Updating the kitchen involved several different projects that twisted around each other, so I am splitting this journey into several chapters. The plan: replace the flooring, update the walls, install a new light fixture and put in a tile backsplash. Initially I wanted new countertops but as I simplified the walls and floor, the countertops seemed to fit. They are formica, but they are in good shape. Maybe someday I will replace them, but not anytime soon. The existing cabinets were custom made to fit the idiosyncrasies of the room. They are old but fit the simple theme that I am planning so I kept them.
Order of operation: start and end with the floor. I needed to strip the old linoleum and put in a subfloor. Adding a 1/2 inch plywood subfloor and nailing it very securely in place eliminated a squeaky floor.
At this point in the remodel I stopped working on the floor and moved to the walls. My reason for doing this was to complete any job that might damage the final floor. If paint gets splashed, or a dropped tool gouges the subfloor it’s no big deal. So I completed the rest of the remodel before returning to the floor.
Returning to the floor at the end of the project, I chose a peel and stick groutable vinyl tile. The floor joists in my old house are spaced about 24 inches apart. This is way beyond the current 16 inch standard. The result is that, even with the new subfloor, there is more give in the floor than a ceramic tile could withstand. I didn’t want to put in the concrete underlay that would protect the ceramic because I wanted to avoid unnecessary weight. The vinyl tile is easy to install and forgives a little motion.
Before beginning, paint the subfloor with a tile primer. It prepares the surface to bind with the adhesive on the peel and stick tile. The next step is to decide what kind of pattern you want to use on the floor. I chose a brick style in which each row was staggered by 6 inches. Vinyl tile is installed from the center of the room outward. Use a tape measure and a chalk line to find the center and to mark straight lines which will act a guide when laying the tile. I used a red sharpie to mark my straight lines because chalk rubs off and I wouldn’t confuse my guide lines with the lines I used to nail down the subfloor.
Groutable vinyl can be installed with a space for grout for an appearance that is more like ceramic, or the tiles can be butted directly against each other for a smoother appearance. I prefer the appearance of ceramic so I used 1/4 inch spacers to leave room for the grout. The spacers also act as a second assurance that the tiles remain straight and evenly spaced.
The nice part about beginning at the center of the room is that you don’t have to cut any tiles until you reach the edges of the room. The only tools necessary to cut vinyl tile are a razor knife and a straight edge. Score the tile and bend it gently. The tile will snap along the scored line.
The final step is to grout the tile. You will need vinyl grout, water, a sponge, a putty knife and a rubber float.
Alas, I forgot to take photos of the kitchen floor as it was grouted. Happily, I had photos of a different floor using the same technique. Use the putty knife to run a layer of grout over the gaps between the tiles. Next, work the grout down into the gaps by gently rubbing the float over the tile. Finally, wash the excess off the tile with the sponge and water. Grout the floor in small sections to avoid the grout setting and becoming difficult to clean off of the tile. When the entire floor has been grouted you will need to clean any remaining grout film off of the tile.
I have three vinyl floors installed in the house. I have been very pleased with their appearance. They are easily cleaned with a squirt and mop product. Just be sure to read the bottle to make sure it can be used on vinyl flooring. There are many products from which to choose.
One lesson I learned in the grouting of the kitchen floor is to use the recommended vinyl grout. The big box hardware stores all carry vinyl grout, but the nearest big box store is 80 miles from my house. I got home without the grout and bought regular grout from a local hardware store. Regular grout is meant to fill deeper gaps than the space between vinyl tiles. The grout in my kitchen has already broken out in small spaces. I will eventually have to replace it with the right product. On the bright side, since it is such a thin bead of grout it will be easy to remove when I get around to it!