With this guide to adhesive, learn everything there is to know about a floor’s best friend – glue! Though not nearly as glamorous as the product you chose for your floor, the product you choose to adhere your floor is just as important.

Specifying floor coverings is often a detailed process to make sure that the right material is used for the space in question, the color and pattern fits the interior design scheme, and the customer gets the flooring they are happy with.  However, specifiers sometimes overlook the adhesive. Specifiers can help with the quality control of their projects.  Little research and writing the correct adhesive into the specification goes a long way. Read below for a guide on adhesives and its most popular challenges.

Adhesive for Tiles

For example, epoxy Terrazzo tile is less absorbent than porcelain and ceramic products. Because of this, the project might require a specific type of thin set mortar. For engineered wood, a standard urethane adhesive works well. However, the job might call for specialized products for better acoustics or increased moisture resistance on a concrete slab.  Carpet also has a variety of fastening systems, from a standard glue down with a pressure sensitive adhesive to corner tabs that allow the floor to float without being permanently attached to the substrate.

Adhesive for Resilient

However, the category of resilient flooring probably has more different options when it comes to adhesive than any other type of floor.  As the number of resilient flooring categories has grown, so has the variety of adhesives.  A little bit of time specifying resilient flooring adhesives can go a long way towards preventing problems on the job. Leaving the option open to the flooring contractor or the installer might result in the adhesive selection being based on cost or ease of application, although the lowest cost or easiest to use adhesive is not always the right option.  I would bet that most flooring contractors would rather have a specific product on the drawings, rather than having to make the selection themselves.  By specifying this upfront, it puts all the bidders on an even playing field, bidding on the same flooring and adhesive.

Resilient flooring adhesives are usually product specific. Because of this, Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) adhesive generally is not a good option “luxury“ vinyl tile (LVT). By the same token, vinyl plank adhesive may not be appropriate for a homogeneous vinyl tile, even though both products fall under ASTM F1700, Standard Specification for Solid Vinyl Floor Tile*. Continuing this thought, an increasing number of resilient flooring products are similar looking to vinyl plank, but are “PVC free” construction, so they are not actually vinyl. Linoleum, rubber flooring, and cork are other examples of resilient flooring products with adhesive requirements that are very specific to those floor covering materials.

Managing Multiple Parties

The plot thickens when the resilient flooring manufacturer is recommending multiple options for the same product. This is where the use of the space can be an important part of the conversation. Staying with the plank example, the installer might prefer a pressure sensitive adhesive because it’s easy to work with. For a general commercial application, that will work well.  However, in very high traffic areas subjected to rolling loads, point loads or topical moisture, a two-part epoxy or any reactive adhesive would give the finished floor more durability. In some cases, a damp concrete slab might require a different adhesive or moisture mitigation coating before  installing flooring.

What about cases where the installer or flooring contractor wants to use an adhesive other than the manufacturer’s brand? There are some excellent adhesive manufacturers in our industry. Many of them are producing “private label” products for the floor covering manufacturers. Since my start in floor covering in the 1970s, I worked to stick with (pun intended) the manufacturer’s branded adhesive for a full “top to bottom” warranty.  Later in my career, I worked for a floor covering manufacturer and supervised product development for their adhesive. A good deal of research and product testing went into this process. When the manufacturer finally released the adhesive, we knew it was the best option for our floor coverings.

I still feel that resilient flooring manufacturer branded adhesives are the way to go. However, I’m regularly asked if the floor manufacturer will guarantee their product if it’s installed with an another brand adhesive. The manufacturer warranties what they sell; if they don’t sell the adhesive, it won’t be part of the warranty. That doesn’t mean that the alternative product isn’t appropriate, it just means that a conversation between the adhesive manufacturer and the flooring contractor is a good idea to be sure that there will be warranty coverage on the adhesive used with the specified floor covering for the specific project. Here is an example of how one manufacturer (I will call them Brand X) addresses this question:

Brand X does not recommend the use of alternate adhesives but recognizes there are circumstances when an alternate adhesive may be beneficial. Extensive adhesive testing has been conducted and the recommended adhesives provide excellent performance under diverse installation conditions. The use of an alternate adhesive requires submission of a signed adhesive waiver. This is to acknowledge that Brand X will not be responsible for any issues arising from or associated with its use.

From my experience on resilient flooring failures, so much of it can happen between the flooring and the substrate. Adhesive impacts resilient flooring shifting, gapping, or curling, adhesive oozing between the joints, moisture related failures, and more. If any problems occur, it can impose“finger pointing” if the adhesive and floor covering come from different manufacturers. Even in a defect in the resilient flooring, the manufacturer will warrant their product, but not adhesive or labor.

Adhesive Spread

One also needs to think about the adhesive cost per square foot. You can calculate this by using the cost per gallon and the spread rate of the adhesive. Spread rate is the number of square feet adhesive will cover using the recommended trowel.   For example, at a spread rate of 150 sqft per gallon at $60.00 per gallon, that’s 40 cents per square foot. If the manufacturers adhesive covers 200 square feet and costs $80, that’s still 40 cents/square foot. So, even though it costs more per can, the cost per square foot is the same! Often times, a better-quality adhesive will have a higher spread rate. This way the cost per square foot is comparable to an adhesive that might cost less per can.

In the End

When in doubt, you can always contact your Spartan Surfaces representative! They will work with me and our manufacturer partners to help you write a specification that results in the best chance for success of your project.

Check out Spartan’s Adhesive Options




Christopher Capobianco covers the NY Metro and Connecticut area for Spartan.  He’s a fourth-generation floor coverer whose family has been in the business since the 1930s. For 36 of the last 43 years, he’s had roles in retail, distributor, and manufacturer sales.  The other seven years were spent in floor covering training and technical support.  He also has been a part time columnist for various flooring magazines since 1988 and is a long-time member of the ASTM Committee on resilient flooring. You can reach him here.


Spartan Surfaces, a subsidiary of Floor & Decor, is a specialty flooring supplier headquartered in Bel Air, MD. Employing over 150 team members, Spartan holds warehousing and offices in Maryland and Minnesota with showrooms in D.C.and Chicago.  Its geography encompasses eighty-five percent of the United States, with continued expansion on the horizon. Taking a human-centered approach, Spartan prides itself on great people dedicated to great products, great families, great friendships, and great happiness. Whatever you’re working on, we’ve got you covered!