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How to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring: Step-by-Step Guide (2022)

Updated Nov 3, 2022

Updated Nov 3, 2022

Home > Flooring > How to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring: Step-by-Step Guide (2022)

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If you are tired of your existing floor and ready to change things up, vinyl plank flooring is one of the best DIY floor choices on the market. With only a utility knife needed to cut pieces into place, the vinyl plank flooring is a solution that many homeowners are choosing this year. If you are interested in how to install vinyl plank flooring, this step-by-step guide breaks down the process in detail. In addition, we provided some things to look out for; in other words, learn from our mistakes.

Find a local contractor to help with your vinyl flooring installation today.

Considerations Before Installing Vinyl Plank Flooring

Before installing vinyl plank flooring, there are a few things that you must consider. Some of these things will require proactive steps before the start of installation.

Floor Choice

Is vinyl plank flooring the best choice for your space? This new flooring design is much easier to work with than in years past, and luxury vinyl plank can also hold up to kids, pets, and most homes’ normal wear and tear. Before choosing vinyl plank and purchasing it, ensure you are happy with the installation process; poorly installed vinyl plank won’t last.

Subfloor

The subfloor is the surface area under your vinyl plank flooring. For some people, this is a plywood material; others have a concrete subfloor. Regardless of the subfloor you have, you must ensure that the floor is level and in good condition.

Cost

The vinyl plank flooring costs around .$30 to $5 per square foot. The higher quality vinyl plank is more money as it will have more built-in moisture control, greater warranties, and potentially more durability.

Underlayment

The underlayment can be installed on the subfloor before the vinyl plank is put down. This underlayment will either be a part of the plank itself or must be installed separately. The purpose of underlayment is to trap moisture as well as to dampen noise.

Tools & Materials Needed for Vinyl Plank Floor Installation

One of the most appealing things about vinyl plank flooring installation is that you don’t need to use a jigsaw or circular saw if you don’t want to. If you have a great utility knife and a few essential home improvement tools, this type of flooring can be installed with ease.

Tools

The tools necessary for a vinyl plank flooring installation include:

  • Flat pry bar
  • Utility Knife
  • Pliers
  • Tape measure
  • Fine-tooth saw
  • Straightedge
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Drawbar tool
  • Hammer
  • Nailset
  • Pneumatic brad nailer (optional)
  • Sander (if needed)

Materials

Here is a list of materials you will need to install your new floors. Remember that depending on the specifics of your room, this material list could expand.

  • Vinyl plank flooring
  • 1/4-inch spacers
  • Sandpaper (In some instances)
  • Concrete patcher (if needed)
  • Floor-leveling compound (if required)
  • Floor cleaning supplies for the finished project

Vinyl Plank Flooring Installation Steps

Installing luxury vinyl plank flooring is much less involved than the old peel-and-stick laminate options from just a few years ago. This is one of the most DIY-friendly flooring options; however, you must follow the proper steps to ensure a clean and professional finished product.

  • Step 1: Remove Previous Flooring, Molding, and Doors
  • Step 2: Prepare Subfloor and Underlayment
  • Step 3: Start Laying Vinyl Plank Flooring
  • Step 4: Work Around Protrusions
  • Step 5: Final Row of Vinyl Plank
  • Step 6: Attach Molding
  • Step 7: Clean and Finish

Step 1: Remove Previous Flooring, Molding, and Doors

remove current flooring to prep for vinyl flooring installation

The first step in this DIY project is to remove the previous flooring. Whether taking out an old wood floor, laminate, or even tile, do the best you can to ensure that the subfloor does not experience too much damage.

As easy as vinyl plank flooring is to install, if you damage the subfloor, you will have to fix it before you put the full plank down on the floor. a

In addition to removing the old floor, make sure to pull molding off the wall. This can be done with a prybar, and you should not have to damage the wall. In addition, if your molding is in good shape, you will be putting it back in place once the project is done.

Doors can come off to make it easier to work around them. This is not mandatory, but if you don’t do it, you will create tough working conditions for yourself.

Tips for Removing Previous Flooring, Molding, and Doors

  • Use a prybar but take it easy, so you don’t destroy the subfloor or walls
  • Inspect doors and molding when they come off to see if they are suitable to be put back up, need paint, cleaning, etc.
  • Sometimes using a smaller pry bar is better; a bit more hand strength may be required, but you will find less overall damage to the walls.

Step 2: Prepare Subfloor and Underlayment

Sometimes a subfloor needs to be leveled before the new vinyl plank flooring can be installed.

At this point, your room should look like a clean slate. There will be no floors in place, just the subfloor. Now is the time to inspect for low spots, damage, holes, signs of water, etc. Take a look at the entire floor and be critical about it.

If you don’t install the vinyl plank flooring on an even surface, expect that it will have damage long term. The groove system is very well designed and has a bit of leeway, but you can’t go up and down over hills and craters in the floor.

If you notice that the subfloor has problems use a wood filler or concrete filler to even up the floor as best you can. In some instances, you may need to do a little bit of sanding to ensure that things are correctly level.

The underlayment is the barrier between your vinyl plank and the subfloor. The underlayment helps to create a nice moisture barrier for the floor. Most of the higher-quality luxury vinyl flooring will have the underlayment attached to the bottom of the flooring you are installing. If this is not the case, you can do it yourself and simply put a barrier on top of the subfloor before putting down the vinyl.

Tips To Prepare Subfloor and Underlayment

  • Check your vinyl plank flooring to see if it has an underlayment
  • Use a level if needed to identify high spots and low spots on the subfloor
  • Allow ample time for any fillers to dry; if they are not dry, the floor can be sticky and cause issues with the laying of the planks

Step 3: Start Laying Vinyl Plank Flooring

Vinyl plank flooring will snap in without the use of adhesives or fasteners.

At this point, you are likely ready to start getting this flooring down. However, before laying the product on the floor, make sure you plan out the room first. Most of the time, you want to start on the longest wall or the one that is most visible when you walk into a room.

For a bedroom floor, stand at the door and look straight across; this is the most visible wall and likely where you will want to start.

Your first row of vinyl flooring will go across this back wall. Start with your first plank in the middle of the wall so that any cut lines will be on the ends of the wall where they are less visible. The flooring has a click lock type system, so you will fit this first row together almost as if it is a puzzle.

Not all rooms are completely level. However, you will keep a 1/4-inch barrier between your first row of plank and the wall. In addition, this same 1/4-inch barrier needs to be in place on the sides of the wall. This expansion gap will help prevent the floor from buckling long-term, and the baseboards will cover any space there is.

When cutting vinyl plank flooring, simply use a straight edge to mark the cut, score it a few times, flip the board over, score again, and then bend the piece to snap off. Score deeply with the utility knife to ensure a clean cut.

When installing the second row, you will want to ensure that the joints are staggered. Most of the time, the next row is staggered by about six inches. We recommend starting in the middle, holding the board at an angle, and then locking it with the previous plank. If you struggle in a certain area, you can use a tapping block, but more times, the boards snap into the last plank with ease.

Tips To Start Laying Vinyl Plank Flooring

  • Plan out the floor first to ensure that it is the most visually pleasing place to start
  • Use a rubber mallet if necessary to get pieces to lock into place
  • A small hand saw or even a jigsaw can be used to cut pieces to size, but a utility knife should be all that is needed
  • Always stagger the joints by 6 or even 8 inches, but make sure you keep this staggering consistent throughout the entire process
  • Laying a chalk line for the first row can be helpful in large rooms

Step 4: Work Around Protrusions

Installing the flooring around the door jam will take a few extra cuts, its easiest to take the door off.

You will notice when your project starts that it moves quickly. In fact, some expert DIY homeowners can be entirely finished with a vinyl plank flooring project in just a few hours.

However, the one thing that slows everyone down is door jambs.

Working around the door jambs just takes some extra time. You can use a pull bar, snips, and a square to help make sure these protrusions come out properly. Vinyl plank flooring can be cut in various directions and angles when necessary to go around these protrusions.

Make sure to continue to leave that 1/4 inch spacing around the walls and door jambs, the shoe molding that will go back in place will cover this space. For those having trouble with the floor position and ensuring it’s consistent, 1/4-inch spaces are a good way to deal with the issue.

Tips to Work Around Protrusions

  • It is much easier to work around door jams when the door is not in place
  • Vinyl plank flooring can be cut at an angle, horizontally, or vertically to make sure that it fits against the previous row.
  • Use a pull bar in the difficult-to-reach places that allows you to drop the board in at an angle and still keep that 1/4-inch spacing around the edge of the board.
  • When working in and around door jams, don’t forget the 6-inch spacing that you have done throughout the room; this must be kept consistent for a uniform finish.

Step 5: Final Row of Vinyl Plank

Now it’s time for your last row of vinyl plank flooring. This row may require a few extra cuts to ensure that it fits in properly. Using a pull bar to help you position the last planks and then have them fall into place at the end of the wall is the easiest way to do it.

Check the floor to ensure that it has the proper finish and that there is uniformity throughout. Remember that since there are no adhesives used when putting in the vinyl plank, you can easily pull them up when necessary.

Tips To Install Final Row of Vinyl Plank

  • Keep checking your progress as you move along, you don’t want to find out there are issues at the end and you need to go back and pull up some of the floors.
  • Your last wall could use more cutting; this may be where it makes sense to use a small saw.
  • Even the final wall should have a 1/4-inch space.

Step 6: Attach Molding

If you were careful with the base molding when it was removed, it should go back into place with ease.

Now that your floor is in place, you will want to put your molding back up. It should fit around the room exactly like it did the last time. Using a brad nailer makes putting molding back in place considerably faster.

When you attach the molding, take a good look at the quality to ensure it needs to be painted or replaced. When you have a great-looking molding against this new vinyl flooring, the result is impressive.

Tips To Attach Molding

  • If you are careful when removing molding, it should go back with no issues.
  • A brad nailer will make this process much faster.
  • Molding should be painted and cleaned before the project is finished.

Step 7: Clean and Finish

Cleaning the vinyl plank flooring will bring it back to life and help you see your finished product.

The last part of the process is to clean the floors and finish things up. We do recommend finding a cleaning solution that is considered safe for vinyl plank flooring. When your project is complete, there will be dust, dirt, and debris throughout the room.

Take some time to clean this before declaring the room finished. If you don’t, you will track all of this throughout the rest of your home.

Tips To Clean and Finish

  • Find a safe product for vinyl floor cleaning and keep it for your weekly cleaning.
  • Be careful about leaving debris around, as you won’t want to scratch or damage your brand-new flooring.

Common Mistakes When Installation Vinyl Plank Flooring

As you can see from our guide highlighting how to install vinyl plank flooring, the process does not have to be difficult. However, it’s important to remember that there are some mistakes that you can make that can waste a lot of your time and money.

  • Incorrectly balancing the subfloor will lead to issues with the joints of the vinyl plank connecting; it’s an extra step that takes time, but the subfloor needs to be balanced.
  • Leaving baseboards and molding on while completing the process will change the final look of the floor and make it look incomplete.
  • Not alternating the seams.
  • Keeping doors in place while trying to work around door jams
  • Starting on one side of the room and moving to the others, all cuts will be on the one side, and the seams will never balance; start in the middle of the room and work out
  • Not using an underlayment or choosing the wrong underlayment for your project

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now feel confident in your ability to install vinyl plank flooring. When comparing something like tile or hardwood floors to vinyl plank, you will notice that the installation process is entirely different. If the labor part of a new flooring project makes you want to skip it, consider the vinyl plank flooring; it may be the exact solution you need.

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