Vinyl flooring planks are all the same length, unlike random-length hardwood planks. This can lead to eye-catching, and not in a good way, weird joint patterns. Hence the question: “How do I stagger vinyl plank flooring?”
Get this wrong, and your floor will look like an amateur installed it. Get the vinyl plank flooring layout right and your friends won’t believe you did it yourself.
Below, you will see what tools and supplies you will need for this process as well as the typical prices for each item. We will also break down step-by-step what you will need to do in order to properly stagger your vinyl flooring.
Installation guidelines for vinyl plank and tile table of contents section: 1. Test before starting installations 2. Material storage and handling 3. Shaw adhesives 5. Installing resilient tile & plank products 6. Vinyl Plank Flooring Sizes. Vinyl plank flooring comes in a few different sizes. The most common vinyl floorings are 36 and 48 inches in length and can range anywhere from 4 to 12 inches wide. While you may find some smaller than this, these are the most common two sizes you are likely to find.
It’s not just the LVT staggered pattern that counts. Staggering vinyl flooring also keeps the structural integrity of the floor intact, reducing the risk of issues such as plank bowing, separating or warping.
Tools, Supplies, and Costs
- Utility knife: $7-$12
- Replacement blades: $3-$6 per pack
- Tape measure: $5-$15
- Straight edge or T-square: $12-$25
- Spacers: $3-$5 per pack of 200
- Safety gloves: $4-$10
- Vinyl plank flooring: $1.30-$4.19 per sq. ft.
Prep Steps to Prepare for Staggering Flooring Planks
Without these crucial steps, a bit of the shine will be taken off your vinyl plank flooring patterns.
- Measure the width of the room and divide that number by the width of the planks you are using. This will give you the number of full rows of vinyl planks you will need. There’s an example in the next point that will help you get your head around this concept, if it isn’t yet.
- Calculate the width of the final row. If it is less than the width of a normal plank, cut the planks for your first row so that they are the same width as the last row. This will make your floor symmetrical. Here’s the example: Let’s say you’re working with 5” planks, and your floor is 154” across. 154/5 = 30 remainder 4. Your floor will have 30 full planks with 4” left over. Therefore, rip your first row of planks to be 2” wide. The last row will be 2” too wide as well – nicely balanced.
- Take your planks out of their packages in the room you’ll be doing the flooring. Mix up the planks from the various packages. Why? If the boxes contain planks from different “runs” of the flooring, and likely they are, they might have slight color differences. Mixing them will avoid having all lighter Chestnut Brown on one side and noticeably darker Chestnut Brown on the other.
Also, read the installation material that comes with the flooring. It will remind you to do things like use 1/4-inch spacers between planks and walls.
Steps for staggering vinyl plank flooring:
- Lay a full plank to begin row one. Remember to do the handy calculation described above.
- Ensure that the plank at the end of row one is no less than 6 inches in length. If it is less than 6 inches, cut off enough from the first plank of the row so that the last piece is longer than 6 inches, the minimum needed for structural strength. Repeat this for every row as needed.
- For row two, score and snap the first plank in half. Its end should be at least 6 to 8 inches apart from the closest seam in row one. This will stagger the seams between the adjacent rows in a random way. That’s what you’re after.
- To start row 3, cut a full-width plank to the length of the trimmed, ripped piece at the end of row 1. Repeat steps #2-3 to complete row three.
- Use the cutoff plank from the end of row two to begin row four. Repeat steps #2-3 to complete row four.
- Continue this pattern until your staggered vinyl floor is finished.
That’s the general idea. But eyeball the first piece of each new row. Even lay out all the pieces before snapping them in place. Will the joints look randomly placed? That’s good. If they look too uniform, you’ve got an H-joint or Step/Lightning problem – which can be solved by following the information below.
Before getting specific, the general solution is to cut the first plank of the next row at a length 2-3 inches different than any first plank in a row yet – as long as it is at least 6 inches.
Additional Info to Know
- The “H” problem: When the seams of the first row line up with the seams of the third, this forms an H-joint. This pattern doesn’t provide a natural look to your flooring and can unnecessarily attract the viewer’s eyes.
- The “Step” or Lightning problem: The same applies to a step-pattern in the flooring. To avoid these, use your cutoff planks to begin every other row. The different lengths of each cutoff should allow the seams to fall in random order. If after a few rows you run out of cutoffs, eye the previous two rows and cut the next row’s first plank so that the seams won’t be too close together.
- A rule of thumb: For 5-inch wide planks, have a minimum of 6 inches between adjacent row seams. For planks wider than 5 inches, you can raise the minimum to 8-10 inches. However, going over 10 inches can make it difficult to avoid H-joints.
- Make sure to change your utility knife blade if it becomes dull. A dulled blade can create jagged edges on the vinyl planks.
My son recently asked for help installing vinyl flooring in his bathroom. So we took a trip to the local home center to pick up materials and supplies. What I found surprised me.
I knew that vinyl flooring had come a long way since the days when I was a young father, but even within the past few years, there have been eye-popping advancements. No more boring patterns or unconvincing imitations of wood, tile, and stone. /how-to-install-paintnet-for-free/. The products we saw were virtually indistinguishable from ‘the real thing.’ Even better, all we needed to do the job was a carpenter square and a utility knife.
My son chose a rustic pine plank-style flooring, ideal for areas that get wet. (Did I mention my grandson’s penchant for splashing at bath time?) In addition to being waterproof, the vinyl planks had the texture of real wood grain, were heavy enough to feel solid underfoot, and had a convincing look complete with knots and splits.
The planks were designed to join together at half-lap joints with contact adhesive pre-applied to the mating surfaces. Pressed together and rolled, the planks would form a tight bond.
How to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring
STEP 1: Inspect the underlayment
One thing that hasn’t changed about installing vinyl flooring—or any type of flooring, for the matter—is the need for a perfectly smooth and level underlayment. In this bathroom, the existing underlayment, which was covered with adhesive from floors past, also had some water damage due to a toilet-seal leak.
Prying Up Damaged Floor Underlayment. Photo: JProvey
STEP 2: Install new underlayment, if necessary
In our case, we decided with little hesitation to rip out the underlayment and replace it with 1/4″ luan plywood.
Do You Need Underlayment For Vinyl Plank
Sometimes old underlayment can be reused. This was not one of those times. We tore up the old underlayment using a hefty prybar and banged home the nails left behind.
When installing the replacement luan, careful measuring was necessary to make sure floor penetrations would align with cutouts in the underlayment. The hole for the toilet drain, and notches for for valves and piping, were cut with a saber saw.
Vinyl Plank Floor Installation Video
The underlayment was fastened to the subfloor with screws 8″ apart in each direction, and all joints and fastener holes were filled with patching compound. Ring shank nails or staples work well, too. Just be sure that fastener heads are set below the underlayment surface; otherwise they will telegraph through to the finished floor.
Screwing Underlayment to Subfloor. Photo: JProvey
STEP 3: Install the vinyl plank flooring.
Perhaps the only tricky part of the job was ensuring that, upon reaching the other side of the room, we didn’t end up with a too-narrow final plank (less than 2″ wide).
Upon dividing the width of the room by the plank width of 6″, we found that the remainder—2-1/2″—would indeed be wide enough. If the remainder had been less than 2″, we would have had to ‘rip’ an inch or two off the first plank we put down.
Of course, there is no sawing involved in vinyl plank flooring. To cut the planks, we only had to measure and then score the flooring the back side with a utility knife. Each break was quite clean.
Installing vinyl plank flooring. Photo: JProvey