How to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring

Thinking of freshening up your floors? Vinyl plank flooring might be exactly what you’re looking for!

This resilient flooring is designed to look and feel like natural wood but costs much less than traditional wood flooring. Thanks to its cost-effectiveness, as well as its durability, wide range of design styles, and low maintenance upkeep, vinyl plank flooring is a popular choice for a lot of busy homeowners on a budget.

There are two types of vinyl plank flooring to consider: glue-down and floating. Glue-down vinyl planks require the installer to add a layer of adhesive between the subfloor and the vinyl. Once the adhesive is on the subfloor, the vinyl can be pressed into place. Floating vinyl planks come with an adhesive backing. All the installer needs to do is peel off the paper and install it onto the subfloor.

A significant benefit of vinyl plank flooring is that either type is relatively easy to install. If you want to learn how to install vinyl plank flooring, keep reading for our pro tips and tricks that will help you achieve a professional-looking project.

Tools and Materials Needed

Before getting started on installation day, you’ll need to visit your local hardware or flooring specialty store to gather the tools and materials you’ll need to complete the job.

The tools needed to install vinyl plank flooring include the following:

  • A measuring tape
  • Utility knife or vinyl cutter
  • Straight edge or T-Square
  • A level
  • Safety equipment such as gloves, knee pads, and safety glasses
  • Flooring plank spacers
  • Pry bar and tapping block
  • A rubber mallet
  • Caulk and a caulking gun
  • Heat gun or hair dryer
  • Transition strips, threshold, or molding

If you have chosen to install glue-down planks, you’ll also need a notched trowel, roller, and adhesive or double-sided tape. Which type of adhesive your vinyl needs will depend on the manufacturer, so be sure to check the box for information or contact a flooring expert.

Depending on the condition or subfloor type, you might also need an underlayment for additional insulation and cushioning. All of these materials are important when learning how to install vinyl plank flooring.

How to Prep the Floor

Prepping your floor is going to be one of the most critical steps of the installation process. Remove all existing flooring, including carpet, hardwood flooring, linoleum, or old vinyl flooring.  

Once the old flooring is removed, thoroughly clean the subfloor and remove any adhesive, oils, paint, grime, dirt, or dust. A sander works great if you come across a particularly stubborn spot that is proving difficult to clean. If you do need to sand any areas, use a mask and eyewear to protect yourself from dust and other debris that are produced as a result of this process.  

Now that you’ve removed the old flooring and cleaned it underneath, check the subfloor for any imperfections. Repair the imperfections and ensure that the floor is level. If your subfloor is not level or if it has not been cleaned properly, it will be hard for the new vinyl planks to stick properly, which will have a negative impact on the overall project.

How to Estimate the Material Needs

To ensure that you have enough vinyl flooring planks, measure your room. For a straightforward square room, measuring the length and width of the room will be sufficient. If you have cut-outs or other obstacles in the way, you may need to do some additional math.

Once you have the measurements, you can find the square footage and use that to determine how much flooring you’ll need. Be sure to add 10 to 15 percent more to account for waste, mistakes, and pattern matching.

Most of the time, when installing new flooring, it is a good idea to purchase an underlayment. This layer goes between the subfloor and the vinyl planks and helps to increase the comfort of the floor, improve sound absorption, and prevent additional problems. Some vinyl planks will come with an underlayment attached, but a lot won’t. Check while purchasing your flooring materials, and add an underlayment to your purchase if necessary. 

 Step-by-Step Process of Installing Vinyl Plank Flooring

Once your subfloor is clean and your underlayment is added (if you choose to use it), remove the planks from their boxes and lay them out in the room where you plan to install them for at least 24 hours. This will help the planks get used to the temperature and humidity in the room.

The next step in installing vinyl plank flooring is to plan the layout before gluing anything to the floor.

With the layout determined, how to start the first row of vinyl plank flooring is a matter of following these steps:

Step 1: Start by placing spacers against the wall to create an expansion gap. 

Step 2: If you’re using glue-down planks, apply the adhesive to the floor and start laying the planks with the groove side facing the wall. For both types of planks, you’ll want to use a rubber mallet to tap it into place. 

Step 3: Continue this process until the first row is completed.

For all of the rows after that, insert the tongue of the new plank into the groove of the one before it. Using a pull bar and rubber mallet, you can work to ensure they fit together snugly.

If you need to work around obstacles or create a shorter plank to end a row, use a utility knife or vinyl cutter to cut the planks to fit your space.

Finishing Touches

Once the installation is complete, start installing the transition strips along any doorways or areas where your new flooring meets the existing flooring. You should also remove any spacers that you have placed during the installation.

With the transition strips installed, clean the floor to remove any dust, dirt, or debris. As you’re doing this, inspect the flooring for any imperfections and large gaps.

The final step of installing vinyl plank flooring is to let it cure for at least 24 hours.

 Enjoy Your New Vinyl Plank Flooring!

Vinyl plank flooring is a relatively inexpensive way to upgrade your floor and give a room a fresh look. While installation is fairly straightforward, it does require an investment of your time and labor. If you’re not looking to take on a DIY project this large, reach out to a local pro for help

The experienced pros at your local Mr. Handyman® have helped thousands of homeowners complete their home repair and improvement projects. All of our projects are backed by the Neighborly Done Right Promise™, so you can trust that it will be done right the first time around. Let us take care of all of your home improvement needs. Request service today!