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How to Clean a Resilient Floor

Most new vinyl and similar resilient flooring materials have “no-wax” coatings that stay glossy with just basic cleaning. Resilient floors that don’t have these types of coatings require more maintenance.

Recommendations for basic cleaning vary by manufacturer, but a typical procedure for a no-wax resilient floor is to sweep and mop with a pH-neutral liquid floor cleaner—the best products are available through flooring retailers. Follow by using a sponge to rinse with clear, clean, warm water and allow to dry (or speed up drying by wiping with a clean towel).

If you have a resilient floor that does not have a no-wax finish, you will probably have to strip, clean, and re-wax it to get it looking glossy again. This is a big job that requires 1) buying a quality wax stripper from a janitorial supply, 2) clearing the floor area of furniture and obstacles, 3) applying the stripping solution to sections of the floor with a mop, 4) scraping up the old wax with a squeegee, putty knives, rags, and scrubbing pads, 5) mopping up each completed section with clear water, and then 6) applying a new coat of liquid wax.

Spilled liquids and food should be wiped up immediately before the stains become harder to remove. A clean cloth dipped in pH-neutral liquid floor cleaner is often the best bet. Scrub balky stains with a nylon pad, but be careful not to abrade the floor’s surface. Don’t use abrasive cleaners or mechanical buffers on high-gloss floors—this will weaken the protective coating.

How to Remove Vinyl or Resilient Flooring

Removing stubborn resilient tile from subflooring or a concrete slab can be a hideous job unless you have the right tool: a tile stripper, available through tool rental companies.

This heavy contraption rolls on two wheels and chips up the old flooring, using a replaceable blade. Though it works best on a concrete slab, the same tool will remove resilient tile from wood floors, but you’ll want to fit it with a flexible blade made for this task so it does not damage the subflooring. When removing vinyl or resilient tile from solid-board subflooring, always work in line with the wood grain (not across the boards).[GARD align=”right”]


You can buy an asbestos test kit online for about $30. Photo: Pro-Lab®

Before pulling up old vinyl or resilient flooring, be sure neither the material nor the adhesive that holds it in place contain asbestos. You can remove a small sample of the materials, including backing and adhesive, and have it tested by an asbestos testing lab. You can buy a do-it-yourself asbestos test kit online.

If any of the materials contain asbestos, you’ll need to call an asbestos abatement contractor or, if the asbestos is not friable (airborne) you may be able to leave the old floor in place and cover it with the new flooring, applied over luaun plywood underlayment.

Cork Flooring

Parquet Cork Flooring. Photo courtesy CorkFloor.com.

Resilient and warm underfoot, natural in appearance, and made from an environmentally sustainable material, cork makes an excellent flooring surface.

It is sold both in thin 12-by-12-inch tiles and thicker interlocking 1-by-3-foot planks. Most flooring dealers offer a range of earthy appearances, from light, unstained surfaces to bold hues. Most cork flooring is prefinished.

Using natural cork flooring is a responsible way to help protect the earth’s forests. Every nine years, cork is peeled from the bark of cork oaks, which grow primarily in Mediterranean regions. Because only the bark is removed, each cork tree remains alive and vital.

The material used for cork flooring is not overly soft and fragmented like familiar bulletin board cork. On the contrary, cork flooring is surprisingly rugged. It does not retain furniture “dents” as readily as do carpeting or vinyl flooring. Cork planks also have superb insulation qualities.

Up to 90% of their composition consists of gaseous material, giving cork flooring excellent acoustic and thermal insulation properties.

Suberin, a naturally occurring substance found in cork, helps the material resist liquid, protecting it from moisture deterioration. Also, suberin is an organic insect repellant that targets, among other things, termites. Cork is also hypoallergenic with anti-microbial agents that protect it from mildew.

Like laminate flooring, cork floor planks are typically “floated” over a flat, smooth subfloor. An experienced do-it-yourselfer can usually handle installation. Planks are cut using a power saw and, in most cases, snapped together without the need for glue. Cork tile can be cut with a knife; it is set in cork flooring adhesive. To maintain the look, reapplication of a polyurethane finish may be required every few years. It is possible to sand and refinish the floor, but it’s imperative not to sand the cork itself.

The installed cost of a cork floor typically runs from $5 to $10 per square foot. By doing the work yourself, you can save up to about $2.50 per square foot.

For everyday maintenance, standard sweeping and mopping are recommended. In addition, you can use a combination of mild detergent or white vinegar combined with small amounts of water to get a deeper clean. To maintain withering tiles, buff them with a liquid polish.

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How to Buy Linoleum Flooring

Although linoleum floors are often mistaken for vinyl flooring, and vice versa, linoleum is actually a significantly different material. Vinyl flooring is made from polyvinyl chloride, a type of plastic that comes from oil. Linoleum is made from natural linseed oil (from flax), pine resins, wood flour, granulated cork, and powdered limestone—all compressed onto a layer of jute. This natural composition is reflected in the appearance of the material, which tends to have a subtle, organic look. It also makes linoleum an environmentally responsible choice.

Linoleum has a natural resistance to bacteria, a trait that makes it an excellent choice for bathrooms, kitchens, and children’s rooms. A distinct downside, however, is that as a hard type of flooring, it tends to reflect sound rather than absorb it.

An extensive palette of colors and patterns is available. Linoleum is sold both in rolls that are 6 or 12 feet wide and in 12-inch-square tiles. It is often priced by the square yard instead of the square foot; the installed price can range widely from $6 to $40 per yard.

Unlike vinyl, the color in linoleum penetrates entirely through the material, giving it great resistance to noticeable wear and making it easy to repair. To fix scratched or damaged tiles, you simply mix some wood glue with shavings from a scrap piece and apply the paste evenly. For this reason, it pays to store a few extra pieces following installation.

For installation, the subfloor need not be very strong, but it must be smooth. Install linoleum much as your would vinyl sheet flooring, but use adhesive made for linoleum. Keep the floor covered with coats of acrylic sealer. Linoleum is easy to clean because it suffers no ill effects from water.

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Vinyl Flooring Buying Guide

Vinyl flooring is a plastic material sold as sheets or tiles. Sheet flooring is applied from 6-, 9-, or 12-foot-wide rolls; tiles are normally 12 inches square. Sheet flooring is generally used where a seamless look is wanted; it is also impervious to damage from water, which can seep between the joints of other flooring materials. Installation of sheet vinyl is best left in the hands of a professional or experienced installer; tiles are more likely to be installed by do-it-yourselfers.

Two manufacturing techniques are used to produce sheet vinyl flooring: inlay and rotogravure printing. With inlaid flooring, the more expensive and durable of the two, the pattern goes all the way through to the backing. In the manufacturing process, vinyl granules are applied to a backing through a series of templates, giving the design substantial visual depth.

Multiple layers are fused together, and then the surface is given a wear layer for protection. With a less expensive rotogravure floor, the pattern is printed with vinyl inks onto a coated mineral felt backing and a wear layer is added.

Vinyl tiles may be a composite—a mixture of vinyl, mineral fibers, and clay—or, for more durability, they may be solid vinyl.[GARD align=”left”]

It almost always pays to opt for a high-quality material that will last because labor is a significant part of a flooring job unless you do it yourself. High-quality vinyl is generally thicker than run-of-the-mill varieties and has a very durable wear layer that helps repel dirt and spills.

Look for a urethane wear layer or, better still, an “enhanced” urethane wear layer. Urethane wear layers hold up best to foot traffic and come closest to meeting the “no wax” promise, but even they will eventually lose their shine. A vinyl wear layer is a bit more stain-resistant.

If durability is more important to you than unlimited choice, be sure to check out commercial vinyl flooring, which comes in a smaller palette of possibilities but is extremely hard-wearing.

Vinyl flooring may be applied over a variety of flat, clean, smooth surfaces, including plywood subfloors or concrete. Or it may be applied over existing floors such as wood, linoleum, or vinyl. (Because older resilient floors or their adhesives may contain asbestos, which is dangerous when airborne, leaving an old floor in place and covering over it is common practice). But be certain the subfloor is absolutely smooth. Bumps, seams, and even raised nail heads will eventually become visible on the surface.

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Vinyl Flooring Installation Pro

How to Lay Vinyl Tile Flooring

Resilient and Vinyl Floor Installation

One of the most popular kitchen and bathroom flooring materials is resilient tile, a surface that is highly water-repellent, moderately priced, slip-resistant, and easy to install. Tiles are uniform in size–the standard is 12 inches square–and fit together snugly without grout lines. They can be cut with a utility knife and a straightedge. Some tiles have self-adhesive backs, but these tiles tend to be thinner, more limited in selection, and may not form as sure a bond as the types set with an adhesive compound.

Complete instructions for installing self-adhesive tiles are included with their purchase. The following directions are for installing the type applied with an adhesive. For step-by-step instructions, see Step-by-Step Resilient Floor Installation.

Preparing the Floor for Resilient Tiles

For a quality job, the substrate must be clean, flat, and very smooth. A plywood subfloor or an older vinyl floor that meets these requirements will serve. Before you begin, pry off the shoe molding along the base of walls; remove baseboards only if there isn’t any base shoe molding.

If you’ll be covering old resilient flooring, glue down any loose corners or edges. Smooth embossed flooring or any dips or bumps by troweling on an embossing leveler and then sanding it. If you’re tiling over a new concrete slab or where two subfloor materials meet, first cover the floor with a self-adhesive, anti-fracture membrane, which comes in 50-foot rolls. This will help prevent any new cracks in the concrete from being transmitted up through the tile.

If your floor is very irregular, think twice about removing it. Resilient flooring installed before 1986 may contain asbestos, which can be a serious health hazard if the fibers are released into the air.

Experts recommend removal by a specialist or covering the old floor with plywood underlayment made for this purpose before installing the new flooring. The edges of these panels interlock; if you must cut panels, run these along the walls. Stagger corners so that four pieces don’t come together in one place. Note that plywood underlayment is marked with small crosses; drive a screw or pneumatically shoot a flooring staple at every cross mark. Set the heads of all fasteners below the surface.

Flooring Tile Layout Notes

You can walk on the tiles immediately after installing them, but you must not step on the adhesive, so do a dry run first. You can begin either at the center of the room or at one wall. Starting at the center is generally best, and necessary, if the room is out of square or if you’ve chosen tile with a pattern or design. Establish perpendicular working lines (called “layout lines”) across the center of the floor so that they intersect at a right angle in the middle of the room. Start at a wall only if two adjacent walls meet at an exact 90-degree angle.

When you’re satisfied with your layout, read both the tile and adhesive manufacturers’ directions, paying particular attention to the time it takes the adhesive to dry. Apply adhesive evenly and sparingly with a notched trowel (see the adhesive directions for the proper notch size). Allow it to become translucent and tacky, but not dry, before installing the tiles.

Begin at the intersection of the two working lines and install tiles in the order shown, working toward the edges so that tiles around the border will be equal in size. Use soapy water or mineral spirits (depending on the type of adhesive) to clean up any excess as you work. Next, see Step-by-Step Resilient Floor Installation.

How to Lay Vinyl Floor Tiles

1) Spread adhesive over the substrate.

Installing a resilient tile floor is a relatively manageable job for do-it-yourselfers with moderate skills and tools. Here’s how to do it:

1With a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle, spread adhesive over the substrate using long, sweeping strokes that overlap by about 1 inch. Trowel away any excess immediately.


2) Position the first floor tile.

2After waiting the proper amount of time, usually about half an hour, carefully position the first tile at the intersection of the working lines. Be sure to get this one right because all the others will align to it.


3) Align and set more floor tiles.

3Continue installing tiles, aligning the edge of each with a working line or adjacent tile. Let the tiles fall into place (sliding them may force adhesive up between them). Check alignment and make adjustments if necessary every couple of tiles. From time to time seat the tiles with a rolling pin or by walking on them.


4) Mark and cut border tiles.

4To figure out how much to cut off a border tile, turn it upside down in the correct direction over its future location and press it against a 1/4-inch spacer at the wall, making sure it does not touch the adhesive. With a pencil, mark both edges for the cut. Score a single line with a straightedge between the two marks and then hold both sides of the tile firmly and bend it until it snaps.


5) Cut tiles to fit around obstacles.

5To fit tile around pipes or obstacles, cut a pattern from cardboard and then use a contour gauge or compass to transfer the pattern onto a tile. To cut irregular shapes, use a sharp utility knife, scissors, or tin snips if the tile is pliable or can be made so by warming it with a hair dryer. If necessary, cut out a separate piece and glue it in place. Caulk around pipes and cover with a flange.[GARD align=”left”]

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Vinyl Flooring Installation Pro