Sheet vinyl is a practical, hard-wearing flooring material which only needs to be swept, washed and occasionally polished to keep it in condition. It is therefore suitable for rooms where there are likely to be spills and water splashes.

Buying vinyl

Vinyl is available in a variety of colours, patterns and effects such as ceramic tiles, cork, natural stone and timber and surfaces are both smooth and textured. Cushioned vinyl, which has a layer of foam material between the vinyl and the backing, is quieter, warmer and more comfortable than un-cushioned vinyl and is particularly suitable in the kitchen, where you may spend time standing. Estimating quantity Most vinyl flooring comes in 2m widths: it is also available in 4m widths, which may eliminate the need for joins. If the room is wider than that, you will have to cut the vinyl into suitable lengths and join them. Remember to allow an extra 75mm for each length. Manufacturers will normally state pattern repeats for the material, so when you are matching patterns you will be able to estimate how much extra is needed. Usually you should allow for an extra pattern repeat on each length except the first. Most suppliers will give you a free estimate on the quantity needed if you submit a floor plan before ordering the material.

Preparing the sub-floor

Vinyl can be laid on almost any floor provided the surface is smooth, level, dry. clean and free from polish or grease – and of sound construction. All types of floor should be covered with flooring grade plywood at least 4mm thick or tempered hardboard not less than 3mm thick. Solid floor A solid floor should.incorporate a damp proof membrane: if it does not. this is a good opportunity to install one as described earlier in the Course. Fill any cracks or holes in the floor with a levelling compound which should also be used to level off a slightly sloping floor. To fix sheets of plywood or hardboard you must drill and plug holes and secure the sheets with countersunk screws. Timber floor Check there is adequate ventilation below the floorboards; installation of airbricks will solve problems in this area. Secure any loose boards and punch down protruding nail heads. If the floor is uneven, plane down any projections.

Always lay hardboard sheets rough side up and fix them to the floor with ring shank or serrated nails at 100mm intervals. The rough surface enables the nail heads to be well bedded in and provides a better key for the adhesive. Hardboard has a low moisture content and if it absorbs any moisture it will expand; when it dries out. it will then shrink. You should wet the hardboard with water, using a dampened sponge, at least 48 hours before laying it. When it dries out. it will grip tightly around the nail heads.

For a very uneven floor, screw down 12 or 18mm flooring grade chipboard at 300mm intervals, using countersunk screws, to provide a level surface. Alternatively, if the boards are severely warped, rotten or otherwise damaged, it is worth removing them and laying a new floor to avoid trouble later.

Warning Most manufacturers do not recommend laying vinyl over a timber floor which has been treated with wood preservative, although you can lay Kraft paper with an aluminium facing onto the timber, aluminium side down. If a preservative has been applied, leave it for a month before laying Kraft paper and fixing plywood or hardboard on top. If you have undcrfioor heating, make sure the temperature does not exceed 27°C.

Preparing vinyl

Before laying vinyl, slacken the roll and leave it in a warm room overnight so it will soften, relax any strain in the sheet and be easier to work. Some manufacturers suggest reverse-rolling the vinyl or laying it flat.

Fitting a single sheet

Since walls are rarely straight, you must cut the vinyl to fit the contour of the walls. If you are working in a small room which can be covered with a single width and the vinyl is very flexible, you can lay it out so it overlaps all round and cut it into the edges of the wall with a trimming knife. Use a metal straight-edge to push the vinyl into the angle between the floor and the wall. If the vinyl is not flexible enough to do this or if you feel more confident having a cutting guide, you should make a template. This is particularly useful when laying vinyl in a bathroom, where you will have to fit the flooring around a wash-basin or WC pedestal. Use stiff card for the template – or felt paper, which is thick, lies flat and does not slide about: this is the paper used under carpels and you can buy it from a carpet supplier. Make sure any curls are face down. Making a template Lay a sheet ol’ fell paper or any Stiff card – on the floor to be covered. Rough-trim the paper to fit the required area, leaving a gap of about 16mm around the wall and the fittings. When fitting the template – and later the vinyl on the floor, you will have to make a single cut from the back of the fitting cut-out to the nearest edge; as long as you follow lines on the pattern, this will not show once the vinyl is laid.

If you have to use more than one sheet, overlap the sheets and draw two check marks across the overlap to ensure the sheets can be repositioned accurately later. Once the paper is lying flat and has been roughly fitted, secure it with drawing pins or heavy weights to prevent any movement.

Use a pair of compasses with a locking device, set at about a 25mm radius, and with the pointer vertical against the wall or fitting trace the outline of each in turn onto the template with a fell lip pen. Pipes and supports which are true circles can be squared off using a straight-edge on three or four sides. Draw a check circle on the template so you can cheek the compasses are correctly set when marking the vinyl.

Transferring template to vinyl Lay out the sheet of vinyl to be fitted in a convenient area and position the template accurately on lop of it. using pins or heavy weights to prevent any movement. When working with a patterned vinyl, you may have to adjust the template to make sure the pattern runs correctly in relation to the fittings. If using more than one sheet of fell paper, make sure the check marks align.

Check the compasses are still at the same radius and. keeping the point always on and at right-angles 10 the marked outline, follow the outline so the fell tip pen marks ihe flooring. Any squared-off pipes can now be traced back, using a straight-edge. the centre of the square located and an accurate circle drawn on the vinyl. Before removing the template, check again the compass setting has not altered and that the paper has not moved. Take off the template and cut out or trim the marked areas on the vinyl, which should then fit neatly around the fittings.

Fitting lengths

If the room is too large to be covered by a single sheet, you will have to adopt a different procedure. Measure the width of the room and cut a length of vinyl from the roll, allowing an extra 75mm. Tackle the area by the door first, since this is going to have the most wear and you should always allow a full width of vinyl around it. Lay the vinyl square to the door opening.

Using a square-cut wood block 125 x 75 x 25mm. with a felt tip pen on the side furthest from the wall, follow the contour of the wall on either side of the door and across the door opening to mark the outline on the vinyl. Mark on lines parallel to the door opening from the edge of the wall outlines already marked to ensure the vinyl tils snugly in the door opening and the edge is not visible when the door is closed. A shape-tracer is ideal for marking out the outline of an architrave to achieve a really neat finish. You can now cut along the marked lines on each side of the door. Place a straight-edge on the vinyl to be laid and cut along the outline- with a trimming knife, with the waste on the outside of the knife. You will find it easier to work if you pull the vinyl away from the wall.

Reposition the first length against the wall with the door and mark a guide line on the floor along the opposite edge. Place your block of wood centrally on this edge and mark lines at either end of the block on both the vinyl and the floor. It is important the length of the block is more than the surplus to be removed from that length of vinyl. Slide the vinyl the length of the block along the edge guide line so the marks transferred from either end of the block coincide. With the block positioned lengthways against the wall, mark a line onto the vinyl as you move the block along the wall. Trim oil’ the surplus with a straight-edge on the marked line. Reposition the’ vinyl along the guide line and check for fit.

This method ensures a perfect fit. since any irregularities or projections on the wall will be transferred onto the vinyl. Repeal for the opposite wall, sliding the vinyl the length of the block in the opposite direction.

To lay the second length of vinyl, overlap the trimming edges on both lengths and check the pattern aligns and matches exactly. Measure the size of one pattern repeat; the repeat dimension is marked from the wall to the edge of the vinyl to be cut. following the contour of the wall along the width of the vinyl. The surplus, which is never more than the measured dimension of the repeat, can then be trimmed oil’ in the usual way.

Before cutting along the overlapping lengths. spread a 50mm strip of vinyl adhesive at the ends of the vinyl sheets, stopping within 150mm of the join, to prevent the lengths of vinyl slipping out of position. Place an offcut of vinyl under the overlapping lengths to protect the blade of the knife as it cuts. Make a vertical cut along the overlap as near to the centre as possible – along the border if you have a tile pattern – through both sheets of vinyl. Remove the surplus vinyl and the lengths will lie neatly together.

When laying the final length of vinyl, position it against the wall opposite the door and then draw it away until the pattern matches the previous length on the overlap. Measure the width of one pattern repeat and mark a line the same measurement as the pattern width onto the edge of the vinyl, following the contours of the wall: trim off the excess as before. Slide the last length against the wall and trim the overlap as before. Where you cut the overlap will depend on whether you want to save any waste for use elsewhere.


Vinyl can be loose-laid when just one sheet is used to cover a small area, although you should still stick down the area around a door. When laying more than one length, you should always stick down the vinyl at the ends and along each seam with adhesive or double-sided adhesive tape – as recommended by the manufacturer. Some recommend sticking down the whole floor covering – and certainly the centre sheet if laying more than two sheets of vinyl – particularly when laying cushioned vinyl. Any shrinkage will be in the length of the vinyl. If you make sure you stick down the sheets at each end. you will overcome this problem since each length will be held securely.

When using adhesive, apply it to the floor with a notched spreader. Press the vinyl onto the adhesive and rub with a clean dampened cloth. Always wipe ofF excess adhesive immediately with a clean. dampened cloth.

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