Tips and Video: Before, During and After Installing Vinyl Plank Floors

Tips and Video: Before, During and After Installing Vinyl Plank Floors

We are always developing our Flooring Learning Center at Floors To Your Home (.com), a place to find information, instruction and tips on flooring in general. In preparation for each page or section in the Learning Center, we consult installers we trust, books, sources on the World Wide Interweb - everything we can find, and end up with gatherings of information which are about as organized as a full Toys-For-Tots box. So then we compile the info and give it a readable form, illustrate it with pictures or video, and then add it to the website. One section will focus on the installation of vinyl flooring, and we have accumulated some tips we don't want to wait so long to share, so from our Vault of Forthcoming Information, we bring you this golden hodge-podge of installation tips for vinyl plank flooring * (see the standard disclaimer below).

Supreme Click Elite Waterproof Vinyl Plank Gunsmoke Walnut

These tips assume that you plan to install vinyl plank flooring, and that you already have the specific instructions you need to do it properly.


Before you install

Can you install over existing floors?

As long as the manufacturer of your specific flooring agrees, generally vinyl can be installed right over existing vinyl or linoleum floors. It may also be able to go over a concrete floor with a radiant heating system. Generally if it's perfectly flat and smooth, and it itself actually attached to the house, you can lay vinyl planks over it. Most laminates have been installed as floating floors, not attached, so those would need to be removed, and your vinyl would then be installed directly over the subfloor. A special case is asbestos. Unless you are an installer skilled and knowledgeable about handling asbestos, leave it alone like you would a sleeping crocodile, and bring in an expert. 30 years ago it was deemed a dangerous carcinogen, and unlike saccharine, and hopefully down the road - bacon, asbestos has not been given a reprieve from that designation.


Uneven Ceramic Floor photo by Horia Varlan

Must the subfloor be perfect?

Since vinyl flooring is resilient, compared with hardwood and laminate, which are straight, hard boards, it is extremely important to make sure your subfloor is exactly level and flat. Every imperfection under a vinyl floor is going to be felt on its surface. Liquid floor leveling material can be used. Some people lay in a brand new, very basic subfloor over the existing one, made of quarter inch plywood. It brings its own flatness and firmness. This need for complete smoothness extends to debris and detritus. Allow no spacers, discarded wrapping, labels, very small rocks, or anything else to get under that flooring as you install it.


How long must you wait to install the floor?

Vinyl plank flooring will be subject to some expansion and contraction due to to the temperature and humidity in a room. This means that acclimation is as essential with vinyl as it is with floors made of wood. If you don't acclimate, your floor might expand and deform, or shrink and get gaps between the pieces. Once your room is otherwise ready for the installation, set any temperature and humidity controls you have for the room. Your manufacturer will give you the specifics, but in general you will want the temperature to be at least 65 degrees, no lower, and the humidity is usually expected to be between 45% and 65%. Then it's best to open your boxes of tiles or planks. Place them in the room, out of direct sunlight, and let them remain there for the recommended time. We have seen this listed as low as 6 hours, and as high as 48 hours. Read your instructions, and know that going longer is certainly less harmful than going shorter.


Here is our guy Brian with tips on laying the planks, and how they lock together.


During installation

If you install the floor yourself, you'll be crawling around on your hands and knees, laying spacers and pieces. We recommend kneepads. Seriously, they're the gel insole of the installation procedure.

Even if Even though you have acclimated your flooring, because you have, of course, haven't you... some future expansion and contraction might still be expected. You may need to plan to leave what is called "expansion spacing" between the edge of your flooring and your walls. This gap would be around 1/8". The exact details and measurements, as well as whether one is even needed, will be given in your manufacturer's instructions, and this gap would be hidden underneath your trim.  

After the Installation

Unlike the situation with any other vinyl flooring installation, if you have installed a floating floor, then once your installation is complete you may immediately begin using your room. Note the pillow. Nothing says 'Room In Use' like a pillow. Except an exactly half-opened book and an exactly half-full glass of color coordinated wine.

Supreme Click Elite Waterproof Vinyl Plank Brazilian Mahogany


*Read your instructions.

No, really. Do it. We have no idea what brand or make of vinyl flooring you have in front of you. If we've said something about gaps above, but your manufacturer says that you should not even leave a gap, then please don't even leave a gap. We're glad to share anything that can help you get the flooring you want as easily as possible, but please use our advice wisely - meaning under the direction of your specific installation instructions. Now, does this invalidate the entire post, the frequent admonitions to "read the instructions?" Well, of course not. Do your instructions mention knee pads? Some might, but most don't. Use them anyway. These are just tips, by definition designed to enhance to existing information, to be the icing on good, hard data's essential cake.


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David has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with  W. David Lichty


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