Installation and Care of a Sheet Vinyl Floor

By James Dulley

November 8, 2018 4 min read

Dear James: I like the way sheet vinyl flooring looks in a kitchen, but at my friend's home, it cracked and got dull in less than a year. If I have it installed in my kitchen, how can I avoid these problems? — Janet H.

Dear Janet: Sheet vinyl flooring is attractive and generally very durable. One of its most common uses is in commercial buildings that receive much foot traffic, and it lasts for many years. When you install it in your kitchen, you might consider using a more expensive, commercial-grade sheet vinyl flooring.

Even with using standard residential-grade vinyl flooring, your friend's floor should not have deteriorated that quickly. Unless the materials had flaws, it was likely the result of poor workmanship. Installing this type of flooring is generally not a do-it-yourself project and the installer should have had specific training on it.

A stable base for vinyl flooring is absolutely critical for an attractive, long-lasting floor. The installer must be particularly careful when installing it over existing flooring. The specific installation instructions vary among the various manufacturers, and it is important to closely follow their instructions.

When you have your vinyl flooring installed, it is best to place it directly over the floor underlayment and not over old flooring. Sheet vinyl is durable when well supported from beneath, but it has very little bending strength of its own.

Sanded birch or poplar plywood are the best underlayment materials to use. The sanding eliminates high spots and removes inks and stains on the surface. These may leach through the vinyl flooring over time and create permanently discolored areas.

Low-cost plywood underlayment may have voids which result in spongy areas. These will feel strange to walk on and will be areas where the vinyl may crack from excessive flexing. If you are going to use the existing underlayment to lower the cost, carefully remove all the old adhesive. It may chemically react with the adhesive recommended for the new flooring.

When vinyl flooring is installed, there will be seams. An experienced installer will know how to create invisible strong seams, but they will not be as strong as continuous vinyl. Often, the cracks you see will be seams opening up over a poorly supported spot.

Before you select a vinyl flooring installer, first do some research on the materials available and typical installation procedures. Armstrong Flooring,, has several excellent reference information on sheet vinyl flooring. Also, ask the prospective installers for some references to check on previous installations.

In order to keep your vinyl floor looking good for many years, proper care and maintenance are important. Fine grit can damage the surface and dull the glossy finish. Vacuum clean it regularly and wet mop it at least twice a week. Vinyl can be stained, so spills, particularly acidic dark fruit juices, should be cleaned up with soap and water. Don't just wipe them up with a paper towel.

Vinyl floors can be discolored by some common things which you must consider. Just a small bit of driveway tar on your shoes may cause some dark discoloration if left on the vinyl. Oil from the garage floor can do the same. It would be wise to remove your shoes when entering from a garage. Placing a small rug at the entrance from the garage is a good idea.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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