When I first moved into my house, the floors were orange. Yep, you read that right, orange. Don’t worry they were tempered by the red countertops. What can I say, the 70’s were a weird time for decor. I knew I couldn’t live with them for long. I’m kind of a hot mess the majority of the time, so I need my house (at least in terms of decor) to be calming. Orange floors don’t do that for me. I quickly painted the cabinets white and did a faux marble top counter. Next up were the floors. After a lot of research, I decided to use a peel and stick vinyl. Some people were horrified when I mentioned this, as they were picturing the vinyl tiles of old. I ended up doing my dining room, kitchen, and bathroom in peel and stick vinyl, you could say I’ve become a bit of an expert. I assumed when I did the camper floors I would use them again, but the previous owner had partially installed a floating laminate wood floor. BF loved the particular look, so rather than cover over it, I found matching flooring and one Sunday my dad and I did the camper floors.
I will say that both types of flooring are easy enough for a beginner and both give you a great finish, depending on what you are looking for. There are some differences, which I’ll get into, and I would use them depending on the situations. I am in no way a professional, and the opinions that follow are just based on my own experience. I just know that I hemmed and hawed about what to use in my own home, and this information would have been helpful to me.
So I should mention this is not about whether you should go with a vinyl or laminate "fake" floor versus a real stone or wood. Obviously if you have the time, money, and know-how for the real thing then you should go with that. If you do have that kind of time, money, and know-how you are probably not reading this anyway. So let's be real, if you want a good looking floor, quickly, at an affordable price that you can install yourself in one weekend, here are your two options:
Peel and Stick
These vinyl tiles are what they sound like, you peel of a backing and stick them down on your floor. Vinyl tile has gotten a bad rep over the years, but I have to say, if you’ve visited a home improvement store recently you would be shocked by the variety and quality of them. Even in the two years since I installed them in my house, more realistic and stylistic options have emerged.
Why did I choose Peel and Stick for my house?
Simply put, I was a DIY newbie and I didn’t have a saw. I was drawn to the fact that I could install them all by myself, and that the only tool I needed was an exacto knife. If you are doing the project all by yourself, these are a great option. Overall they are easy to work with and very forgiving if you make a mistake. They install pretty quickly, and there are even groutable options (I didn’t go that route in my house, but I think I will in future projects.
If you are trying to decide between the two flooring types, it may help to know some of the pros. Stylistically there are a lot more options in vinyl than floating. You can get tile look, wood look, marble, and many others. I will be honest, I don’t always think the square tiles look realistic, but I the “wood planks” look great. I have a dark wood/tile hybrid in my kitchen and the same style but in a lighter color in my bathroom. Let’s be honest, I’m not fooling anyone into thinking I have fancy Italian tile in my house, but I’ve also never had anyone realize it was peel and stick either.
Another important pro is how easy they are to install. Once your floors are clean and you decide on your pattern, you really are just peeling and sticking. No special tools are required and it definitely is a job you can do alone. I did my whole dining room in two nights after work, and my kitchen took a Sunday and then a random hour here and there just to finish some smaller areas under the radiator. I did my bathroom in 45 minutes.
You don't need to put down a subfloor if your floor is solid and clean. You don't need to worry about it being level either which is nice.
As far as quality goes, I have been pleasantly surprised. I will say I have noted a quality difference between the groutable and non-groutable tiles. Even if you don’t plan to grout, I would recommend using the groutable tiles because they are a bit thicker and overall I think the quality is better. I was concerned that in a year, they would be popping up, but I will say that after two years, even with all the wear and tear they receive (they are in high traffic areas) I haven't had any issues with them coming up. In fact, I wanted to replace one of the tiles that was damaged when I put my stove in and I had to get BF to muster all his strength and a crowbar to get the tile up. These things aren't going anywhere. Even in my bathroom (where I was worried about humidity) it's been over a year and nothing has moved. They are easy to clean, and again they don't look like vinyl. If you grout them, I think you would have even added security. I really think for the cost the quality is great.
Speaking of cost, I think the cost is a big pro. You can buy most peel and stick by the carton or by the piece. This means you can get exactly what you need for your project, or an extra piece or two if you make a mistake, without the need to purchase a whole carton. Overall the cost is relatively low (under $2.00/sq foot in most cases) and since you don’t need specialized tools, that also keeps the cost down.
As with everything, there are some drawbacks. While the tiles don't need any specialized equipment to cut, it can be difficult to do specialized cuts such as rounded edges. Straight cuts are incredibly easy with an exacto knife, but when I needed rounded cuts for the toilet pedestal for example, I never found a good way to do them. Even the sharpest scissors didn't do the trick. I asked at Lowes, and they didn't have any recommendation. You can try to do a curve with the exacto knife, but when you go to split them, the vinyl can pull leading to a messy cut. I wouldn't say it's a huge problem, just something to keep in mind if the area you're planning on has a lot of curves. I do think you need a bit of strength to "split" the tiles after scoring with the exacto, although I'm not exactly pumping irons and I was able to do it.
Your fingers are going to hurt. I don't know if it's a combo of the glue on the backs, the tile splitting or what but my fingers definitely stung for a bit afterwards. I mean you're putting in a floor so it's not as if you should expect to be perfectly comfortable, but in the interest of full disclosure, it did take my fingers a while to recover.
While you don't need a level floor or even a new subfloor, you do need a flat, clean floor. Any bumps or ridges will get picked up by this stuff. If the floor is dirty, they may not stick. I steamed the floor before putting the tile down and I had no problem with stickage (is that a word)? I did have one minor situation. Some kind of glass ball (smaller than a marble, larger than a bead) somehow made it under one of the tiles unbeknownst to me until I laid an entire section of floor. It created a ridge in the tile that my foot somehow found every single time I walked through the kitchen.
I would like to tell you that I did the mature adult thing and ripped the piece out and put a new one in, but as I said, these suckers aren't easy to get up. So instead of doing it the right way, I got a hammer and tried to smash the glass ball and push the floor down. It didn't work.
I'd also like to tell you that BF did the right thing after my failure, but he didn't. He too tried the hammer smashing method. It doesn't work. So weeks later, we took up the piece and replaced it. It's what we should have done the first time and now all is well, but let it be a lesson to you. Don't have any glass balls on your floor.
I've only had these floors for two years so I can't speak to how they will hold up in say 5 or 10 years, but for now they are working out well. Overall they are easy and inexpensive to install. I think if you have a space that you may remodel "someday" and want something for the time being, this is the way to go.
Floating Laminate Wood Floor
Why did I choose floating floors in my camper?
If we're being honest (and why wouldn't we be); I was trying to match the floor that was already there. I had originally planned on putting peel and stick in. I have to say though, now that it's done, I'm glad I went with floating. It was something I had been afraid of before, and now I am not. It was far easier (and cheaper) than I originally assumed it would be.
This is the type of flooring that my dad recommended I use when I was first tackling the orange kitchen. At the time I was too intimidated, but having now installed it in our camper and lived to tell the tale, I feel much more confident sharing my experiences. It was way easier than I anticipated. In fact, in some ways it was easier than peel and stick. While I don't think it has the tile variants that peel and stick does, they have a lot of very realistic wood varieties. In fact, I was trying to match an existing floor and was able to do so without too much trouble.
I don't know why I was so intimidated by these floors earlier, they were actually easier to install than peel and stick. You really do just click them into place and they float over your existing floor. In fact, they don't damage the underlaying floor in anyway, so they're a great option if you think you may want to reclaim a floor someday but for now need something to cover it. As far as cost goes you can find them anywhere from $.99 a square foot up through around $5/sq foot depending on what you want. The floor that I found that matched the existing floor was $.99 a square foot and I was super impressed with the quality. They were heavy and sturdy enough to go over a metal panel on the floor and covered it with ease.
I also thought they were easier to cut. We used a saw (although they do sell a cutter for about $20 at Lowes that would do just fine for straight cuts), the saw cut them like butter. It was also easier to do corners and rounded cuts (we really didn't have any, but I tried one just out of curiosity and it was much easier. So, something to think about.
Even with needing something to cut them, they went in really quickly and if you make a mistake you just unsnap and re-snap. Anybody could install the floor. My mom thought it was real wood when she first saw it. You really could easily fool people.
I suppose needing a saw or cutter could be seen as a con, or at least as an additional expense. Another problem we ran into was in the small bedroom area. Because the area was small and we were staggering the placement of the boards, we needed to cut 6 inch pieces. The cutting wasn't the problem, but the way they hook together means that you either can only cut one "female" end off of a board and then waste the remainder of the board, or you have to cut the end of the board you are connecting the small piece to as a smooth edge, and then also cut the smaller board to a smooth edge. Did that make any sense? It's not hard, it just takes a bit more thinking than just being able to pop them together. So if it's a very small space, it's something to think about. In terms of variety, you really only have "wood look" options, no tiles or some of the fancier driftwood textures that you can get with vinyl.
Finally, you can only purchase floating floors by the carton. In my case a carton covered 21 square feet. If you have an odd sized project or smaller project, you may end up with leftovers because you need to buy the whole carton. That being said, it's not really super expensive and having extras to replace a board here and there isn't a bad thing either.
So is one better than the other? Not really. They are both really easy to install. They are both relatively low cost options and both can be installed in a weekend by one person.
I would choose Peel and Stick if:
I would choose laminate floating if:
I really don't think you can choose wrong here, it just comes down to the look you want and whether or not you have access to a saw. I haven't had the laminate long enough to report on how it will hold up, but it feels incredibly solid. I'll definitely update after it spends a summer with sandy beach feet and all over it! If you're afraid to make a change to your flooring- just do it! You won't regret it, and it will truly transform your space!
If you do have a floating floor, I'd love to hear from you with regards to how it's held up!
Have you used either of these? Which do you prefer?