Sheet Vinyl Flooring vs. Vinyl Tile Installation

Installing vinyl floor tile
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Sheet vinyl and tile vinyl flooring are two of your best bathroom flooring options. Both are waterproof, flexible, durable, and inexpensive. Both sheet vinyl and tile vinyl have improved over the years so that the image of vinyl being an inferior type of floor doesn't hold true anymore.

But beyond a few basics, sheet vinyl and tile vinyl are totally different floor coverings, especially if you're interested in installing the floor by yourself.

DIY Sheet Vinyl Flooring

Sheet vinyl flooring is just like vinyl carpeting. Much like carpeting, sheet vinyl is available in wide rolls that are up to 12 feet wide. For rooms wider than these sizes, sections of sheet vinyl are fused. Expert sheet vinyl installers are often so good at fusing the seams that the seams are hard to detect.

The size and seamless quality of sheet vinyl are its chief advantages. With any type of flooring, you want to limit the number of seams, at least from the perspective of repelling moisture. With sheet vinyl flooring, your kitchen or bathroom might end up with no seams or at most one seam. The no-seam feature of sheet vinyl flooring puts it above nearly every other type of flooring. Other than linoleum or poured flooring like concrete, no other flooring can make this claim.

Another plus to sheet vinyl flooring is that it helps bridge and cover up imperfections in the underlayment. It can even be laid over an existing sheet or tile vinyl flooring. It won't bridge major imperfections, but it will help to visually smooth over many of the minor chips and dings found on existing floors or underlayments. If imperfections are large enough, they may visually transfer upward to the surface of the sheet vinyl.

With all of these advantages, there is one major disadvantage from the do-it-yourself perspective: it's difficult to install without the right tools and the right experience.

  • Large sections of vinyl are unwieldy to handle, especially by one person. So, you'll need an experienced assistant who can help manage these large sheet goods.
  • Sizing out the sheet vinyl requires creating a template with the builder's paper. It is not possible to just start laying down sheet vinyl. It's easy to get the template wrong, and that's where experience comes into play.
  • When you cut sheet vinyl from the template, you get just one chance. Unless you have a large roll with available excess, if you cut your sheet wrong it cannot be used.
  • Any smaller errors (such as accidentally nicking the floor with the utility knife) will remain; with tiles or planks, you simply discard the damaged piece.
  • Much of the sheet vinyl requires the application of adhesives. You will not have the self-adhesive or tongue-and-groove attachment options found on tile or plank vinyl flooring.

DIY Tile Vinyl Flooring

Tile vinyl flooring typically comes in small squares that are 12-inch by 12-inch or 16-inch by 16-inch. You'll also find plank-format vinyl flooring: long strips of vinyl flooring that attach side to side. Nearly any type of surface can be replicated with vinyl tile, whether stone or wood.

The best feature for the do-it-yourself homeowner is that tile or plank vinyl flooring is easy to handle and install. You bring the product back from the store in boxes that easily fit in the back of your car, rather than large 12-foot rolls transported by van or truck.

More importantly, vinyl tile squares or planks can be cut and manipulated with ease. There's no need for templates. When an individual square or plank reaches an obstruction, it's a matter of cutting that single unit, not an entire sheet.

Sheet vinyl flooring doesn't work as a floating floor, either. A floating floor is one where each piece is connected to a side piece but not to the subfloor or underlayment below. Laminate is a type of floating floor. The weight of the entire floor and friction prevents the floor from sliding around or from buckling up and wrinkling.

Sheet vinyl always needs some type of attachment, whether adhesives or staples, to the surface underneath.

Tile and plank flooring are not panaceas. Though they are easier to install for most do-it-yourselfers, they still require a fair amount of planning, time, and hard work to get the installation perfect.