10 Common Mistakes When Installing Vinyl Plank Flooring

Thinking about installing vinyl plank flooring? It’s an affordable and effective method to transform your space. But, if you’re not careful, mistakes can ruin the look and longevity of your floors. 

This guide highlights the ten most common pitfalls and how to avoid them, so your flooring project is smooth, successful, and stunning.

Key Summary

  • An uneven subfloor leads to gaps and premature wear.
  • The wrong underlayment can void your warranty.
  • Plan for expansion gaps to avoid buckling and warping.
  • Stagger seams to avoid H-joints and enhance stability.
  • Vinyl plank flooring performs best within a temperature range between 65°F and 85°F.
    In this article we'll cover:
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      common mistakes when installing vinyl plank flooring

      1. Not Levelling the Subfloor

      An uneven subfloor can lead to gaps, creaks, and premature wear of your vinyl flooring.

      Use a long level to check the floor’s flatness before laying anything, and fill in low spots with a leveling compound and sand down high spots.

      2. Using the Wrong Underlayment

      The right underlayment can make a big difference in how your vinyl plank flooring performs over time. You’ll usually find out which underlayment to use by reading the manufacturers manual.

      Using the wrong type can void your warranty and affect the floor’s durability and sound absorption. 

      Below is a summary of which underlayment is best for what type of vinyl flooring:

      Type of Vinyl FlooringFoam UnderlaymentCork UnderlaymentFelt UnderlaymentConcrete UnderlaymentVinyl-Specific UnderlaymrntPlywood Underlayment
      Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring
      Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring❌️
      Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring❌️
      Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring❌️
      Glue-Down Vinyl Plank Flooring

      3. Not Planning for Expansion Gaps

      Vinyl plank flooring expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. The flooring can buckle or warp if you don’t leave enough space around the room's perimeter for this expansion.

      The ideal expansion gap is about ¼ inches around the edges of the room. Remember to use spacers to maintain this gap during installation.

      4. Not Ensuring Proper Alignment and Fit

      Sometimes, installers forget to stagger the seams between rows of planks, which can help avoid H-joints and give the look of a more professional project. Start each row with a plank cut to different lengths, aiming for a random pattern.

      This will not only look better but also add structural stability to the floor. If you’re unsure, consult our trusty friend, YouTube, for a quick tutorial or leave it to the pros.

      5. Not Using the Right Tools

      Having the correct tools on hand will make the installation smoother and help you avoid costly and dangerous mistakes. 

      Common tools include:

      Utility Knife Tape Measure Straight Edge
      Spacers Tapping Block Non-Marring Hammer
      Grout Float Floor Roller Heat Gun
      Pry Bar Squeegee Seam Roller

      6. Installing Vinyl Plank Flooring Backwards

      Always start from the left side of the room and work your way to the right, as this ensures the planks lock together properly.

      If you install them backwards, the planks won’t fit snugly, leading to gaps and an uneven surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct installation direction.

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      7. Not Calculating Width of Last Row

      Before you start laying down planks, calculate the width of the last row because if the last row is too narrow, it can look awkward and be difficult to install.

      To avoid this, measure the room’s width and adjust the starting row so the last row is at least half a plank wide to ensure a neat finish and prevent gaps.

      8. Cuts and Obstacles

      cuts and obstacles

      Not Planning for Corners

      Improper cuts can lead to wasted material and an uneven look. Use a carpenter’s square to ensure your cuts are precise, and dry fit the planks before securing them.

      Not Planning for Vents

      Measure the size and location of the vents accurately, and use a jigsaw to make the necessary cuts. This ensures a clean fit and maintains the floor’s seamless appearance.

      Not Undercutting Door Jamb and Trim

      To achieve a clean, professional look, undercut door jambs and trims so the planks can slide underneath. This is easier than trying to cut the planks to fit around these obstacles. Use a handsaw or a jamb saw to undercut the door frames.

      9. Not Removing Baseboards

      It might be tempting to leave the baseboards in place, but removing them before installation allows you to achieve a cleaner edge and maintain the expansion gap. 

      After installing the flooring, you can reinstall the baseboards to cover the expansion gap, giving your floor a finished look.

      10. Ending Rows with Small Boards

      Avoid ending rows with very short boards, as they can look awkward and are more likely to come loose.

      Plan your layout to ensure that the boards at the end of each row are at least 6 inches long, as this looks better and adds stability to the floor.

      When to Consider Hiring a Professional Installer?

      Professional installers have the experience to handle all aspects of vinyl plank flooring installation. They know how to avoid common mistakes and can tackle any challenges that arise during the process. 

      Here’s why you should hire a pro:

      Time-SavingHiring a professional can save you a significant amount of time. They can complete the installation quicker and more efficiently than a DIYer, allowing you to enjoy your new floor sooner.
      Warranty ComplianceProfessional installers are familiar with manufacturer warranties and will ensure that your installation complies with all requirements.

      This can prevent issues that might void your warranty.
      Quality ControlProfessionals have the right tools and techniques to achieve a high-quality installation.

      They can ensure that your floor is level, the planks are properly aligned, and the finish is flawless.
      Cost-EffectiveWhile hiring a professional may seem more expensive initially, it can save you money in the long run.

      Proper installation prevents issues that could require costly repairs or replacements down the line.

      General Tips and Best Practices

      Your vinyl flooring project can't be all that bad when you have the proper know-how. Here are recommended best practices for vinyl flooring installation:

      Read and Follow Manufacturer Instructions

      The first and foremost tip is to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions because each brand of vinyl plank flooring has specific installation guidelines. 

      These instructions will include important information such as required tools, preparation steps, and installation techniques.

      Ignoring these instructions can lead to mistakes that might void your warranty or damage your flooring.

      Acclimate Your Flooring

      Vinyl plank flooring needs to acclimate to the temperature and humidity of the room where it will be installed. Store the unopened boxes of flooring in the room for at least 48 hours before installation.

      This helps the planks adjust to the environment, reducing the risk of expansion or contraction after installation.

      Check Subfloor Moisture Levels

      High moisture levels in the subfloor can cause vinyl planks to warp or come loose, so use a moisture meter to check the moisture level of your subfloor.

      If it’s too high, address the moisture issue before installing your flooring, which might involve improving ventilation, using a dehumidifier, or installing a moisture barrier.

      Check for Alignment Regularly

      Use a straight edge to ensure the planks run parallel and the seams are straight. Misaligned planks can lead to gaps and an uneven surface, so take the time to correct any issues as you go along.

      Install in the Right Temperature Range

      Vinyl plank flooring performs best within a specific temperature range, typically between 65°F and 85°F. Installing the flooring in temperatures outside this range can affect the planks’ flexibility and adherence.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      How do I choose the right underlayment for my vinyl plank flooring?

      Choose the right underlayment by considering factors such as noise reduction, insulation, and durability.

      What are the consequences of not following manufacturer guidelines when installing vinyl plank flooring?

      Not following manufacturer guidelines can void warranties, cause improper installation, and reduce flooring durability.


      Installing vinyl plank flooring can be a rewarding DIY project if done correctly. By avoiding these 10 common mistakes we discussed, you can ensure a smooth, professional-looking installation.

      Remember to plan carefully, use the right tools, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. And if you’re ever in doubt, consider hiring a professional to ensure your floor looks its best and lasts for years to come.

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