Resilient vinyl floor tiles that are installed with adhesives come in two types: those that are glued down with a separate adhesive that is spread onto the floor with a notched trowel, and those with pre-applied adhesive covered with a backing that is peeled away to install the tile. The third type of vinyl tile that uses no adhesive, often called luxury vinyl, is a floating floor in which the pieces interlock with a modified tongue-and-groove edging system.
Compared to peel-and-stick and floating luxury vinyl, both of which are touted for their ease of installation, the "separate adhesive" type may sound daunting and difficult. In reality, glue-down vinyl flooring is not that hard to install, and it has some benefits when compared to each of the other two types.
While vinyl floor tiles have their benefits, sheet vinyl is generally preferred, as it doesn't have seams through which water can enter the underlayment.
Self-Adhesive vs. Glue-Down Tiles
Self-adhesive tiles are excellent in some instances, but there is a very good reason why they haven't taken over the entire tile-laying industry:
- Hard to reposition: Self-adhesive tiles are very sticky. You need to get your placement right because they are difficult to shift around. "Difficult" is putting it nicely; usually, they are impossible to move. By contrast, floor tile adhesive has a long working time, usually up to a full day and night, and this allows for repositioning.
- Curling up: Self-adhesive, peel-and-stick tiles have a bad habit of loosening and curling up at the edges at some point weeks or months after installation. Tiles adhered with floor tile adhesive, though, rarely loosen and curl up by themselves.
- Subfloor/underlayment must be perfect. Self-adhesive tiles require perfectly smooth, dry underlayments to prevent later problems. When using glue-down vinyl, the separate adhesive can cover minor imperfections, making it possible to apply the flooring to less-than-perfect surfaces—though you should always prep the subfloor thoroughly and use levelers and putty to fix any imperfections you find before installation.
Floating Luxury Vinyl vs. Glue-Down Tiles
The tongue-and-groove system used in luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and luxury vinyl plank flooring is great in principle since the pieces are designed to lock in place. In practice, though, these floors can be nearly impossible to disassemble if you need to make repairs or replace a single tile or plank. Glue-down tiles, on the other hand, are relatively easy to remove by applying heat to loosen the adhesive.
And the relatively high cost of luxury vinyl compared to glue-down tiles can't be denied. Glue-down vinyl tiles have a notable advantage when it comes to the budget.
Misconceptions About Tile Adhesive
Some people shy away from glue-down flooring because of the odor and the messiness. In reality, the smell is not very strong, and it easily dissipates. Messiness concerns can be curbed by using a latex-based, water-soluble floor adhesive for an easy cleanup.
Nor does the adhesive add much cost to the tile installation. Although it depends on the product, you can figure on about 180 to 400 square feet per gallon of adhesive. At $10 to $25 per gallon, this does not substantially add to the cost of your flooring installation, especially since vinyl glue-down tiles are already less expensive than peel-and-stick tiles and luxury vinyl.
Two tile adhesives have proven to be excellent for most tile installations.
Roberts 2057 VCT Adhesive: Clear Drying and Low Cost
Roberts is a Florida-based company that deals in all manner of flooring related products. Roberts Tile Adhesive is especially good for the non-professional DIY tile installer because it has good grabbing capabilities but still allows for some repositioning. This floor tile adhesive is designed specifically for vinyl composition tile.
- Color: This product applies clear and dries clear. In any floor tile adhesive, you'll want to look for clear-drying as a product feature because tile adhesive does tend to squeeze up through the seams. However, it can be helpful if an adhesive is visible when applied, then dries clear, since clear adhesives can be difficult to apply if you can't see them.
- Working time: 24 hours
- Coverage: One gallon covers about 180 to 200 square feet.
- Cost: $13.97 per gallon
Henry Floor Adhesive: Long Working Time, Good On Bad Surfaces
W.W. Henry is a Texas-based company that has been in the flooring materials business for over 75 years. Henry Floor Tile Adhesive is made just for composition (VCT) or asphalt tile. Like most flooring adhesive, it sticks well to unfriendly surfaces such as concrete, bumpy tile, and existing resilient flooring
- Color: This professional-grade floor tile adhesive starts as a beige color for easier identification, then dries clear.
- Working time: 24 hours
- Coverage: One gallon covers about 350 to 400 square feet.
- Cost: $25.20 per gallon