I’ve installed just about every type of flooring there is. So, when my brother chose Waterproof Click Flooring by Turtle Bay Floors for his home I had two questions: why couldn’t he have picked a floor that I’ve installed before and is this floor as easy to install as everyone has suggested. I had our master installer John come out and show me the ropes. The tips and tricks as explained in this article made this floor an absolute breeze to install. It turns out that there was nothing to worry about with floating vinyl plank flooring. I was able to install 550 sq. ft. in less than a day without any problems. Installing vinyl plank flooring (WPC and lifeproof vinyl flooring) is fast and easy compared with the other floors I’ve installed. And the next time we need new flooring at our home, my vote will be for Waterproof Click Flooring from Lake Street Home. This article will walk you through the process of installing vinyl plank flooring that I followed and show you some key tips along the way.
Durability of vinyl flooring depends on its wear layer. The wear layer is a clear protective film that’s applied to the top of the flooring. The thicker the wear layer, the more long-lasting the flooring. Typical wear layers are 6, 12 and 20 mils thick. One “mil” is one thousandth of an inch. If you’re installing vinyl flooring in a room with low foot traffic, a thinner wear layer and less expensive product may work just fine. However, I would not spend the time and energy installing a floor with a wear layer thinner than 12-mils. All of the vinyl-based products at Lake Street Home have a 12 or 20-mil wear layer. The wear layer of these floors consists of UV-cured urethane and has microscopic ceramic particles embedded in it. These particles offer a higher density material to further enhance durability.
Most modern vinyl flooring is different than what you remember from years past. It is more durable, looks more natural, is easy to install and comes in a vast array of colors, textures and patterns. Some are made to look like natural hardwood flooring or even stone tiles. Vinyl flooring products are typically low-maintenance and clean up easily. Additionally, with the recent development of Multilayer Flooring (MLF) such as Lifeproof Vinyl Flooring, SPC and WPC, where the vinyl is attached to a semi-rigid core makes installation so easy that most DIY homeowners can tackle it. There are two different installation methods for LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank) and MLF (Multi-Layer Flooring). Either “glue direct” or “floating”. This article will focus more on installation our Lake Street Home floating MLF and WPC Floors rather than Lake Street Home’s glue direct LVP flooring options. For your specific project, please refer to the manufacturer’s installation guide typically found in each box of flooring.
Glue down vinyl flooring needs to be installed over clean, blemish-free subfloors. If you are remodeling your space, you can install vinyl directly over existing wood and concrete that’s free of bumps and other imperfections that could telegraph through the vinyl. In some cases, you can avoid tearing out old flooring by first installing a layer 1/8-inch plywood to create the smooth surface needed for the glue down vinyl (LVT and LVP).
Floating Vinyl Flooring needs to be installed over clean, mostly blemish-free subfloors. If you are remodeling your space, you can install vinyl directly over existing wood and concrete that’s free of bumps and other imperfections. Because of the rigidness of many of the SPC, WPC and lifeproof vinyl flooring on the market, you can often float these over existing ceramic tile, existing vinyl, expansion joints, and other mild issues without additional prep. In some cases, you can avoid tearing out old flooring by first installing a layer 1/8-inch plywood to create a smooth surface similar to what’s needed for the Glue Down vinyl (LVT and LVP). Here are 13 things to think about when installing your floating flooring:
- Choose your layout. The planks should lay parallel to the longest run of the room. For instance, if the space is 10-feet-by-20-feet, the boards should run along the 20-foot wall. This layout will look best. Start on the left side of the room and work right.
- Check for door operation. Check the height of the new floor near exterior and interior doors and cut down doors where possible and necessary. When trimming an interior door, be sure there is enough “meat” at the bottom of any hollow core door.
- Undercut your door jambs. Cut down the doorjambs and casing so the flooring can slide underneath. I use an oscillating Dremel multi-tool to cut down my jambs and casing, but a small pull saw would work too. Grab a scrap plank of flooring and use it as a guide to get the proper height. I only cut the casing and the doorjamb.
- Adjust your baseboards. If there is not enough clearance (like when covering sheet vinyl) or the base is too high (when replacing carpet) where it sits, remove your baseboards and reinstall after the flooring is installed. You can also apply shoe molding to the base for additional expansion if necessary (more about expansion in #9).
- Ensure a smooth surface. Sand down the high spots, humps or peaks in the subfloor. Feel free to use either a floor edger (available for rent) or a belt sander. Next, fill in the low spots with floor patching compound. I would recommend Ardex Feather Finish. Mix the patch to the consistency of peanut butter and spread it over the low spots. Once the patch is dry, feel free to either scrape or sand off any imperfections. With a rigid floor (over 5mm thickness), you should be able to get away with just filling imperfections that are deeper than 1/8 inch. Avoid self-leveling floor patch. The floor doesn’t have to be level; it just has to be smooth. Some older houses would require a cement truck full of self-leveling floor patch to do the job. Check your installation manual about any other subfloor specifics.
- Prepare for the final row when starting the first. Measure the room at a right angle perpendicular to the direction of the planks. Planks in the final row should be at least 1/3 the width of a plank. Due to this rule, planks in the first row may need to be cut.
- Shuffle the planks in order to obtain a blend of patterns and designs. Most vinyl plank floors have between 5 and 7 different plank designs. To avoid placing two of the same boards next to each other, I separate the planks into piles of the same look before I start laying them.
- Beginning the floor. Starting from the left with the tongue-side facing the wall, carefully place the first plank. Using laminate flooring spacers, leave a ¼” expansion gap between the wall and edges of the flooring. Install the second piece by aligning the butt end with the end of the first piece at a 45 degree angle. Softly push the second piece down until the tongue and groove lock together to secure the joint on the ends. Continue in this manner until reaching the final board in the first row. Cut the final board piece to length and install it in the same manner as the previous piece.
- Use flooring spacers. Leave gaps along walls by inserting spacers between the flooring and the wall. This is to allow for the expansion and contraction of both the flooring and the house itself. Generally, you’ll need to leave about a 1/4-in. to 3/8-in. gap between the flooring and the walls.
- Starting the 2nd Row. Slide the tongue of the first plank on the second row into the groove of the first row at a low angle and lay it on the floor. The second and subsequent planks in each row are installed by locking the ends together, and then working your way down the plank, pushing the tongue into the groove as you go. Use a tapping block and mallet to tap gently tap on the planks until they lock together if need be. Do not over hammer. The Turtle Bay Floors Waterproof Click flooring that I installed at my brother’s house went together better than anything I’ve ever worked with. They use a patented locking technology called UniClic and it is slick!
- Stagger the seams. Whenever practical, use cut pieces from one row as the starter board for another row to reduce waste. If the cut plank is at least 8 inches in length, it can be used as a starter piece in another row, just be sure not to create a repeating pattern of lengths and seams. If the cut plank is shorter than 8 inches do not use it. For a natural look rows and patterns should be staggered at least 8 in., and don’t start or end any row with a plank less than 8 inches long as you’re installing vinyl plank flooring. Instead, begin with a new board that is at least 8 inches in length and allows 8 inches between the end joints on the adjacent planks. Carefully inspect the long edge and short ends of the plank for any gaping before moving on.
- Fit the planks tight. If you notice a gap in any seam, STOP, and reinstall the board to ensure a snug fit. It is nearly impossible to tighten a seam once the floor is done, so do this as you go.
- Finishing the Project. With the last planks in place, the only chore left is to finish the parts project besides the flooring. This involves replacing the baseboards. If your Lifeproof Vinyl Flooring / WPC / SPC plank floor butts up to another flooring surface, such as tile, then install and a transition plank that spans the joint between the two floors. If you install shoe molding do not nail it to the flooring. The flooring needs to be able to expand with temperature changes.
Odds and Ends to Remember…
Watch your floor height - New flooring raises or lowers the final height of the floor, which can create unexpected problems. Here is some additional guidance:
- Door Jambs - If you’re pulling out flooring that is thicker than your new flooring, you’ll end up with gaps under the door jambs. To prevent that, you could cover the subfloor with a layer of 1/4-in. underlayment to raise the height of the entire floor. If the new flooring is higher than the old floor, cut down your door jambs.
- Dishwasher - In most cases, there’s enough space above the dishwasher so that you can raise the floor level a little and still reinstall the dishwasher. But check the gap between the top of the dishwasher and the countertop first just to be sure.
- Stairs - Be careful when changing flooring that butts up to a flight of stairs. Building codes allow no more than a 3/8-in. difference between the heights of the lowest and tallest stair risers. Changing the floor height at the top or bottom of stairs will alter riser heights and could create a trip hazard.
- Existing sheet vinyl and carpet - If your kitchen floor is sheet vinyl and the dining room is carpet, don’t forget that the sheet vinyl will have 1/4-in. underlayment beneath it, but the carpet won’t. If you want to install vinyl flooring in both, you’ll have to remove the underlayment in the kitchen or add underlyament to the dining room.
- Do not install floating flooring under permanent or fixed cabinetry
- Never nail or screw anything through a floating floor or glue the flooring to anything (including transition strips).
Take it slow. You are better off being careful then too fast when installing floors. In the long run, this will save you time.
Have the necessary tools for installing floating vinyl flooring lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration with this DIY flooring project. Here are some tools that are commonly used:
- Tapping Block
- Belt sander
- Chalk line
- Cold chisel
- Dust mask
- Hearing protection
- Knee pads
- Putty knife
- Safety glasses
- Sanding block
- Tape measure
- Utility knife
Even with this knowledge, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions to get a beautiful, worry-free floor.