Installing Dry-backed Resilient Tiles

This story covers how to install dry-backed resilient tiles.


When choosing an adhesive for dry-backed tile, be sure to read labels carefully. Picking an adhesive requires a bit of science; you'll find latex-base solutions, asphalt emulsions, alcohol resins, rubber cements, and epoxies. Ask your supplier to match the qualities of the adhesive to your job.

Most vinyl adhesives are solvent-base, and that means they handle differently from thinset and other cement-base mortars. They tend to grab the trowel and are difficult to spread evenly. Practice spreading adhesive on a piece of scrap plywood before applying it to the floor. When you work with solvent-base adhesives, properly ventilate the room: Open the windows and exhaust the fumes with a window fan. Wear a respirator for full protection.

Work as much as possible from the untiled subfloor. To keep from tiling yourself into a corner, kneel on 2x2 squares of plywood at the last rows. Cut two pieces so you can move them alternately as you work across the floor.


About 4 hours for an 8x10-foot floor

Trowel, utility knife, hair dryer, chalk line, straightedge, carpenter's pencil, 100-pound floor roller

Setting and cutting tile

Repair subfloor and snap layout lines.

Tiles, adhesive, solvent

Setting Sequences

Use Sequence A when the adhesive has a long open time, which allows you to work more quickly because you don't have to stop as often to spread mastic. Use Sequence B when using a mastic with a short open time.

Step 1

Starting at an intersection of lines, spread adhesive with the smooth edge of a notched trowel. Lay the adhesive right up to -- but not over -- the layout lines. Then comb the adhesive with the notched edge of the trowel. Let the adhesive become tacky.

Step 2

Line up the first tile with the intersection of the layout lines and set it on the adhesive. Then set the second tile against the first one and lower it in place. Don't slide the tiles; you'll push mastic up between the joints. Check the grain direction and set the rest of the quadrant.

Step 3

To mark the edge tiles for cutting, set a loose tile exactly on top of the last tile in a row. Then set a marker tile on top of that one, positioning it against 1/4-inch spacers at the wall. (Resilient tile won't expand much, but the subfloor will.) Run a pencil along the edge of the marker tile to mark the cutting line.

Cutting Vinyl Tile: Step 1

Brittle resilient tiles cut more easily if you warm the cutting line slightly with a hair dryer. Use a carpenter's pencil to mark the line and a utility knife to make the cut.

Cutting Vinyl Tile: Step 2

Score the surface of the tile with the knife, then make repeated passes until you have cut through the tile. If the cut edge will not be visible, snap the tile after a few passes with the knife instead.

Step 4

At outside corners, position a loose tile and a marker tile as if you were cutting an edge tile. Mark the loose tile as you did in Step 3 and reposition the loose tile and marker tile to the other corner. Mark the loose tile for the corner cutout.

Step 5

When you have set one quadrant, clean off excess or spilled adhesive with the solvent recommended by the manufacturer (usually detergent and water). Don't wet the floor; excess liquid weakens the adhesive. Set the remaining quadrants. Roll the floor when finished.

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