How to install vinyl plank flooring

Updated July 13, 2018

Today's vinyl plank flooring is so realistic it's hard to tell it apart from real wood. Vinyl planks have two major advantages over hardwood. It's less expensive to purchase and install and it's waterproof. In some cases you can install vinyl plank flooring over an existing surface, though it's essential to have a smooth and solid surface. Vinyl planks are available in self-adhesive and regular form. Both are good, although self-adhesive vinyl planks are lighter gauge and not as durable. The kind you choose depends on your personal preference and requirements.

Remove thresholds and baseboards before you measure the room to see how much flooring to purchase. Your square footage will be the length times the width of the room plus the area of any nooks and closets. Total the number of square feet and add 10 per cent to allow for trimming.

Strip the existing flooring if necessary. If your existing floor surface is solid and fairly smooth you may choose to skip this step. If you remove carpet or old vinyl, make sure any deposits of flooring adhesive are removed as well. You may need to use a power scraper and citrus-based solvent to get old vinyl floor adhesive off. Go over the corners and crevices with a sander to remove any adhesive that remains.

Use a patching compound to fill in any cracks and holes in your subfloor. Work the compound into the hole with a putty knife and level it off. Once you have a smooth, even surface, sweep and mop it thoroughly. The smoother the subfloor, the better vinyl planks will bond to it. Finally, lay down a coat of primer to seal the subfloor against moisture.

Lay out the room. Choose the wall that is the main line of sight in the room (usually this is the wall opposite the room's main entrance). Lay out a line of planks along this wall and use a T-square to make sure the planks are parallel to it. Mark a line on the floor using a chalk line or felt-tip marker (it's going to be covered up, so permanent marker is OK). The idea is to "square off" the room so your new flooring is as attractive as possible.

Starting in one corner, peel off the backing of self-adhesive vinyl plank flooring. Be very careful to line up the first plank exactly with your line guide since all the remaining planks will key off the first. Press down firmly to make the adhesive bond to the subfloor. Lay a line of complete planks end to end the length of the room. Use a small notch trowel to spread a layer of adhesive for regular vinyl plank flooring. Vinyl flooring adhesives are product specific so use only the manufacturer's recommended adhesive and follow their instructions for use. A generic adhesive may not bond the vinyl planks to the floor properly.

Cut a vinyl plank in half to begin your second line of planks. Use a vinyl tile cutter (recommended) or a utility knife and T-square to cut the plank at a 90-degree angle to its length. Use this half plank to start the next line. Staggering the vinyl planks creates a more authentic wood appearance. Alternate each line with a full-length and a half-length plank. At the opposite end of the room you will need to install partial planks to finish off each plank line. Measure each space carefully and cut the pieces the same way.

Locate any gaps between planks. Don't worry about finding gaps, because there are always small uneven spots in a floor. Use a putty knife to fill gaps with wood putty and wipe away any excess.

Use a floor roller to ensure all the planks are firmly bonded to the floor. Replace thresholds and baseboards or cove moulding to finish up installing your vinyl plank flooring.

Things You'll Need

  • Vinyl plank flooring
  • Adhesive (if not self-adhesive)
  • Sealing primer
  • Floor patching compound
  • Wood putty
  • Measuring tape
  • Chalk line or marker pen
  • Tools for removing baseboards and thresholds
  • Utility knife or vinyl tile cutter
  • Small notch trowel
  • Putty knife
  • Floor roller
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About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.