on both sides of the room.
Set the first tile
Before you apply the first tile, flip it over and look for arrows indicating grain direction. Arrange the tiles so that all the arrows point the same way, alternate, or face in random directions (depending on the look you want). Peel off the back and put the corner of the tile at the intersection of the layout lines, and the edges of the tile along the lines. When the tile is in the right spot, press it against the subfloor and press down the edges by rolling with a wallpaper roller.
Use a stepped pattern
Work diagonally from one layout line to the other, applying the tiles in a stepped pattern. This helps to keep the floor square: Each tile is nestled between two others. Apply as shown, filling one quadrant of the floor before going on to the next. Press down each tile once it's in place and roll the edges as before. Roll the entire floor with a floor roller when you're done.
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