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How to Cut Specialty Flooring Materials

Your Quick Guide to Custom Cutting Rubber, Foam, Plastic or Vinyl

By Julia Nass

Having the ability to install a floor oneself is not only satisfying - it saves the hefty cost of hiring someone to do it. No matter the material, design or purpose of the floor, Greatmats makes easy installations a priority.

Although most floors are a breeze to install, wall-to-wall placement of flooring materials requires a bit more extra work. The likelihood that tiles will fit wall-to-wall without being cut down are slim. Further, certain floors may have surface irregularities or appliances that need to be navigated around. Therefore, specialty flooring often has to be cut down in order to fit perfectly. The best cutting methods may not be as intuitive as putting tiles together. The following provides a general guideline as to how to cut different specialty flooring materials.

What You Need

Regardless of the flooring material, one should be equipped with the following items: a tape measure, washable marker or pencil and a straight edge. These tools are the key to floor cutting and installation success. Why? Because these tools are your cutting safeguards. Used properly, they will help protect you from making any unsightly cutting mistakes. By staying vigilant in your measuring and marking, you will come away with clean edges and a perfect, tight fitting floor.

It's now time to discuss the cutting tool. For the majority of flooring installations, all you are going to need is a sharp utility knife. However, this depends on the thickness and density of the material. If flooring material is too dense, thick or hard to penetrate with an utility knife, a power or table saw will be required to make cuts. Here is a quick rundown of cutting tool requirements based on material:

Plastic - Pretty much all plastic flooring can be cut with an utility knife. That being said, for hard plastics it is much more time and energy efficient to use a power saw.

Foam and Rubber - Use an utility knife for rubber and foam products. Even in the case of denser, thicker materials, foam and rubber should be soft enough to cut through.

Vinyl - Hard vinyl tiles require a table saw to cut. Thin vinyl rolls can be cut with a sharp utility knife.

Getting Ready to Cut

Begin by installing the majority of your floor. Once you get to a point where you cannot fit a whole tile between already laid tiles and the wall (or dryer, or column, or whatever you're fitting tiles next to), that's your cue that it's almost time to cut. But before we cut, we must pull out our handy dandy aforementioned tools and measure, measure, measure.

Using your tape measure, take the distance between the already-laid tile and the wall (or dryer, etc.). Measure the same distance on the tile you are preparing to cut. If you are cutting rubber, give yourself an extra 1/8-1/4 inch in order to leave room for expansion. Other tiles may need a small gap between the wall and the tile, so make sure to read the product description carefully in order to determine if tiles will expand. Another tip is to let tiles acclimate to the room for a couple days before installing.

Clearly mark that distance with your pencil or pen and distinguish the line you are going to cut. Because different tiles have different connecting systems on different sides, make sure you are preparing to cut off the correct side. For example, say the tiles have a hook and loop connecting system. If the already laid tile is in place with the loop side exposed, make sure to keep the hook side on the tile you are cutting. Rather, prepare to cut off the loop side.

If you need help or guidance with installation, make sure to check out Greatmats or contact customer service. Chances are, there is a video or blog tutorial you can follow for installation instructions and tips. Otherwise, customer service can answer any installation questions.

Cutting Materials

Lay down your straight edge on the cutting line to use as a guide. Apply a decent amount of pressure to the straight edge in order to keep it in place. Doing so will help you keep your cuts from being jagged, crooked or wonky in any way.

If you using an utility knife to make cuts, make a series of scores to for a clean cut edge. For thicker foam tiles, go most of the way through and then fold the material and finish cutting the tile by following the fold with the utility knife on the opposite side of the tile. For harder materials, making a series of cuts and then folding the tile is a more efficient way to cleanly sever the pieces than attempting to saw completely through the tile. Keep in mind they type of support system on the back side of the tile. In some cases, such as harder plastics, even though you can make a clean break by folding, it can discolor the top surface from flexing around the supports. In these cases it is advised to use a power saw to prevent flex marks.

If you are using a power saw, make sure you are well-aware of safety guidelines and operation procedures. Always remember to wear eye protection when operating power tools, as small pieces can fly away.

What If I Can't Do This Myself?

As mentioned before, Greatmats prioritizes a quick and easy process for customers - customer service to installation. That being said, cutting down materials may not be an easy thing for everyone. If you are feeling intimidated by the task, look for products that can be ordered in custom lengths. Greatmats can cut down certain products for you, so new flooring will fit perfectly in your unique space upon arrival on your doorstep. Contact Greatmats customer service with any questions. You are sure to find support and assistance with anything you need.