How to choose the right flooring adhesive for the right job

Flooring contractors have to tackle lots of different jobs as they move from site to site.  One day it might be carpet tiles, the next it could be cap and cove profiles for vinyl.  They can find themselves working everywhere from residential homes to commercial premises and even on boats.

For every flooring job, there’s a flooring adhesive designed to work with the substrate, the floorcovering and the environment.  

With so many different flooring adhesives on the market, you might be struggling to understand the difference between them, and you could be missing out on a more effective way of working.  

With that in mind, we’ve created a quick and easy rundown of the main adhesive types, the flooring they should be used for, and the pros and cons of each.  Whether you’re a flooring contractor, a wholesaler or an educator in this industry, we hope you’ll find it useful.

Why is it important to choose the right flooring adhesive?

Choosing the right flooring adhesive can mean you work smarter, faster and safer – while choosing the wrong one can end up costing you time, money and even your reputation.

There are three main differences between flooring adhesives: the application method, the formulation or ingredients, and the properties of that adhesive after it has been applied.  All three can influence which adhesive you should choose for a specific job.  Here are some things to consider:

How is the flooring adhesive applied?

Traditionally, flooring adhesives have been applied manually using a roller and bucket or a trowel, but increasingly contractors are switching to the type of spray formats offered by Gekko.  

Manually-applied adhesives tend to be thicker and a lot more messy than sprays.  They are also physically more difficult and time-consuming to apply.  Using a spray system has lots of benefits – you use less adhesive, application is much faster and more precise, and there’s no need for kneeling and stooping which can lead to repetitive strain injuries for fitters.  

Gekko sprays are available in large 22-litre canisters for large projects, and 500ml canisters for small or intricate jobs.

What ingredients are in the flooring adhesive?

The formulation of an adhesive relates to what ingredients are in the product.  This directly impacts how the adhesive performs once cured, and which floorcoverings or substrates it is compatible with.

For example, some carpets and underlays have a soft foam backing that can be damaged by the ingredients in certain adhesives.  If you’re laying vinyl, you need an adhesive that won’t succumb to plasticiser migration, which can ultimately cause the bond to fail and the floor to bubble or lift.  It’s important to check before choosing a flooring adhesive that it is safe to use with the type of flooring you’re going to be laying.

Is the flooring adhesive fit for purpose?

Different adhesives are designed to perform in different ways after they have been applied.  Some adhesives deliver a permanently tacky film that can be endlessly repositioned – these are called tackifiers, and are designed for flooring with a relatively short lifespan, like carpet tiles.  Other adhesives provide permanent bonds designed to last for a long time.

Certain adhesive formulations are chosen because they are particularly durable for high traffic areas like hospitals, while others are designed specifically for flooring or environments where there is expansion, contraction or movement – for instance, on cruise ships.

Here’s a guide to some of the main adhesive formulas and types, and the key advantages of each:

Types of flooring adhesive

Adhesive type Flooring Type Advantages
Urethane-based Wood, LVT, vinyl planks Very strong and flexible, permanent bonds.  Moisture resistant when cured.  Minimal subfloor prep.
Acrylic-based Vinyl, cushion back vinyl, PVC backed carpet, textiles, linoleum, rubber High bond strength and tack.  Suitable for a wide range of floorcoverings.  Resists plasticiser migration from vinyl-based products, guarding against bond failure
Resin-based Vinyl, PVC, artificial grass, rubber Extremely durable and long-lasting.  Resists intense foot traffic over long periods.  Once cured, resistant to oil, moisture and grease.
Water-based PVC, Rubber, Vinyl, LVT, Carpet (all types) Free from harmful dichloromethane. Low VOCs, extremely versatile, easy clean-up

Common problems with floor adhesive application

Even if you choose the correct adhesive for your flooring type, it’s important to follow some basic steps to ensure correct application and a successful bond.  Common problems that occur when fitting a floor with adhesive include:

Inadequate surface preparation.

This includes failing to fill holes and cracks, or failing to remove dust and debris from the subfloor.  Any of these can cause bond failure.

Insufficient coat weight

All Gekko adhesives come with specific instructions regarding the coat weight – how many g/m2 you should apply, what spray pattern to use, and what the overlap should be.  Failing to apply enough adhesive can lead to a substandard bond.

Environmental conditions

As a liquid product, flooring adhesives are sensitive to changes in the environment where they are being used.  This includes extremes of heat and cold, or high humidity.  You must take these factors into account when laying any floor and take steps to mitigate for a shorter or longer than normal flash-off time.  You can find tips on caring for your Gekko canisters in cold weather here.


What other factors do I need to consider when choosing a flooring adhesive?

The primary consideration when selecting a flooring adhesive is whether it is fit for purpose – will it get the job done effectively, and continue to perform as expected over the required period of time?

But there are other factors to consider as well – things like cost-effectiveness, safety, and ease of use.

Cost effectiveness

Generally speaking, the more specialised a flooring adhesive is, the more expensive it will be.  This is also true of adhesives with a higher solids content, such as resin-based adhesive.  Overall, it’s usually more cost-effective to choose a spray adhesive because it will take less time to apply, with less wastage than a manually-applied product.

Ease of use

Products that are easy to use have a number of benefits for contractors and their employees.  Gekko’s spray adhesive systems make it quick and easy to cover large areas with adhesive, reducing strain on the body and helping fitters do more work in less time.  Opting for water-based adhesives can make the task even simpler by making it easy to clean up tools and overspray at the end of the day.


Whether you’re self-employed or have a huge team of fitters, safety is the number one priority.  As well as helping to avoid repetitive strain injuries caused by kneeling and bending, Gekko’s range of dichloromethane-free adhesives helps to protect floor fitters from respiratory and skin irritations.  DCM is linked to a higher incidence of lung cancer among flooring professionals, so it makes sense to eliminate this harmful chemical from your operations wherever possible.  Check out our range of DCM-free adhesives here.

Choose well, choose Gekko

Choosing the right flooring adhesive ensures your jobs run smoothly and your people stay safe and well, for happy customers all round.  For help selecting the right adhesive for your next flooring project, get in touch with our knowledgeable team, or find your nearest stockist.  If you’d like to join Gekko’s nationwide distributor network, we’d love to hear from you!