DIY: How To Install Luxury Vinyl Planks

September 23, 2019

luxury vinyl tile wood look flooring

One of the fastest flooring options on the rise is Luxury Vinyl Planks. LVT has come a long way from the first thin vinyl sheets, and because of technologically advanced printing and modern manufacturing, these luxury designs rival real hardwood with its beauty, durability, and affordability. It is also hands down the easiest flooring to install. While it may be a project to tackle for any DIY-er, there are still some careful steps that must be followed when learning how to install floating LVT.

What Is LVT?

Luxury vinyl tile consists of several layers and comes in various colors and patterns that realistically mimic the look of real wood or natural stone. A urethane coating gives additional scratch resistance and is placed on top of the wear layer, the all-important clear layer that varies in thickness and protects the print film layer. This paper photograph is what features the design of the product. The vinyl core can be mixed with other things like stone, plasticizers, or fiberglass to give it extra strength. Not all vinyl plank flooring products include a pre-attached underlayment, but some already include a cork or foam backing.

Advantages of Installing LVT Over Real Wood

One of the biggest advantages to installing tile that looks like wood over the real thing is that it can be installed anywhere. Bathrooms, kitchens, or laundry rooms are no problem for LVT because of its water resistance. Since hardwood floors are porous, they warp and split when exposed to liquid and moisture. Vinyl is extremely durable and requires very little upkeep, and the products with thicker wear layers can also stand up to high traffic areas. Real wood would require a lot of maintenance to keep up with the demands of heavy traffic because the polyurethane coating it needs would have to be removed and reapplied on a regular basis. 

dark wood vinyl flooring in bright living room

An even bigger plus to LVT flooring versus hardwood is the price. Depending on the type of vinyl flooring, the average price ranges from $2 per square foot to $5 per square foot. On the other hand, hardwood varies in price depending on the type of wood, with starting prices much higher with an average of $8 per square foot up to $25 per square foot. 

Deciding the Pattern

Some planning is required before installing your vinyl floors. Make sure that you don’t end up with a really short plank at the beginning or end of a row or too narrow of pieces on one side. Measure the room and plot down the space on a piece of graph paper or use a 3-dimensional computer program to easily lay out the planks and move them around. This, along with your installation instructions from the manufacturer, will help you see how it will look before making any cuts.

Underlayment for LVT

The type of luxury vinyl tile and subfloor will determine whether or not you need an underlayment. Vinyl floors will either lay on top of the subfloor or be glued directly onto it. Regardless of which kind of subfloor you have, you want to ensure that it is in good condition; does not have any damage; and is clean, dust-free, and smooth.

wood look flooring with kitchen island
Photo Credit: Houzz

An underlayment is best used for concrete subfloors. That is because it provides added cushion, helps reduce moisture exposure, and makes the floors warmer when it’s cold. Installing LVT over wood subfloors or existing floors like linoleum or tile does not require an underlayment since moisture isn’t an issue, but the addition can provide extra cushion and reduce noise. 

Luxury vinyl with a click lock system ranges in thickness from 2 mm to 8 mm or more. Anything over 4 mm could have a vinyl underlayment, but anything under 4 mm should be installed directly on top of the subfloor since the extra barrier could affect the ability to click the LVT together. Glue down vinyl flooring will be, well, glued directly onto the subfloor, while loose lay vinyl will be installed on top of the subfloor, so no underlayment is needed for either type.

Additional Prep Tips

Another important tip is to have your vinyl acclimate for 24 hours, so be sure to leave them in the room so that they get adjusted to those conditions. Also, before you get started, make sure to remove the quarter round as well as the baseboards, if needed.

Installing LVT

Many installers run the vinyl tile the same direction as the longest wall in the room. Once you figure out how you will lay your flooring, measure the space to ensure that walls are level. Start by measuring three inches out from the wall and connect your markings with a laser or chalk line. 

living room with luxury vinyl flooring

Because this is a floating installation, you will want to leave a 1/4-inch gap all the way around the room. Do this by taping wedge spacers to the wall so that the product can expand and contract and has enough room so that you can replace a damaged plank. You will want to start installing your planks on the left side to accommodate the click system. Start by building a few rows at a time and use an electric saw or floor cutter to get a clean cut, as scoring and snapping will likely leave rough edges.

To get those tiles to click together, angle the tongue into the groove, lower it into place, and give it a light tap with a tapping block. This will ensure that those seams are tightly locked and flush with each other. Make any cuts needed to finish the row, and start the next row by staggering the planks randomly to get a more natural look. Continue to repeat until the floor is fully installed. Once that is done, install your quarter round and any transitions between flooring.

Adding LVT to your home or business is easy and inexpensive. It can be installed in any room or wet area and requires very little maintenance. The durable modern tile provides a softer feel underfoot than tile, and adding an underlayment increases the comfort and sound reduction.

More Information on LVT Flooring

5 Reasons to Use Luxury Vinyl Flooring
Luxury Vinyl Tile - The Prescott Series
What Is LVT Plank Flooring?
Is Luxury Vinyl Tile a Good Investment?