House

Installing Groutable Vinyl Tile – A Laundry Room Makeover

This whole buying a house thing has turned out to be a lot of work. It doesn’t help that I’ve been sick for the past month, but that’s all behind me now (right? I hope so. I’m tired of being sick). Not that being sick slowed me down at all, which was probably part of the reason it lasted so long. That and it turned out to be worse than I thought. Either way, sick or not, there are still a million things to do to the house. This weekend, it was the laundry room.

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As you know, or may not if this is your first time here, the laundry room is huge in this house. Huge and empty. It could double for a bedroom if the water heater wasn’t in there. It’s the biggest laundry room I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen lots of houses in my life–as a kid, my grandparents would take us to open houses in fancy new developments when there was nothing to do. I still go to those open houses for fun. You know what, on retrospect, I think our house in Virginia’s laundry room was pretty big too, but it had a lot of stuff in it. We’re getting off the point. The point is the laundry room floor.

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Look at that before picture. Look at it! Ugly, old linoleum, probably original from 1964 when the house was built. It was time to get rid of it. I know, it sounds kind of frivolous–it is just the laundry room and there are other things in the house to do, but it’s the worst floor in the house and I have to look at it every time I walk inside. Plus I know if I hook up the washer/dryer and actually put stuff in that room, I’ll never get it done.

So this weekend I decided to tackle the floor.

You may recall that I already redid the master bathroom floor with groutable vinyl tile. That took the better part of a day despite being a small space because there were many cuts around pipe holes and I had to remove the baseboards (baseboard AND quarter round, otherwise I might not have bothered). This time, there was no quarter round, so I figured I could just tile up to the baseboard, and if it turned out badly, put up a shoe molding to fix that.

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Picking the tile took quite a long time. I got it from Lowes since it seems to me they have a better selection, and better quality, than the tiles at Home Depot. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the specific tile I wanted! Ugh. I was planning on going with the 18×18″ grey (Castaway is the color) tile for the laundry, but they were completely out, with no word on when they would get more. The only other option was ordering some in from the nearest store (2 hours away), which would take five days. So I spent 45 minutes staring at the tile selections trying to decide what to do. I really did not want a brown tile but the white-ish tiles were kind of ugly. My other option was to go with the same tile I’d used in the bathroom (French Gray), but the problem was that it was only a 12×12″ tile, and I wanted to use something larger for the laundry room since it is such a big space.

Forty-five minutes later, I decided to go with the 12×24″ tile in the Harbor Slate color. In these pictures, it’s going to look brown but I swear it is not that brown. It does have some brown in it, but it’s mostly a dark grey-ish/brown color. When compared to the French Gray, it doesn’t look much different.

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This is the best true-to-color photo I have of it. Much less brown than the wide shots.

So I bought the tile. The laundry room is about 12′ x 10.5′ (see, big), so I needed 4 boxes of tile (18 tiles per box, 36 sq ft per box). The chart on the back says to buy six, but don’t believe that for a minute. Do your own calculations and add 5-10% for cuts/mistakes. I have about 7 tiles leftover, which is plenty of extra. I bought the tile then I let it sit. You’re supposed to let any kind of flooring “adjust” to the house for 24-36 hours.

Finally, it was time to actually install. First thing, I cleaned. I swept and scrubbed and mopped the whole room. For some reason, this room attracts dirt like no other. Probably because it has two outside doors and a window. But I cleaned and let it dry completely. Tiles stick better to a clean surface (no dust).

Then, I marked the center of the room. The good thing about that ugly old laminate is that it had lines in it which made finding the center super easy, and saved me from having to deal with chalk lines. It also made it easy to line up tile edges. After I’d found the center, I took the time to lay out most of the tiles. This allowed me to 1) make sure I had enough tile, and 2) see if the edges would match up okay. What I discovered was that if I started in the middle, I would have to cut tiles on both sides into narrow strips. I figured it would be easier, and more secure, to shift the tiles to one side and therefore only have to cut along one wall, which would save time, and instead of having 2 narrow rows, only have one and it would be less narrow. Plus, the narrow row is along the wall where the washer and dryer go, so no one will really see it.

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After I made this discovery, I took a look at my tiles. I’d just laid them out haphazardly, so I did a check to make sure the pattern looked okay. I moved a few around. Then we were ready to start.

All this prep time took about an hour.

I started on the garage wall with the middle tile. I knew where my middle line was so I started there. Since the tiles were already laid out, it was easy to just grab the tile and place it. The great thing about these tiles, and the reason I like them so much, is that they are peel and stick. Peel and stick? you say, that sounds cheap. They’re actually about the same cost as tile and you get to skip steps such as thinset and leveling the floor, which is a big plus in my opinion. I know my floor is not level. It’s an old house. It’s just how things are. With the vinyl tiles, I don’t have to worry about that. But these tiles are thick and strong, and they mostly look and feel like real tile, and they come with a lifetime warranty.

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It’s super easy to put down. Just take off the paper backing and stick it down. You’re supposed to use a special roller tool, but I just stand on them for a bit then stick something heavy on them as I move on. Since the tile is groutable (the grout makes it look like real tile and way more expensive than sticky tile), I use 1/8″ spacers to give it a finished look.

The hard part, of course, is cutting around the door frame. I know, I know, you’re supposed to saw into the frame and slide the tile underneath. Well, some of us are lazy (and don’t have a sawzall), so I used paper to make a template and just cut the tile around the door. The other hard part was the water heater. We installed a new one a few months ago so there was no way we were moving it just to do the floor.

I laid down all of the floor myself, but my brother-in-law came over to watch me do it, and he helped with the water heater. What we did was very carefully lifted up the legs one by one and wedged the tile underneath. Part of the problem is that the original floor under the water heater  wasn’t even finished. So we did what we could. No one will be able to tell the difference.

So the tiles were down! That took almost 5 hours. Yes, it takes a lot longer than you think it will. Mostly because you have to make lots of cuts. Since I staggered the tile, I had to cut every other end row. But it looks better that way. Once it’s down, though, there’s no need to wait to grout. Unlike tile, you can grout right away. So we did.

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My brother-in-law helped here. Two people doesn’t really make sticking tile down any faster, but it will make grouting faster. One to grout, one to wipe up. The grout is a special pre-mixed grout specifically for groutable vinyl tile. There’s no need to seal it and if you ever need to regrout, you can go right over the top. We grouted the whole thing in about 2 hours. After you grout, you’re supposed to wait at least 24 hours before walking/doing anything on the floor.

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It’s a completely different room now. It went from sad, 1960s laundry room to designer HGTV laundry room (or it would if it had cabinets and things). Seriously, it’s a huge change that looks amazing. The pictures don’t really do it justice.

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So there. For about $200, a brand-new laundry room. So easy (though my legs were not happy with me the next day). And I didn’t have to rip out the baseboards or even put down a quarter round. There was some space underneath to wedge them in. For the outside doors, I plan on getting some colored caulk to run along just to protect against dirt. I did take up the threshold between the laundry room and the dining room so it will be need to be put back, but that’s about all that’s left to do.

 

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