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Vinyl Flooring is a Sticky Job

If your vinyl floor is just too worse for wear, or the color is a throwback to the 70s, you don't have to live with it anymore. Installing new flooring is a do-it-yourself job that will put sparkle back into your kitchen or bath. But it's not simply a cut and dry procedure. Follow these tips suggested by Popular Mechanics Magazine to avoid a sticky situation.

First, remember that most home construction is imperfect: Don't start cutting before you know the exact dimensions of the floor surfaces to be covered. Although the floor's angles may look reasonably square to the naked eye, most rooms are slightly off- kilter, so you can't simply measure and start making 90 degree corners. You'll need to work around toilets, sink pedestals, islands and other items, too. Don't waste time and money by cutting sheets to the wrong size or all that material will have to be discarded.

One trick of the trade actually steals from a favorite sewing technique: make a pattern. Your custom-made pattern will adjust to every imperfection and ensure an exact fit. Another shortcut is to use a vinyl floor installation kit. Check with your local home improvement center or call Armstrong at 1-800-233-3823. To make your pattern, start by laying sheets of paper around the perimeter, then work toward the middle taping the sheets together. Trace the perimeter using a tool that comes with the kit such as a roller disc.

Another matter to be decided upfront, before you start laying vinyl, is what to do with the old vinyl floor. If your floor underneath has water damage or dry rot, then you'll need to remove the old stuff and make repairs. Don't try to lay new flooring if the subsurface is too uneven--install underlayment to smooth out the imperfections. You may also wish to consider removal if the existing flooring has an embossed surface pattern, to avoid the work involved in smoothing it out with embossing leveler. Otherwise, those imperfections could show through the new floor. You get the picture. Whatever's underneath has to be as even as possible.

But if the old stuff provides a fairly uniform surface, just leave it there. Just remember that you'll need to degrade and prep the surface with an etching solution and primer. Remove the baseboard molding, along with any caulk around tubs or cabinets.

Installation should follow the manufacturer's instructions. Pay special attention to precautions and hazard statements when using caustic products. Make sure you have adequate ventilation. If working over old flooring, you'll need to cut the surface glaze with etching liquid which is very caustic. Use rubber gloves.

Remember to cover only half a room at a time. Lower the vinyl sheet onto the adhesive, and smooth it out using a roller. Then seal around the perimeter and plumbing fixtures with tub and tile caulk.