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Vinyl Flooring in general

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      10.06.2010 15:08
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      A good looking floor that's relatively easy to do yourself

      B&Q self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles have been very useful to us over the years. My first experience of them was at our previous home, probably about six or seven years ago, when we took up the hall carpet as it was causing my other half's wheelchair no end of trouble. Underneath it there were already the basic, boring Marley tiles (although I was very glad that they were there, bare concrete would have been rather more of a problem!), but after a while we wanted something a bit more interesting to brighten up the passage so we took ourselves off to B&Q and came back with a batch of pine parquet floor-style square vinyl tiles, some a light brown, some a dark brown, and laid them chequerboard to a fairly good effect.

      My only previous experience of vinyl flooring was at my parents' house. For some reason they never wanted to use any adhesive to keep the edges in place, so it always looked tatty and curled up even when it was new. Not surprisingly, then, I'd never had a particularly good mental image of sheet vinyl, so I think that was probably what mainly attracted me to the idea of self adhesive tiles.

      There are 3 different levels of quality for these - the value range (usually in their white and orange boxes), then a standard range in a blue box, before you reach the 'Premium' ones which are in a charcoal grey box. The thickness increases as the quality improves, with the cheapest being 1.2mm thick, and the most expensive two being 2mm. This may not sound much, but it's quite significant when you're cutting them, however the main difference between the different qualities though is the softness of the vinyl, which really does make a huge difference to the cutting. So far we've used the value and the standard ones, both at the 305mm square size (roughly a foot square), which have the greatest ranges of designs.

      My memory of those first tiles is that they were less soft than they are now, so I believe that the quality has improved. I seem to remember having more trouble cutting corners and curves with my Stanley knife back then, and that the top surface was more brittle when cut. I have very recently done a repeat performance with our new hall floor, for much the same reason - to improve the passage of my other half's chair as he manoeuvres in and out of doorways. There's few things more annoying in that context than wrinkly carpets that pull away from the door grippers!

      Unfortunately a previous owner had agreed to self-adhesive underlay, so despite the fact that the carpet was loose, the underlay was quite a challenge to get rid of, but at least the Marley tiles got the clean of their lives before I started laying the new ones over them! It is vital that the surface to be covered with these self-adhesive tiles is clean, dry & dust-free, otherwise they will peel off at the edges and will be very easily damaged, and will quickly look awful.

      Obviously the simple bit is laying whole tiles, you're supposed to work out the centre of the room, do 'cross-hairs' to ensure that your lines are straight, and work out from the centre, but that's a little more awkward for a long, narrow hallway. I have tended to use the underlying tiles, as long as they were laid straight of course, as a guide, and start with a tramway of whole tiles up the centre of the hall and work out from there. In fact, if you can get a double line of whole tiles up the centre all the better, so it's worth laying the tiles with their backing still on side by side to see how many will go next to each other before you take the plunge of actually sticking your first tile down.

      For filling in the gaps, and going round doorframes and the like, with part-tiles, making paper stencils first is essential, as is remembering to reverse them if you're then drawing the lines onto the back of the tile. I've lost count of the number of tiles I've wasted having forgotten to do this, usually when I've been working too long and trying to finish too fast!

      These standard tiles (the ones that we used were Natural Terracotta Effect) were great to cut into, it's almost more an act of carving the corners with a good sharp blade rather than worrying about it cracking as you turn the corner, which tends to happen with the value ones. More on those in a minute. They have a great soft surface, and despite not being the top-of the-range ones they do have a certain amount of a cushioned feel. Overall, the finished look is very satisfying, and from experience I know that they will last well, even despite the pounding they get from Ian's chair!

      I'll just talk quickly about the value range - we are doing a long-haul overhaul of the smallest room in the house, which is actually our youngest daughter's bedroom. Everything's being done piece-meal when I have the time to do it, as all of her bedroom furniture (and junk) needs to be removed from the room with each job! She chose some grey-blue B&Q value tiles, which I can't now find on their website so they may have been discontinued. They are adequate for the amount of wear that they get, and on the whole were fairly easy to lay, but being only 1.2mm thick they're fairly easy to accidentally bend and split.

      This also has implications for the cutting of corners and you really have to be careful in case the surface cracks when you're turning the corner. They're not cushioned at all, but that doesn't bother her. So far they've stayed stuck to the floor and haven't suffered any damage, so they're ok if that's all that you can stretch to, although it's important to note that they are not recommended for all domestic use, and I have a feeling that they wouldn't last very long under heavy usage, although I'm happy to be proved wrong!

      One last thing - wear knee pads. It's punishing on the knees after a little while! Oh, and keep an eye on your knife blade & keep it sharp!

      To summarise, these tiles are very versatile, and have a great range of designs, and even the cheapest can look good with care.

      The 305mm square tiles are currently priced as follows on the B&Q website:

      Premium £8.98
      suitable for use in all areas of the home including 'splash areas' as they are water resistant. High durability. 2mm

      B&Q Self Adhesive Vinyl Tile £5.98
      1.6 mm, suitable for general use, and water resistant.


      B&Q Value Self Adhesive Vinyl Tile £2.68
      1.2mm, not suitable for living areas, but suitable for busy areas, and water resistant

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