Self-stick vinyl tile — Think before you stick!

In my very humble opinion, self-stick vinyl tile is a very, very bad idea. Yes, it’s cheap, easy to install yourself (well, relatively easy, anyway) and comes in some decent-looking designs. But for a duplex, it just doesn’t hold up.

The previous owner of my duplex installed some of the self-stick stuff in my rental unit, in the kitchen and bathroom, right before selling the house. It made the house look nicer for the sale, and he, of course, wasn’t concerned about the longevity of his improvement.

However, exactly 12 months after the installation, I got a note from my tenants, saying that some of the tile had started to “flip up.”

When I went upstairs to investigate, it apeared that some of the tiles had been nudged into spaces that were maybe 1/32 of an inch too small, and the adhesive wasn’t holding on those tiles, causing them to pop out of their spots. Now, perhaps this guy wasn’t that skilled in the installation… maybe ALL vinyl tile doesn’t start to fall apart in only one year… But since an all new seamless vinyl floor installation isn’t directly on the horizon, I went to the store and bought a box of matching replacement tiles to have on hand. And I’ve needed several of them already.

How to fix the flipped up tiles? I popped them out, took a metal ruler and x-acto blade, and carefully trimmed off about 1/32 of an inch on one side. I cleaned off any grit and sand that had stuck to the adhesive, and applied some simple Elmer’s Glue-All to the bottom of the tile. I put a brick on it to hold it in place until the glue dried. It must’ve worked, because although I got a new note from my new tenants last week, saying that “some tiles in the kitchen are starting to flip up,” they were different ones than the ones I had previously repaired.

So, while the self-stick vinyl tile might be fine for a temporary solution, or a closet, or in a house where people will be careful with it, it’s not the kind of durable solution that you want to install in a rental unit. I have “new flooring for the upstairs kitchen and bathroom” on my list of upcoming improvements.

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10 thoughts on “Self-stick vinyl tile — Think before you stick!

  1. I found you’re blog about 2 weeks ago because you mentioned the self stick tiles in a previous post; I was contemplating installing them in my plex aswell. After reading about the pitfalls of having this stuff in bathrooms, I opted for vinyl sheeting instead. And now you’re posting about tiles peeling up. I empathize with you, but it makes me feel better about my decision. Sheeting cost me about $300 more to have it installed, but it’s the right move in the long run.

  2. Pingback: Floor Tile Designs
  3. I have laid self stick vinyl tiles in many places in my life time. First of all the flooring underneath has to be in good shape. That is the key. And dont buy any tiles made in Japan or China. Don’t lay tile on a hot humid day. If there is any dirt on the floor you are laying the tile on,the tile isn’t going to stick very well,it will lift up in time.
    I never had a problem laying self stick tiles.And also don’t but the cheap tiles. As of January 2008 a good quality single tile should cost arond $1.00 each. If you work with cheap China tile and bad flooring the tile will lift in time. Always be afraid of buying cheap stuff to remodel your home or apartment. Like the saying goes “You get what you pay for” Plus the fact you have to roll over the tiles with a roller that can be rented,I bought mine.It looks like a rolling pin,but is rubber and weighs about 20 pounds,and has a long handle on it. If your tile lifted up at spots,it wasn’t laid right or it was cheap tile. Plus the flooring wasnt prepared right before laying the tile down. So DON’T be afraid of buying good tile,and the floor has to be free of dust,dirt,moisture,and nails sticking up. Good Luck !

  4. Wow what a beautiful story. I have read your blog for a long time and have never posted a comment…It is no wonder that you often don\’t open up comments with all the wack jobs out in this world.

  5. I have vinyl tile in my kitchen, and 2 bathrooms one has a concrete floor. Have also use it in a living room and den. Had no problems of it popping up or lifting. If it does this you put it down wrong. I made sure that the floor was exceptionally clean. I believe you can also put a coating down so the tiles adhere better. I never evn did that. The tile has been down for 6 years and this wasn;t the best or most expensive either.

  6. Gord — I’m glad that the self-stick tile is working well for you! I didn’t put the tile in myself, the previous landlord put it in. It’s held up fairly well for the past 6 years, but does pop up in certain places — I think due to it not being laid down perfectly square. I have some friends that bought a duplex around the same time that I did (also owner-occupied), and their kitchen tile is also self-stick. It’s really bubbling up for them right in front of the stove — probably where it’s getting the most wear? Or, perhaps the (heavy) stove has been moved around a bit, causing the problem?

    I can definitely see where surface preparation (making sure that the floor is perfectly clean and smooth) would make a difference. Also, not “cheating” any tiles in, by pushing them into a spot that’s not perfectly square. Better to shave off the edge a bit for a perfect fit, otherwise it’ll be popping up later.

  7. I’m glad you posted this. I have been considering using this type of tile in our kitchen and bathroom. I was wondering what the pitfalls of using this type of flooring would be. This blog has been helpful. I’m going to use it in a new storage building I bought first. If it works well there I might consider using it elsewhere.

  8. I’ve just put down self-stick vinyl tiles in both my bathrooms and my kitchen. The bathrooms have had no problems, but the kitchen does have a few corners that are lifting. This is most likely due to the fact that kitchens tend to get a lot of grease and crap on the floor…I didn’t sand down the existing tiles or prime them with anything, so that’s my fault.

    As long as the flooring that you plan on sticking the tiles down on is in good shape there shouldn’t be much of a problem. I would recommend buying a primer though and putting that down prior to tiling.

  9. We just had our downstairs kitchen restored after being cleared of mold and asbestos. We bought tile at $2.95 ea and it is very nice. But now, approx 2 months later, one tile feels like a pop-o-matic under our feet and kind of gives us vertigo. I am assuming that it wasn’t glued down properly. Any tips on how to just replace this particular one, or can we without wrecking the adjoining tiles?

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