Self-Adhesive Vinyl Floor Tiles Review: Pros and Cons

Are Self-Adhesive Vinyl Floor Tiles Right for You?

bathroom with self-adhesive tiles

The Spruce / Margot Cavin 

Vinyl is one of the most versatile flooring products on the market, and one type of vinyl flooring, peel-and-stick tiles, can be an easy and affordable design solution thanks to the category's range of styles. Self-adhesive vinyl is an easy-to-care-for option for bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, and kids' rooms. It is particularly prized in rental apartments, as they can usually be removed when the residency is over without causing damage to the subfloor. Vinyl tile flooring can be quick to install, more so than sheet vinyl, but there are also some downsides to the materials and processes used in making the tile.

What Is Self-Adhesive Vinyl Tile?

Self-adhesive vinyl tile is a thin flooring material that is quick and easy to install due to its adhesive backing. It comes in a range of colors, patterns, and durability levels.

closeup of vinyl tiles
The Spruce / Margot Cavin 
Pros
  • Inexpensive

  • Durable

  • Quick installation

  • Easy removal

  • Easy to replace

Cons
  • Glues can be toxic

  • May off-gas

  • Needs flawless underlayment

  • Not recycle-friendly

  • Water can seep through edges

Self-Adhesive Vinyl Floor Tiles Cost

Self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles can be quite inexpensive. Just like most flooring products, peel-and-stick vinyl tiles are priced by the square foot. You can pay as little as a few cents per square foot for cheaper tiles up to over a couple of dollars per square foot for a premium product. In general, you'll pay around a dollar, give or take a few cents, per square foot for decent and attractive self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles. You'll pay about the same for vinyl composition tiles (VCT), a variation in which the vinyl plastic is blended with synthetic fillers and binders with a print layer covered with a clear wear layer before it is cut into sheets or tiles. For example, in a 144-square-foot room (12 feet by 12 feet), you'll pay on average about $144 for mid-range quality peel-and-stick tile flooring.

Maintenance and Repair

Removing self-adhesive tile is very easy when it comes time to replace the flooring, and no professional assistance is usually required. Replacing the floor may, however, involve also replacing the underlayment or performing repairs to the subfloor.

Professional installers sometimes are reluctant to use self-adhesive tiles because they are prone to "unsticking" and require call-backs for repairs. If they are using self-adhesive tiles, some pros even reinforce the installation by applying an additional full-spread adhesive to the underlayment before placing the tiles.

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Design

All forms of vinyl flooring, including tiles, begin with the vinyl layer itself, which is pure polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with compounds added to create precise characteristics of color, flexibility, hardness, and sheen. Some vinyl flooring even includes fine mineral particles to give the flooring the texture and look of natural stone.

Luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) is a relatively new form of vinyl flooring designed with a layer of flexible vinyl bonded to an additional backing layer that gives it a semi-rigid nature. It also has the same vinyl layer, print layer, and wear layer found in standard vinyl sheet or vinyl floor tile. The LVF is usually shaped into planks with a "click-lock" form of connection, and it's a direct competitor to laminate flooring that also click-locks into place.

Self-Adhesive Vinyl Floor Tile Installation

One of the benefits of vinyl flooring is that it is relatively easy to install, and self-adhesive tiles may be the easiest of all. Most tiles can adhere directly to the underlayment, or even a good, smooth subfloor.

Basic installation involves simply peeling away and discarding the paper backing, positioning the tiles on the floor, and pressing them down to bond in place against the underlayment. A layer of adhesive is applied to the bottom of each tile during the manufacturing process and then covered over with a protective paper backing.

Successful application of peel-and-stick vinyl tile requires an underlayment that is perfectly smooth and clean; grainy, wet, or dusty floors may not allow the tiles to stick properly.

Peel-and-stick flooring tiles often come loose over time if the underlayment is not solid and clean. The strength of the glues used can increase the holding power of the tiles, but stronger glues may also be more toxic, with more gases emitted.

It is also relatively common for new flooring to be laid directly over the old vinyl flooring, although this depends on the manufacturer's recommendations and the condition of the old floor. Laminate flooring and hardwood flooring are often laid directly over old vinyl flooring.

Modern self-adhesive tiles can generally be removed fairly easily by prying them up with a putty knife, making it easy to remove and replace one that becomes scratched, gouged, or damaged.

Vinyl Floor Tiles vs. Vinyl Sheet Flooring

The two standard types of vinyl flooring, self-adhesive tiles and sheet vinyl in rolls, are similarly produced and wear the same, which makes them both popular in homes. Though they share many of the same benefits, such as easy cleaning and their ability to mimic other materials, such as stone or wood, some key differences make each type perform better in certain settings.

Peel-and-stick vinyl floor tile typically comes in squares measuring 9 inches by 9 inches or 12 inches by 12 inches. Sheets come in 6-feet or 12-feet wide rolls. This is one of the reasons that DIYers have an easier time installing lower-price tile than more expensive sheet vinyl. However, tile has more seams than sheet vinyl, making the tiles susceptible to damage in kitchens and bathrooms from water and high heat (dropped pots, pans, and hair drying tools, for example). However, if you damage a tile, it's easy to pop it out and replace, versus sheet flooring, which can be a headache to fix.

Top Brands of Self-Adhesive Vinyl Floor Tiles

Armstrong: A leader in vinyl flooring, Armstrong has a huge selection of vinyl at every price point, from peel-and-stick to luxury vinyl planks.

TrafficMASTER: Known as a bargain vinyl tile maker, it's actually manufactured by the venerable flooring company, Shaw. TrafficMASTER's selection of both vinyl tile and sheet vinyl is sold mostly at Home Depot stores.

FloorPops: This company is a division of Wallpops, home of the popular wall decals. The company is known for its bold, graphic, and many contemporary designs of vinyl floor tiles.

Are Self-Adhesive Vinyl Floor Tiles Right For You?

Like other forms of plastic, vinyl is a relatively flexible material with desirable features that stand up to high traffic. All vinyl flooring is made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a synthetic plastic, which means you may want to know more about the environmental impact of how it's manufactured.

Comfortable

Vinyl floor tiles are comfortable underfoot which is perfect if you have the heavy foot traffic of kids or pets.

Color Safe

Since vinyl tile is made of multiple layers, it will retain its vibrancy and color for years, even if a layer or two has worn away. This is especially helpful in high traffic areas, such as entryways and mudrooms. Any type of vinyl flooring, from self-adhesive to LVF, is reliable when it comes to keeping its color, but it does fade over time and will generally need replacement within a decade.

Noise Buffer

In addition to comfort, the little bit of softness of self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles reduces the noise of foot traffic by absorbing some sound. Higher quality tiles will do a better job of providing a soundless surface for walking.

Stain- and Water-Resistant

Vinyl floor tiles are often used in areas of a home where there's a fair amount of moisture, such as a kitchen or bathroom. Vinyl, in general, cleans well, resists stains, and water is easily wiped up. However, if too much moisture affects the performance of a single tile, it's easily swapped out for a new one.

Environmental Concerns

Though modern-day vinyl production standards are strict, PVC production remains controversial because it usually ends up in landfills where it takes centuries to decompose. Chlorine is also used to make vinyl, and disposal of this element may danger the environment, as well. In addition, the lower-quality products can off-gas a small amount of toxic Volatile Organic Chemical (VOC) particles, although there is a debate as to what level they are emitted by flooring products and about the levels of danger and toxicity from the off-gassing.