How To Use Peel And Stick Vinyl Tiles To Update Your Kitchen

It’s a stick up – er, down! This step by step tutorial is a real blast from the past. We’re breaking down the simple process of laying peel & stick vinyl tiles. They’re available everywhere from Lowe’s to Home Depot for around a buck a tile, and we actually laid ’em down right over our plaid-esque linoleum kitchen floors of the past (back before we could afford our full-fledged remodel, we painted the cabinets and spruced up the floor to tide us over). Here’s the country blue & white striped single-sheet of linoleum that we inherited with the house. Sure those lines are meant to look like tiles, but it certainly wasn’t very convincing:

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The advantages of single self-stick vinyl tiles as opposed to a wall to wall sheet of linoleum is that the effect is a lot more believable. Each tile comes with darkened faux-grout around the edges, so the effect is quite tile-like when you lay them down one by one, and the finished product can really add a lot of dimension and texture to a space. We especially appreciate that every tile has some color and pattern variations (some are darker or rougher looking than others) just like real stone tiles, so the overall effect is a lot more realistic. And the fact that you can completely overhaul an old dated floor for about $100 in one Saturday is nothing short of amazing. Here’s our kitchen after about 4 hours of peel and sticking (we laid our tiles on a diagonal for a more spacious effect):

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And now for the step by step breakdown:

Step 1: Be Picky. Selecting the right peel and stick tile is extremely important. You don’t want anything that matches the cabinet or wall color exactly or the room will feel eerily coordinated. And you don’t want something that clashes with your wall or cabinet colors since that will look totally off as well. The best way to choose the right tile is to purchase a few $1 sample tiles and bring them home to see how they look in the space (remember, the lighting in Home Depot or Lowe’s is extremely different than the lighting at home, so you might find yourself returning 100 floor tiles if you skip this step).

Step 2: On The Level. You only want to apply self stick tiles to floors that are adequately level and even, so fill any gaps or holes to ensure that your tiles have a nice solid foundation to adhere to. If you’re missing an old tile, try sticking a new tile in the hole to fill the gap (this only works if they’re the same depth, but it’s a super quick fix if they are).

Step 3: Get Centered. Take the time to measure and locate the center point of your room, and temporarily lay a tile (without peeling off the backing to expose the adhesive) in the exact center. Then use other tiles to build out from the center tile to the right, left, top and bottom of the room so you have a cross on the floor of unstuck tiles that fully reach from wall to wall (you’re just doing a little test at this point- no sticking!). This is an important step so you can see if centering your tiles is indeed the way to go. Unless you have any weird slivers of a tile on any of your edges, you can stick the center tile to the ground for good. But if, for example, you have a quarter of an inch of tile in a doorway based on the placement of the center tile, you might want to shift things up, down, left or right to make the tile slivers fall under the cabinets or laundry appliances as opposed to in the doorways and other more obvious areas.

Step 3: Press On. Once you stick your center tile, you’ll make pretty quick work of the rest of the room until you hit the edges. The key after sticking the center tile is to work out from that tile being certain to squeeze each tile firmly down and against the last tile you laid while accurately aligning each new tile by eye (even a sliver of space between the tiles won’t look nearly as seamless and convincing as a tight fit without any gaps, so take the time to push every tile against the last one you stuck down and take care to keep things lined up). Continue sticking each square and working away from the center of the room in every direction until you reach the edges of the space which will call for customized cuts.

Step 4: Get Edgy. The toughest part of this job is by far laying the perimeter tiles which call for special cuts to keep them flush with the walls, doorways, and cabinet bases for a clean and finished look. But not to worry, it’s still totally doable. Many people prefer to remove their shoe molding (which can easily be popped off with a flat-head screwdriver or a mini crowbar) so they have a bit more wiggle room (when you pop off the shoe molding, the fit to the edge of the room doesn’t need to be as exact because once the shoe molding gets reinstalled over the tile, the fit will look perfect and flush because it’ll hide any small gaps between the tile and the wall). You can also opt to leave your molding in place, you’ll just need to be more meticulous with your tile cuts (which is actually what we did to avoid having to reinstall the shoe molding later).

Step 5: Template Time. We used a box cutter to cut our vinyl tiles (it takes a few slices to get all the way through, so we slowly and steadily made cut on top of cut until we got through cleanly and accurately). And of course you want to remember to cut your tiles on scrap tile or a piece of plywood so you aren’t cutting into your freshly laid flooring beneath- that would be bad). But how did we know where to cut ’em? We actually used paper to make templates and then just traced those paper templates onto our tiles for the perfect fit every time. It can be mind-numbing to look at a strange corner shape and try to duplicate it by eye on a tile, so paper templates really can be a lifesaver (as well as a huge time saver even though they can sometimes feel a bit tedious).

Step 6: Dance It Out. When you’re done with the perimeter of the room you’ll wanna do the happy dance to celebrate your peel & stick victory (your sticktory?). Dancing is actually a great idea, since tapping each tile down with your body weight can help to firmly secure them in place for the long haul. Go ahead, boogie down.

So there you have it. Everything you need to know to tackle that dated or grungy floor in your bathroom, laundry room, playroom, back hallway or beyond. Happy sticking!

Comments

  1. amy says

    Very helpful post guys! A semi-related question: we are about to install laminate wood floors in our kitchen. (we are doing it ourselves) currently we have the linoleum tile squares. do we need to pull those up first or can we just put the wood right on top of the tiles? thanks!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Amy,

      As long as your floor is level and even, you can apply your laminate wood flooring right over your linoleum. Hope it helps! Good luck with everything.

      xo,
      Sherry

  2. says

    We just did the same thing to our half bath. It was super easy and only took a short time. Definitely a great and cheap way to give any floor a makeover.

  3. Sara says

    Did you have any problem with any of the tiles curling or popping back up? I’ve always wondered how well the peel and stick tiles actually work.

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Sara- We lived with our vinyl tiles for just about two years and we never had any problem with them shifting, curling or popping up at all. They’re actually super sticky and they stayed in place extremely well. Hope it helps!

      Erin- Yup, we went right over our existing linoleum with the vinyl tiles which is totally acceptable as long as the linoleum beneath is clean and level so the tiles have a chance to properly adhere (for example, old holey linoleum covered in grease might not be the best base for your new tiles, but clean level linoleum that has seen better days is the perfect foundation). Hope it helps!

      xoxo,
      Sherry

  4. Kellie Alkayam says

    I actually prefer the “before” shot. The first linoleum pattern doesn’t look like it’s trying to be something it’s not. The second one looks like it’s trying to be modern and new, but ends up looking like a cheap rental or something. Then again, I think your original kitchen cabinets were kinda cute, so what do I know? :)

    FYI, those peel and stick tiles are actually vinyl. Real linoleum is made from linseed oil mixed with powdered wood or cork and poured over a natural backing, usually made from burlap or canvas. It’s all natural and very environmentally friendly. Vinyl…not so much.

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Pamela,

      Our two year experience with them left us feeling like they’re virtually indestructible. You probably wouldn’t want to flood the room that they’re in once a day or anything, but they can definitely hold up to wet feet and splashing and all that stuff that happens in a bathroom, mudroom, or kitchen. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      Sherry

  5. Jess says

    We did this a few months ago in our kitchen also; we bought our home from an estate and the previous owners’ children had installed *horrible* sheet vinyl in a misguided attempt to sell the property quickly. (Shiny square orange rocks do not exist in nature…)

    We pulled up the sheet vinyl and any loose backer paper, thoroughly cleaned the surface, and then applied a heavy duty primer to help seal the subfloor from any water penetration that got through tile seams.

    We used the 18″ “stone” vinyl tiles from Lowe’s, laid out on a diagonal like you did. I LOVE them, which is completely unexpected as I used to hate vinyl tile… It’s come a long way–these tiles look like slate, even as you’re holding them to your face. They’re matte, dimensional, and the grout lines look and feel like real grout. Plus if you drop a glass it won’t break as it would on real slate.

    The tiles were initially just a cheap fix for us until we could do something more permanent, but they’ve been holding up so well to water and traffic (we have three very excitable cats), and look so darn good, that I’m seriously considering keeping them. Crazy!

  6. says

    Ah HA!! We’re getting ready to start this VERY project! Thanks so much for the tutorial — now, to get hubby to Lowe’s!!

  7. says

    How ironic that you would post this today when it was only last night that I began to do an extensive research on this very subject.
    I plan to redo my kitchen as well and have decided to go with Novalis plank peel and stick.
    I plan on doing it myself but was still unsure if I could just put over the existing vinyl flooring or if I need to prime it or level it before doing so. It is even and there is no damage but will priming it make it stick even better?

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Lisa,

      Priming is like saying please and thank you. It can never hurt and it’s always a nice little extra! So feel free to prime before you lay your tile over your existing floor if you want a bit of added insurance! As for the floor needing to be super level, the key is that it’s reasonably level. Ours actually sloped a bit on all sides, but not enough that it would make it hard for tiles to stick. The main thing is that there aren’t any holes or pock-marks in the flooring so your new tiles have a nice consistent surface to cling to, even if it gradually slopes. Hope it helps…

      xoxo,
      Sherry

  8. Kara says

    Thank you for this! I have been dying give our bathroom a make-over but lamenting our yucky bathroom linoleum… I thought there was no way to inexpensively fix it! I’m off to Lowes!

  9. Stephanie A. says

    This is the second time you guys have read my mind about a topic! We just bought a new house, and it has real ceramic tile. Sounds great, right? Not so much. It’s a hideous orange, some of the tiles are cracked, and the grout is really dirty and, in some places, non-existent. Is it possible to lay this stuff over these? It seems like I couldn’t…but I’m desperate to not have to tear them out. We’re already overloaded with work. What do you think?

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hmm, good question Stephanie.

      My instinct tells me that it would probably be a lot harder to get vinyl tiles to stick to ceramic tile, plus you’d certainly have problems with placement since their edges could fall into the recessed grout edges and look all wobbly. I think the main thing would be that a tiled floor isn’t a consistent level surface (it bumps in and out with each tile since the grout is a bit lower). But I’m always up for a challenge. If you could somehow level out the tile floor (maybe with a few thin sheets of plywood to create a false floor over the top of your tile? or with grout or concrete that you could spread all over your existing tile to create a flat surface?) then I would think you can conquer that scary orange tile for good. Of course you could also take a hammer and a chisel to the orange tile and demo it out and then clean up the subfloor a bit and lay your vinyl tile down then. Does anyone else have any experience with this? Any ideas? Chime in people!

      xoxo,
      Sherry

  10. Alexis says

    great break-down. I might have to keep this in mind when I get around to our awful laundry room. It thankfully has a door so I only have to look at the 80’s vinyl for a few minutes at a time.

  11. says

    We had vinyl tile like this in our kitchen for years and everyone always thought it was real tile and complimented us on how great it was! It was always so easy to clean, hardly showed dirt, and we never had problems with peeling.