When the kitchen cabinets guy at Home Depot gave me his personal product review of Allure Traffic Master™ floor tiles, I was immediately fascinated by his “how to” instructions for installation.
I had not gone into the store that day with flooring in mind. Pam and I’ve been living on our off grid southern Arizona acreage for nearly four years now (February of 2013) and occupying the Border Fort I built single handed for nearly three years. We had floors, walls, windows, flush toilets, one sink, electrical power from both solar and gasoline powered generators…but the kitchen still needed work.
Whille Dave and I waited for the computer to finish processing my order for custom sized kitchen cabinets, we got to talking about floors. I mentioned that my wife is none too fond of the rubber flooring I installed in 2010. It helps cushion her bones when she falls, what with her balance not always being the best, but it also shows every speck of dirt and remains virtually impossible to keep clean.
Not the way to keep a perfectionist Virgo redhead happy…and if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
“You might want to check out our Allure tiles,” he told me. “No glue, mastic, nails, or carpet tape needed. It just sticks to itself.”
“A floating system?” I asked, my ears perking up. “Loose lay?”
He nodded. “Exactly. But in your kitchen, wait until your cabinets are installed before you put in the Allure. If you hold it down tight with the cabinets, it can either buckle or separate over time.”
I got it. Made sense. But…”What about stuff like, you know, the kitchen table? That would be holding it down some.”
“That doesn’t matter,” he assured me. “The table can move.”
I understood what he meant. After all, our entire flooring system was loose-lay from the get-go. First, a layer of black plastic set right down on the Earth to moisture-proof and dirt-proof each room. On top of that, a layer of 15/32″ OSB strand board, just big old sheets of sheathing wood, connected to absolutely nothing, just lying there. Then the topper, 3-foot square, 3/8″ thick interlocking rubber flooring tiles of the type you see in a lot of weight lifting rooms these days.
If there was a commercial, flexible vinyl floor tile out there that was designed for loose lay installation…yeah. Get me some of that.
A day or two later, I stopped back by Home Dept, discovered they had a sale going on the flavor of Allure Traffic Master™ tile I liked best…and hauled it all home in a seriously overloaded Subaru (which is another story in another Hub).
Note: On the box, they list it as “TrafficMASTER™” tile…and aldo declare that it’s “The Easiest Floor Ever”. I liked the sound of that!
It would have been simpler to install these Allure floor tiles (be they Traffic Master™ or TrafficMASTER™) at the time the home was built. Most importantly, the decision was made to tile my bathroom first because its current built-up floor was nothing but a layer of OSB strand board topped with a couple of coats of paint. However, it also (a) covered a relatively small area, (b) had less clutter on the floor than any other room in the house, and (c) sits way back in the back corner of the place where my early learning curve mistakes wouldn’t be visible to most visitors (not that we get many of those).
When I get around to installing the tiles in the front half (i.e. “Pam’s half”) of the house, I can’t afford any boo-boo’s.
First, however, the stuff in my bathroom had to be moved. It might be the least cluttered room, but that didn’t mean it was uncluttered.
Allure has several available tile sizes, including some long, skinny items designed to fool the eye into thinking you’re looking at wooden boards. I didn’t like those at all, choosing instead the 2′ x 4′ version that’s designed to fool the eye into thinking you’re looking at expensive Italian marble.
It’s all really vinyl on top of resilient underlayment, of course.
I went with a shade called Ivory Travertine, and did I ever get lucky! Picked it out without consulting my wife…and she loves it.
If Mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.
Besides the pattern, I liked the 2′ x 4′ size and shape of the tiles. It intuitively felt like they’d be easer to work with than those long, skinny puppies.
The underside of each tile is a slick, smooth black material edged on one side and one end with black glue strips. This strips attach to battleship gray glue strips bordering one end and one side of each tile’s upper surface.
The first challenge was going to be cutting tiles to fit around the base of the toilet. I’ve never had to do that before; the linoleum (or whatever) was always glued down to the subfloor with the toilet sitting atop the whole shebang in other houses I’ve owned.
So…how to tackle this little puzzle?
It wouldn’t be necessary to get a perfect fit because we could always buy one of those little throw rug thingies to cuddle the toilet base and hide any minor imperfections…but it did need to be close.
Enter ye olde cardboard template concept. Grab a piece of cardboard, cut it like a sculptor shaving away the unnecessary parts until he’s got what he wants, and–okay, that should work.
And it did. With the cardboard templates (one for each side of the toile) cut first, it was possible to carve the tiles without making any “fatal errors” (to use computer terminology).
Note: Tiles that run along a wall edge need to have their “black glue” edges trimmed away before placement. Either that, or an “extra” gray-glue piece would need to be attached on the bottom side so for support.
Usually, it’s easiest to just cut it and forget it.
It was getting late in the day by the time that first tile was in place. In order to feel like I’d “gotten something done”, the other half of the “toilet surround” was left for another day. “Easy” tiles were cut where necessary and placed in position as fast as safely possible.
“Safely” being defined as “doing it without screwing up” and/or ruining a tile.
It was here that the real, functional beauty of the Allure Traffic Master™ system with GripStrip™ edges really came into play.
Yeah, I know that sounds like a freaking commercial, but I gotta tell ya, they’re not just whistling Dixie when they tout this as the easiest floor ever. I’ve struggled with a number of flooring installations over the years, and I do mean struggled. Those small square glue-’em-down tiles? I can never run those in a straight line. Never. Carpet? Not so bad, except for the stretching part, which can be an art unto itself. Linoleum?
Well, okay, I’m dating myself now. Nobody uses linoleum sheets any more. Do they?
The plus points for simplicity of use with Allure are:
1. The tiles line up perfectly with ridiculous ease. Not once did I have to struggle with alignment.
2. When you do make a mistake, you’ve got a bit of time to correct it. The glue strips can be pulled apart if you don’t let them set together “forever”. In tight spots especially, that’s an absolutely crucial advantage.
There was one minus point regarding ease of installation:
1. That black underside is slick. It floats, all right. In fact, you can all too easily bump-slide a newly laid tile to all sorts of places where you don’t want it to be.
The trickiest part of the tile work–except for the area beneath the bathtub–would be the second half of the cardboard template carving for the tile curving around the lefthand side of the toilet base. Unable to think of any better way to go about it with the materials at hand, I finally decided to simply start carving the cardboard, bit by bit, trusting my eye to get it more or less right in the end.
It worked out. There was a bit on the far side I should not have cut away, but the missing portion of the curve could be eyeballed well enough.
Because of the previous evening’s tile placements, a couple of those tiles would have to have their edges forcibly lifted enough to allow the curved piece to “tuck under”…but once again the glue Allure uses proved itself. There was a fair amount of cussing going on, but the end justified the means.
That should give you an idea of how it goes with Allure Traffic Master™ (or TrafficMASTER™) floor tile installation. Now for the Product Review rating.
Bottom line, this product rates a full Five Stars, A+.
The only “tricky thing to remember” is that when molding trim and/or aluminum edge protectors are applied, only the “wall side” of the trim gets nailed down solid. The “floor side” must allow the Allure floor to “float”. Perhaps that’s the way it’s usually done, anyway, but I was glad to hear the Home Depot dude clue me in–because there are no specific instructions to that regard in or on the packaging that comes with the tiles.
I did leave a slightly oversized “hole” in the tiles where they joined together around the four bathtub legs–because that tub sits on steel pins that run right down through the subfloor. My wife and I may want to drop a washcloth (or rag or some such) around each leg if we’re going to play water polo in the tub. You know, to catch stray splashes, if any.
Overall, the key advantages and benefits of this system include:
1. Reasonable cost. We got this on sale at $1.69 per square foot.
2. Water resistant. Allure is recommended for every room in the house, including “wet rooms” such as bathrooms and/or sometimes soggy basements.
3. Easy to install. It really is. Allure tile is to other flooring products as PVC pipe is to other plumbing products.
4. Looks clean all the time. No kidding. I knew I had to be tracking dirt onto the floor from the first night it was installed, but you couldn’t see a bit of it.
5. Easy to clean. Again, no kidding. For a test, an old white tee shirt was dampened and used as a hand-mop. It pulled up plenty of our red clay dirt, slick as could be–but like I said, the tee shirt was the only place you could spot it.
6. Pretty! Both Pam and I really like the way this flooring looks
7. Durable. It seems to be–and it had better be; Allure warrants their TrafficMASTER™ tiles for 25 years of residential use.
If it’ll last for 30 years (and I’m betting it will, since we’re retired, not raising a bunch of rowdy kids), I may not have to replace this floor till I hit my 100th birthday.