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How to Install Vinyl Flooring

You’ve picked a stunning vinyl flooring product for your home renovation and the material has arrived. Now it’s time for do-it-yourself installation. This part of the process can be challenging, but the work you put into installing your flooring will be worth it in the end – beautiful, durable and easy-to-maintain floors sure are a nice home feature. Of course, proper installation is necessary for achieving the outcome you want. With that in mind, check out these steps for installing your vinyl plank flooring.

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Simple Steps to Install Vinyl Flooring

Step 1: Preparation

Vinyl plank flooring requires careful preparation prior to installation. The product conforms to whatever is underneath it, so if you leave a protruding nail in your subfloor, the vinyl will form a bump over time. As such, you want to make sure the surface upon which you install your vinyl plank flooring is completely level and free of debris. Arrive at that clean slate by doing the following:

Remove Existing Floors

Replacing carpet with vinyl? Or what about tile? While some vinyl products allow you to place the material over old flooring, others require you to install it directly on top of the subfloor or underlayment. Because old floors can be uneven, placing vinyl on the underlayment is generally ideal. So, your first installation step is to remove old flooring. If you use a scraping tool to remove tiles, for instance, apply pressure horizontally rather than downward. That way, you’re less likely to dent your subfloor.


Level Your Subfloor

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Check the condition of your subfloor. If it’s level and undamaged, it’s good to go. However, a surface that’s in disrepair may need to be replaced. You can drill in a plywood underlayment with screws fairly easily (the screw heads should be below the surface of the wood). If you install an underlayment over your existing subfloor, make sure the surface is level. You can fill in holes and even divots caused by screws with caulking. Take care to ensure your caulk job is even.

Clean the Floor

Because dust, debris and wood chips can cause bumps in vinyl plank flooring, you should thoroughly sweep before moving on to the next step. Use a broom first, then pull out a vacuum with with a hose attachment to pick up the remaining particles. Avoid tracking new dust and dirt once you’ve cleaned the subfloor. In fact, if you’re doing the project over the course of several days, you may want to stop after leveling the subfloor, then start the next day by cleaning.

Measure and Plan

Take measurements of your room in order to properly install vinyl flooring – you may have already done this when ordering your planks. Then, decide how you will lay out your tiles. You can stagger where breaks fall (kind of how bricks are stacked) if you want. In many cases, you may need to cut some of the boards to fit into the room. Per the old adage, you should measure twice (or more) and cut once. You may want to leave the cutting for later in the installation process – that way, you can see exactly where pieces will fit. To cut the boards, score a line on either side using a box cutter, then fold the pieces and pull them apart.

Step 2: Installation

Board Direction

The vinyl plank flooring boards should lay parallel to the longest run of the room. For instance, if the space is 5-feet-by-8-feet, the boards should run along the 8-foot wall. This layout will look best. Start on the left side of the room and work right.

Lay Flooring

Many vinyl products have adhesive on the back already, saving you from having to place it on your floor first. Peel the coating away from the boards, revealing the sticky side. When you install the boards, place the back end against your starting wall. You should bend the board as you place it down so the end you’re installing is against the floor while the part yet to be placed is in the air. Roll the board down and onto the floor. This technique prevents the formation of air pockets and gives you an even final product. Use your hand to press the boards to the ground.

Most vinyl plank flooring boards have a lip that juts out. Place each successive board on top of that lip so the flooring fits together like a puzzle. Remember to stagger board lengths when you install vinyl flooring.

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Trim and Molding​

After your floor is set (you’ve cut pieces to fit in the remaining spots and each board is in place), you can return door jams and molding to their original places. Doing this last gives the room a finished look.

Additional Tips

  • You may have to cut some pieces as you install vinyl flooring, especially if your room has some odd corners or curves. Make sure to measure those pieces carefully prior to cutting them.
  • Follow the manufacturer instructions associated with your flooring.
  • Take it slow – you’re better off being careful then fast when installing floors.
  • Make sure your boards are flush as you lay them.
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(75) Comments

  1. I will be installing a click together floating vinyl floor in living and dining room. The living room is sunken with two step downs — how do I deal with the step down where the planks will run perpendicular to the step? Do I glue a few long planks on it or do I have to cut dozens of pieces to match the way the floor is running?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Nancy,

      The direction you lay the floor is personal preference. I would suggest laying the planks long way on the steps even if it is perpendicular. It will be quite labor intensive to lay it the other way.

  2. I purchased vinyl plank flooring to be put down on concrete slab in basement. It’s widest run is 55 ft. The instructions say anything longer than 30 ft needs an expansion molding or needs to be glued down. If I glue, do I still put down the underlayment we bought to go under the floor?

  3. I am looking to lay vinyl plank flooring as I am finishing my basement. What type of underlayment would be recommended to use on the concrete floor? Is there something out there that insulates from the coldness of the concrete floor? Any advice would be nice. Thank you.

  4. remodelling small bathroom. I am replacing the 5/8″ plywood subfloor. Do I need to prep the subfloor. I am installing vinyl plank flooring and am concerned about water damage. Do I need an underlay or sealant?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Craig,

      You do not need to prep the subfloor. You only need a vapor barrier beneath vinyl plank if it will be on a concrete slab. If you are worried you can add a vapor barrier on top of the plywood for extra protection. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  5. It was recommended to me that I glue down my vinyl planks to help avoid the floors soundnig hollow. If I bought a product that has padding attached, should I still do that? I want the floors to sound as good as possible. We are on a crawlspace, if that makes a difference.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Alicia,

      Thank you for getting in touch! If you choose a product with underpad attached you will not be able to glue down, you will need to remove the underpad first. If you would like to avoid gluing down you can choose an underlay that has sound-dampening properties. This will help with any hollow sounds over the crawlspace. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  6. I recently noticed a low spot or sag where my kitchen, hallway and dining room meet. I pulled up the carpet to find what appears to be 1/2 inch toung and groove OSB (the actual floor) that was not installed correctly and has separated at the joints causing the sag and squeaks. Unfotrunately it runns under all interior walls so replacing it seems out of the question. I am looking to install vinyl plank in place of carpet and and am looking for suggestions what to use as underlaymen. I was thinking of 1/2 to 3/4 inch plywood directly over the OSB, to stiffen up the floor and then using a felt or foam vapor barrier. This is an interlocking, floating floor and we plan to stay here a while. I unserstand that this will raise the floor and all doors will need to be cut to clear but I plan to replace all the trim and door jambs in the process. I have laid carpet and 1/2 inch hardwood but never vinyl so any help or advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!


    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Mike,

      Thank you for getting in touch! That may be the best option for you at this point. That will ensure there is a solid surface beneath the vinyl plank. You may want to get to the bottom of the issue for the OSB before installing the new floor though, just to be sure nothing happens after it has been installed. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  7. Long axis or short?

    Laying plank flooring in a 12 x 15 room adjacent, but sunken, relative to kitchen with hardwood floor. There is only one solid wall, the 12′ long west side. The north side 15′ steps up to the kitchen or abuts the kitchen counter/bar. The east side is dominated by a sliding glass door leading to small deck and back yard. One enters the room from the south, directly opposite the kitchen.
    If I lay the new floor parallel to the traffic pattern from garage entrance to kitchen, it might lead the eye toward the kitchen, and would run in the same direction as the kitchen flooring. However, this is across the short axis of the room–12 ft.
    OTOH, if I lay the flooring parallel to the long axis of the room, it might lead the eye out the sliding glass door to the small deck–whose decking also runs that same direction, East-west, aligned with the long 15′ axis of the room.
    Any advice?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Scott,

      Thank you for getting in touch! It is very much personal preference as to which way the floor is laid. I would suggest following the floor inside the home so it doesn’t look cut off or disorganized. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  8. WIlliam QUINTON

    I’m laying vinyl planks in a small guest house (concrete slab). My dilemma is, if I lay the flooring going with the longest wall as you open the front door, there is a hall about 7 feet out. Do I turn the direction of the flooring to go lengthwise of the hall, which obviously would look best; Or, would it look better to run the entire floor the same direction of the hall to avoid it looking “chopped up”. By doing so, the flooring would be going horizontally to the front door?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi William,

      Thank you for getting in touch! How you lay the planks is very much personal preference. I definitely would not change the direction of the floor halfway through. It sounds like laying the floor all in the same direction as the hall would be the best option. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  9. Hello,

    I am about to lay self adhesive vinyl floor plank over my existing floor in my log home. Planks are 7″ wide. My issue is the existing floor is pine T&G and over the years it has separated and left some grooves from drying out. Some spaces may be 3/8 to 1/2 inch wide at the seams. My question is should I put luan or another product over this? What underlayment do you recomend that would work with the self adhesive flooring? Should it be nailed or screwed down? I need to keep it thin as possible or I will run into problems with my exterior metal doors dragging. Taking the pine floor up is not an option here because it was down before the interior walls were installed. So the construction is a sub floor then this 1- 1/2″ pine over top of it. Very solid with no giving.
    In my kitchen I have adhesive linoleum 12×12 tile with luan underlayment already in place but want to replace the tiles. Can I leave the existing underlayment and put my new floor over the luan as is? No cracking or issues with it but the tile needs replaced.


    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Ronnie,

      Thank you for getting in touch! You cannot put the vinyl right on top of the pine because it will fold into the grooves. The best option would be to use the luan or some sort of solid surface beneath to support the vinyl. I would not use just an underlay because that may not be solid enough to support the floor.

      The vinyl plank should be fine to go right over the linoleum in your kitchen. If you want to put it on top of the underlayment just be sure to check the installation instructions as to whether it is suited for a self-adhesive vinyl.

      I would also suggest getting a contractor out to look at the area. We can’t 100% guarantee this will work because I have not seen the area in person. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  10. We are doing a complete gut and redo of the basement bathroom. The floor is newly re-leveled concrete and we plan on installing click tile vinyl floor. The instructions that come with are exceptionally unclear about if installed objects can sit on top of it or should have the floor cut around them. Toilet – Cabinet Vanity – Shower Kit?

    My gut says shower and vanity direct to the cement with flooring cut around them, but toilet on top of the floating floor… but I can find nothing that has that in writing.


    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Alyssa,

      Thank you for your inquiry! Once the concrete has been cured and tested for humidity levels, you would want to install the vinyl around the cabinets and shower. For the toilet you would want to install over the concrete then put vinyl around it, followed by caulking. Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  11. We are laying glue down 6×36″ vinyl planks down throughout our main floor. We first must remove tile in the kitchen and my husband is hoping to avoid pulling up the bamboo in our dining room and living room – the floors are damaged and there are gaps where walls were removed. He insists he can fix these and with the use of under-lay it will be “fine.” Although I have read that we should remove he existing floors and instal the underlay over subfloors. How do I convince him? Or am I, as he says making it more complicated than it needs to be?”

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Amy,

      Glue down vinyl materials are only going to properly adhere to concrete or plywood subfloors, so you would have to take up the previous floor and underlayment for proper installation. Underlayment is not required for glue down vinyl planks, however it is recommended to use an adhesive with a moisture block built into it, if you’re installing over concrete. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  12. My husband and I are about to put down a floating vinyl plank flooring in our bedroom. All the furniture almost all of the furniture is out of the room except for the bed and a desk. He insists that we can start in one corner and put down the flooring then move the furniture onto the new flooring and continue finishing the floor. I say no way. Who’s right?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Fran,

      Thank you for your inquiry! I would suggest completing the installation in the room before moving the furniture back in. That will ensure you don’t have any issues of the floor moving while it’s only half installed. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  13. I am going to be laying floating click-lock flooring in my dining room / kitchen as well as a couple of rooms in my house. My question is, can I lay this directly over my OSB subfloors? They are in good condition and are flat. Or do I still need to put an underlayment down? I have hanflor. 3mm click lock vinyl planks.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Thaddeus,

      Thank you for getting in touch! If you are installing a floating vinyl floor you will not need an underlay over OSB. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

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