Self-adhesive or peel and stick tiles are an affordable way to achieve gorgeous, durable floors. If you are tired of your concrete floors, just slap on some vinyl tiles, and you will have a brand new, high-end floor in no time.
I wrote this guide to show you step-by-step how to prepare concrete floors for self-adhesive vinyl tile. With the right tools and a bit of elbow grease, you can get your concrete ready in a day or two.
Table of Contents
You will need:
- A vacuum cleaner with the right attachment meant for concrete floors
- Cement mix to repair holes
- Cement mixer and buckets
- Flooring roller
- Self-leveling compound
- Spirit level
- Floor sander
Step-by-Step Guide to Prepare Concrete Floor For Self-Adhesive Tiles
Follow these steps to get your concrete floor ready for peel and stick tiles.
Step 1: Strip any material on the floor
Mix a ¼ cup of ammonia with a gallon of warm water. Mop the floors with this solution to remove any traces of wax.
Step 2: Vacuum the floor
Choose the right vacuum attachments for hard-surface floors. You want to pick up as much dust and debris off the floors as possible. Even small particles of dirt can telegraph through thin self-adhesive vinyl tiles.
Step 3: Repair gaps and holes
Any dents, dings, and other unevenness on concrete floors will show through the stick and peel tiles, making for unsightly flooring. You can achieve a smooth finishing for your vinyl tiles by taking the time to repair cracks and holes before installing the tiles.
First, prepare the holes for filling. Use a chisel to straighten the edges of the holes for easy application of floor patching compound. Chisel moderately to avoid expanding the holes unnecessarily.
Use a small vacuum brush attachment to clean out the dust in the chiseled holes. Getting rid of the dust helps the hole patching compound to go on smoothly and for the vinyl tiles to adhere better.
Pour the patching compound into the holes and cracks. Use the flat side of a trowel to level the patching compound and keep it filled inside the holes. Ensure the surface over the hole, now covered with the filler, is reasonably flat and leveled. Let the compound dry for 24 hours before you can repair the rest of the concrete floor.
Step 4: Level uneven spots on the floor
Stick-and-peel vinyl tiles do not do well on uneven surfaces. The difference in height between two spots on the floor can create enough pressure for the tiles to unglue and separate.
Use a spirit level to identify uneven spots. You might find it hard to spot uneven areas, and the floor might look perfectly even to the naked eye. A simple carpenter’s level will take the guesswork out of locating the spots that need to be leveled.
Use an electric floor grinder to even out large sections on the floor, or use 40 to 60 grit sandpaper to level a few holes. A diamond disc grinder will come in handy when leveling a severely uneven floor. Polish those higher spots until they are level with the rest of the floor. Use the spirit level one more time to ensure there are no high spots left on the floor.
Step 5: Spread self-leveling over the concrete
Self-leveling compound helps to achieve a flat, smooth concrete surface on which to lay your tiles.
Once you repair the cracks and holes on the floor and sand down those high spots, applying a self-leveling compound will result in an attractive surface that is easy to work with when installing self-adhesive vinyl tiles.
First, sweep and vacuum the floor to get rid of the sanding dust. Remember, you want the final floor surface leveled without bumps, as these can weaken self-adhesive vinyl tiles. So, take your time to get the floor completely clean before applying the self-leveling compound.
Next, you can prepare the self-leveling compound. Mix the product according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most self-leveling products have the latex compound already mixed in, and all you need to do is mix the product with the right amount of water.
Before applying the compound, allow the room to acclimatize to between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help the compound to flow consistently across the room.
Pour the compound uniformly on the floor. Start from one corner of the room and pour it across to the other side of the room. You will have enough compound to spread across a portion of the room.
Use the flat side of the trowel to spread the compound into adjacent areas. Pour more compound as needed and spread it with the trowel until you cover the entire room with the self-leveling compound.
The compound will settle and harden within 2 hours, allowing you to walk on and use the floor. If your concrete floor is severely damaged or unleveled, you may need to apply an extra layer of self-leveling material. Wait 24 hours before going over the floor with another layer of the compound.
Pro tip: Be sure not to mix the self-leveling compound with too much water. If a white film forms on top of the mixture, that’s a sign you have added too much water, and you may need to pour in some more self-leveling powder.
Step 6: Apply primer
A concrete floor primer is crucial for the successful installation of peel and stick tiles. Primer acts as a moisture barrier between the concrete surface and the adhesive at the back of the tiles.
Self-adhesive vinyl tiles installed on unprimed concrete floors will have a short lifespan. Unprimed concrete absorbs and traps underground water between the concrete surface and the tile. This weakens the adhesive, causing the tiles to come apart.
Choose a primer suitable for peel and stick tiles. Manufacturers usually indicate the recommended primer on the tile packaging, so this is a good place to start. Generally, you want to opt for an acrylic or epoxy primer as these are easily absorbed into the concrete floor and don’t leave an oily film on the surface, which can make it hard for the tiles to adhere to the concrete subfloor.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing and applying the primer. For stick and peel vinyl tiles, the first coat of primer is usually thinned to fill the smallest of holes on the concrete floor. Moisture can get trapped in these small holes and weaken the tiles’ adhesive, but a good primer will prevent this. Apply the second primer coating at full strength without diluting to ensure that the floor is completely sealed.
Step 7: Sand the primed floor
Priming creates a moisture barrier on the surface of the concrete floor. But, the glossy barrier can make it difficult for vinyl tiles to adhere. You will have to sand the floor to improve its girth and strength the bond with the tiles.
Use fine or superfine sandpaper for sanding the primed floor. Buff the floor slightly to make it rough without removing the layer of primer. Once the floor has enough grith, you can now lay the self-adhesive vinyl tiles!
Pro tip: Keep in mind that some manufacturers will void any warranty on tiles installed on unprimed concrete floors. Please check if this is the case with the self-adhesive tiles you plan to install.
Here are some extra tips to help you along with preparing your concrete floors for vinyl tiles..
- It is best to install a new concrete slab if your floors are severely damaged with large cracks or holes. A patching and self-leveling compound will not help repair a damaged concrete surface. Allow the new floor to cure for at least 60 days before it can be ready for vinyl tile installation.
- If installing tiles in a moisture-prone area such as the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, or basement, I strongly recommend performing a moisture test. It will help you detect if the concrete has trapped excessive water.
- To deal with a moisture problem on concrete floors, consider installing a water-proof cushioning between the subfloor and tiles. The cushioning will also give the self-adhesive vinyl tiles an extra soft underfoot feel.
Summary: Prepare Concrete Floor For Self-Adhesive Vinyl Tiles
Concrete is a perfect candidate on which to install peel and stick vinyl tiles. It is seamless, solid, and hardwearing. But, you must start with a clean floor for your vinyl-tiled floor to come out looking professional.
You may have to level and prime your floors as well. Preparation might seem like a lot of work but, skip this step, and you will be left with shoddy tile work. I hope this guide will come in handy as you plan to get your concrete floors ready for self-adhesive vinyl tiles.