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How To Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring

If you have made the decision to install vinyl plank flooring, you have made a good choice. It is beautiful, durable, and a good fit in almost any home. It is still important to know how to stagger the flooring, however, so it looks pristine.

You can stagger vinyl planks by simply cutting the first row short on one end. As you continue to install one row after another, use spare pieces on the ends to keep the seams from lining up.

Vinyl floor plank

It seems like a fairly simple thing to do and, to be honest, once you have been doing it for a while, it almost becomes second nature.

When I first started my flooring business, however, I learned a hard lesson because I did not stagger things properly. It’s easy to pick up on patterns, so you need to ensure that everything is truly random.

When installing vinyl plank flooring, you need to consider more than just the seams when it comes to staggering the planks. You also need to consider the design of the planks, because they are limited in design.

Most vinyl plank flooring manufacturers will make approximately five or six different plank patterns and they will simply rotate through those patterns in the pack.

In other words, you need to avoid putting the patterns in a way that would be noticeable on the floor. You have to randomize both the seams and the patterns to get the best look possible.

Other factors also need to be considered, such as the layout of the room, light sources, and even the pattern that may be in adjoining rooms.

When you take all of these things into consideration, it can give you the guidance necessary to put the floor down in a way that will look best.

Why Should You Stagger A Vinyl Plank Floor

Vinyl floor plank

Many people wonder why you would want to stagger a vinyl plank floor. Aside from aesthetics, which are important, consider these other factors.

Durability: When you stagger planks properly, then adjacent rows are not getting lined up one after another. This keeps you from having weak spots on the floor that could cause squeaks and creaks.

In addition, if you have an un-staggered floor in the middle of the room, it is more likely to wear down over time. Quite simply, staggering the floor adds to its durability.

Acoustics: We mentioned it to a certain extent, but you can really improve the acoustics when you stagger the floor. When the floor is properly staggered, it tends to move as a larger unit.

If you line up the rows too closely so the ends are in a pattern, it will likely bend at that point when you walk on it. This can make it noisy, as you will hear the floor creaking under your feet.

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Stability: When the vinyl plank floor is staggered appropriately, it allows any weight that is put on the floor to be distributed over a larger area. This allows you to have larger items in the room and can keep things steady.

Easy Installation: Most people think that staggering the floor would be difficult but it would actually be more difficult to line things up perfectly. When you begin staggering and use random pieces, it gets very easy to put the floor down one row after another.

As long as you are standing back and viewing each row as you install it, you can avoid any unnecessary patterns or unsightly ends. The floor will simply mesh as one.

Staggering Patterns With Room Layout

Vinyl floor plank

When it comes to staggering a vinyl plank floor, you need to look beyond the traditional stagger. There are actually a number of different options available, and you may want to choose one that is suitable for you and your style of living.

Random: This pattern is very similar to the name, you would use random lengths of boards on the ends, resulting in a random pattern overall.

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If you have a room that is irregularly shaped and you are using full planks from side to side, then this is the type of pattern you will likely use.

Traditional: This is another common pattern that is used when you offset the end joints and stagger them with adjacent rows. If you have a room that is square or rectangular and are looking for a symmetrical layout, this is the option to consider.

Herringbone: Although this is a popular pattern in some homes, it is not the most commonly selected for vinyl plank flooring. I have had a few customers that have requested it, but they are few and far between.

You can use herringbone to add some class to the room. The problem is, you really have to plan things out properly and there tends to be more waste if you aren’t careful.

Other options are also available, such as a diagonal pattern or an accent stagger. These are things that can be considered, but you need to be careful if you start manipulating the ends of the planks in the middle of the floor. Vinyl planks should lock together.

Tools Needed To Install A Vinyl Plank Floor

Vinyl floor plank

As is the case with any job, it’s important to have the proper tools available so you can install the vinyl plank floor without let up. It helps you to keep your mind on the stagger, which is one of the most important parts of the installation.

Gather these tools in advance:

Tape Measure

Utility Knife with Fresh Blades

Rubber Mallet

Installation Kit


Straight Edge/Square

Notched Trowel (Glue Down Only)

Safety Glasses

All-Purpose Gloves

Knee Pads

You should also have a tool to cut the vinyl flooring. There are vinyl cutters specific for that purpose but you can also use a utility knife in a pinch.

If you have other tools that you enjoy using, such as a five-in-one tool, have them close by.

Step-By-Step Guide To Stagger A Vinyl Plank Floor

Vinyl floor plank

When you are ready to put down the vinyl plank floor, follow these steps so it is staggered properly

Preparation: One of the most important things you can do when putting down a vinyl plank floor is to prepare the room in advance. If you have anything that gets under the floor, even a small stone, is going to ruin the installation.

In addition, when you work in a clean area that is well-prepared in advance, you are less likely to injure yourself and the job will go a lot more smoothly. You may even need to clean up as you go, as it is important to avoid anything from tripping hazards to debris.

As far as the preparation is concerned, sweep the floor carefully and use a shop vac in order to get up as much dirt and dust as possible. You may even find that running a wet mop over the floor and allowing it to dry will work well.

If the floor is unlevel or has high and low spots, these should be corrected in advance. You can sometimes sand down a wood subfloor or you can use a product to float the floor.

2. Planning: I really can’t over-emphasize just how important planning is for the entire process. This is something that we had to do every time we did a job, and it is something you should do even on a small vinyl plank flooring installation.

Planning will allow you to stagger the floor properly because you will measure everything and you will have an idea of what the floor will look like as you begin installing it. In addition, you will avoid problems, such as having a very thin piece of vinyl plank floor at the edge of the room.

Part of the planning process is gathering the tools and having them available. You would also stage everything, as well as put the cutting area outside of the room so you aren’t creating a lot of dust or small pieces that could get under the flooring.

3. Staging: Begin by putting the first row of planks down along the longest wall of the room. Start in a corner with a random length of vinyl plank flooring and work from there. Continue to work that row until you get to the other side of the room.

As you put this edge together, be sure to use spacers so you aren’t getting too close to the adjacent wall. Vinyl plank will expand and contract according to the temperature and humidity, so give it enough area to do so.

When you start the second row, you will also be using a random length of the vinyl plank. This will start the stagger.

Make sure you pay attention to the pattern of each individual plank so you aren’t creating an overall pattern that is noticeable.

4. Finish Strong: The final thing to consider is how you finish the job. After you get everything put down, clean the floor and inspect for any issues.

If you notice imperfections or if there are noticeable gaps, they should be corrected at this point. In addition, if you do notice a pattern anywhere on the floor, this is the best time to correct it.

You can stagger a vinyl plank flooring project by starting with a random length of the floor and then using random lengths at the beginning of each row. After each row, inspect it for any noticeable patterns, including patterns in the designs of the individual planks.

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ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on June 27, 2023.

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