How to install vinyl plank flooring

Vinyl plank flooring is a much more affordable alternative to hardwood floors. Aside from being an attractive and durable budget-friendly flooring option, vinyl plank flooring is also extremely easy to install without professionals — saving you and your family even more money! Below is a step-by-step guide detailing how to install vinyl plank flooring in your home.


Preparing to install vinyl plank flooring

Before actually installing your vinyl plank flooring you will need to do a little prep work to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. By investing time a little bit of your time in prepping your existing floors for installation, you will save a lot of time and headaches during the installation process.

Step 1: Remove all baseboards + trim

This step is pretty self-explanatory. By removing any trim work that comes in contact with the floor, you will make the installation process that much easier on yourself. You should be able to easily remove your baseboards and trim using a crowbar. If you skip this steps you can create cutouts in the flooring to help it fit around these areas.

Step 2: Undercut door jams + casings

If you are renovating an existing space, you will not have the luxury of installing door jams after the floor is in place. Since you cannot remove door jams, like baseboards and trim, you will want to undercut the area, so that you can install the flooring under them for a more seamless look.

Step 3: Ensure floor is clean, dry, and level

Next, you will want to focus on preparing the subfloor for installation. This means ensuring it is clean, dry, and level. According to this handy video on how to install vinyl plank flooring, the subfloor should be “level within 3/16-inch change per 10 feet.” To level the existing floor, you may need to use a floor scraper or even a belt sander on high spots. However, if the existing subfloor is vinyl, do not sand it, as it could potentially contain asbestos. For low areas, simply fill them in using floor patch. You can also use self-levelers to quickly create a smooth installation surface. Once you have finished leveling your floor, all you need to do is ensure everything is completely dry, and remove any dust or debris created from the leveling process.

Planning your vinyl plank floor installation

Before installing your vinyl plank flooring, you will want to do a little planning to ensure it is executed perfectly. This should involve marking a starting line that is square to whatever room you are working on. However, since walls are oftentimes bowed, you will want to follow the below steps when planning your installation:

Step 1: Plan your expansion gap

When installing vinyl plank flooring, it is important to plan accordingly for the expansion and contraction of the floor. To do so, plan to leave an expansion gap between the floor and the wall that is anywhere from 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch. You can place shims between the floor and wall to maintain the gap during installation.

Step 2: Find your center

Find the center of each wall and create lines to connect them in the middle of the room.

Step 3: Draw your line

Using these lines, measure from the middle of the room to the wall you plan to start from. Be sure to subtract an expansion gap, and mark it at the ends of the wall. Drawing a chalk line between these two points will give you a straight line to start your installation.

Step 4: Calculate

Installing your own vinyl plank flooring wouldn’t be a true DIY project without a few quick calculations. The final planning step is to figure out what the width of your last row will be. If you think it will be 1/3 of a plank or less, you should go ahead and cut approximately 1/3 or the starting row to ensure continuity.

How to install vinyl plank flooring

Now that you have done your prep and planning it is time to learn how to install vinyl plank flooring. The good news is, that if you’ve made it this far, you’ve already done the hardest parts, as the actual installation of vinyl flooring is quite easy.

Step 1: Install the first row

To begin installing your vinyl plank floor you will need to cut off the tongue of the first row with a utility knife and place the cut side of the plank towards the wall. After this, connect the next plank in the row against the end of the first plank. When you reach the end of the first row, cut the last piece to fit, ensuring it is at least six inches. If it is not, simply cut some off the first plank and adjust accordingly.

Step 2: Continue with row two

Once your first row is in place, its time for — you guessed it– row two. When installing subsequent rows, it is important to stagger the joints by a minimum of six inches. So be sure to keep this in mind as you may need to cut the first plank to adhere to this standard. When placing the first plank in each row, you will need to place the tongue into the first row’s groove and click it into place. For the next planks in the row, first, connect the short side to the previous plank and then snap it into place against the long side of the previous row.

Step 3: Keep going until complete

After placing row two, you will want to continue installing your floor using the same processes until your entire floor is in place.

Step 4: Re-install your trim

Once your floor is in place, the final step is to re-install the trim and/or baseboards that you removed when you prepped your floors for installation. For the best results, we suggest using an electric brad nailer, which will ensure your trim is not damaged in the process.

Using peel-and-stick vinyl plank flooring?

If you are installing peel-and-stick vinyl plank flooring, follow the same preparation and planning steps details in this post. However, skip steps 1 through 3 of the installation directions and simply install each plank by peeling off the adhesive backing and sticking it in place over the subfloor.

As you can see, installing vinyl plank flooring is a simple DIY project for any homeowner on a budget. Now that you have your beautiful new floors in place, don’t forget to review our best care and cleaning tips to keep them looking their best for many years to come.