How do I repair a bubble in vinyl floor?

I received an email from a reader asking how she could repair a bubble that had been in her vinyl floor for three years. The last she could remember from the installer was “Don’t worry, it will lay down after a while.”

Famous last words from a vinyl installer. She waited patiently until she couldn’t wait any longer. By the way, if you’re ever told those famous words after paying for a new vinyl floor, call the store from which you bought it and ask them about it before signing off on a job well done.

I asked her if it was a high bubble as if it were under pressure or if it was laying low but just not adhered to the floor. Her reply was that it was standing high but not necessarily under pressure and that it was near a corner of the cabinets. Being near the corner of a run of cabinets made me think it might not be an air bubble after all but instead, an “out of square” installation. If the vinyl is cut around a set of cabinets making an L shape and the L is not laid down completely square, it can cause a buckle in the floor.

The remedy is different for each one. If it is an air bubble; fresh flooring adhesive can be added under the bubble by way of a syringe. In the vinyl floor industry, there are tools made for these things and they make a syringe specially made to squirt adhesive under the bubble. Be careful though, you don’t want too much or it will just move from one end of the bubble to the other as you try to press it flat. If you can’t find a syringe made specifically from the vinyl industry, you could use one of those turkey injection syringes folks use to inject a turkey they intend to fry.

Just remember one rule of thumb. You can’t overcome a bad design or in this case, a bad installation. If it wasn’t installed properly from the beginning, you won’t make it perfect afterward; you’ll just improve on a bad installation. So set your expectations at the proper calibration. For instance, when you’re done, you will have a small hole left from the syringe.

For air bubbles, use the multipurpose vinyl flooring adhesive and fill the body of the syringe with adhesive. Then test the amount you need to spread out by drawing a circle, about the size of the air bubble, on a piece of scrap plywood or heavy cardboard. Imagine you have inserted the needle through the vinyl, so you are limited in movement and only the tip can be moved from side to side. Try to spread the vinyl in a wiggly pattern similar to the image you see when viewing radio waves on a chart. After you get the feel of what is required to accomplish that, you are ready to try it on the real thing. The reason you need space in between the lines is so that you can press down on the air bubble and the adhesive will spread out without being too thick.

To apply pressure to the area being repaired, it’s best to have a roller. You can purchase a hand roller that works well for this project without spending an arm and a leg. Kobalt Tools, makes one that cost under $20. It comes in handy for other projects, as well.

If the bubble is caused by the out of square issue, you will have to remove the shoe molding from the cabinet or baseboard near the bubble, cut a slit midway through the length of the bubble, from the far end to the inside corner of the L-shape. Lay the vinyl down in a relaxed position; this should cause the vinyl to overlap each other. Using a razor knife, double cut both layers of vinyl so that you end up with a hairline seam that matches perfectly. Fold the two halves back far enough to spread adhesive under the repair area and fold the vinyl back in place, rolling any air out of the repair with your new roller. Some adhesive may ooze out on the floor and get on your roller, spreading the sticky goo in unintended places, so keep a moist cloth handy to wipe up any excess. Then reinstall the shoe molding. A final step would be to apply a bead of clear seam seal over the razor cut seam.

Now with that task complete, you can call the store and ask them to let the installer know, “that bubble finally laid down,” just as they said it would do.

JD Norris is the owner/operator of DreamMaker Bath&Kitchen and a certified S.C. Master Builder, certified “Aging in Place” Specialist and certified Green Professional. If you have any projects that you would like discussed in an upcoming article, email me at jdn.dm@comcast.net.