Many homeowners are opting for vinyl plank flooring because it looks beautiful and elegant but does not cost as much as hardwood floors. However, using vinyl planks may be problematic, too. This flooring solution has its share of problems.
Problems related to vinyl plank flooring include being prone to discoloration, stains, scratches, peeling, cracking, and crumbling at the edges. There are also certain installation-related failures that you need to watch out for. These include curling, warping, peaking, and mold and mildew.
This article will talk about the common vinyl plank flooring problems, including installation-related issues and problems that are not related to installation. We will also talk about what causes these problems and how you can fix them and deal with them.
What Are Vinyl Planks?
Vinyl planks are a temporary, budget-friendly flooring solution created to look like hardwood floors and are available in a wide variety of wood textures and stains. The planks feature a floating floor method, which is a simple interlocking mechanism that allows you to just connect the planks, and they will fit and lock like jigsaw puzzle pieces.
These planks are very durable, and with proper care, these can last for years. Planks are made with a number of strong materials. Additionally, vinyl plank flooring is easy to maintain and keep clean since they are water-resistant and fully waterproof.
All you need is occasional vacuuming, and you can wipe hard-to-remove dirt with a damp mop. Spills can also be wiped dry using a rag, and unlike hardwood floors, you don’t need to wax and polish vinyl planks.
If you like hardwood but do not have the budget for it, vinyl planks are a great and much cheaper alternative. However, with their affordability come certain drawbacks, and you need to know the disadvantages and pitfalls of using vinyl planks so you can come prepared or so that you can avoid them altogether.
Vinyl Installation-Related Problems
Vinyl planks may be easy to install, but there are installation-related failures, too. These failures may be due to the quality of your vinyl planks, the kind of adhesives you use, and the installation techniques you apply.
So what exactly are the problems related to installation?
Vinyl Planks Curling, Cupping, and Dimensional Instabilities
Dimensional instabilities, curling, cupping, and lifting of the flooring can happen if the moisture level of the subfloor and the room, in general, are left unchecked and unmoderated. When this happens, you would have to contend with an unsightly floor. It can also lessen the life of your flooring.
You can avoid this by moderating the moisture level of the room and subfloor. Vinyl flooring is influenced by temperature, so where you install your planks plays an important part. There are types of vinyl flooring that are reactive to cold and heat, contracting and expanding according to the external temperature.
So while vinyl is a versatile material and you can use it in warmer rooms like the kitchen and cooler rooms like the bathroom, it is also softer than other materials, so you should take extra care for moisture not to seep into the planks’ underside.
Moreover, you should carefully choose your subfloor. Avoid soft subfloor as it tends to dent more easily under heavy foot traffic.
Vinyl Planks Peaking
Peaking is when two vinyl planks squash against each other and get lifted at the joints. This is mainly caused by the lack of space between planks. It is important to leave a little space to accommodate the expansion and contraction of planks during installation.
As such, the easiest way to fix this problem is by trimming the vinyl planks along the wall. You can also create more space by removing some of the moldings. Don’t expect to get rid of the peaking immediately, although you can somewhat flatten it by putting some weights on top of the lifted area for two days, or overnight if it’s enough.
Peaking can also be caused by sunlight, moisture, or water seeping into the joint.
Another reason for peaking could be the fact that the moldings in your doorways or around the perimeter of your room have been nailed or fixed to the floor. This prevents your floor from expanding.
Vinyl Planks Warping
Warping can happen in vinyl flooring, and this is when the tiles or planks expand, mainly due to changes in temperature. It can be caused by exposure to direct sunlight during the installation process. If you are using glue-down planks, warping may also happen if there is water spillage that is not immediately cleaned up, and that has already seeped through the seams and under the flooring.
You can avoid warping by doing basic maintenance on your vinyl flooring. You can wipe spillage immediately, and you can allot gaps or spaces in between planks to make room for s
Vinyl Planks With Mold and Mildew
Water leakage and high moisture can also cause mold and mildew. To solve this problem, you need to find the source of moisture and then take measures accordingly. In case the substrate is the culprit and is the source of moisture, the best solution is to simply seal it with a proper moisture barrier.
It is not easy to determine whether your substrate is dry enough. So you need to ask the flooring installation contractors to check it professionally. You can also use moisture meters to help you estimate whether the moisture level is within a feasible limit.
Common Vinyl Plank Flooring Problems
Some problems are also not related to installation at all. Being aware of these factors will help you avoid them and will keep your floor beautiful, and if your floor is already having one of these issues, you will be able to know how to fix it.
Discoloration and Stains on Vinyl Floor
Vinyl is a material that is prone to discoloration and stains, especially as a result of spills. Food or drink can easily absorb into your vinyl floor, and when it does, it becomes hard to get out. You can avoid this by immediately cleaning up whatever spills on your floor so that it does not have time to soak into the vinyl and cause hard-to-remove or permanent stains and discoloration.
Wipe any excess liquid or food using a clean, damp rag to wipe up anything that is left.
Other than spilled food and drink, your floor can also get discolored due to the sun. If bright sunlight can penetrate through your windows and hit your vinyl floors, it can quickly change the color of your flooring into an unpleasant.
As such, you should try to keep the shades or curtains drawn when the sun is at its strongest. But if you want to enjoy the light sometimes, just make sure that the room is shaded when you are away at work.
Heating vents can also change your flooring’s color, so you may want to keep them away from the floor as much as possible.
Scratches on Vinyl Planks
Scratches are another common problem with vinyl planks. These may be caused by a wide variety of items, such as big chunks of dirt that get dragged across the floor by foot, chair legs, high-heeled shoes, and pets. Also, aside from making your floor look beaten and battered, scratches can also make it look dull.
As such, you can avoid scratches by making sure your floor is always clean and by sweeping the dirt out using a soft broom every day. Deep cleaning is also recommended every week. This involves sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, and even disinfecting your floor.
You can also request that guests take off their shoes when they go inside your house. This would ensure that dirt from outside cannot come in, and heels cannot scratch your vinyl flooring. Since not all guests are comfortable taking off their shoes and walking around another person’s house barefoot, you may want to have indoor slippers ready for them.
Now, if your floor already has scratches, you can try a few tricks to get rid of them before they get worse.
- Try mixing warm water and a little bit of dishwashing soap in a bucket
- Get a sponge and soak it in the mixture, then clean the scratched plank. It is important that you get all the dirt out from inside these scratches and completely clean them.
- Allow your vinyl planks to dry off completely before you continue and make sure nobody walks on them.
- With a sheet of medium-grit sandpaper, gently rub the scratches off in the direction of a straight line. Do it lightly and make sure not to rub too hard. This will remove the scratches without ruining the rest of your flooring. Most of the scratches should disappear with this.
- Next, use finer sandpaper to lightly rub around the scratches in a circular motion.
- Then take a fresh sponge to wash the scratched area again.
- Once you are done sandpapering, wax the plank using a high-quality car rubbing compound. You just need to put a tiny amount on a cloth, and softly rub the cloth around the area that you previously sanded. This should make your vinyl plank look shiny after you have buffed it.
- You also need to make sure that the compound has not gone beyond the scratch, then wipe it off.
- With yet another clean cloth, wipe the area again and see if the scratches are still visible.
Vinyl Floor Peeling and Cracking Over Time
Over the years, your vinyl planks will also experience peeling and cracking. This happens as the adhesive around the corners of your flooring wear out and start to curl. It’s going to look rather unpleasant and unattractive, and it leads to dirt accumulating underneath the planks. If this doesn’t get fixed, your vinyl planks will only look worse and more dirt will get trapped under the flooring.
If just a few corners of your vinyl flooring have started to peel, you can fix it without having to rip everything off and replace the entire floor.
- Try putting an aluminum foil over the vinyl tile or plank and heat it up using an iron. This trick allows the vinyl to soften and become flexible, and the adhesive would soften, too.
- If you see scratches, you can clean, sand, and wax them, so they don’t get worse.
- After this, peel the corners of your vinyl planks back so you can apply some new adhesive. Just put a thin layer of adhesive under the plank because too much can give a ripple effect.
- After applying the adhesive, press the edges of the tile down with a rolling pin. Any extra adhesive will come out, so carefully wipe it with a damp cloth.
- Afterward, put a sheet of wax paper over the vinyl and place several heavy books on top of it to keep it down. Leave these books overnight to allow the adhesive to dry completely.
Vinyl Floor Getting Chipped Corners
Excessive chipping on the corners of your flooring can be as a result of the wrong method of installation. This can be avoided by exercising the utmost care when you use a mallet and a tapping block to lay your floating floors. Poor installation can usually result in chipping, marks, and indentations.
Cleaning your floor with a vacuum cleaner-beater bar attachment or poor handling may also be the culprit.
Emission of Toxic Chemicals
One of the problems of vinyl flooring is that it can emit volatile organic compounds.
For one, vinyl flooring contains toxins called phthalates, which migrate into the air you breathe and settle into household dust. Phthalates have been linked to serious health issues, including cancer, lung and kidney problems, asthma, reproductive health issues.
Some insist that there is no toxic-free vinyl flooring and that the only best toxic-free eco-friendly options are real hardwood, polished concrete, tiles, and specific brands of carpet, natural linoleum, and engineered wood. However, the concentration levels of the phthalates and other toxic substances in modern vinyl chips may not be high enough to be harmful or cause the risk of exposure.
Some people also advise that you make sure to get FloorScore-certified vinyl plank flooring. FloorScore-certified vinyl flooring is in compliance with California’s indoor air quality standards. California has been the leader in the indoor air quality initiative, and the FloorScore certification entails that a particular product has been certified safe for indoor air quality according to the state’s standards.
To make sure that you don’t have any problems with your vinyl planks, you can check out this report to find and buy from flooring brands that are certified phthalate-free. You may also just consider non-vinyl flooring alternatives.
If you have vinyl flooring, you may want to consider using an air purifier that is designed to remove phthalates and other VOCs from your indoor air to allow you to breathe easier. You can also make sure to dust and vacuum frequently with a HEPA filter vacuum.
Additional Tips to Avoid Vinyl Plank Flooring Problems
Other than keeping the moisture levels and temperature in check, checking for molds and mildew, making sure it is clean and well-maintained, and doing the necessary repairs early on, you can avoid future problems with your vinyl flooring by paying attention to your substrate.
- If you are installing floating floor or click-lock vinyl planks, laying the planks on an uneven substrate could lead to the lifting of the edge and joints. As such, you need to make sure that the substrate is clean and dry before laying down any subfloor and vinyl planks on top of it.
- If you are installing new vinyl flooring as a replacement for old vinyl planks or tiles, it is also important to thoroughly clean off any residue of old glue and debris as these can hamper the installation of your new flooring.
When it comes to serious damage, it might be necessary or more cost-efficient to just replace the planks than do some repairs and some sort of damage control. You can replace planks that are situated close to walls or moldings first.
- Start by carefully removing the molding or baseboard so that the damaged plank is accessible.
- Replace the damaged plank and the rest of the planks you removed by click-locking them back in place.
After all the planks have been replaced with new ones, you can put the molding back in place.
Using vinyl planks for your flooring greatly improves the look of your home, not to mention that it is a material that lasts for a long time, and it is way more affordable. However, using these planks is not entirely problem-free. Understand these potential problems, their causes, and how you can fix them so you can get the most from your flooring.
Your vinyl planks will also prove to be durable as long as you keep them in good condition by doing proper maintenance work. You fix scratches, fix corners that start peeling, keep moisture in check, make sure your floor is always clean, and replace damaged planks.
All these will help keep you from having to replace your flooring entirely and from having to spend a lot of money on replacement down the line.