Why Vinyl Composite Tile is a Great Budget Garage Floor

vct tile garage flooring

One of the more unique and retro looks for a garage is installing a vinyl composite tiled garage floor.  As a popular DIY installation, the same commercial grade tile that you have seen in grocery stores, schools, shopping malls, and businesses can be put down in your garage and for a price that may surprise you.  Waxed and buffed, this garage tile option will give you a showroom shine that your neighbors will envy.

Benefits of VCT garage floors

Vinyl composite tiles, otherwise known as VCT, are 12” square tiles created with vinyl colored chips combined with a filler of limestone that are heated and pressed into sheets.  Glued to your floor, they are extremely durable, resilient to chips and impact, and fairly easy to keep clean.

Once the tiles are sealed and waxed properly, VCT will resist most automobile chemicals and other liquids that would otherwise stain a bare concrete floor.  In the event that a tile is stained, they can be lightly sanded to bring back the color.  If damaged, they can easily be replaced and a new coat of wax applied.

Because the tiles are coated with multiple layers of wax after installation, they also do a good job of protecting the garage floor against road salts and deicing fluids if you live in a cold climate.  Plus, the glossy finish provides for a brighter garage due to the overhead lights reflecting off the surface.

VCT being installed in workshop

The most common of choices are the black and white checkered flag motif, but you can design your floor with a variety of color options to choose from.  Mixed colors of greys, reds, and blues are popular as well.

One of the most attractive benefits of VCT for a garage floor is price.  Starting out as little as .69 cents a square foot if you shop around, a vinyl composite floor can be one of sharpest looking garage flooring options and the least expensive that you can install in your garage today.

Installing VCT tiles for the garage

Installation is somewhat labor intensive but it can still be done in a long weekend (or longer if you like) and doesn’t require quite the same tedious floor prep as an epoxy coated floor.  Armstrong Flooring has good instructions for tile installation and layout as well.

Note: These instructions for laying VCT in a garage are general in nature and designed to give you an idea of what is required.  Make sure to follow all manufactures instructions.

This is a good overview of how VCT is installed in a garage

You need to start by thoroughly cleaning your floor with a good concrete floor cleaning solution.  Make sure all oil stains are removed or they will interfere with the adhesion of the glue.

Next, repair any larger cracks or small holes in the concrete with a good crack filling compound and fill your contraction joints with a polymer cement repair mix or crack filler.  If you have any areas of large pitting you may have to use a premixed polymer based concrete topping or repair mix to fill in the pitted areas.

The reason for making these repairs and filling your contraction joints is that you can’t have any gaps or holes underneath the tile.  If you do, it will cause the tile to crack or pull away from the seams of adjacent tiles as they try to fill the depression under pressure of foot or vehicle traffic.

If any of the floor’s contraction joints have small trowel ridges built up or if the troweled edge has curled up slightly from when it cured, you will need to grind these smooth.  If not, it will telegraph through in the surface of the tiles and stand out.  It you are not sure, just place a straight edge or level across the joint.

Though long, this video has great tips as well as examples of how to glue and make various types of cuts.

The next day snap a line down the center of your garage floor front to back for a reference to lay the first tiles.  Make sure to measure out to the edges to insure that you end up with at least half a tile left for when you need to cut for the edge.  Move your line over the appropriate amount if necessary to insure that you do.

Visually it’s usually best to start the first row across the threshold of the garage door and then begin working up your centerline in a pyramid fashion.  This will make sure that all your edges are square and you won’t have any misalignment issues.  Any cuts to the tile can be made with a utility knife or heavy duty paper cutter.

Do not make the rookie mistake of starting in a corner and working your way out from there.  Rooms are almost never square and your pattern will start getting misaligned and forming gaps if you do this.

When you are ready to start, spread the glue with a 1/32” notched trowel on a large area of the concrete.  When the glue turns color it has dried enough and is ready to accept the tile.

A great tool to rent for around $20 is a vinyl floor roller.  After the tile is laid, use this roller to press out any trapped air under the tile for the best adhesion as you build the tile out.  Once you are done, you are now ready to seal and wax the tile.

Drawbacks of a VCT garage floor

One thing to keep in mind is that as durable as a VCT garage floor can be for the price, it does have some drawbacks.  It does require higher maintenance in order to keep the nice shine on the floor.  You will have to mop the floor occasionally and at times scrub it with a floor maintainer to remove embedded dirt in order to apply another coat of wax.

epoxy coated VCT garage floor tile

Depending on how much use your garage gets, the build-up of wax may need to be stripped and reapplied again every year or so in order to maintain a nice finish.

VCT floors can also be somewhat slippery when wet.  You will want to take this into consideration if you live in a wet climate.  There are slip resistant floor cleaners available that can be buffed however.

Something else to consider with vinyl composite tile is car tires.  They can leave rubber marks on the surface occasionally which will need to be buffed out.  On some rare occasions they can spin a tile loose if you turn the front tires in place without moving.  No worries though if this does happen.  You can easily replace or re-glue a spun or damaged tile.

If using car jacks or jack stands, it’s best to place a spare tile or piece of wood down first to prevent any compression marks that may occur in the tile.  Also, if any petroleum product makes if past the wax and onto the tile it will stain.  This usually requires sanding the tile to remove the stain or replacing it.

One last note we want to make is that though vinyl composite tile has been used in garage environments for decades, manufacturers will not warranty it for use in a garage.  Most people who install it in the garage are aware of this fact but we want to point it out in the event it would influence your decision.

With all this in mind, you can’t beat the durability and looks of a vinyl composite tiled garage floor if you are on a budget or want a cool retro look for the garage.  It can be installed for much less when compared to other types of floor tiles and the best part is that it looks like a million bucks!


  1. says

    I use vinyl for upholstery because it is strong and lasts. These composite vinyl floor tiles (while less expensive) will be a good investment for someone.

  2. Daryl says

    I really like this kind of garage flooring. Does it require renting or owning a buffing machine to have a floor like this?

    • Shea says

      Hello Daryl and thanks for visiting our site. No, you do not have to rent a buffing machine but they do make things easier. Many of the aftermarket waxing and stripping products can be applied with a mop and and removed with a stiff brush. If you want an almost mirror like finish then you will need to use a floor buffer.

  3. jim says

    My garage floor has some paint on it, but most of it has peeled up from hot tires. Do i have to strip all the paint off to install tiles?

    • Shea says

      The Armstrong 750 adhesive can be used on painted concrete floors. Just remember, the bond of your tile is only as strong as the weakest link. So if you have paint that can still peel up and you tile over it, then the tiles will come up just as easy as the paint it is adhered to.

        • Shea says

          No, what we are saying is that you need to make sure that the rest of the paint on the floor is not ready to peel as well. If the paint is adhered poorly then the glue from the tile will peel the paint right up.

  4. Rob Urban says

    Where are you finding VCT for just $.59/SF??? I’ve looked EVERYWHERE. Vinyl is just about as expensive 10 times more labor intensive as just buying interlocking tiles. where are you getting $.59 per sq ft??

    • Shea says

      Hello Rob and thanks for stopping by. I just checked online with my local Home Depot and they have the Armstrong vinyl tile in black for .69 cents per tile (square foot) and the white for .79 cents a tile. While it’s not at .59 cents right now, people who get them for less take their time looking for specials, sales, or use coupons to get even better deals. We know of many who have done that with success. Admittedly, this article was published a year ago and prices may have been less as well. We will make and edit to reflect that, thank you.

      While I agree whole heartedly that interlocking tile is much less labor intensive than vinyl (thus one of the benefits of such tile), vinyl composite tile can be purchased for much less expense.

  5. Greg says

    Great article. I almost gave up on the idea of vinyl tiles for my garage until I found your site. I shopped around for a while and sure enough I found some white and gray tiles on special at my local tile dealer. The white was 65 cents and the gray was 88 cents. I plan on installing it this weekend!

    • Shea says

      Hello Brian. VCT tile will hold up well in most cold climates. The key is to have a good multiple coat of wax on the floor to protect the tiles from deicing fluids, road salts, and etc. The wax acts as the sacrificial layer. When spring time comes, strip the wax down and apply a few new coats and the tile looks like new again.

  6. Brian says

    Thank you for resonding. The garage does not see any of those items it is used to store my sports cars. The only other concern i have is when the concrete gets cold will it cause the adhesive any adverse effects causing the tiles to come up. Or is it once it is dry and down it is completely bonded

    • Shea says

      You’re welcome Brian. Armstrong makes their S-515 adhesive that is freeze/thaw stable down to 10 degrees F. There are others that manufacture low temp glues as well. It takes a lot of cold to reduce a slab down to those temperatures. Because most garages are attached to the home, it difficult for a slab to get to that low of a temp in most cases.

  7. gary says

    Minnesota cold? The edge at garage door, how do you seal or protect from snow/ice from seeping in?

  8. Richard says

    The acrylic paint near the garage door is peeling and there is a white haze where the paint has chipped away. So, I guess I have some water vapor issue near the door, or its efflorescence. Either way, after I remove the loose paint and clean the area, do I need to apply any other treatment before I install tile?

    • Shea says

      Hello Richard. After you remove the paint and expose the concrete, do a moisture test with a sheet of plastic over the affected area. It wouldn’t hurt to test a spot or two further inside as well. We’ve seen this before with acrylic paints near the door. It could be something as simple as a scratched surface or worn area that allowed outside water to get under the coating. If you do have a moisture issue, you can seal the concrete with a deep penetrating sealer that doesn’t interfere with surface coatings. These aren’t expensive and a gallon usually will cover a standard 2-car garage.

  9. Richard says

    I need a better understanding of peel-and-stick tiles. Is the composition different than VCT? What about durability of the surface? How good is the adhesive? Is there a potential shrinkage issue? Are there any other issues I should know about?

    • Shea says

      That’s a great question Richard. The peel and stick tile are of a solid polyvinyl construction which makes the tile flexible, similar to roll-out garage floor mats as an example. VCT is comprised of polyvinyl chips that are fused together under extreme heat and pressure. The main ingredient however is limestone. This limestone filler (it used to be asbestos) is what makes the VCT durable and more stiff. The surface of VCT is extremely durable, but cosmetically it is dependent on the multiple layers of acrylic sealer and polish (wax) that is applied to it after installation. Peel-and-stick tiles do have a fairly good adhesive but it’s not the same as that used for VCT. We have never heard of problems with shrinkage. Though they come with a factory finish ready to go, they are susceptible to tire staining depending on the color. To avoid this, there are acrylic sealers that can be applied to the surface.

      For even more info on peel-and-stick tiles we suggest you contact Garage Flooring LLC and ask for Justin. He can update you with the latest info on that product.

      • Richard says

        I’m sorry. I was not clear as to the product I was referring to. Its not the garage tile that you covered in one of your articles. The DIY stores have peel-and-stick tile from Armstrong and other vendors. I’m not sure its the same as VCT.

        • Shea says

          Ahhh…. Well it was a good question anyway. The peel-and-stick tile from Armstrong and other vendors is a no wax tile that is designed for ease of maintenance in the home. It’s not as durable as VCT and is similar to vinyl sheeting. We would not recommend it for use in a garage.

  10. judy says

    My cement floor is painted and sealed. Will armstrong 750 adhesive work on this to adhere vct tiles? thanks judy

    • Shea says

      Hi Judy. The S750 adhesive will work if you rough up the paint first with 150 grit sandpaper. However, Armstrong’s position on this is the same as ours. The adhesion of the tile is only as good as the surface it is adhered to. Regular paint has a tendency of eventually peeling up when applied to concrete. If the paint peels your tile will come up with it because the tile is adhered to the paint, not the concrete.

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