Patching Vinyl Floors
A small repair for the professional or do-it-yourselfer
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I have not seen an older vinyl floor, in my more than 3 decades in this business, that hasn’t sustained some kind of minor damage. Many of the dings, nicks, burns and tears go unrepaired and then they multiply. Repairing small damage to a vinyl floor is relatively easy and I have always felt that a moderately capable do-it-yourselfer could accomplish it. But it’s surprising how many DIYers will tackle larger, more complicated tasks and not attempt patching their vinyl floor. What is even more surprising is to see the repairs done by professionals. The seams split, corners curl or the patch looks like it was outlined with a Magic Marker.
This how-to will guide the home handyman (or woman) or the pro in the successful repair of today’s sheet vinyl products sold for residential use. It’s a method I have employed for many years — long enough for me to see how it looks 5, 10 and even 15 years afterward. I believe a patched vinyl floor should not be seen. Of course, if you use a brand new scrap to patch a well worn area, you will see a difference in the luster, texture and clarity of the design. But the patterns and/or grout lines should blend so that when the area has received some traffic, you will not be able to notice the patch.
Preparations to Repair Vinyl Floor
Let’s get on with the guide. For this project, you will need a few tools and supplies. The picture of the damage below is of a burn that includes two of the slate patterns, but this guide can be used for larger or smaller patches and for most other patterns. The list below includes professional tools. Alternative tools are in parenthesis.
- Clean cotton rags
- Mineral Spirits
- Your favorite vinyl knife (sharp utility knife)
- Framing square
- Wood chisel and/or small scraper
- Fine notched trowel (throw-away paint brush)
- Premium vinyl adhesive (multi-purpose adhesive)
- Painters blue masking tape
- Seam roller/stair tool (stiff putty knife)
- Seam sealer kit
- A scrap of the vinyl big enough to make the repair
After gathering the scrap, your tools and supplies, the most obvious task is to clear and clean the area to be repaired. Using mineral spirits and a white cotton terry cloth rag will cut any buildup of dirt and floor finishes without damaging the vinyl flooring. The scrap must also be cleaned thoroughly in the same manner. Here, I also had a bi-fold door to remove and the bracket that it pivoted on.
Our pattern size may look equal on all sides, but it isn’t. Because of vinyl’s slight elasticity, the pattern elongated a small amount in the manufacturing process. You can see this plainly when you try to match grout lines along a seam. You must find the side of the scrap that matches the spacing of the grout lines. In this way, you will know the proper direction of the material.
Next, you must try to find the pattern that most closely matches the damaged portion. The nature of scraps is that you rarely will find an exact match, but if you can find an area that will blend well, your patch will not look like a patch. In this photo, I have found 2 side-by-side slate patterns that, while not being a perfect match of the damage, do tend to have grain patterns that are similar and are not duplicates of any of the slate tiles adjacent to the patch area.
This next step we will be cutting the patch to the exact size that we need. As you can see from the picture at right, I am cutting on top of another piece of scrap. Many times there is no good place to cut the scrap. It requires a smooth, flat surface and the knife must cut cleanly all the way through in a single pass without damaging the surface under it. Use protection – a scrap of vinyl, some plywood, anything disposable. Use a framing square to cut one side and one end. Then flip the square and cut the other side and end. Hold the knife straight up and down – no tilting allowed.
As you can see, I left the grout line on the patch piece. The grout could have also been taken completely off, or one side and end could have the grout line and the other side and end could have the grout line removed. What is more important is that you do not cut through the middle of the grout line. It will show if you do. The line where the patch and the existing vinyl must be nearly invisible. Do that by cutting at the very edge of the grout line. Most grout lines are not straight, so just get as close to the edge of the grout line as possible, without cutting into the sides of the pattern (in this case, slate tiles).
We are ready to begin removing the damaged portion of the floor now. Please follow along on the next few pages, while we continue this repair.
Jim McClain grew up in rural Plumas County, CA. After a short, but exciting stint in the US Army, where he dodged work in Germany and incoming rounds in Vietnam, he settled back into country living and took a part-time job as an installer’s helper to work his way through college. He fell in love with the business and turned it into a career. Retiring from sales & installations in 2006, he still carries on his love affair with the industry through the use of a computer, a digital camera and a little space in “teh Ether”.