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Some quick background to preempt some discussion about quality, longevity, rental issues, etc.: I'm in a rental that is literally "anything goes". It's a long story, but suffice it to say if it does not require a building permit (or does but you can hide from the inspector), it's good to go. This is an open layout where the bulk is laminate flooring that I installed myself. I have an area that's approximately 18' x 8' that's an entrance and kitchen area and a bathroom that's about 6' x 6' where the original floor is still exposed. The original floor is the old fashioned "linoleum" (asphalt/asbestos 12"x12" tiles) flooring. It's in OK shape, but looks horrible - there's no cleaning of it at this point - it will never be white again.

My main goal is to put the cheapest vinyl solution on top of this that I can. A lifespan of 5 years would be beyond what I'm aiming for. Tearing up the old floor is not an option, nor is any floor prep that involves sanding (I am not wanting to kick up asbestos). I assume I need some type of stripper, but I'm not finding any good specifics about that online.

My second goal is ease of installation. I can't see myself doing a good job with a large sheet - the kitchen/entryway is sort of an elongated "U" shape ( |__| ), and the bathroom is small, but I have to go around the toilet and a small vanity. And having an open floorplan like this, I'd like to avoid stinking the place up with the adhesives required for sheet flooring. So I'm aiming for the self-stick stuff.

Any recommendations on cheap stick-on that will stick, and probably even more importantly the materials to prep the existing floor are welcome!

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I have run into the same situation many times. Let me say first, that I don't condone doing work that requires permits without them, as it often leads to crappy quality or safety issues. I always prefer to do quality work, but occasionally budgets make it necessary to do a quicky fix. In your case, the most important thing is to strip away all old wax and dirt on the existing tiles. Tack down any loose tiles, especially around the edges with ring nails or a power stapler.

There are many de-waxing products and can be found at any box or hardware store. An alternative cleaner is ammonia and water. Cheap and effective, but smelly. You can also use a mix of regular bleach, TSP, and water. (BTW, never mix bleach and ammonia!!!!) Clean the existing tile with one of these products and scrub the surface well with a mesh type pad, like a 3M green scrubbie. Be sure to rinse the area well with clean water and allow to dry.

You may also consider a tile primer. This product is a bit pricey at over $30 a gal, but when applied over most any hard surface gives an excellent base for any self adhesive tile product.

When you get to the bathroom, remove the toilet and cut your tile around the closet flange, then reinstall the toilet. It is only two bolts, one water connection, and a replacement wax ring. It will look 100% better and avoid tiles coming up due to the toilet sweating and wetting the edges of tiles cut around the base. Only takes a few extra minutes, but will make a big difference.

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Sounds good - don't worry, I'm not looking to do anything that requires a permit. Is it possible for you to name some names on recommended stripping products? Also any thoughts in general on the self-adhesive tiles? I'm a bit tempted by the line that gets laid down with spacing in between and then "grouted" with fake grout. –  sporker Apr 10 '11 at 19:59
    
the names Beacon, Speed Ball, and Star Brite come to mind when using strippers. You will find many other brands out there. If you have a janitorial supply house near you, check it out, they will carry good commercial grades, otherwise, you can find it at any box or hardware store. –  shirlock homes Apr 11 '11 at 10:18
    
As far as the grouted self stick tiles is concerned, they look great, but must be applied to a very stable, non-flexible base. If there is any flex in the subfloor, the grout will separate and crack. Check out the "floating, overlap vinyl strips". These panel type vinyl strips stick to themselves at the overlap and are fantastic over less than ideal subfloors and don't require stripping the old floor! They are on display at Home Depot. Very easy to cut and install, and go in very fast. they come in tile designs as well as wood patterns. Priced under $3/sq.ft. –  shirlock homes Apr 11 '11 at 10:25
    
Awesome. Thanks so much. Oddly enough that flooring store that I speak of too much has some vinyl strip flooring on sale for $1.19/sq. ft. That's hard to turn down. Thanks for the tip on the "grouted" vinyl. I think the floor could be a bit too spongy in places for that then, very good to know about that drawback. Thanks! –  sporker Apr 12 '11 at 4:11
  • Fill all cracks, holes, uneven spots with floor leveling compound. Otherwise those defects will wear through and cause your top layer to crack.
  • Get the floor clean, dust-free, and dry.
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We just prep the old tile by sanding it with 120 or 160 grit paper. Any loose old tiles, you have to glue them down or staple them with heavy duty staples. Or you can peel them up and use floor filler to fill in that spot.

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