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Scuffed hospital floors and roadside diners have given vinyl tiles a bad rap. And, yet, homeowners are gravitating toward the once-taboo material now more than ever. Why? As far as kitchen floors go, we’ve always considered hardwood the crème de la crème, but vinyl is cost-effective, especially if it’s just one small snippet of a larger renovation. For example, woods such as hickory and white oak can cost anywhere from $8 to $25 per square foot, while man-made vinyl is $2 to $5, according to an estimation from The Spruce. Let that sink in for a minute. 

Now, on to even better news: Vinyl tile has come a long, long way from its drab doctor office days, thanks to companies like U.K.-based Atrafloor and its superchic prints. The company sells a ton of options that have a wood grain effect (no lie: the wide strips come out looking like real planks), but it also offers products that are designed to look like ceramic, stone, and marble. We asked a member from Atrafloor’s operations team what it actually takes to install them. Here’s everything you need to know: 

Start With a Sketch 

Step one is nailing down how many tiles you’ll actually need for the project you have in mind. Atrafloor generally asks customers to send them a sketch of their area, outlining all the different measurements, for instance: Is there an island in the middle of the room? Does the fridge jut out? Then they’ll come back with diagrams showing how the strips will fit your space, so you can get a clear picture before you fully commit. 

Triple Check for Moisture

The floor you’ll be placing the vinyl on (the subfloor) should be even and, most importantly, dry. If you’re unsure if your space is up to snuff, use a hygrometer ($5 on Amazon) to gauge it. The subfloor is considered damp when readings are above 75 percent. 

Account for Demolition

This part will vary, depending on your existing floors, and Atrafloor’s adhesive tiles can top most types of surfaces. If you have wood floors, remove or replace any damaged or bent boards and add a ¼-inch plywood subfloor on top to protect it. For concrete, fill in any cracks, holes, or grooves that might trap moisture. If you’re covering up ceramic tiles, secure any loose ones, give them a thorough cleaning, and apply a self-leveling compound (the thin layer of cement will give you a smooth surface). And, in the case that you’re working with existing vinyl, it’s best to remove those tiles entirely and apply the new strips to the original subfloor. 

Don’t Touch the Thermostat 

During the first week following the install (which Atrafloor recommends having a professional tackle), maintaining a consistent temperature in the room is key. The adhesive typically takes a few days to fully set, and the strips will slide out of place if the room becomes drastically warmer or colder than what it was when they were laid down. 

Renters, You Can Do It, Too

Don’t shy away just because you don’t own your place. While Atrafloor’s products last around 10 years, you don’t have to fully commit. To avoid leaving a residue all over your existing floors, just add a layer of ¼-inch plywood boards before you get yourself in a sticky situation. 

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