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How to Tile a Tabletop With Self-Stick Tiles

Katherine Harder

Self-stick tiles, also known as peel-and-stick or self-adhesive tiles, reduce both the time and materials needed for a tiling project. If you're lucky enough to have a completely even surface that your stick-on tiles can cover without cutting, the process involves only peeling off the tiles' sticker backs and placing the sticky side against the surface. Most do-it-yourselfers, however, tackle tiling projects to revive humble, imperfect or irregular surfaces, such as a battered or outdated tabletop. Instead of laboring over an additional "unpeel and unstick" process, employ some preventative measures to head off potential problems.

Match your table's top to your floor's vinyl tiles.
  1. Clean your tabletop with a damp rag and a mild detergent. Allow the tabletop's surface to dry completely, and then assess its surface. If the tabletop is level and free of major defects, you can start laying out your tiles; otherwise, you should attach a plywood base over the tabletop. Vinyl peel-and-stick tiles only stick firmly to flat, even surfaces.

  2. Measure the width and length of the tabletop so you can cut your plywood to a matching size. If you don't have a saw, take these measurements before buying the plywood so you can ask the staff at the home improvement store or lumber supply yard to cut the plywood for you.

  3. Paint the plywood's edges to match the tabletop, or use matching iron-on veneer tape to hide the pressed wood edges. Apply construction adhesive to your tabletop's surface, and then cover the glued surface with the new plywood tabletop. Allow the adhesive to cure for up to 48 hours before proceeding with tiling.

  4. Measure across the width and length of your tabletop, and draw two intersecting lines through the surface's center. Place a tile on the marked center of the tabletop; at this point, leave the protective paper against the tile's sticky back. Arrange the tile so its edges are even with your tabletop's edges.

  5. Fill the remainder of the tabletop with additional tiles until you reach the tabletop's edges. Each tile's edges should butt up tightly against the tiles next to it; leave no space between tiles. If the tiles around the edges look as if they'll need to be cut into thin --- less than 2 inches --- pieces, shift all the tiles over a few inches.

  6. Mark the underside of each edge tile where it overlaps the tabletop's edge. Snip the excess away with heavy-duty scissors, or slice down the line with a utility knife.

  7. Pick up the center tile without disturbing the surrounding tiles. Mark the square opening it leaves behind, using chalk. Pick up all the remaining "dry-fitted" tiles.

  8. Peel off the paper backing from one of the tiles, exposing the sticky adhesive. Starting at one corner of the tile and your chalk square, apply the tile to the tabletop. If you've successfully matched all the tile's edges with your chalk square, proceed with applying additional tiles around the center tile.

  9. Roll over the tiles you applied, using a sturdy rolling pin. Use the force of your weight on the roller to ensure that each tile's sticky back is firmly attached to the tabletop below.