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Can/Should You and How to Install Vinyl Plank on Plywood

When remodeling your home or upgrading a new property, the way that you handle the flooring is of utmost importance. Vinyl plank is the perfect combination of form and function and is a popular choice for many homeowners, but how do you know how to install it? Many homes have a plywood underlayment, and this article will discuss the tips and tricks to ensure things go as smoothly as possible.

Most quality vinyl flooring is designed to be installed directly on top of your subfloor with little to no experience working with flooring. However, you need to ensure that your subfloor is in excellent condition, free of damage, smooth, and clean, and that you measure all of its dimensions before laying down vinyl planks. 

A floor stabler securing plywood

There are many different elements that make up a perfectly installed floor however. Continue to learn all about vinyl flooring and how to use it in combination with your plywood subfloor effectively.

Can You Install Vinyl Plank on Plywood?

Vinyl floor planks and a measuring tape

In most cases, you can install your vinyl plank directly on top of your plywood subfloor. Most quality vinyl planks come prepared to install directly onto plywood, but if you inherit an older home or have ripped out the previous flooring to get at the subfloor, you may need to take some additional steps. As mentioned in the prior section, your subfloor needs to be at the very least:

  • In excellent condition
  • Free of any kind of damage
  • Completely smooth
  • Both clean and free of dust and debris

It’s worth noting as well that your plywood flooring should be 1/4″ thick at the absolute minimum, and in many cases, you may need to install another plywood layer to achieve this thickness. If you find yourself in this position, there are a few things to prepare to set it up correctly.

How To Install A Second Layer of Plywood

Several pieces of luxury vinyl floor planks

Start by measuring and cutting your second layer of plywood to fit the room, and arrange the second layer on top of the first. It is vital to ensure that you do not line up the joints between boards with the joints on the layer beneath. Additionally, give yourself a 1/4″ gap along the walls and between each of the joints to allow space for the wood to expand naturally.

When you have lined everything up correctly, you can secure your second plywood layer using 1-inch deck screws. You’ll know you’ve screwed them in deeply enough when the screw heads fall just below the surface of the wood, indenting it slightly.

Next, get yourself some floor patching compound; there are many brands available, and use it to cover the gaps between the screw heads and between each of the joints between planks. Allow the compound about twenty minutes to dry, and then sand it down to be level with your plywood planks.

Types Of Vinyl Flooring Installation

Installing vinyl floor planks

There are three main types of vinyl planks with various cosmetic varieties. However, the differences between the core types are all rooted in their installation method. The three types of vinyl planks are click-lock, glue down, and GripStrip.

Click-Lock Vinyl Plank Flooring

Click lock is just one of the names for vinyl planks that are joined by integrated interlocking tongue-and-groove joints. These planks allow you to create a floating floor, but you don’t need to use an adhesive to attach the planks to the subfloor. Simply snap these planks together to get a reliable and effective fit that will suit many rooms.

Glue Down Vinyl Plank Flooring

As the name would suggest, glue-down vinyl planks use an adhesive to attach the planks to the subfloor. These adhesives come in two varieties, which are either hard-set or pressure-sensitive. Hard-set adhesive is what many people would expect from glued-down flooring in that you spread the glue across the subfloor, and then you lay the planks on top of that.

Comparatively, the pressure-sensitive adhesive comes pre-applied to the underside of the planks by the manufacturer, and it bonds to your subfloor when you press the plank into place. Either one of these options is equally durable and practical; however, the pressure-sensitive adhesive allows you to remove individual planks in case of damage much more straightforward.

GripStrip Vinyl Plank Flooring

This flooring style comes with an adhesive layer applied by the manufacturer that allows you to connect your planks to each other. A byproduct of this installation method is that you have ultimately created a floating floor for yourself. The planks do not actually adhere to your subfloor in any way, shape, or form. 

Whether this factor is advantageous to you or not comes down to personal preference. Still, these floating floor planks are an effortless way to install new flooring without removing the existing floor.

Each of these installation methods is accessible for first-timers and works for any subfloor as long as it flat and inflexible. When choosing the installation style of vinyl planks, consider the kind of room you will be using this flooring in. The GripStrip vinyl planks can be water-resistant as long as they are correctly installed, but the click-lock vinyl plank flooring should be completely water-resistant if you have measured and installed it correctly.

Preparing Your Plywood Subfloor For Vinyl Plank Installation

House flooring preperations

Before you do anything else, you should measure and prepare your subfloor for installation. Take exact measurements of the room to ensure that you know how much vinyl plank flooring you need, and then purchase an additional 10-20% additional flooring. The reason for the extra planks is that you will guarantee that you have enough to floor the entire room while maintaining excess stock if you need to cut any planks or replace parts of your floor in the future.

Preparing your subfloor is mostly a matter of making sure that it is clean, level, and free of any kind of raised or lowered sections, cracks, or imperfections. If there is any old vinyl flooring, carpeting, or other materials on top of your subfloor, remove those first and take off your baseboards (if applicable) temporarily. Note that you should not, under any circumstance, sand down existing vinyl flooring to make it level as older varieties of this material can contain asbestos.

The next step is planning how you will lay out your planks to make the actual installation a breeze. Read through and consider the following tips and tricks when you are at this stage in the process.

Tip 1: Take your room measurements, and then divide the width of the room by the width of your vinyl planks to figure out how wide the planks bordering your walls need to be.

To get the best look out of your vinyl planks, you want to ensure that you don’t cut them to anything less than half of their original width. To help with this concept, if your vinyl planks are 8 inches wide, you should only trim them to 4 inches.

It’s better to have the planks on each side of the room trimmed rather than one side cut down to less than half to maintain a good appearance.

Tip 2: If you set yourself up to start parallel to the shortest wall in the room, it can help prevent you from needing to cut as many planks.

Tip 3: Regardless of the kind of vinyl plank flooring you have, each package will have slight variations in the planks’ pattern and colors. To ensure a natural and cohesive appearance, open all your packages and shuffle them together to encourage these variations.

Tip 4: Undercutting door jambs can be very beneficial to allow your vinyl planks to slide beneath them with little fuss.

Tip 5: Measure and mark the manufacturer-recommended amount of space between your walls and your planks to allow for expansion. Chalk or crayon can be ideal for making these distances.

Tip 6: A great way to hide the cuts in your planks for the outer walls is to have the cut side face the wall so that your baseboard can cover them up.

Tip 7: If you have an unusually shaped room or features in your home, trace the shape onto a piece of paper, and use that as your stencil whenever you need to cut your planks to fit these odd spaces.

How To Install Vinyl Plank On Plywood

Installation of vinyl floor planks with hammer and measuring tape

Now that you’ve prepared your subfloor, learned about the different kinds of installation methods for your vinyl planks, and planned your layout, the time has come to install your vinyl planks. Ensure that you have followed all of the steps in this guide up to this point and that your space is clean and ready to begin.

Installing Click-Lock Vinyl Planks

Step 1: Begin by trimming the short tongue edge from your first vinyl floor plank, then lay it down next to the wall with approximately 1/4″ distance from the wall. 

Step 2: Install your second plank by inserting its tongue edge at an angle into the grooved edge of the first plank. When you lower the second plank, it should snap them both together.

Step 3: Keep repeating steps 1 and 2 all the way to the end of the row, and then trim the last plank as required to fit the space. 

Step 4: When installing the second row, use the same method of angling the plank and then lower it to snap into place with each other as well as the first row.

Step 5: Trim the planks that border the walls and ensure that you have left the appropriate amount of space (1/4″) between your outer planks and the wall. This space allows for the natural expansion that your planks will undergo.

Step 6: Lastly, replace the baseboard that you removed in the preparation stage.

Installing Glue-Down Vinyl Planks

Step 1: Using a glue-down installation process requires some additional measurements to ensure it goes smoothly.

Find the exact center of the room you are working in, then use chalk and a ruler to draw a line from one wall to the opposite.

Repeat this step for the other two walls, which should divide the room into four equally-sized quadrants.

Step 2: Measure the distance from the center point that you’ve just created, and then divide that distance by your vinyl planks’ width.

As mentioned in the previous section, if your last plank needs to be thinner than half of its regular width, move the center point of the room only so far that your bordering planks will not need to be cut to less than half of their standard width.

Step 3: Your vinyl planks should have a manufacturer-recommended adhesive that you need to apply at this point. Begin at the center point that you marked in step 2, and use a trowel to apply the glue, working outward. 

Step 4: You should allow your adhesive to set slightly so that it is still cloudy or hazy looking. Do not let it stay put for so long that it becomes transparent, however.

Step 5: Keep a dry cloth on hand so that you can wipe away any adhesive that gets onto one of your vinyl planks immediately.

Step 6: Lay your first plank down with its short edge at the central point where your chalk lines meet.

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Step 7: Continue to place your planks down parallel to the chalk line and keeping each one tightly up against the next.

Step 8: When you reach your walls’ borders, trim the planks as needed, and allow the standard 1/4″ space for natural expansion.

Step 9: Most varieties of glue-down vinyl planks require you to use a floor roller at this point to ensure that your planks have fully attached to the adhesive.

If you find that some of your glue has worked its way between the planks, use either a cloth to wipe it away or a knife to peel it if it has become too firm to wipe.

Step 10: Reattach your baseboards and call it a day.

Installing GripStrip Vinyl Planks

Step 1: Start by laying your first row of planks along the wall. Ensure that you leave the standard 1/4″ space between the edge of your planks and the wall.

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Step 2: Place the next row of planks end-to-end, ensure that you overlap the adhesive strips, and then use a hand roller to press the planks down with even pressure firmly.

Step 3: Work your way across the room, pay close attention to each plank, and press them tightly together where the grip strip seams meet. 

Step 4: When you reach the border planks with the wall of the room, trim them to fit the space and ensure that you’ve left the requisite 1/4″ of leeway for expansion.

Step 5: At this point, you can replace your baseboard, but ensure that you attach it directly to the wall rather than the flooring.

Step 6: When you’ve finished the entire room, remove your spacers and use a 75 or 100-pound floor roller to ensure the vinyl planks solidify correctly.

Can I Install Vinyl Planks If I Don’t Have A Plywood Subfloor?

Man lifting and placing a gray vinyl floor plank onto floor

Especially in basements, it is not uncommon to be missing a subfloor material. While you can install vinyl flooring directly onto concrete, it is generally advised not to for a few reasons. 

  • Vinyl flooring directly on top of concrete will be very hard, and even a single layer of underlayment will make your floor much more comfortable to walk on.
  • Concrete is exceptionally prone to retaining moisture. Before installing either your vinyl planks or an underlayment, you should take a moisture reading and reduce the concrete’s moisture level if applicable.
  • Concrete floors are generally much colder, and if you live in an already cold climate, they can be very uncomfortable to walk on. Underlayments can offset this temperature issue by providing a level of insulation between the concrete and your vinyl plank flooring.

Ultimately, if you do not have a subfloor, your room is sufficiently dry, and you feel that you will not suffer for installing your vinyl planks directly onto concrete, you can proceed to install any of the above varieties of vinyl plank flooring. Start by cleaning up any dust and debris and use a level throughout the room to determine if there are any higher or lower areas than the rest of the room.

If you find any lowered sections, you can use some of the floor patching compound mentioned earlier in this article to smooth them over. Give the compound approximately twenty minutes to dry, and then sand it down to provide a good texture. Conversely, if there are any raised areas, use a belt sander to bring them in line with the rest of the floor. Lastly, remove any debris from these adjustments, and begin laying your vinyl flooring using the methods listed above.

Vinyl Floors Galore

Sample selection of different vinyl planks

Between the durability, water resistance, and overall aesthetic of vinyl flooring, it’s easy to see why this flooring style has become so popular with homeowners. Especially if you already have a plywood subfloor, you should have a straightforward time installing your vinyl planks.

Above all, remember the adage to “measure twice and cut once.” You will be amazed at how quickly this process goes as long as you take all of the required measurements and re-check them before making any irreversible decisions. Take your time, and do it right the first time, and your vinyl plank flooring will last you for a very long time.

Check out our Vinyl Plank Flooring Project Calculator to estimate your project.

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