Damaged vinyl tiles can be repaired

March 21, 2005|by GENE GARY/Copley News Service

Q: I have vinyl tile flooring in the kitchen. Over time, several tile squares have begun to lift and curl at the edges. In general, the flooring is in good condition. Can the tiles be repaired without replacing the entire flooring?

A: Often when bubbling or curling occurs on resilient vinyl flooring, repairs can be made. The source of your problem may be moisture that has worked its way under tiles or weak adhesive. If moisture is the problem, first completely dry the damaged tile and surrounding tiles with a hair dryer or any source of low heat. Heat will also soften the flooring so that it becomes pliable enough to work with.

Once the area is dry and the tiles are pliable, pry up the damaged tiles using a putty knife. Be careful not to damage the surrounding tiles. Continue heat application on the subfloor so you can dry the underlying dampness. Fans may help.


Clean the underside of the tiles you remove by scraping off old adhesive, dirt or foreign matter. Clean the underlying surface as well, using a vacuum to remove any remaining residue.

When the area is thoroughly dry, you can replace tiles by applying a new coating of adhesive (a thin layer on the undersides), and positioning each tile in place, pressing flat and weighing down with a stack of books. Leave in position to set overnight before removing the weight.

Worn-out adhesive or moisture can sometimes cause tiles to bubble in the center. To repair tiles, soften the area with heat, then slice through the middle of any blisters with a sharp knife. Again, scrape and dry the underlying area, add new adhesive, and press firmly. Add weight to the area for 24 hours.

Tiles that show damage and need to be replaced, can be removed in the same way, starting with the heat application. If the old tile is to be discarded, carefully cut around the perimeter of the tile, using a straightedge and a sharp knife. To avoid damaging neighboring tiles, you can make a cut through the center of the tile. Slide the putty knife into the incision, and work the knife toward the edges of the tile until it can be lifted.

After the tile has been removed, scrape the exposed area smooth. Use a vacuum to remove loose particles. Apply a thin coating of tile adhesive, and position a new tile in place, press firmly, and apply weight.

Often, matching an existing flooring with new tiles is nearly impossible. A solution might be to exchange the bad tile for one that is in good condition, but is located in an inconspicuous area of the room where a flawed tile would not show.

Q: I would like to cover a dark paneled room with wallpaper. Can wallpaper be installed over paneling?

A: With proper surface preparation wood paneling, or even imitation paneling products, can be successfully covered by wallpaper. First all ridges, gaps and holes should be filled. Use a good vinyl spackling or a product such as "Fix-all" which comes in a powder form and must be mixed. These products are available at most home-improvement stores. Sand all filled areas smooth, as directed by the manufacturer, and lightly sand all paneling with a fine-grade sandpaper, which will give the wallpaper glue a better surface to stick to.

Do not use a pre-pasted wallpaper (unless you plan to hang it with a regular wallpaper paste rather than using just the wetting process). Purchase a quality wallpaper paste from a major wallpaper supplier. There are numerous products available, including pastes that are particularly suited for adherence to smooth surfaces such as the vinyl over vinyl wallpaper paste.

There are also wall liners available which you can apply directly over a rough surface to cover dents, blemishes, ridges, etc. This will provide an underlayment for your surface wall covering. However, wall liners are expensive and make the job even more labor intensive than surface preparation will.

Q: We have a problem where tar from a roofing maintenance project dripped on a white limestone walkway. It has soaked into the stone and I have not been able to remove the spots by sanding. Do you have any suggestions?

A: The best way to remove the tar deposits would be to first harden the tar residue with ice. Dry ice would be even quicker. The deposits can then be lifted or scraped off. To remove any stain that has penetrated the porous stone, pour naphtha (or turpentine) on the stain and then cover with fine sawdust. Let it stand for several hours and then remove the sawdust. If the stain has not been entirely removed, repeat the operation. You may not be able to remove all traces of staining that has deeply penetrated the stone.

Send e-mail to or write to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.

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