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Alterna Installation 101

December 19, 2012 1:53 pm    Posted by gieniec    Comments (16)

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My fiancé and I make a good team when it comes to home improvements: he is construction-savvy and I’m always ready for a new challenge! However, with any home project, we always step back and ask ourselves this question, “Is this a DIY project or do we need to hire a professional?”

Case in point: we need a new kitchen floor. Since I work at Armstrong, we’re looking at Armstrong products – specifically Alterna groutable premium tile. It’s one of our most popular flooring products and has received a lot of positive reviews on our website.

Now for the big question: Is Alterna a DIY product? The answer is yes – and no. Installing Alterna premium tile is similar to installing a ceramic floor. If you have experience with flooring installation, you can tackle it yourself and get great results. Otherwise, Armstrong recommends hiring a professional installer.

What You Need to Know About Installing Alterna

Let’s break down the installation into 3 different areas: subfloor preparation (that’s the underlying layer of rough or unfinished material that supports your Armstrong floor), installation tools, and installation. Proper preparation prior to the day of installation will alleviate a DIY disaster!


Subfloor Preparation

The subfloor for Alterna flooring must be:

  • Clean and dry: free of debris, paint, wax, oil, and other foreign matter
  • Level: variations in flatness must not exceed 1/16″ in 1′ or 3/16″ in 10′
  • Strong solid subfloor: no deflection (or movement)
  • An approved suspended wood underlayment


*Read the subfloor prep guidelines before getting started.

Installation Tools

You’ll probably have some of these tools in your toolbox or on your workbench, but others, like the 100lb. roller you will need to rent or borrow.

  • S-288 Armstrong Adhesive
  • S-891 Armstrong Trowel
  • Vinyl Tile Cutter or Straight Edge & Utility Knife
  • Tile Spacers
  • Chalk Line
  • 100 lb. Roller
  • S-693 Armstrong Premixed Sanded Grout
  • Hard Rubber Float
  • Margin Trowel
  • White 3M Pad
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Grout Sponge
  • 2 Buckets (clean water)
  • Armstrong Once N’ Done Floor Cleaner
  • Knee Pads (optional but will save your knees at the end of the day)
  • Camera (You’ll want to take before and after photos!)



Before you begin installing Alterna, read the installation instructions. Here are the basic steps.

  • Open several cartons.
  • Divide your room into equal quadrants, marked by a chalk line.
  • For the best results, dry lay out the first quadrant by randomly selecting tiles from each carton and placing them in the design you want.
  • Once the desired look is achieved, pick up the tiles and spread adhesive over a quarter of the room.
  • You’ll need to cut or shape tiles at wall edges and around cabinets.
  • Repeat these steps in the other three quadrants.


Armstrong Alterna Reserve

Don’t forget to take before and after photos – nothing wrong with claiming bragging rights for a job well done!

Now as for whether my fiancée and I would install an Alterna floor ourselves when we decide to replace the floor in our kitchen – the answer is, I think we’re going to go for it!

Jamie Gieniec is a Commercial Flooring Technical Representative who has been working in the floor covering industry for over 7 years, specializing in design, sales and technical services. She enjoys gardening, cooking and shopping for Alterna flooring for her new home!

16 Responses to “Alterna Installation 101”

  1. Deb says:

    We are planning on having this flooring installed by a contractor. We fell in love with the flooring early on and have had the samples from the local flooring store home several times while we ‘auditioned’ colors. Ours is a small galley kitchen – since the tile now comes in a smaller size – which size tile would you recommend?

    Also, I have to admit I am a bit concerned about some comments regarding appliances sitting directly on the floor – I saw some mention that they should have plywood underneath them to prevent damage to the floor. WHAT?! If this is the case, I will definitely look else where for a product that is not so sensitive.

    • gieniec says:

      Hi Deb!
      While the end design is completely up to you, there are some things to think about prior to purchasing. Smaller tiles can make a small room appear larger, but if you grout the Alterna, you’d have many grout lines in your floor. Large tiles offer fewer grout lines to consider and will cover more area (less tiles). You should also keep in mind that not all Alterna styles are available in the 12”x12” size, so you will need to determine through your dealer if the design you choose is offered in both sizes.

      I think there maybe some confusion regarding appliances on the tile. We recommend using plywood to MOVE appliances by “walking” the object. The plywood is used to prevent gouges on the product while moving appliances. You do not need to use plywood under the appliance at all times. You should, however, consider floor protectors for stools, chairs, or tables that will be on the tile. If you wish to discuss your concerns further, please contact our Customer Relations and Technical Services department at (800) 233-3823.

      Thanks for writing!

  2. Robynski says:

    We are looking to purchase the Alterna tile for a very small kitchen/hall/1.5 bath (110 sq ft of floor space). We like the variations of natural slate and were thinking we could “mix it up” by using two or three different tiles. We really like the Mesa Stone colors – particularly Canyon Sun.

    Which 2 other shades would you recommend with Canyon Sun? And please give me a couple grout color options that would coordinate with all 3 colors.

    Thanks you!

    • gieniec says:

      Hi Robynski! Below I’ve included a link to the Alterna Recommended Grout Chart which you may find helpful. I think the Gray/Brown (D4107), Moss (D4108), Chocolate (D4109) and the Canyon Sun (D4112) would coordinate well together. They all are recommended to be used with the D4 Mushroom color grout. Please visit your local retailer to obtain samples of these products to see if the colors coordinate to your liking.

      Alterna Recommended Grout Chart –

      Good luck!

  3. Robynski says:

    Thank you so much! I have contacted our rep. to get samples!

  4. Frank Campagna says:

    I seem to like the product but Armstrong’s policy of full carton is unreasonable when you need one or two more tile to finish a prject or need a larger sample size to determine to buy.

    • gieniec says:

      Hi Frank!
      We don’t sell directly to consumers – we supply to retailers, who supply our flooring products to consumers. We do not specify how the retailer should sell their products. It’s up to the retailer to decide how to sell them. Also, you may want to consider storing any extra material you have left over for future use in case of an accident or damage that may occur.

  5. Jean says:

    Which size Alterna tiles are recommended for a small (approx. 125 square foot) kitchen, the 12×12 or 16×16? I will use professional installers vs. DYI. Thanks.

    • gieniec says:

      Hi Jean!
      Thanks for writing! I would suggest using the 12 x 12 sized Alterna tile for a small area. This size usually makes a smaller area appear larger. But ultimately, you need to decide what you prefer visually. Hope this helps!

  6. jane says:

    Please advise if the grout and adhesives are available in different sizes i.e. based on room size. I am doing a bathroom which requires approx. 42 sq. ft. I believe that two boxes (12X12) Alterna Light Grey should be enough – please confirm.

    • gieniec says:

      Hi Jane!
      Our 12×12 Alterna product contains 24 sq ft per carton (24 pcs per carton). I recommend that you diagram the layout of the room to be sure no cuts are being made to bring down the amount of ‘useable’ square footage.

      Alterna Grout comes in a quart and a gallon size. Coverage varies for the size of the spacing you are allowing for the grout. For 12×12, the largest joint we specify for grout is ¼” and a quart will get you 42 sq ft/qt, 3/16” will get you 52 sq ft/qt, 1/8” will get you 61 sq ft/qt and 1/16” will get you 84 sq ft/qt.

      Alterna adhesive comes in 1 quart, 1 gallon and 4 gallon sizes. You will get 62.5 sq ft/qt and 250 sq ft/gallon.

      Hope this is helpful!

  7. Sara M. says:

    We had our Alterna floor professionally installed. When I went to wash the floor, I noticed grout residue spots in many areas. I have scrubbed and scrubbed yet it remains. At first it looks like it’s coming off, but it isn’t. Once any dust falls on the floor, it sticks to all those spots. Is their something strong, yet safe to use to get It off? We have a tile that is a light cream, solid color, so the spots are quite noticable. It looks great, except for that. Any help would be greatly appreciated. We have about 1,000 sq. Ft. installed.

    • gieniec says:

      Hi Sara!
      If you’re not able to remove grout residue with our Once n Done cleaner, I suggest using a soft white cloth dampened with low odor mineral spirits. Blot the affected area and do not rub vigorously, changing the area of the cloth frequently so as not to reapply any residue to the floor. Be careful NOT to get the mineral spirits on the grouted area of the installation, as mineral spirits can affect the grout, causing more to transfer onto the surface of the tile. After using the mineral spirits, clean the area with properly diluted Once n Done.

      I hope this helps!