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Updating your Kitchen Floor

It is possible to install your new kitchen floor over some old floor surfaces such as “sheet” vinyl but if you do, you need to make sure that any holes or cracks are filled with flooring adhesive. If you are demolishing the entire kitchen, you may want to tear out the old. If you do, you will need to remove the adhesive that held on the old flooring which can be very labor intensive.

Before you install your new floor, you will need to prepare the sub-floor to receive the new surface. The type of sub-floor you have will help determine the method you use for installing your new floor and will also effect how difficult the preparation will be but regardless of what type of floor you are installing, the rules are basically the same. The sub-floor should be smooth, clean and stable.

Almost any type of flooring can be used in a kitchen but carpet is not recommended even the best stain resistant carpet will have a hard time standing up to the wear and tear that will occur in the kitchen. Hard wood can be used but it must be sealed to protect it from water damage. Laminates are okay to use in kitchens but you need to be careful about drying up spills quickly. If moisture seeps into the joints laminate, it can cause swelling.

One piece “sheet” vinyl, ceramic, porcelain and natural stone are the best choice. They are easy to clean and effective for resisting stains and water penetration. Ceramic tiles are easy to cut and they come in a variety of surfaces. Porcelain and natural stone are often more expensive because the color goes all the way through the tile. They are more difficult to cut but with the right equipment, they are easy enough to work with. Vinyl flooring is fairly easy to work with and is inexpensive. It can however, get a little complicated cutting it to the correct size and shape.

Regardless of which type of flooring you are installing, you need to start by preparing the sub-floor first. All low points and cracks should be filled with a latex- based floor patch.
If you decide on “sheet” vinyl, you will need to make a template of the floor plan. Roll out a large piece of scribing felt (Tape the edges of the felt to the wall to hold it down) then cut out the perimeter. When the template is complete, pull it up and move it to a large open space with a flat surface to cut the vinyl. Roll out the vinyl on the flat surface then orient the template on top of the vinyl so that the pattern runs as desired, then cut around the perimeter of the template using a sharp utility knife, changing blades as necessary.

Test fit the vinyl in the kitchen before gluing. Perimeter type vinyl flooring requires the perimeter only to be glued but “sheet” vinyl requires the entire floor to be glued. You should follow the manufacturer instructions when gluing the vinyl but generally you will apply the adhesive using a notched trowel. If you have a seam in your vinyl flooring, you need to overlap the seem, make sure the patterns match up and then lay a straight edge along the seam, press down firmly and cut through both layers. A base board placed around the perimeter is a good addition to finish it off and help to insure the edges stay down.

Ceramic and similar tiles all install in generally the same manor as each other. Again start by preparing the sub floor with a good underlayment. Use tile adhesive to fill in cracks and low places.

It is wise to lay out the tile on the floor before using the adhesive. Strike straight lines in the center of the floor in both directions then work away from the line on either side with the tile using spacers to assure the tiles continue straight. To make necessary cuts, it is best to buy or rent a “wet saw”. You should follow the instructions that accompany the saw. To make irregular cuts that can’t be made with the “wet saw”, you can use snips to chip away at the tile. If you are using ceramic tile and you don’t need to make a lot of intricate cuts, manual tile cutters are available. These are relatively inexpensive but are not best to use on thicker porcelain or natural stone as these are thicker and more difficult to cut.

To lay the new tile, you should use an adhesive that shows on the label that it is good for use in kitchens and with the materials that you are using. Spread the adhesive to the underlayment with the straight edge of a trowel and then make grooves in the adhesive with the notched side. Do the same to the bottom of each tile then firmly push the tile into place carefully tapping each side in order to level the tile and make it even with the others. You should once again use spacers specially designed for laying tile to ensure consistent grout lines. Generally, the smaller the tile you’re installing, the smaller the spacer you should use for a thinner grout line. Larger tile generally look better with a larger grout line. After the tile is in place, allow the adhesive to dry for 48 hours before removing the spacers and applying the grout.

Choose a sanded grout in a color that coordinates well with your design. White is generally not a good choice for floors because it will show off any dirt that collects. To apply grout, mix the grout according to the directions on the label. Apply the grout with a padded grout float. Cover the floor in sections then wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge then allow it to dry. After it turns cloudy, wipe it down again with a clean wet sponge and keep repeating the process until it dries clear.

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