NYC is full of “if only” apartments. If only my shower weren’t in the kitchen. If only my cabinets weren’t hideous. If only the bathroom didn’t have gross tile on the floor! If only I didn’t live over a bar! If only my neighbors would shut-up! The list goes on and on. And I’m sure other cities are just the same. And while I can’t help with obnoxious neighbors, I can help you with gross floors. Whether you have a gross linoleum kitchen or busted, ugly tiles on your bathroom floor, both surfaces are fixable, AND temporary. So your landlord can rest easy.
I know this because I had gross coin tiles in my bathroom when I moved in. I love the apartment but I couldn’t stand looking at that floor every day. It looked like it had been partially tiled in one era, then part of it retiled in more modern tile at a later date. But poorly. You can see for yourself.
So I did a little research into floating floors (those click tiles), but they were too expensive and difficult to install. But I wondered if you could do the same thing with sheet vinyl. So I did some research and decided I could totally do this. And even better, do it in an afternoon. Here’s how I accomplished re-flooring my bathroom, so it looks professional, but is also temporary.
First, don’t be scared off by the term “sheet vinyl.” It conjures images of gross kitchen linoleum or institutional school flooring. But these days, there are amazing finishes and patterns that look neither institutional nor like your mom’s kitchen back in 1980. It ranges in price per sq foot, but there are deals to be had if you look around. I got a 12 foot by 6 foot roll for $58 from Home Depot (Scorched Walnut Charcoal) with free shipping. You can also look at more out of the box flooring solutions, like garage coin tiles. Normally, I’d go for color (surprise!), but I knew I wanted something fairly neutral because I was going to go wild with wallpaper (see here). So I chose a grey faux-bois pattern with some texture to it. My building’s Super thought I had installed a wood floor at first till I quickly explained it was temporary vinyl! Whew.
Here’s what you’re going to need:
Roll of sheet vinyl- enough square footage to cover your whole space
Clorox or other spray cleaner
Very sharp box cutter with a fresh blade
Some old cardboard boxes
Butcher paper- or you could use pattern paper from a fabric store, or craft paper from an art supply store. Just try to get the biggest paper you can, so you’ll have to do less taping
Large work area (shove your furniture aside if you need to!)
Double stick carpet tape (optional)
Canine assistant (also optional)
First step is to make sure you clean your floor or grime and debris. This preps the surface in case you decide to use carpet tape to secure your floor later. After you have a nice clean floor, it’s time to make a pattern of your floor. Start in a corner and work your way outward. This being a NYC apartment, I had quite a few obstacles and weird angles to cut around, which was tricky. But you’ll learn as you go. Cut off a large piece of butcher paper and place it in the corner. Use your scissors or Exacto knife to cut away extra paper as needed. Have the packing tape handy to add paper as you go. To maneuver around small obstacles, cut small pieces of paper and tape them together as you work your way around. This really is the most important step, since the accuracy of your pattern will determine how well your floor fits and how good it looks. So take your time. Use small bits of paper to fill in any and every little gap, corner and angle. Once your finished you can gently roll up your pattern and remove it from the floor. Set it aside.
Next, clear off a work area on the floor and roll out your vinyl face-up. If you have a large space to cover, you may have to work half at a time. My bathroom is teeny and weird shaped, as you can see from the pattern, so that wasn’t an issue in my case.
Next, lay your paper pattern out on your vinyl, also face-up, taking care to make sure the pattern or wood grain of your vinyl in running in the direction you want it too. Adjust as needed.
Then tape it all down really well with packing tape. Get your flattened cardboard box and place it under the corner where you intend to start cutting. This is to protect the floor underneath so you don’t cut it up. Use your box cutter to trace the outline of the paper pattern, taking care that you are cutting all the way through. Move the cardboard with you as you cut so the floor underneath remains unscathed. I used a metal ruler to cut against to make sure I was cutting nice straight lines. Again take your time with this. Nice clean cuts will look much more professional than rushed, jagged ones. Once you’re done, peel off the paper pattern and you now have a floor!
Roll it up and bring it into your space and unroll it onto the offensive floor. If there’s a little excess in areas you can trim it slightly with your box cutter, so that the floor lays completely flat. Hooray you’re almost done!
You can stop at this step, but I really wanted that floor to stick down, so I got removable double sided carpet tape to stick it down. You just lift it in strategic areas and place strips of the tape underneath. Then I just hopped on it to stamp it down good.
And Viola! You’re finished! Do a little happy dance on your new floor:)
Below- BEFORE & AFTER
Update: It’s been a year now since I laid my floor and I have had no issues with it. The tape has remained stuck and the floor lays completely flat.
To get you inspired, below I’ve gathered some cool sheet vinyl from a variety of sources around the web. If you live near a big home improvement store, that’s even better- you can go look at samples before you buy. And just a precaution- it was HEAVY, especially to drag up three flights. But I managed ok. If you have a larger space you’re covering, get a friend to help.
Scorched Walnut vinyl flooring from Home Depot (this is what I used) available here. It would look equally good in a kitchen too.
Penny Lane faux-tile vinyl flooring, great for a neutral color bathroom, available here.
Marine star-pattern geometric vinyl flooring available here. This Etsy seller has loads of fun pattern vinyl flooring. It’s a bit costlier that standard sheet vinyl from someplace like Lowes, but you won’t find patterns this cool elsewhere.
Ronda Blue Faux-tile sheet vinyl available here.
For a bold look, Granada geo-pattern vinyl flooring is available here.
And there you have it- a good-looking (and temporary!) solution for ugly rental flooring, that’s under $100, depending on your floor size. Even Danger pug approves!