How To Install Vinyl Plank Flooring

Whether you're a seasoned DIYer or just starting out, this guide has everything you need to install your vinyl floors like a pro. Step by step, we’ll help you nail that perfect, professional-looking finish you're aiming for.

Key Summary

  • Allow the floor to acclimate for 48 hours before use.
  • Select an installation method: Grip-Strip for peel-and-stick planks, Click-Lock for interlocking planks, or Glue-Down.
  • Choose a pattern or design for your vinyl flooring, considering options like straight lay, diagonal, herringbone, chevron, or parquet.
  • Cut planks to fit around obstacles using a utility knife, jigsaw, or oscillating multi-tool.
  • Install transition strips at doorways and between rooms, leaving a 1/4-inch expansion gap between the vinyl planks and the transition strip.
    In this article we'll cover:
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      how to install vinyl plank flooring

      Everything You’ll Need

      ToolLuxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)Sheet Vinyl
      Utility Knife
      Tape Measure
      Straight Edge
      Pry Bar
      Spacers
      Tapping Block
      Non-Marring Hammer
      Squeegee
      Grout Float
      Notched Trowel
      Floor Roller
      Heat Gun
      Seam Roller

      1. Prepare the Space

      Remove Baseboards and Old Flooring

      The first step in preparing your room for vinyl plank flooring is to remove any existing baseboards and old flooring. This will give you a clean, bare floor to work with.

      Use a pry bar to carefully remove the baseboards, being cautious not to damage the walls.

      If you're replacing carpet, use a utility knife to cut it into manageable sections and pull it up. For other types of flooring, follow the appropriate removal steps.

      Clean the Subfloor and Fill Any Cracks or Uneven Areas

      Sweep and vacuum the subfloor thoroughly to remove all dirt and debris. Inspect the surface for any cracks or uneven areas.

      Use a leveling compound to fill in any gaps or low spots, and sand down any high spots to create an even surface.

      Install Underlayment if Desired for Extra Cushion and Soundproofing

      Although this isn’t always necessary, installing an underlayment can provide extra cushion and soundproofing, making your floor more comfortable and quiet.

      If you choose to use underlayment, roll it out over the subfloor and secure it with adhesive tape, ensuring there are no gaps or overlaps.

      2. Pick a Pattern or Design

      Vinyl flooring installation patterns offer myriad design options to elevate the aesthetic appeal of your space.

      From traditional to contemporary, these patterns allow you to create unique and visually stunning floors that complement your interior décor. 

      Let's explore some popular vinyl flooring patterns and how they can enhance your home.

      Straight Lay Pattern

      Straight Lay Pattern

      The straight lay pattern is the most straightforward method for vinyl flooring. The vinyl planks are laid parallel, running in the same direction as the walls. This creates a clean, uniform look that works well in any room, from bedrooms to living areas.

      Diagonal Pattern

      Diagonal Pattern

      Consider installing vinyl flooring in a diagonal pattern for a more dynamic and visually interesting look. The planks are laid at a 45-degree angle to the walls, creating a sense of movement and depth. Diagonal patterns can make small rooms appear larger and add a touch of drama to larger spaces.

      Herringbone Pattern

      Herringbone Pattern

      The herringbone pattern is a classic and timeless choice for vinyl flooring installation. The planks are laid in a zigzag pattern, with each plank alternating direction to create a V-shaped pattern. Herringbone patterns add texture and sophistication to any room, making them a popular choice for entryways, kitchens, and dining rooms.

      Chevron Pattern

      Chevron Pattern

      Like the herringbone pattern, the chevron pattern is another stylish option for installing vinyl flooring. Instead of the planks being laid in alternating directions, they are laid in a continuous zigzag pattern. Chevron patterns add a modern and chic touch to any space, making them ideal for contemporary interiors.

      Parquet Pattern

      Parquet Pattern

      Parquet patterns are intricate designs created by arranging vinyl planks in geometric shapes like squares, rectangles, or diamonds. Depending on the desired effect, these patterns can be simple or elaborate.

      Parquet patterns add visual interest and sophistication to floors, making them popular for formal living rooms, offices, and commercial spaces.

      Mixed Patterns

      Mixed pattern

      Mixing different vinyl flooring installation patterns within the same space can create a personalized look. Mixing patterns allows you to create custom designs that reflect your individual style and personality.

      For example, combining a straight lay pattern with a herringbone border or creating a checkerboard pattern using contrasting colors.

      3. Choose an Installation Method

      There are several methods of installing vinyl plank flooring. Each method offers its own advantages and considerations, depending on the type of vinyl flooring you're using and your specific installation needs.

      GripStrip Method

      GripStrip Method

      GripStrip, also known as peel-and-stick, is one of the simplest and most DIY-friendly installation methods for vinyl plank flooring.

      With GripStrip, each plank has a self-adhesive backing that allows you to simply peel off the protective film and stick the planks directly to the subfloor.

      GripStrip installation works best with Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) flooring, which typically has a thicker, more rigid construction that can handle the adhesive backing.

      It may not be suitable for thinner or more flexible vinyl flooring types like Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) or Sheet Vinyl.

      Click-Lock Method

      Click-Lock Method

      Click-Lock, also known as interlocking or floating installation, involves planks that have tongue-and-groove edges that click together to form a tight, secure bond.

      This method does not require adhesive and allows the floor to "float" over the subfloor, expanding and contracting with changes in temperature and humidity.

      Click-Lock installation is suitable for both LVP and LVT flooring and some types of Sheet Vinyl.

      Take Note:

      • Pay close attention to the manufacturer's instructions for proper alignment and locking of the planks, as improper installation can result in gaps or uneven seams.
      • Use spacers along the walls to maintain the recommended expansion gap, allowing the floor to move freely without buckling or warping.

      Glue-Down Method

      Glue-Down Method

      Glue-down installation involves applying adhesive directly to the subfloor and then pressing the vinyl planks into place.

      This method offers a strong, permanent bond and is often recommended for high-traffic areas or commercial settings where durability is a priority.

      It provides a stable, secure installation that can withstand heavy foot traffic and exposure to moisture.

      Take Note:

      • Choose a high-quality adhesive that is specifically recommended for use with vinyl flooring.
      • Work in small sections to ensure the adhesive remains tacky during installation.
      • Use a rolling pin or weighted roller to firmly press the planks into the adhesive and ensure proper bonding.
      • Allow ample time for the adhesive to cure before allowing foot traffic or placing heavy objects on the floor.

      4. Lay the First Row

      Trim off the Short Tongue Edge of the First Plank

      To start the first row, trim off the short tongue edge of the first plank. This allows the plank to sit flush against the wall. Use a utility knife to make a clean cut along the tongue edge.

      Lay the First Plank About 1⁄4 Inch from the Wall

      Position the first plank approximately 1⁄4 inch away from the wall. The gap allows for expansion as the flooring adjusts to temperature and humidity changes. Use spacers along the wall to maintain this gap.

      Use Spacers Along the Walls to Allow for Expansion

      Place spacers between the planks and the walls to maintain the 1/4-inch expansion gap. These spacers will ensure your flooring has enough room to expand and contract without warping.

      Stagger the End Joints of the Planks in Each Row by at Least 6 Inches

      For a professional look and added stability, stagger the end joints of the planks in each row by at least 6 inches. This will prevent the seams from lining up and create a more natural, random pattern.

      5. Cutting Planks to Fit

      Use a Utility Knife to Score and Snap Planks

      To cut planks to fit around corners and edges, use a utility knife to score the plank along the desired cut line. Once scored, simply snap the plank along the line for a clean break.

      For Irregular Cuts

      A jigsaw or oscillating multi-tool will be more effective for irregular cuts, such as around door frames or pipes. These tools allow for precise cuts and can handle more complex shapes. Learn how to use a jigsaw here.

      Cutting Planks Around Pipes

      Measure the diameter of the pipe and add an inch to this measurement. Next, drill a plank hole corresponding to the pipe's diameter plus the extra inch. Then, cut the plank to fit around the pipe, ensuring you leave a half-inch expansion gap. Finally, install the plank and secure the cut piece with a bead of silicone caulk.

      For Tight Spaces Like Under Door Jambs

      Use a jamb saw to cut the planks to fit in tight spaces, such as under-door jambs. A jamb saw can make precise cuts close to the floor, allowing the planks to slide neatly into place.

      6. Laying Subsequent Rows

      Angle the Tongue of the Plank into the Groove of the Previous Row

      To install subsequent rows, angle each plank's tongue into the groove of the previous row. This will lock the planks together and create a secure, seamless connection.

      Use a Tapping Block and Non-Marring Hammer

      To ensure a tight fit, use a tapping block and non-marring hammer to tap the planks into place gently. Avoid using a regular hammer directly on the planks, which can cause damage.

      7. Finishing the Installation

      Install Transition Strips

      Once all the planks are laid, install transition strips at doorways and between rooms to provide a smooth transition and protect the edges of the flooring. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installing transition strips.

      Transitioning to Other Flooring

      When transitioning to a different flooring type, use a T-molding or reducer strip. Attach the transition strip to the subfloor rather than the vinyl planks to ensure a secure and professional finish. 

      Also, a 1/4-inch expansion gap between the vinyl planks and the transition strip should be left to accommodate any potential movement and prevent buckling.

      Reinstall Baseboards

      Reinstall the baseboards, ensuring they are secured to the wall and not the floor. This allows the flooring to expand and contract without obstruction.

      Allow the Floor to Acclimate for 48 Hours Before Use

      Allow the newly installed floor to acclimate for 48 hours before walking on it or placing furniture. This period will ensure the flooring adjusts to the room's temperature and humidity.

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      Summary of Vinyl Flooring Installation Steps:

      Summary of Vinyl Flooring Installation Steps

      Step 1: Prepare the Surface

      Sweep and mop the floor to remove any dirt and debris, then use a cleaner for a thorough cleaning. Ensure the floor is completely dry before proceeding to avoid adhesion issues.

      Step 2: Position the First Row

      Measure and mark the starting position with spacers to maintain a 1/4-inch expansion gap. Lay the first plank along the marked line, ensuring it’s straight and properly aligned.

      Step 3: Apply the Planks

      First Row

      Trim off the short tongue edge of the first plank and position it 1/4 inch from the wall. Use spacers to maintain this gap and continue laying the first row, ensuring each plank is aligned properly.

      Subsequent Rows

      Angle the tongue of each new plank into the groove of the previous row and press down to lock them together. Use a tapping block and non-marring hammer to secure the connection without damaging the planks.

      Step 4: Cutting Planks to Fit

      Measure and mark the planks that need to be cut to fit around edges and obstacles. Use a utility knife to score and snap the planks for straight cuts and a jigsaw for irregular cuts.

      Step 5: Final Adjustments and Trimming

      Ensure all planks are firmly adhered to the floor, pressing down any loose areas. Trim any excess material with a utility knife for a clean, finished look, and remove the spacers.

      Common Things to Avoid

      Areas with Excessive Moisture

      Vinyl plank flooring is unsuitable for areas with excessive moisture, such as bathrooms. Moisture can seep into the seams and cause the planks to warp or peel.

      Using a Rubber Mallet or Hammer Directly on the Planks

      Using a rubber mallet or hammer directly on the planks can cause damage. Always use a tapping block to protect the planks during installation.

      Don't Overlap the End Joints of the Planks in Adjacent Rows

      Avoid overlapping the end joints of planks in adjacent rows. Overlapping joints can weaken the floor's structure and create an uneven surface.

      Walking on the Floor During the Acclimation Period

      Do not walk on the floor during the 48-hour acclimation period. This time is crucial for settling the floor and ensuring a long-lasting installation.

      Tips for a Successful Installation

      • Before you begin, measure the room accurately and calculate the amount of flooring needed. Add an extra 10% to account for cutting and waste.
      • Inspect each plank before installation and discard any damaged pieces. This will ensure a flawless final look.
      • Use a knee pad for comfort during the installation process. This will help protect your knees and make the job more comfortable.
      • Take your time and work carefully to avoid mistakes. Rushing can lead to errors and a less professional finish.

      Installation Costs for Vinyl Plank Flooring

      Installing vinyl plank flooring involves various costs depending on the method chosen:

      • Peel-and-stick: Typically ranges from $1.50 to $8 per square foot.
      • Glue-down: Costs can be between $2.50 and $12.50 per square foot.
      • Floating/Interlocking: Generally falls between $3 and $13 per square foot.

       

      Labor costs vary from $1 to $3 per square foot based on the complexity of the installation. 

      Additional expenses might include underlayment, costing $0.50 to $1.00 per square foot, and transition strips and trim, ranging from $1 to $5 per linear foot, necessary for a polished finish.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      How long does a vinyl flooring project take?

      The average installation time for vinyl plank flooring is 1 to 3 days.

      Do you need to put anything under vinyl plank flooring?

      It depends. Although underlayment is not always required, it can provide extra cushioning and soundproofing, particularly in multi-level buildings or areas with high foot traffic.

      Is it better to glue or float vinyl plank flooring?

      Gluing vinyl plank flooring provides a strong, permanent bond suitable for high-traffic areas while floating installation offers easier DIY installation and allows for expansion and contraction with changes in temperature and humidity.

      Conclusion

      Installing vinyl plank flooring is a rewarding DIY project that can transform the look of your home. Even if you're a beginner, this foolproof guide will help you achieve a professional result.

      Take your time, follow the steps carefully, and soon you'll be enjoying your beautiful new floor. Contact us if you need your floors installed professionally – we're here to help.

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