If you read my post about removing the wallpaper from my master bathroom, you may have noticed the carpet on the bathroom floor. I’m 95% sure it was original to the house, which means it was 20 years old. Please revel with me for a moment in just how disgusting a 20-year-old carpet is in a BATHROOM. Are you reveling? Yeah. Ew. There was a little strip of linoleum running in front of the shower and bathtub, as if that’s going to help anything. The toilet room (water closet??) was the same tile-print linoleum and was curling up in one corner. The exact corner that I had to stare at every time I sat on the toilet. Every now and then I would pull at it a little and make it worse, just because it annoyed me. After a year of telling myself we needed new flooring I finally confronted the problem, and it was a surprisingly easy fix!
My eventual goal for the bathroom is to install radiant floor heating and tile over that, and I think since that’s my ultimate dream, it never occurred to me that I could find a cheap intermediate solution that would end up looking so nice. If we ever decide to re-do the floor, I’ll actually be sad to see this stuff go. It looks really pretty in our bathroom! I used this driftwood gray wood-look peel-and-stick vinyl from Lowe’s. It has a nice, rustic, hand-scraped texture and looks surprisingly realistic. When I first decided to go this route, I was thinking I’d get some marble-looking vinyl tiles, cut them into thirds, and install them in a herringbone pattern. But once I saw this wood stuff in the store I was sold.
Removing the old flooring was really satisfying. After my husband and I pulled up the carpet and linoleum, we went to town scraping the plywood subfloor. Not only were a bunch of linoleum shreds and glue still stuck to the floor, but there was wall texture overspray that we had to scrape off too. After we scraped as much as we could, I used the orbital sander to smooth out a few areas. I feel like you don’t need to get the sub-floor as perfect as you would for laminate or tile flooring (says the lady who’s never installed either of those), but it’s still a good idea to scrape, sand, and level as much as you can. The better the base you start with, the better your finished result will be. Any decent-sized bumps or uneven areas will be noticeable after the vinyl is installed, so it’s worth the time and effort to prep the floor and try to get it right. Case in point: I had a plywood joint that was uneven. After sanding for a while, I got tired of it and quit. You can sort of feel it under the vinyl now, and it really would have been best to use a leveling compound to even out the joint.
Next came the fun part…installing the new floor! Installing peel-and stick vinyl is pretty easy and straight-forward. I decided to just start along the tub and shower where I had a long, straight edge to work with. Once I got to the end of each row, I had to make lots of odd-shaped cuts to fit around moldings, odd corners, etc. The majority of my time was spent making those funky cuts, but if you have more of a square room with nice straight edges, this is a really quick and easy project. Here are some tips I learned from the process.
- Start with a clean, even floor. As I was laying planks down, I noticed a couple spots where I didn’t sand or scrape well enough, and I was left with a noticeable bump under the vinyl. Not a huge deal because you can’t really see it, you just feel it when you walk on it. But it really is better to get a nice smooth floor in the beginning. Vacuum well before you get started, and do it a few times as you go as well. I also kept a metal scraper handy because I found lots of areas that needed more smoothing out as I went.
- Do a dry fit of your planks/tiles before you start sticking them down. I laid some planks out across the width of the bathroom to see how they lined up, and what size my leftover sliver would be underneath the cabinet. If you start with a full plank on one side but end up with a little sliver on the other side of the room, you want to know this before everything is stuck down! In that case, it would probably best to start with half-width planks.
- Know how to cut the vinyl. I’ve seen more than one DIY vinyl flooring post where a person says they made several passes with a utility knife to cut all the way through the vinyl. This makes me sad for them. You don’t have to do that much work! Using a straight edge, apply firm pressure and score the surface with a utility knife. Then you can easily snap the vinyl along that score line. If it breaks a little messy toward the back side of the vinyl, it’s really easy to shave off the rough edge with the utility knife. This method works for curved edges too, not just straight ones. Believe me, I made my share of odd-shaped cut-outs.
- Use paper templates. I mostly made my tricky cuts around doorways and such by holding a plank up next to it and trying to sketch the right shape onto the plank. Then I’d cut it out, dry-fit it, trim it, fit it again….you get the idea. Well, that was stupid. Use some paper to make templates around detailed areas. I was lucky in some spots and the vinyl would fit under the baseboard or the door trim, and then the cuts didn’t have to be so precise. But in areas where the trim was too close to the sub-floor, it took me SO long to get things to fit right. My weird engineer OCD probably doesn’t help either.
(At least I used a template to cut around the toilet drain!)
- Remove your toilet. If you’re working in a bathroom, you’ll get a much nicer finished result if you remove the toilet and extend the planks underneath it. Just replace your wax ring when you re-install the toilet. They only cost like $4, so don’t let that be what stops you. If it sounds intimidating, watch a couple videos on YouTube and you’ll find it’s much easier than it sounds. We kind of hated our toilet to begin with, and it leaked a bit between the tank and the bowl, so after we took it out we kind of used it as an excuse to replace it, seeing as we were already halfway through the process.
- Stagger wood planks for a more realistic look. I started my first row with a two-thirds-length plank. The second row I started with about a third of a plank, then the next row with a full plank. Before you cut up a fresh piece to start a row, check the scraps you have from the ends of your previous rows. You can probably find something that will work well while saving full planks for the middle of the room.
Just a few more photos so you can see just how beautifully this turned out. By the way, don’t you love the way the light blue walls and the gray-brown flooring complement each other? This room feels so much more soothing and inviting now. I’m totally digging these changes. Now I need to follow through with some ideas I’ve been scheming to build a new vanity and finish out the sink area.
I hope this has inspired you to jump in and replace your flooring to get a fresh, updated look. I’m already thinking of installing this flooring in my daughter’s bathroom too. If you have any questions about how I did anything, please leave me a comment! Thanks for reading 🙂