What is Vinyl Tile?

K. Hittelman

Vinyl tile is a flooring material that is generally inexpensive, easy to install, and easy to maintain. Made primarily from polyvinyl chloride resins and plasticizers, these flooring tiles are waterproof and very durable. A floor covered with vinyl tile, if maintained properly, can last a very long time without appearing old or worn.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

There are many styles of vinyl tile available on the market. In addition to basic colors and patterns, vinyl floor tiles are now being manufactured to simulate the looks of other types of more expensive flooring, such as wood strip, marble, and inlaid wood design. These tiles are made in a variety of textures to match the flooring style they imitate. Some vinyl flooring does a very good job of disguising itself as its more expensive counterpart. It is sometimes difficult to tell that a floor is made out of vinyl tile and not, for example, marble or wood.

Most vinyl floor tiles have a self-adhesive backing, making them easy enough for most homeowners to install themselves. To install the adhesive-backed tiles, one needs only to peel off the backing and press the tiles, properly placed, on the floor. Some vinyl floor tiles do not have adhesive backing, and need to be secured to the floor with an adhesive.

To maintain a vinyl tile floor properly, it should be swept often. Walking on a gritty or dirty vinyl floor can cause scratching. The floor should be mopped once a month with water or a specialized vinyl cleaning product. To maintain vinyl tiles with high gloss or satin finishes, specialized clear coatings can be applied. Detergents, abrasives, and waxes should not be used on vinyl floor tiles.

There are some things to watch out for with vinyl tile flooring. Because the vinyl is cut into tiles, vinyl tile flooring has lots of edges throughout. With frequent mopping over time, vinyl tiles can sometimes come loose. In addition, when a vinyl floor is mopped, dirt can get trapped in the cracks between the tiles, requiring extra effort to remove.

Many homeowners and businesses that choose vinyl flooring install it in high-traffic areas because of its durability. It is often used in kitchens because the tiles themselves are completely waterproof. Because the look and quality of vinyl tile has improved over the years, however, it has found its way out of the kitchen and into other rooms.

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Discussion Comments


@pleats -- Well, I don't know what to tell you about congoleum vinyl or composite tile, but I now that vinyl ceramic tile isn't really ceramic, so don't get confused.

A lot of times vinyl patterns are called ceramic to make them sound classier, but that's just a marketing thing.


Can somebody tell me the difference between congoleum vinyl tile, vinyl ceramic tile, and vinyl composite tile?

I'm trying to choose a good, commercially viable vinyl tile for my business.

It seems like every vinyl tile manufacturer I talk to has an axe to grind (usually regarding luxury vinyl tiles!) so can somebody out there just give me objective opinions?

I would really appreciate it!


@anon34940 -- I would think that you should just follow the same instructions as for waterproofing vinyl floor tiles.

Although I've never installed vinyl bathroom wall tiles, when I'm waterproofing a floor, this is what I do.

First, when you're installing, you have to make sure that the edged of all your tiles are cleanly cut, and that they lay flush up against each other. A good tip for cutting vinyl tile cleanly is to use a very sharp knife, and make a template of any curvy parts ahead of time.

Then you should seal all of the edges and joins with caulk. The best way to do this is to put down a line of caulk over the seam, then smooth it with a wet finger. Do this for all the seams and edges, and when you're done, run a damp sponge over it to take care of any excess. This is the last, but most important step in your vinyl tile installation process.

That should take care of it, but if you're really worried, then you can paint over the tiles with a clear sealant just to provide a double layer of protection.

Hope this work for you -- these are all my best tips for laying vinyl tile.

Best, Gregg.


I am fitting out a narrowboat and would like to use sheet vinyl or vinyl tiles on the walls of the bathroom. It seems that tiles would be easiest, but how could I ensure that the joins are totally waterproof?

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