How to Install Vinyl Flooring

Updated: Feb 17

Snap together flooring has taken the United States by storm in recent years. Not only is it easier to install than other alternatives but with the hundreds of available styles it can achieve many desirable looks. Whether you are looking to add a modern feel or go for a more traditional hard wood or even tile look, there is most likely a snap together option available that will suit your needs. Using a snap together flooring over traditional floor coverings will usually save hundreds if not thousands compared to traditional alternatives. It also doesn't require years of experience like tile or hard wood to install so this DIY project could drastically improve the look of your home for a reasonable price.


Picking a Material

There are a few different styles of snap together flooring and it is very important to take into considerations which option might be best for your situation. The first option is laminate flooring. This option is in most cases the cheapest and is made using particle board. There is hundreds of styles and this can be a cost effective way to add a new flair to any home. One thing that needs to be considered with this type of flooring is water damage. Due to the nature of the construction, laminate flooring offers very little resistance to water damage and can very quickly be ruined with even the smallest encounters with water. Luckily there is an upgrade available that can negate some of the risk to water damage. Water resistant laminate flooring offers all of the benefits of traditional laminate flooring but also reduces the risk of being ruined from a small water spill. Although this does provide protection from water damage, it does not eliminate all risks completely. The price tends to be more as well so this is another factor that should be taken into consideration. Lastly vinyl flooring is a completely water proof option that offers many of the benefits of laminate without the risk of being ruined by water damage. Even if exposed to standing water for lengths of time, this flooring will usually be salvageable. In most cases this will be the most expensive option.


Calculating How Much Material to Buy

Once the type and style of flooring is selected, it is time to determine how much flooring you will need to finish the job. Calculating the square footage is a simple way to do so. Simply multiply the length x width of each area that will be receiving flooring and add up each area until all of the floor has been accounted for. One thing that needs to be considered is how much extra material will be needed due to cuts that will produce waste. In many cases purchasing 10% to 15% more than the actual floor square footage will provide enough material with minimal waste. This number could be reduced if doing a square room with minimal cuts or increased in areas such as a kitchen with many complex cuts so take into account what areas you will be doing to get a more accurate guess of how much material to buy.


Tools

Now that the flooring has been purchased it is time to take into account the necessary tools. This job does not require too many out of the ordinary tools but each one can greatly reduce the difficulty so it is recommended to acquire the list below if possible. If you find a new tool that makes the process even easier feel free to share it as well.


Miter Saw

Circular Saw

Oscillating Tool

Table Saw

Tape Measure

Speed Square

Pencil

Flat Bar

Roberts Pull Pro Bar

Dead Blow Hammer

Scraper

Shims

Chalk Line

Broom

Dust Pan



Installation

At this point it is time to begin installing the floor. Although the first step is not the most glorious it is very critical. The floor needs to be spotless before any vinyl begins being laid so any dust, debris or high spots that could be present on the floor will need to be addressed. This can be caused by drywall, old thin set as well as several other things. These high spots need to be ground or scraped off or you will feel them in the floor once it has been set.




Next it is very important to snap some lines on the floor to give yourself a square baseline to go off of as you progress away from the wall you start on. Since vinyl is free floating, it is almost impossible to hold it exactly in the place you start as you begin moving out row by row. These lines allow you to double check and re position the floor until it gets to a point it no longer moves. To do this measure off of the longest wall that you intend to start on and snap lines every 2 to 3 feet. If measuring from drywall and not the wood framing make sure to go in at least 2 feet since drywall tends to bow towards the ends of the walls.



At this point it is time to begin installing flooring. One last thing to consider is is the pattern you will be using and what cuts will be needed to center the floor. There are many different options to do this and you can choose whatever you feel will look the best in your situation. Typically you want at least 2 pieces in between before you start the pattern over to prevent seeing lines that might not line up perfectly. There will almost always have to be compromises when determining how you want to do this so select the method you feel will look the best in your situation. Don't forget to factor in hallways and transitions as well. You might also need to rip cut the first row so that the reveal will be the same on both sides of the room but this is subject to interpretation as you begin selecting a pattern.


After you have decided how you want to center the flooring, it is time to cut the first piece and lay it down using the miter saw and table saw if a rip cut will be used. At this point full pieces can be used for the remainder of the line until you get to the end where another piece will need to be cut. When installing vinyl it is important to remember that it only fits together easily going one direction. This allows you to start in 2 of 4 corners in the room. The snap together flooring I have installed has always gone from left to right. Simply lay the first piece down and slide the grove of the next piece into the groove of the first on the shorter sides holding the full length pieces at roughly a 30 degree angle. As they slide together lay the full length piece down and the 2 pieces will tightly join together. It is very important that both pieces line up perfectly or this could add difficulty to the next row.


The second row of the line will often be one of the more difficult to get together because in most cases the first row will not be perfectly straight. This row will start much like the first. After cutting the end piece to the desired amount of reveal join the notch and grove from the pieces in the first row to the piece in the second row at roughly a 30 degree angle. Apply pressure towards the wall as you rotate the piece towards the floor. In many cases during this row, not all pieces will snap together completely. In this case you will need to shim the first row against the wall in the areas additional pressure will be needed. Next use a cutoff piece of an end to snap into the side you plan to apply pressure to. A dead blow hammer and the pull bar will now be used to snap the pieces together. To join the remaining pieces on this row start by snapping together the long sides of the plank from the first row to the second row with just enough clearance between the first piece and second piece to lay it flat. Next switch directions 90 degrees and use the cutoff piece, pull bar and dead blow hammer to snap the shorter sides together. At this point the planks should be firmly attached on both the long and short side. Continue down the row until you get to the end where the cut will need to be made. Cut the plank at the appropriate length and snap it in place. The pry bar will sometimes be needed since clearance can sometimes be an issue will the pull bar on a tight cut. You are now ready to start again following the same sequence for the next rows.





Once you have laid down 3 to 5 rows it is very important to double check that the flooring is still square to the wall. In most cases the flooring will shift since it is free floating so it is very important to check periodically. The lines you snapped earlier will greatly help with this process. Simply check on both sides and the middle to make sure the measurement either from the line or away from the wall are the same. When measuring from the drywall you will want to come in a few feet because drywall tends to bow at the ends of the wall very slightly. Once you have the flooring square again now is a good time to add shims wherever necessary to help hold the floor square to the wall. As you progress further and 3 to 5 more rows have been laid it is important to repeat this process and double check. Continue checking as you progress across the room. Eventually the floor will have enough weight and friction to keep it from moving but a double check is never a bad idea.



As you progress across the floor it is inevitable that cuts will be needed whether that is to get around cabinets, walls or door ways. These can take some time but it is very critical to make sure these cuts are exact. A table saw, oscillating tool and circular saw are very helpful when it comes to making these cuts. You will also need a square, straight edge and pencil to mark the pieces. Another thing to consider is will you be using any trim and if so what will be used? A baseboard will usually give you at minimum 3/8 of an inch to work with. You can also usually get a matching colored quarter round to trim out the edges of the floor. In the event you do not want to use any type of trim for areas such as going around cabinets, your cuts will need to be exact.






One particular challenging situation is if you have to go around a kitchen island. If this happens you will have to build up both sides equally and rejoin them as you are able to after you have cleared the island. Getting the flooring to snap together can sometimes be challenging but patience and persistence will eventually pay off.



The next challenge comes into play once you are transitioning from one room to the next. This can either be left in a continuous run or broken up with a transition piece at the door way. Typically I like to leave the runs continuous and although it can be challenging to snap the pieces together around the doorway, it will help keep the pieces square as they continue into the adjoining room. If a transition is being used I will usually cut the necessary gap out of the floor at a later time with the oscillating tool. An easier method that can be used is to cut the floor at the door way where the transition piece is being used and restarting the sequence in the next room. This can sometimes be difficult to keep the planks square and inline with the previous room however so it does have its draw backs.



At this point you simply continue on until you have covered all areas of floor that you intend to cover. Once complete any trim, quarter round or baseboards can now be installed to trim out any areas that need it. You can now relax and admire your new floor!


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