Resilient Flooring Choices for Kitchens and Baths

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  • 01 of 09

    Introduction

    Resilient flooring for the bathroom and kitchen has come a long way since the vinyl tiles of the 1900s that contained asbestos, or the thin, brittle sheet vinyl flooring of the 1970s. Today, you have many different choices of quality resilient vinyl floor materials as well as other flooring options constructed from natural materials, such as cork or linoleum. While hard flooring materials such as ceramic tile and wood have their place, bathrooms, kitchens, mudrooms, and other heavy-use areas are especially good for these resilient floors, which are somewhat softer underfoot as wall as fairly impervious to water and easy to clean.

    Some of the products can be installed pretty easily by an average home repair weekend warrior, but other flooring choices, such as sheet vinyl, are more difficult. Some should be tackled only by more experienced DIYers, or even left to professionals, as is the case with sheet linoleum.

    Resilient Flooring Comes in Three Basic Categories

    • Sheet goods: This can be difficult to cut and fit, but it offers a mostly seamless floor.
    • Tiles: This is fairly easy to cut and fit, but it has many seams.
    • Planks: This is fairly easy to cut and fit and offers a quality surface, but it is slightly more expensive.

    Resilient Flooring Can Be Installed Using a Variety of Methods

    • Self-stick: This option uses adhesive-backed flooring.
    • Floating floor: A floating floor uses interlocking planks.
    • Loose-lay: This option is taped at the seams.
    • Glue-down: The glue-down method has an adhesive applied to the floor.

    Learn about several types of resilient flooring, their characteristics, and an overview of how they are constructed and installed.

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  • 02 of 09

    Self-Stick Vinyl Tile Flooring

    Recommended Uses: Bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries.

    Characteristics: Vinyl tile is durable, affordable, and is a good choice for bathroom flooring or kitchen flooring use. It comes in a vast array of styles, including geometric patterns and realistic wood, stone, and ceramic looks. Vinyl is easy to clean and maintain if it has a urethane wear layer. Lives of these floors may range from five to 20 years, depending on the quality of the tile and quality of the installation.

    Installation Difficulty: Easy.

    Installation Summary: Tiles have a self-stick adhesive protected by a plastic sheet that is removed for installation against a clean, smooth subfloor.

    Construction: The construction of vinyl tile generally consists of these elements:

    • Urethane or similar wear layer (used on premium tiles).
    • Protective clear film layer for durability and protection from rips and tears.
    • Printed and sometimes embossed design layer, which can range from realistic-looking natural materials to unique patterns.
    • Vinyl tile backing layer providing tile structure, strength, and durability.
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  • 03 of 09

    Self-Stick (Floating) Vinyl Plank Flooring

    Recommended Uses: Bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries.

    Characteristics: These products, such as Allure by TrafficMaster, work well for bathroom flooring or kitchen flooring when properly installed. Unlike self-stick tile, these planks adhere to one another side-to-side only and "float" over the actual subfloor. Failure of the adhesive strips may occur if the plank vinyl flooring is not properly acclimated before installation to room temperature above 65 F. Properly installed, though, plank vinyl flooring is durable, very affordable, and is easy to install as it floats over the subfloor.

    It also comes in a broad variety of realistic wood, stone, and ceramic looks for great bathroom flooring or kitchen flooring options. It is easy to clean and maintain and comes with a 25-year limited warranty (based on a proper installation). Like any product, the life of the floor will depend on the quality of the installation.

    Installation Difficulty: Easy.

    Installation Summary: Most products have edges that interlock and have self-sticking adhesive. Most home improvement centers sell these products.

    Because these planks are flexible, creating a floating floor that is not bonded to the floor, they may be installed over a variety of properly prepared subfloors, including plywood, OSB, wafer board, and gypsum underlayment. Many products can even be effectively laid over existing resilient floor coverings if they are in good shape.

    Theoretically, this product can be installed in basement locations, but this is not recommended, due to uncertainty about the level of concrete slab vapor emissions/hydrostatic pressure present. Due to the common problems of moisture in the basement slab, there are many failures of the adhesive joints with this product.

    In order for the adhesive strips to work properly, the product must be acclimated in the space where the tile is being installed. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully on acclimating the planks. Do not remove the paper from strips until you are ready to install, as it is critical that the adhesive remains free from dirt or oil.

    As each piece of planking is laid and joined to the others, it must be rolled carefully across the joined seam to ensure the proper bond. After the entire floor is complete, then the entire surface must be rolled in both directions with a 100-pound flooring roller. Not rolling may void the manufacturer’s warranty.

    Construction: It has a four-mil (thin) urethane wear layer. The patterned vinyl upper layer and vinyl under-layer are offset by one inch, creating an adhesive edge along two sides of each flexible plank.

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  • 04 of 09

    Interlocking Cork Plank Flooring

    Recommended Uses: Kitchen, bedrooms, and recreation rooms.

    Characteristics: Cork flooring is environmentally friendly since cork is considered a renewable and sustainable natural resource. These floors can be a little expensive and their installed cost per square foot can come close to that of a good-quality ceramic tile floor. However, they are definitely worth the cost when used in smaller areas. While suitable for kitchens, cork flooring may not be the best choice for areas that may see standing water, because the panel fiberboard material used as the foundation for the planks is not waterproof.

    Installation Difficulty: Average.

    Installation Summary: Cork flooring comes either in glue-down or interlocking floating floor applications. Interlocking cork flooring is recommended since it is much easier, more versatile, and less expensive as an installed system. The cork flooring planks come with a specially designed edge that interlocks with the adjacent panels. Some manufacturers' floating floor products can be installed over most hard surfaces, such as vinyl floor coverings, wood flooring, and ceramic tile, but carpets must be removed. The subfloor will have to be even, flat, dry, and level to within 0.1 inches in six feet, and the substrate surface over which the floor will be installed will have to be completely dry.

    Construction: Although the actual construction of cork floors will vary slightly between manufacturers, it will generally consist of the following components:

    • Wear surface: Factory or field applied and will usually be a UV hardened varnish, oil, or another sealer.
    • Cork bark veneer or top layer: The visible cork veneer.
    • Cork core: Provides additional insulation and impact absorption comfort for walking and standing.
    • Stabilizing core: This is the structure of the floor panel and is made from either HDF (high-density fiberboard) or MDF (medium-density fiberboard). The edges of the core will be milled in such a way as to allow the interlocking of the panel to the adjoining pieces.
    • Cork underlayment: Flexible low-density cork material used to provide acoustic insulation.
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  • 05 of 09

    Interlocking Linoleum Plank Flooring

    Recommended Uses: Kitchen, bedrooms, and recreation rooms.

    Characteristics: Linoleum is made from natural components such as linseed oil, tree resin, wood and cork flours, limestone, and pigments. Because it is made from natural raw materials, you may see slight color and structural differences between the production batches and samples. Linoleum flooring coverings wear like iron and maintain a warm natural look and feel. While sheet linoleum products installed by professionals are nearly impervious to water, the plank versions are not a great choice for bathroom flooring, because the plank's HDF construction can delaminate when subjected to standing water.

    Installation Difficulty: Average.

    Installation Summary: For proper acclimation, boxes should be stored flat, and unopened, for approximately two to three days (six days in winter) in the center of the room in which they are to be installed. Planks are easy to install using a simple tongue and groove mechanism. The linoleum flooring panels simply "click" into place requiring no adhesive, and the floor can be walked on immediately after installation.

    Construction: Representative of the category, the Marmoleum Click product is a linoleum laminate with a protective layer on HDF panels and cork. The planks incorporate the Marmoleum surface layer and the subfloor system in a single product and can be installed on almost every type of floor. Since the product is linoleum, its main ingredient is natural linseed oil, mixed with wood flour, rosin, and limestone. Marmoleum gets its color from "ecologically responsible pigments" according to the company. The linoleum is pressed onto a jute fabric under high pressure producing an extremely durable and environmentally friendly flooring.

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  • 06 of 09

    Glue-down Vinyl Tile Flooring

    Recommended Uses: Bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries.

    Characteristics: Tile vinyl flooring is durable, affordable, and comes in a vast array of styles, including geometric patterns and realistic wood, stone, and ceramic looks. Vinyl flooring is easy to clean and maintain if it has a urethane wear layer. It may be used as bathroom flooring or kitchen flooring. The lives of these floors may range from five to 20 years depending on the quality of the tile and quality of the installation.

    Installation Difficulty: Intermediate.

    Installation Summary: The floor is bonded to the subfloor with a full layer of glue applied by trowel before the tile is placed down for installation. It's not recommended for installation over old resilient flooring.

    Construction: The construction of tile vinyl flooring generally consists of these elements:

    • Urethane or similar wear layer (used on premium tiles).
    • Protective clear film layer for durability and protection from rips and tears.
    • Printed and sometimes embossed design layer which can range from realistic-looking natural materials to unique patterns.
    • A backing layer providing tile structure, strength, and durability.
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  • 07 of 09

    Glue-Down Linoleum Tile Flooring

    Recommended Uses: Bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries.

    Characteristics: Linoleum flooring tile is very beautiful and durable, providing flexible design possibilities through the use of colors and patterns. It's a great choice for bathroom flooring or kitchen flooring. This material is natural and since it is made from natural raw materials, you may see slight color and structural differences are possible between the production batches and samples. Linoleum flooring wears like iron and maintains a warm natural look and feel. Lives of these floors may exceed 40-plus years depending on the quality of the tile and quality of the installation.

    Installation Difficulty: Intermediate.

    Installation Summary: To install, bond to the subfloor with a full layer of glue applied by trowel before the tile is placed down for installation. It's not recommended for installation over the old resilient flooring. Cartons of tiles should be installed in consecutive order, installing tile in alternating directions (quarter turned), to minimize color variations. Install tiles into wet adhesive and roll immediately with a 100-pound roller. Always check for proper adhesive transfer. In order to achieve a secure bond, there must be a complete wet transfer of adhesive to the tile backing. Do not allow heavy traffic or rolling loads for a minimum of 72 hours following the installation. Additional time may be necessary when installing over non-porous substrates. In order to allow the adhesive to dry and cure properly, wait at least five days following the installation before conducting wet cleaning procedures or initial maintenance.

    Construction: Linoleum flooring tile, such as that manufactured by Marmoleum, is made primarily from natural ingredients including oxidized linseed oil, rosins, cork and/or wood flour, all of which are embedded onto a carrier backing sheet. Different linoleum types depend on the embedding process used and the composition of the various materials. Marmoleum linoleum flooring tile uses a dimensionally stable polyester backing.

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  • 08 of 09

    Loose-Lay or Glue-Down Sheet Vinyl Flooring

    Recommended Uses: Bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries.

    Characteristics: Sheet vinyl flooring has long been a favorite in homes for areas receiving heavy use, such as the bathroom or kitchen. It is durable, affordable, and comes in a large variety of styles, including geometric patterns and realistic wood, stone, and ceramic looks. Vinyl is easy to clean and maintain if it has a urethane wear layer and is a great choice for bathroom flooring. Sheet vinyl flooring can also last much longer than vinyl tile flooring. The life of sheet vinyl flooring may range from 20 to 30 years depending on the quality of the vinyl flooring and quality of the installation, compared to five to 20 years for a vinyl tile floor.

    Installation Difficulty: Advanced.

    Installation Summary: Depending on the backing used, sheet vinyl flooring may be designed for use with either a modified loose-lay installation method using acrylic double-faced tape under seams or installed by the glue-down method requiring a full spread of adhesive.

    With felt backing products, use full-spread or perimeter adhesive; with a fiberglass backing, use loose lay, modified loose-lay (adhesive tape under seams) or full spread.

    Full spread requires a trowel-applied full spread adhesive in which the adhesive is spread across the entire underside of the floor before the flooring is placed down for installation. Do not install over substrates such as OSB, particleboard, or wafer-board panels; existing resilient tile floors that are below grade; or existing cushion-backed vinyl flooring, carpet, or hardwood flooring that has been installed directly over concrete.

    Construction: Sheet vinyl flooring typically comes in six- and 12-foot rolls. The construction of sheet vinyl flooring generally consists of these elements:

    • Urethane or similar wear layer.
    • Protective clear film layer for durability and protection from rips and tears.
    • Printed and sometimes embossed design layer which can range from realistic-looking natural materials to unique patterns.
    • Felt or fiberglass backing layer to provide structure, strength, and durability.
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  • 09 of 09

    Glue-Down Sheet Linoleum Floor

    Recommended Uses: Bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries.

    Characteristics: Linoleum is very beautiful and durable, providing flexible design abilities for bathroom flooring, kitchen flooring, mudroom, bedrooms, or other areas, though there are creative use of colors and patterns. This material is natural, and since it is made from natural raw materials you may see slight color and structural differences between the production batches and samples. The floor is extremely durable, easy to clean, and maintains a warm natural look and feel. Lives of these floors may exceed 40-plus years depending on the quality of the installation.

    Installation Difficulty: Requires professional installation.

    Installation Summary: Professional installation is required, as sheet linoleum flooring installation requires very specialized expertise and techniques, such as heat-welded seams. This flooring uses full spread trowel-applied adhesive applied across the entire underside of the floor before it is placed down for installation.

    Construction: Linoleum flooring, such as that manufactured by Marmoleum, is made primarily from natural ingredients that consist of oxidized linseed oil, rosins, cork, and/or wood flour, all of which are embedded onto a carrier backing sheet. Depending on the embedding process used and the composition, various types of linoleum can be manufactured. Marmoleum linoleum uses a dimensionally stable polyester backing.