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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!