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What causes floor tiles to shrink?

Updated November 21, 2016

VCT, or Vinyl Composition Tile, is relatively simple to install and lends a polished look to kitchen or bathroom floors. Typically, limestone or calcium carbonate with small amounts of vinyl and plasticisers compose vinyl tile. It is easy to maintain, only requiring occasional waxing or buffing to keep its sheen. The most common problem vinyl tile owners report, however, is the appearance of shrinkage.

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Temperature has an effect on the density of vinyl tile, causing it to expand and contract. Hot temperatures cause vinyl tile to expand, while cold temperatures make vinyl contract. Consequently, if you leave tile outside in the sun and then install it in your home, the tile will likely shrink after installation in the cooler environment.

Loss of Plasticizers

Vinyl tile shrinkage can also occur long after its installation in your home. The tile has small amounts of plasticisers that can break down over time. When this happens, gaps may develop between tiles and the edges of the tile may curl.

Adhesive Failure

Sometimes, vinyl tile appears to shrink when it is really its original size. This illusion often occurs when gaps develop between the tiles due to adhesive failure from improper installation or alkaline moisture conditions. When the adhesive fails, the tiles shift with foot traffic and cause gaps. When the tiles are not in perfect alignment, some tiles may appear smaller than others.

Shrinkage Prevention

In order to prevent vinyl tile shrinkage, allow tiles to acclimate to your home's temperature before installing them. Prepare your floors properly before installation as well; they should be clean and level. Also, be sure to install the tiles with the proper equipment and adhesive. If you take the time to install the vinyl tiles properly, you greatly reduce the chances of tile shrinkage.

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