Installing Peel and Stick Vinyl Tile (for Realists)

That’s right, I’m still milking our kitchen makeover for every last blog post I can squeeze out of it! Today I’m ruminating on vinyl tile installation, and its pros and cons. To get up to speed on what we’ve done since we moved in, check out this post. Here’s a quick and dirty comparison of the old and the new floors:

floors before and after

Installing peel and stick tile sounds really easy to do, and looks really easy on home reno shows. I mean, it only has two steps: 1) Rip up old floors and 2) stick on tiles! Well friends, I’m here to burst your bubble and will not sugar coat this for you.

We went with peel and stick tile because we thought that it would be a quicker and cheaper option than ceramic tiles. One of our future plans is to do a complete kitchen reno, and we didn’t want to spend a lot of time and money on ceramic tile only to rip it up once we change the layout of the kitchen. I naively thought that using vinyl tile meant this could be done in a day, or a weekend tops; this turned out to be a huge underestimation. Between all of the steps involved (yes, I was lying when I said this only had two steps), we spent a week on this. We weren’t super efficient about it, but still, it took a lot more time than I was expecting. As my husband put it, using peel and stick makes the easiest part of installing tiles- the placement of the tiles- even easier; you still have to do almost the same amount of prep work before you can apply the tile. But getting to a level, smooth, clean surface takes a lot of time. So buckle up and let me take you through what this project actually involves!

Step 1A): Remove Old Flooring

If the original floors had come up easily then this would have taken a lot less time and I would be less bitter about it, but the linoleum was an absolute nightmare to remove. At first we could only get it off in 1 inch or so chunks that chipped off when we tried to peel it, leaving a paper and adhesive layer behind. I had a friend helping me with this step (Thanks MT!!) and after about an hour of making almost no progress, she suggested we look online for help. We found a few YouTube videos that recommended using a heat source to soften the glue first, which ended up being a lifesaver. We found the best method was using a heat gun to first soften the glue and a flat edge trowel to lift up the flooring- this left the least amount of paper/adhesive behind. Other variations we tried were an iron and a metal cake lifter, and a hair dryer and a putty knife. During this step, we wore half face masks with P100 cartridges for vapours and particulates- we had no idea what was under the floors and heating the linoleum gave off a pretty nasty plastic smell. We also kept all the windows open for ventilation, so this is not a Canadian winter friendly project.

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Using a heat gun and putty knife to lift the old linoleum

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I gave this step got a major thumbs down

Step 1B): Patch Uneven Areas & Repair Damaged Subfloor

Once the old flooring was up and the remaining adhesive and paper had been scraped off, we patched the surface with a product that Home Depot recommended, SimplePrep Pre-Mixed Floor Patch. My husband did this step and he didn’t like this product at all. Next time (haha, next time) we would use the stuff you mix yourself, because he found the consistency too thick. The product says it takes 4 hours to dry which was not the case for us; we found it took at least a day and some areas needed more than one coat. But we did have some pretty substantial areas to patch. Once the patch dried, we went over the floors with a scraper to even out any remaining bits of adhesive or raised edges from the patch and made sure to clean it really well. Some of the areas were still raised after this step so we drilled floor screws in to try and flatten these spots.

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Close-up of our super damaged subfloor before scraping off excess adhesive and paper

IMG_4720Subfloor after scraping off adhesive and applying patch compound

Step 1C): Prime Surface

When the surface was as smooth as we could get it, we cleaned it really well and then primed the subfloor with special vinyl tile primer. They didn’t sell this at Home Depot and we were actually advised by someone there to just use paint primer (like what you would use for walls) on the floor to prime it before laying the tile. This didn’t sound right to my husband because the paint primer wouldn’t have had good adhesion to the patched spots, which is similar surface to cement; so we kept looking online until we found a multipurpose surface primer by TEC, which Lowe’s sold. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if the patched spots were minimal, but we had large sections that were patched.

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Action shot of my husband painting on primer

Step 2A): Apply Tiles

After the primer dried we were finally ready for the easy part- sticking on the tiles. This was pretty straightforward and there are lots of resources online to help with this. Basically you measure the room to find the midway point in either direction, then snap two chalk lines at these points that intersect at the centre of the floor. You put down the first tile at the centre point (without removing the backing) and do a dry run first so you can move the center tile towards either wall if necessary- like if it will make the last tile on either side of the room an awkward length. We ended up snapping an additional chalk line 12 inches off the centre line so that we could line up the offset tile for the next row as well (our tiles were 24×12 inches). Most people recommend laying the tile in sections, not in rows- this helps to keep everything lined up and squared nicely. Since the tiles were vinyl, we were able to use a heat gun and a utility knife to cut them when required. We pretty much worked outward from the centre in sections in a sort of stepwise fashion, and periodically ran over the surface with a floor roller to make sure they were really stuck on.

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Lining up the first tiles with the chalk lines

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Making sure the tiles are good and stuck with a floor roller

Step 2B): Grout Tiles (Optional)

Although you can place the tiles right next to each other without grout, we decided to use the grout because I thought that the slightly beveled edge would collect dirt if we didn’t, and also I wanted this to look as much like ceramic tile as possible. The grout was applied differently to grout you would use for ceramic tile; we used a piping bag and a grout float to get it in the cracks and wiped the excess off the tile immediately with a wet sponge so it didn’t dry.

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In Conclusion…

The end result does look pretty fabulous, but honestly it was so much more work than I had planned on, I am feeling a bit jaded about it. I should have been more realistic about how long it would take to get the old floors up and the surface prepared. This will vary from floor to floor, and it’s the kind of thing you can’t know until you start. Also, the kitchen is kind of an important room. Not having a kitchen for a few days is really inconvenient, especially if your kitchen is in the middle of the house and prevents you from going in the basement. We ended up eating a lot of take out and microwave meals while this was in progress, so if you don’t love Beefaroni like my husband does, you may want to reconsider the impact that not having an oven or stove will have on your diet.

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On the whole I would say in the future, flooring is something I would consider hiring out, and I’m not buying the perception that vinyl tile is so much easier to install than ceramic (coming from someone who has never installed ceramic…). This was also our very first flooring project, so on the flip side, maybe it was a good way to learn? It was definitely cheaper to go with vinyl tile over ceramic; we spent about $400 on the tile and the rest of the supplies, including renting a floor roller.

Do you have any stories to share of projects that seem so easy and then snowball into a horrible nightmare that won’t end? Can you assure me that the floors look awesome and this was totally worth doing? I’d love to answer any questions you have about this project!

-C

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Knockoff Anthropologie Zebra Head

I first came across this Anthropologie zebra head when I was searching on Pinterest for black and white decorated spaces, and I fell in love.

Anthro Savannah Story Bust

I’ve also seen some pretty cute examples of stuffed (TOY!) animal heads for kids rooms, like this one from We Lived Happily Ever After. Seriously, how adorable is this deer head with the floral crown?!

WLHEA DIY Deer Head

Anyway, when I decided to do our third bedroom in a black and white colour scheme, I knew I had to have that zebra as part of the wall decor. As I discovered when I was shopping for lighting, coveting things that are only available in USD can be very pricey for us Canucks… and I am not anxious to repeat that experience. I came this close to placing the order, but it would have come to over $100 CAD after taxes and shipping. Major sad face. At this point in time I just can’t justify that kind of expense for wall art, so I put my DIY thinking cap on and got to Googling.

Now, I have never been very good at art. The only things I could ever draw well were geometric patterns, and my sister is the painter in the family. I was apprehensive about how this would turn out, but I figured all I had to lose was some old newspaper and a few hours of my life! I found two great tutorials from Lil Blue Boo and A Sharper Focus that took me through the major steps, and then I adjusted as I went to make it look how I wanted.

lil blue boo animal head tutorial

a sharper focus tutorial

I actually can’t believe how well it turned out for being made almost entirely out of crap I had lying around the house- masking tape, newspapers, flour, and paper towels. The only things I didn’t have on hand were Mod Podge and black paint, but I managed to borrow them from a friend, so I literally did not spend a dime on this. I’m not saying it turned out perfectly, but for that price…

collage

… I think it looks pretty damn good!

Do you have any great knock-off DIY hacks to share? It’s so satisfying to know I saved myself $100!

-C

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We finally have blinds up!

Yeah! Our living room/dining room windows had been completely bare since we took possession last August. I was ok with that, since I need a ridiculous amount of natural light (I blame our long Canadian winters) but then our neighbor commented on our lack of privacy and it made me go “Hmmm. We should probably do something about that.” And so we did. 3 months later.

I knew I wanted to do woven wood blinds with white drapes, and my inspiration came from here:

As usual, my expensive taste did not jive with my conservative budget. The image above from houzz lists the blinds as Hunter Douglas, and I found similar ones from Blinds To Go. But when I priced that option out, it would have been around $600 for all 4 windows in the living room/dining room. And that was after a BOGO 50% sale! BouClair had similar ones but they couldn’t cut the blinds to the size we needed (and the quality was not great). I finally found what I wanted for a decent price at Lowe’s- and we didn’t even need to cut them since they were exactly the right size! Hooray! They definitely add a coziness that was missing, and help the room look a lot more finished.

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I love how our new accent chairs look in here, and I’m pretty chuffed with how the throw pillows turned out- I bought that fabric ages ago when I did my milk paint chairs but never ended up using it, so I’m glad I found a spot for it!

Now for the drapes…

Friends of mine have drapes that hang from the vaulted ceiling all the way to the floor in their living room and I am majorly envious of them. I’m fairly sure they were custom made and are out of my price range but luckily I have found a few DIY tutorials on how to fake the custom look using an Ikea hack (naturally). The secret is to iron a few pleats and use drapery weights to give the fabric that heavy, expensive look. Here are a couple of great posts that take you through the process.

ikea hack drapes curtains

WCC DIY pinch pleat
Whaling City Cottage: DIY Pinch Pleat Curtains

I’m hoping the end result looks something like this from Design Indulgence, but I’m on the fence about whether to go with black or grey trim.

design indulgence
We do have a few black accents here and there but the sofa, dining room chair cushions, and throw blankets are all grey. As you probably know, grey and I are BFFs for life but maybe it’s time I stopped relying so heavily on it, black might bring a nice contrast in. Thoughts??

It will probably take a little while longer until I actually get this finished but I’m just so happy that we got something done that didn’t involve using a shovel! The basement is about halfway finished now, we’re just waiting for the backhoe to come back so we can get the rest dug up. Needless to say, we needed the break.

-C

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Our First Year

Whoa! I can’t believe it’s been one year since we got the keys to our house. What’s that saying, the days are long but the years are short? Yeah, that’s becoming so true the older I get. We have been working our little butts off on the foundation and while we have spent the past two months literally and metaphorically digging ourselves into and back out of a pit, it’s so easy to see all the work there is left to do instead of patting ourselves on the back for all the work we’ve done, you know?

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Aww, remember when we used to have flower beds instead of piles of clay?

So I thought I’d do another little sum up post of what we’ve accomplished, so that I don’t just spend my life thinking I’m a horrible slacker for not quite being finished everything I thought we would. Really, the only thing we thought we’d do in the first year that we didn’t get done is the bathroom reno, but we also never planned on doing the foundation in our first year either, so I think we can call that a wash!

Here’s my last progress post that I chronicled our first few months of home ownership in- wouldn’t want to get all redundant on you! (Psst… if you really want to see how far we’ve come, check out the photos from the realtor’s listing.)

Since then, here’s what we’ve got done:

Third bedroom: removed that hideous forest wallpaper, painted all the things, ripped up old green carpet

carpet before after2Kitchen: installed new light fixture, changed all the outlets, painted all the things, sewed and installed a badass valence that you can’t even tell I did a hack job on

One Room Challenge Kitchen Dear DIY – Bedrooms: ripped up the old vinyl floor that was under the carpet, pulled up SO. MANY. STAPLES. and had new carpet installed
– Guest room: moved our old double bed in, hung curtains, hemmed said curtains, put in a desk
Master bedroom: bought a new queen sized mattress, found an accent chair for the corner/clothes dump/sleeping cat and have somewhat of a colour scheme going on

accent chair

I am so glad I don’t have to look at that horrible vinyl tile any more

– Basement: cleaned and organized many times over by my husband. I hardly ever go down there and he’s pretty much always neatening things up, condensing the boxes that I half-unpack, mopping the floor, etc. Probably because he wants to establish it as his domain now when it’s crappy and unfinished so that later when it’s awesome he can have an 1100 square foot man cave.
Living room: bought a new sofa, found accent chairs, hung gallery wall with wedding photos, sorted out the entry shelf, organized entry closet, and hung blinds.

accent chairs

Yeah, the chair legs still have the wrapping on. Real classy, Cathy. They also spent their first few days in our house covered in plastic before I Scotchgarded them. #clumsyproblems

– Sunroom: cleaned out all the old carpet and crap that we’ve been dumping there as we worked over the winter, moved our old sofa in and found a cute coffee table.

sunroom_bright – Foundation: dug a 6 foot trench all around the house and garage, pressure washed the entire surface, patched parging, applied foundation paint, attached platon membrane, covered ground with gravel, laid O-pipe, covered with more gravel, and backfilled the whole mess. Not to mention cooking and feeding all our friends/family who donated their time to help out. Oh yeah and waged battle with a foot of mud every time we tried to go down there because it would not stop raining!! Sorry for detailing every little things but it has been a huge undertaking and I want credit for all the incremental things that meant we did not spend our summer bbq-ing, drinking beer, and relaxing at a cottage.

Ok now I don’t feel so bad that our yard needs to be re-landscaped. Looking back over this list also really gives me an appreciation for how hard my marriage has worked, too. I can see lots of things that I did on my own, my husband did on his own, or that we both worked on together- despite all the inevitable arguments about how many throw pillows are too many or what’s a reasonable price for an accent chair, we make a great team and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings us! I think there are a lot more projects in our future! :)

-C

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Reflections on Home Ownership

This time last year, if you’d told me to enjoy the days of apartment living, I probably would have smacked you. As the little sister and youngest of all my cousins, I’ve always been the last to reach the levels on the life-event barometer: when I was in high school, my sister had started university. When I started university, my sister found her first job. When I was still in university (#gradstudentproblems) my sister got married and then bought her first house. You get the idea! I’m always so anxious to get to the next step that sometimes I forget to just be and enjoy where I’m at.

firstiwasdying

I moved out of my parents home at 18, so I spent 10 years renting. I lived in 5 units in 2 cities with 3 roommates- the last of whom would eventually become my husband. I hand-washed countless dishes and suffered through sharing laundry facilities, walls, ventilation, bed bugs, and hot water with strangers. While I anxiously waited for our future home, I kept myself busy with various projects, like sewing elbow patches on my favourite old sweater, attending DIY workshops, and making canvas prints using acetone transfers.

don't rush anything

But it’s funny how you gain perspective on things. As much as I couldn’t wait to get out of that apartment and become a proper grown up with a mortgage, I’ve caught myself thinking wistfully of all the time I used to have to devote to things like sewing, crafting, shopping, and flea market hunting. I also used to think our apartment looked really great, and I loved how easy it was to decorate. Now I find myself feeling a little overwhelmed with the larger space and it’s hard coming up with a cohesive look, not to mention keeping things tidy when we’re basically living in a construction zone 24/7.

As exciting as it is to know that we can do whatever we want with our house, I can’t wave a magic wand to make it happen overnight. It takes a lot of planning, a lot of hard work, and a lot of time (not to mention $$$). And all those jobs start to feel like just that- jobs. I can’t even remember the last time I had my sewing machine out for fun. Whenever I get a burst of productive energy, I notice the holes that I never patched or the paint that needs to be touched up. So my old Janome will have to sit dormant a little while longer, and even then it will probably only get to hem the curtains in the guest room.

make the days count

I’m definitely guilty of wishing my life away; I’m so impatient for the next big thing that will happen in my life that I forget to slow down and enjoy where I’m at. Living in the moment and being grateful for what I have, instead of comparing myself to others and feeling shortchanged, is something I really need to work on. And even though it took many stressful months to find our house, while we weathered the storm of my husband’s career change and felt the disappointment of making an offer on a completely different house that eventually fell through, I know that all the waiting was worth it- that other house would have been a strain financially and wouldn’t have been as good a fit as the house we did buy. I really do believe that everything happens for a reason!

no shortcuts

So if you’re out there reading this and you’re feeling like I was before we bought our house, like you can’t wait to put your own personal stamp on your space and you hate every minute of renting, know that it will happen in time. Enjoy the benefits of renting, and use the time to save up for your downpayment and reno fund. Cherish the phone calls to your landlord about the crack in the ceiling or the leaky faucet, and crack open a beer while you watch them fix it… because one day it will be your problem!

-C

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