6 Easy Steps to install vinyl plank flooring

Vinyl plank flooring is inexpensive, easy to clean and looks great. It’s a brilliant way to give your room a whole new look without breaking the bank.

But if you haven’t done it before, you might be wondering how to install vinyl plank flooring. The good news is, it’s very easy. And we’re going to show you exactly how to do it, step by step.

So read on for everything you need to know!

Tools & equipment for installing vinyl plank flooring

  • Your choice of vinyl plank flooring
  • Underlayment (if you’re laying a floating floor)
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Spacers
  • Chalk line
  • Grinder or sander (if your floor isn’t completely flat)
  • Self-leveller (as above)
  • Jigsaw
  • Flush cut saw
  • Circular saw
  • Brad nailer
  • Rubber mallet
  • Tapping block
  • Drawbar tool
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Utility knife
  • Metal putty knife or pry bar
  • Transition trim
  • Quarter round or shoe mold

Step-by-step Guide on vinyl plank flooring installation

Step 1: Measure the surface area of your floor

Measure the surface area of your floor

Start by working out the surface area you’ll need to cover. That will allow you to purchase the right amount of flooring.

Measure the width and length of the room and multiply the two measurements together. If your room is square or rectangular, the result will be its surface area.

If your room is an irregular shape, break it into smaller rectangles and squares and work out the surface area of each shape. Then add them together to get the total.

If you plan to lay your planks in a straight line, add 10 percent to this total. That will give you the amount of flooring you need to buy, allowing for some wastage. If you’re going to lay them in a pattern, like herringbone, add an extra 15 percent.

Step 2: Plan the lay-out

Plan the lay-out

Next, decide which way you want your planks to run. And think about where you’ll position each row. You won’t want to have a plank that’s very short just as you step over the threshold. And you won’t want a very narrow row at one end.

Stagger the joints to avoid any weak patches. Most manufacturers recommend offsetting joints by at least six inches between rows.

It’s a good idea to sketch out the layout before you get started. Once you’ve got your flooring, you can even lay it out before fixing it in position. That’s a great way of knowing exactly how everything will look when it’s finished.

Pro tip: When it comes to deciding which way to lay your floor, personal preference is key. But if you’re flooring a room that adjoins a hallway, laying the planks in the same direction can look good. And if you run them towards a light source, it will give the room a more open aspect.

Step 2: Prepare your floor

Prepare your floor

Place your vinyl flooring in the room where it will be laid for at least 48 hours before you start work. That will give the planks time to adjust to the temperature and humidity before installation.

Make sure your sub-floor is clean and flat. Use a level to check there’s no more than 3/16 of an inch difference in 10 feet. If there is, use a self-leveller to fill in any low spots, and sand or grind away any high spots.

Note that if you have old vinyl flooring in place already, don’t sand it. Older products can contain asbestos, which is very dangerous if you inhale the dust.

Now use a pry bar to remove any baseboards that make contact with the floor. If there’s any paint sticking them to the wall, run the blade of a utility knife along the edge first.

Take care not to damage the boards, and you’ll be able to replace them when your planks are down. That will give you a nice, neat finish.

You may also need to trim your door jambs. To check this, lay a vinyl flank on top of the sub-floor. If it’s higher than the position of the existing jambs, mark the level on the jambs. Remember to leave about 1/16 of an inch extra for caulking. Then trim the jambs to size.

Attach spacers around the bottoms of the walls. These will ensure your planks have space to expand as the temperature and humidity changes.

Finally, snap a chalk line in place to give you a guide to lay your planks against. If you haven’t used a chalk line before, this YouTube video shows you everything you need to know.

Pro tip: When you come to lay your floor, mix up planks from different boxes. That will avoid any subtle differences in shade giving your floor a two-tone look.

Step 3: Put down the underlayment

Put down the underlayment

If you’re laying a floating floor – i.e. one that doesn’t stick directly to the sub-floor – you’ll need to install underlayment.

Lay this in the same direction as you’ve decided to your vinyl flooring will go. Unroll it, and cut the first length to fit your wall. Repeat with the next row, overlapping the first row slightly.

Lots of underlayment is self-adhesive, so all you’ll have to do is press it into place. But if that’s not the case with yours, you can use underlayment tape to cover the seams. Continue until the whole floor is covered, cutting off any excess with your utility knife.

You’re now ready to start laying your vinyl planks.

Step 4: Lay the vinyl plank flooring

Lay the vinyl plank flooring

Remember that walls aren’t always straight, so make sure you work from your chalk line.

You may need to cut your first row of planks to get a straight line. If so, use a circular saw to do this. It’s possible to score and snap most planks, but the saw will give you a neater finish.

Once your first plank is in place, place the tongue of the second plank in the groove of the first. Use your tapping block and rubber mallet to knock them tightly together.

Make sure you place the tapping block against the cut side of the plank. That will avoid damaging the interlocking section that holds the two planks together. After a couple of taps with the mallet, check that there’s no gap between any part of the planks.

Step 5: Install the final plank in the row

Install the final plank in the row

The last plank in any row is a bit more of a challenge.

First, measure the length you require. Mark the cut line using a carpenter’s square, and score and snap the plank. If it doesn’t snap cleanly, you can trim it using your flush cut saw.

Position the tongue in the groove of the previous board. Then use your drawbar tool to fit it snugly in place. Hook one end of the tool over the end of the board. Then tap lightly on the other end of the tool to bring the joint together.

Repeat the process for each new row. Remember to stagger the joints at irregular positions for a natural look.

Step 6: Finishing off

Finishing off

When all the planks are in place, use your drawbar and mallet to make sure everything is snug. You can now remove the spacers from the bottoms of the walls.

Now it’s time to nail in place your quarter round or shoe mold. Remember that you want to attach this to the walls, not the floor – the floor needs to be able to expand and contract.

Last but not least, install the transition trim on any threshold between your new floor and other floors.

You’re all finished. Stand back and enjoy your handiwork!

Extra tips

  • If your sub-floor isn’t particularly smooth, choose a thicker vinyl plank. That will help disguise any imperfections. Thinner planks, on the other hand, can sink into hollows over time.
  • Whatever you’re cutting – whether it’s door jambs, underlayment or vinyl planks – err on the side of caution. Remember that you can always cut more if you need to, but you can’t add it back on.
  • If you find that one plank is resisting fitting against another, check for debris in the groove. Run the blade of your utility knife gently along the groove to clear it out. You may also find it helps to give the board a bit of a twist as you put in place.
  • Using a brad nailer will give you a neater finish when installing trim. But if you don’t have one, you can use a hammer and nails instead. Just use a nail-set to keep the nail heads lower than the trim’s surface.
  • Remember that if your new floor is higher than the old one, you may need to trim doors as well as door jambs.
  • It’s important to consider the transition between your vinyl plank flooring and any adjoining flooring. You’ll want a transition trim to cover the join and make it look neat. And the kind of trim you’ll need will depend on the adjoining floor.
  • If both floors are hard and the same height, you’ll need a t-mould. This will fit into a U-shaped channel. But if one floor is higher than the other, you’ll need a baby threshold or multi-purpose reducer.
  • If your old trims or mouldings aren’t in great condition, replace them. New trims needn’t be expensive, and it’s amazing how much difference they will make to the whole look.

Ready to lay your new floor?

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to how to install vinyl plank flooring.

Whatever you do, don’t skimp on preparation. Sketching your lay-out, or even laying out your planks before you fix them in place, is time well spent. And it will avoid having to put right mistakes later on.

When it comes to installing the planks, take your time and check regularly to avoid any gaps. And don’t forget transition strips, baseboards and trims. They’ll make all the difference to getting a high-end finish.

If you have any comments – or if you’ve already laid a vinyl plank floor – we’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts – and good luck with your project!

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