Frugal Kitchen Flooring

I heart VCT!  Vinyl Composition Tile, that is!  VCT is a finished flooring material that thusfar is used primarily in commercial and institutional applications.   Think schools, hospitals, and churches.  But it is a fantastic economical option for residential kitchen flooring.   You just have to think outside the box in regards to colors and the design you choose to lay it in.  This example required cutting the 12-inch tiles in half, then installing a random pattern of 6 colors.






Vinyl tile is favored over other kinds of flooring materials in high-traffic areas because of its low cost, durability, and ease of maintenance. Vinyl tiles have high resilience to abrasion and impact damage and can be repeatedly refinished.   Not only is VCT easy to install (I’ve done it myself!), individual tiles can be easily removed and replaced when damaged.



It’s available in a variety of colors from several major flooring manufacturers including Armstrong, Mannington, and Farbo.  Tiles can easily be cut and assembled into colorful and decorative patterns.  It’s really all about the colors chosen and the design assembled.



In simple designs of 2 colors, I think that tiles laid on the diagonal are your best bet.  The diagonal placement increases the visual perception of space, making your room appear larger.



Vinyl composition tiles took the place of asbestos tiles, which were widely used in schools, hospitals, offices, and public buildings up until the 1980s.  Use of tiles and adhesives containing asbestos were discontinued when it was determined to be hazardous. Tiles free of asbestos are easily distinguished by their size – asbestos tiles were commonly manufactured in 9-inch squares.



It works great in modern and contemporary settings when laid in a confident, modern design.


Or in a traditional setting, like this one.  Again, on the diagonal takes it up a notch.




 And it works perfectly in vintage/period settings.  My husband and I installed ours in one night 8 years ago.  I chose 3 colors and experimented with lots of designs until I finally decided on this one.




This flooring is CHEAP.  Less than $1 a square foot (!)  It’s warmer and easier on the legs than ceramic tile, looks a ton better than vinyl sheeting (ugh), and is more water resistant than hardwood.  And you can insert YOUR creativity and personality into this versatile flooring.  Hey, it even works in bathrooms, playrooms, and rec rooms.  Are you convinced yet?


Photo Credits:  KeepDominoAlive, ApartmentTherapyDJC, SeattlePi,  Elle Decor, TinyPics,  DeesDesignBlog,  StoneBrookStaging


  1. Dianne Tant

    interesting flooring option….love the look

  2. Angela Estes

    I love this flooring! We’ve looked at it and talked about it for a while. I have two questions. How do you apply the tile (and what prep work needs to be done)? Where did you buy it?

  3. Lee

    I love the blue and white kitchen floor. I’ve been looking for something to replace my vinyl sheet kitchen flooring and love the look of tile but keep thinking every time I drop something and it DOESN’T break that if I had tile it would have broken. Also thinking about the comfort factor since I do a lot of standing in my kitchen. Something that looks good AND is comfortable is definitely something to consider!

  4. Daniel

    Guess what I’m suggesting to Walt about the kitchen floor? 🙂

  5. Kristie

    Check out this link for instructions on laying VCT. It’s the easiest flooring to lay, in my opinion. Much easier and less messy than installing ceramic tile (which I’ve also done).

  6. Jana @ Weekend Vintage

    Oh…I just love this so much. We currently have finished concrete floors all over downstairs. I love that they are so practical-no yelling at muddy children’s feet but they do need to be refinished every couple of years. I’m fearful of spending a bunch on wood and then either not liking it or having to worry about water spots and such. How does it adhere to the subflooring?


  7. kristiebarnett

    Jana, there is a specific adhesive appropriate for VCT – check out the link I listed in the comment before yours for instructions. It’s available at Home Depot and Lowes. Oh, and Angela, we actually got our tile at Corlew and Perry on Nolensville Rd in Nashville – they had many more color choices than Home Depot/Lowes.

  8. Harriett Trepanier

    Nice post, cool site, keep it up.

  9. Ryan McD

    One of these patterns is NOT frugal!

    OK–so we totally bought into the VCT thing–budget + aesthetics = big win for people renovating really cheap house in very old working class neighborhood to raise 5+ kids in. Sounds perfect, right??

    We bought an entire early 80s yellow hardwood kitchen cabinetry off Craigslist for $1000. What would go with that? Some kind of blue tile! But it has to be cheap and fittingly retro: VCT!

    But normal VCT patterns would just look like our kids’ school floors. So we want to jazz it up, right? We searched many Web sites, saw many great ideas, but the one that floored us, as well as getting the crucial friends-and-family approval, was the top image on this page. Who knew vinyl tile could look like that, right?

    Now we had our dirt cheap floor, with a hip look. We ordered nine shades of blue Armstrong Imperial VCT, plus a charcoal for dark.

    BUT: to get that design, you need to cut each 12″x12″ tile into four 3″x8″ pieces with a 4″x4″ square left over. You rent a tile cutter for $15/day. Then it takes an experienced kitchen renovation guy 15 hours to cut enough for 210 sq/ft!!!!! (Labor $30/hr. x 15 hours = $450). Then it takes two experienced, hard-working guys two full days to lay these tiles because they have to sand the edges of each and discard any bad cuts to make sure we have straight lines. Labor = $550.

    Is this cheaper than buying Marmoleum and doing an equally cool design? Probaby still, yes. But is it wicked cheap, like we expected? NO!!!

    The moral of the story is that VCT is very cool and very cheap, but the cooler you make it, the more expensive it gets.

    • Kristie Barnett

      What’s your idea of cheap? Are you suggesting that $550 in labor is expensive?? Have you ever had ceramic tile or hardwood laid? That being said, my husband and I took a “course” at Home Depot and did the labor ourselves. In one long night. That was 12 years ago, and we still love our uber-cool, super-cheap floor.

  10. Bridget


    Please tell me about the maintenance and cleaning of VCT in a residential space. I want to recommend it to a client, but I know when it’s used in commercial spaces it needs layers of polish, buffing, etc. I don’t want it to be shiny bc it would spoil the farmhouse kitchen look. How do you care for and clean it?


    • Kristie Barnett

      We used to apply a couple coats of wax and buff it once a year, but we quit doing that about 4 years ago (we’ve had the floor for 13 years). It is duller than it used to be, but if you don’t want it to be shiny that’s not an issue anyway. You can always rent a buffer and wax it every couple of years with a low-sheen wax. It’s really pretty easy, in terms of maintenance! Have your client buy 5-10 extra tiles so that if some are every damaged they can pop it out and replace it. I have damage on corners of 2 tiles, but it’s never bothered me enough to pry it up and replace it.

  11. Vicki

    I especially love the top design that you did. What brand of VCT did you use and could you tell me the colors? Yes, I think I want to be a copy-cat!

    • Kristie Barnett

      We did this 12 years ago, so I’m not sure the color names. We used black, light green, and dark green. I believe it was Armstrong or Mannington?

  12. Rebecca Mattis

    Kristie, help!
    I really want to put in a brown and white checkerboard (on the diagonal) Mannington VCT floor in my kitchen. But I really don’t want to work hard to maintain it!
    The lady at the flooring store said I could go without polishing it at all…just leave it matte. Have you ever heard of this? I’ve heard people say that would make the floor very vulnerable to stains.
    I would do the whole polish/buff thing if I only had to do it every 5 years or so. There’s only two people at my house; no kids or dogs. It sounds like you don’t polish yours very often either. How much time does it take and how much does it cost to rent a buffer? My kitchen is less than 100 sq. ft.
    Two other floor guys were adamant that I not install VCT in my kitchen. They said it would shrink and grime would collect between the tiles. Have you found this in your kitchen?
    I’m going nuts trying to find out the right answer to all this!

    • Kristie Barnett

      I’ve had this floor for 13 1/2 years, and it’s held up great. A couple of the squares need to be popped up and replaced because I had some water damage, but they haven’t been bad enough for me to put forth the effort (I do have a box of extras for when I do replace any). Haven’t had any issues with “shrinking” or “grime.” I used to polish it every 6 months, which looks beautiful, but I haven’t done it in about 4 years now. We used to own a buffer, but Mr. Man got rid of it. So I’m not sure how much it costs to rent one, but under $100. If you did it once every 2-3 years, it wouldn’t be expensive. The floor guys probably think you should install much more expensive flooring, don’t they? I think they are adamant because of the material mark-up they could get with higher-end materials (just guessing here). I think you should go for it!!!

      • Rebecca Mattis

        Thank you so much for your very helpful reply!

  13. Jennifer

    Hi, Kristie, could you tell me the name of the colors used in that traditional kitchen above, the one with what looks on my screen like cream and yellow, with brown accents.

    I love your site.



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