Today I’m going to introduce you to a revolution in the world of flooring products: groutable vinyl floor tile. Maybe you’ve already heard of it? We’ve installed three of these floors in two houses and don’t plan to stop anytime soon. Groutable vinyl floor tile is affordable, easy to install, durable, water-resistant, and looks great!
Groutable Vinyl Floor Tile - Cheap and Easy to Install!
What is Groutable Vinyl Floor Tile?
Vinyl flooring ranges from planks to sheet products, and today we’re talking about peel-and-stick tiles. Once the tiles are installed, a special grout is applied that is formulated for vinyl tile. Groutable, peel-and-stick vinyl tile is roughly half the cost of luxury vinyl tile (LVT) or luxury vinyl plank (LVP).
Vinyl floor tile is nothing new in the flooring world, but the added dimension of grout between tiles is a game changer. With grout, the flooring suddenly looks comparable to porcelain tile, unless you examine it closely. Even then, I’m not convinced that the average person can identify that it’s not conventional tile. Plus, vinyl is generally more durable than porcelain and certainly easier to replace if you damage it.
Because there are some health concerns about the safety of installing vinyl flooring, I encourage you to research products first. We installed these tiles in a small area of our home, with plenty of air flow, so I’m not too concerned about off-gassing VOC’s. Many products also advertise whether they are phthalate-free and formaldehyde-free.
Supplies You Will Need for This Project
Tile product +10% extra
Appropriate subfloor – lauan is recommended
Vapor barrier (optional)
Schluter tile edge trim (if using)
Paint roller + tray
Sponges + water
Vinyl tile cutter
Prep Steps Before Installing Vinyl Floor Tile
First, you’ll need to prepare your subfloor for vinyl tile installation. For this hexagon tile, the manufacturer recommends attaching the tile to lauan, which is basically a very thin, smooth plywood. Due to the depth of our existing subfloor, Wyatt subbed a 5/8 inch A/C plywood to bring the subfloor up to the right depth for the tile to be flush with our hardwood floors. (A/C plywood is a product with a nice smooth “A” side and rougher grade on reverse.)
You’ll also notice that I labeled the black layer of felt paper under the new plywood. This might not be strictly necessary, but because there is rosin paper under our hardwood floors, Wyatt decided to add a vapor barrier beneath this new section of floor. You could use either material for this purpose, rosin paper or roofing felt paper. Next, he installed this Schluter edge trim. I chose a black metal transition to match the Schluter strip between our hardwoods and porcelain kitchen floor tile. This 1/8″ depth works with the vinyl floor tile. Wyatt just glued it down with a general super strength glue like this.
Wyatt then applied this floor patch/filler with a putty knife to all seams, screws, and uneven spots. Because vinyl is so soft, it will show imperfections from below, so the filler helps to create a smooth base.
He also used filler to grade the transition from metal trim to subfloor. This step was his idea to create a smoother base and to prevent a seam from showing through the vinyl tile. (FYI, it worked, so we recommend it.) Once the filler dried, he gently scraped off the excess with a chisel to smooth it out.
Last, he painted on this primer, as recommended by the tile manufacturer. Honestly, we’re not sure that it had much effect, which I’ll explain in a moment. He used a small roller but application doesn’t really matter.
Mock up a Design Before Installing Tiles
Before installing the tile, we did a little math and mocked up this layout. We wanted to avoid having a row of skinny pieces of tile on one side of the floor. Don’t forget to account for grout lines; we used spacers for 1/8″ lines. It’s worth planning your layout first, to make sure you like overall design.
This is also why you should buy at least 10% extra tile, to account for partial tiles and mistakes. We actually bought at least twice the amount we installed, because we picked out the most uniform-looking tiles. Want to guess which one is the reject, above? Since you can purchase these hexagon tiles per piece, it’s easy to be selective. You can usually return unused product, as we did.
How to Install Peel-and-Stick Vinyl Floor Tile
Ideally, you should be able to just peel off the paper backing and stick the tiles to the primed subfloor. That’s how we installed groutable vinyl floor tile in both bathrooms at our first house. Easy peasy! So, we started out installing this tile as usual.
As long as you can peel and stick your tiles, the last step is to rent a 100 lb vinyl floor roller. FYI, the last step is also the biggest hassle, but it’s still important. You can rent a 100 lb floor roller from a tool rental service (ex: Home Depot or independent tool rental) to go over the floor. This helps the tile fully adhere to the subfloor.
Unfortunately, we found that these particular hexagon tiles did not stay stuck to the primed plywood, as they should. After reading reviews, it sounds like a common problem with this particular product. To solve the issue, Wyatt applied a thin layer of adhesive with a trowel, to directly glue the tiles to the subfloor. We waited 24 hours for the glue to dry, and we did not rent the 100 lb roller, because the tiles had been glued down.
Hot tip: invest in a vinyl tile cutter – it’s worth it for smooth, straight cuts. You can use a utility knife to cut these tiles, but you’ll get a raised edge where you make the cut. When you cut the tiles with a tile cutter, the edge stays flat. It wouldn’t matter for tiles that will be covered by base trim around the edges of a room, but you’ll feel the raised edges anywhere else in the space. Wyatt bought this one, because it was the only option at the store, but there are more choices online.
How to Grout Vinyl Floor Tile
After letting the glue dry for 24 hours, it’s time to apply the grout. You’ll need to buy a grout that is specifically made to work with your tile product. I chose a sanded acrylic product in Saddle Gray, but I wish a darker color had been available (it’s not).
Wyatt applied the grout with a float (you can Google a how-to video). He worked in sections and quickly wiped it off the tile with a damp sponge. We’ve learned to work as quickly as possible with grout, although this product seems a bit more forgiving than regular cement grout.
Stay off the floor for a good 24 hours and keep it dry for a few days. A full week is best, if possible. The longer you can leave the floor to cure undisturbed, the stronger and more stain resistant your grout will become. Here’s the finished floor. Doesn’t it look great? I love it!
Where to Buy Groutable Vinyl Floor Tile
Here’s the fun part. Groutable vinyl floor tile must be growing in popularity, because there are more choices now than just a few years ago. The most affordable options are from Home Depot and Lowe’s, where peel-and-stick tiles are priced at roughly $1 per tile. You can buy them by the case or individually. We have installed the three different tile products from Lowe's and been happy with the look of each floor.
Head over to my blog to get more details and exact product links for this project. I hope you'll give it a try! https://listinprogress.com/how-to-install-groutable-vinyl-floor-tile/