How to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring on Concrete

Transforming your home with vinyl plank flooring is like giving it a brand-new lease on life, especially when you’re working with a concrete base. It’s an exciting project that not only boosts your home’s aesthetic appeal but also its value. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or just looking to understand the process before hiring professionals, installing vinyl plank flooring on concrete is a task you can tackle with the right guidance.

You might be wondering where to start or if it’s something you can manage without prior experience. Fear not! We’re here to walk you through the essentials, ensuring you have a clear roadmap from preparation to the finishing touches. So grab your tools and let’s jump into making your floors something you can’t wait to show off.

Assessing Your Concrete Subfloor

Before diving into the installation of vinyl plank flooring, it’s crucial to ensure your concrete subfloor is ready for the task. A well-prepared subfloor is the foundation of a successful flooring project, offering stability and longevity to your new floors. Let’s walk through the steps to assess your concrete subfloor accurately.

Checking for Moisture

One of the first tasks is to check for moisture levels in the concrete. Excessive moisture can wreak havoc on vinyl plank flooring, leading to warping, mold, and mildew. Fortunately, there are straightforward ways to test for moisture.

  • Plastic Sheet test: Tape a small piece of plastic sheeting to the concrete floor, sealing the edges with tape. Leave it for 24 hours. If you find condensation under the plastic or notice the concrete appears darker, it’s an indication of a moisture issue.
  • Moisture Meter: For a more precise measurement, use a moisture meter designed for concrete. Moisture levels should not exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations for your vinyl plank flooring.

If you discover high moisture levels, don’t despair. Solutions include using a dehumidifier to dry out the room or applying a moisture barrier before laying the flooring.

Evaluating the Level and Texture

Next, evaluate the level and texture of your concrete subfloor.

  • Level: Use a long level or laser level to check for any uneven spots or dips across the floor. Concrete floors in older homes may settle unevenly, leading to potential problems with vinyl plank installation. Areas uneven by more than 3/16 inch over a 10-foot span need attention.
  • Texture: The surface texture of the concrete is also vital. The ideal texture is smooth but not overly polished. A floor too smooth will lack the grip necessary for the adhesive to bond effectively, whereas a floor that’s too rough may prevent the planks from lying flat.

Correcting level issues can involve either grinding down high spots or using a self-leveling compound to fill in the low areas. For texture problems, lightly sanding a too-smooth surface or applying a thin overlay can provide the right texture for your vinyl planks to adhere securely.

With these assessments complete, you’re one step closer to transforming your space with beautiful, durable vinyl plank flooring. Remember, taking the time to thoroughly evaluate and prepare your concrete subfloor ensures a smoother installation process and helps achieve the best possible outcome for your flooring project.

Tools and Materials Needed for Installation

After ensuring your concrete subfloor is well-prepared and moisture levels are within acceptable limits, gathering the right tools and materials is the next crucial step for a successful installation of vinyl plank flooring. This section breaks down the essentials you’ll need, along with recommended materials that can enhance the results of your project.

Essential Tools List

For a smooth installation process, having the following tools at your disposal is non-negotiable:

  1. Tape Measure: Accuracy is key in flooring, and a reliable tape measure ensures you cut planks to the right size.
  2. Utility Knife: A sharp utility knife is crucial for making precise cuts on vinyl planks.
  3. Rubber Mallet: This helps to snugly fit the planks together without damaging their edges.
  4. Spacers: Spacers ensure a consistent gap around the room’s edges, necessary for expansion and contraction.
  5. Tapping Block: Protects the integrity of your planks’ locking systems as they’re tapped into place.
  6. Level: Confirm your subfloor is even to prevent future issues with your flooring.
  7. Carpenter’s Square and Pencil: For marking accurate cut lines on your planks.

Recommended Materials for Best Results

To maximize the durability and appearance of your vinyl plank flooring, consider using these recommended materials:

  • Underlayment: A quality underlayment can smooth out minor subfloor imperfections, provide additional moisture protection, and reduce sound transmission. Some vinyl planks come with pre-attached underlayment, but if yours do not, investing in a separate underlayment is wise.
  • Moisture Barrier: Especially crucial on concrete floors, a moisture barrier will protect your flooring from potential moisture damage. Remember, concrete can be prone to moisture, and a barrier is an added insurance for your investment.
  • Adhesive: If you’re installing glue-down vinyl planks, select a manufacturer-recommended adhesive for the best bond and product warranty support.
  • Transition Strips: These strips provide a smooth transition between your new vinyl flooring and adjacent floor surfaces. Matching the strips to your flooring as closely as possible will enhance the overall look.

Remember, the quality of your tools and materials can significantly affect the installation process and the final appearance of your flooring. Opt for the best you can afford, and you’ll enjoy a more straightforward installation with results that last longer and look better.

Preparing the Concrete Subfloor

Installing vinyl plank flooring on a concrete subfloor requires careful preparation to ensure a successful, long-lasting outcome. Following the acquisition of quality tools and materials, as noted in the previous section, preparing the concrete subfloor is your next crucial step.

Cleaning the Concrete Surface

First, you’ll need to clean the concrete surface thoroughly. This means removing any debris, dust, or existing flooring materials. A clean surface ensures that the vinyl planks will adhere properly and lay flat. Use a vacuum to eliminate any loose particles and follow up with a damp mop to catch any remaining dust. If grease or stubborn stains are present, a degreaser or a concrete cleaner may be necessary. Always let the floor dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Smoothing and Leveling

After cleaning, inspect the surface for cracks, holes, or uneven areas. These imperfections can affect the final appearance of your flooring and cause issues down the line. Use a concrete patching compound to fill in any cracks or holes. For leveling, a self-leveling underlayment can be a homeowner’s best friend. It spreads across the concrete, filling in low spots to create a smooth, level surface. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely for mixing and application to achieve the best results. Allow ample drying time as indicated on the product’s guidelines.

Applying a Moisture Barrier

Concrete naturally retains moisture, which can potentially damage vinyl flooring over time. Hence, applying a moisture barrier is a critical step, especially for concrete subfloors that lie on or below grade. Roll out the moisture barrier across the entire floor, overlapping the edges by at least 6 inches and sealing them with moisture-resistant tape. This barrier not only protects your flooring from moisture damage but also provides a smoother surface for laying the vinyl planks. For sheet-based moisture barriers, ensure the sheets lie flat and are securely taped together. In some cases, you might also consider a liquid moisture barrier, which is applied similarly to paint and offers an equally effective shield against moisture.

By meticulously following these steps to prepare your concrete subfloor, you’ll set a solid foundation for your vinyl plank flooring. This preparation helps safeguard your investment, ensuring that your flooring remains beautiful and functional for years to come. Taking the time to do it right pays off in the long run, providing peace of mind and satisfaction with your home improvement project.

Planning Your Vinyl Plank Layout

After preparing your concrete subfloor, your next step involves planning your vinyl plank layout meticulously. This phase is crucial for ensuring the flooring looks professional and aligns perfectly with your room’s dimensions and design. To achieve this, let’s break down the process into manageable steps.

Measuring and Calculating

First, grab your tape measure and notepad. Measuring your room’s length and width will give you the total square footage, guiding how much vinyl plank flooring you’ll need. Don’t forget to add 10% to your total as a contingency for mistakes and trimming. For example, if your room is 120 square feet, purchasing 132 square feet of material accounts for that extra coverage.

Deciding on Plank Direction

The direction in which you lay your planks can significantly influence the room’s overall appearance. Usually, laying planks parallel to the longest wall makes a room appear larger, a tip that works exceedingly well in small or narrow spaces. But, if there’s a particular feature in the room, like a large window, consider aligning the planks to it. This directs the eye outward, enhancing the room’s aesthetic appeal.

Accounting for Obstacles and Edges

Challenges like door frames, pillars, or vents require precise cuts on your vinyl planks. To tackle this, make detailed measurements of these features and plan your cuts accordingly. Using a jigsaw or a handsaw for complex cuts ensures the planks fit snugly around obstacles. Also, plan for expansion gaps around the room’s perimeter by leaving a small space, typically 1/4 inch, between the wall and the first row of planks. These gaps, hidden by base molding or quarter rounds, allow the floor to expand and contract without buckling.

By following these steps, you’ll ensure your vinyl plank flooring installation on concrete not only looks stunning but also stands the test of time. Remember, patience and precision are your best friends in this project, guaranteeing a seamless and satisfying result.

Cutting and Fitting Vinyl Planks

After laying down the groundwork by preparing your concrete subfloor, the next step in installing vinyl plank flooring involves cutting and fitting the planks. This phase is all about precision and patience, ensuring that your flooring not only fits perfectly but also looks seamless and professional. Let’s jump into the specifics of making accurate cuts and navigating the trickier parts of your space, like corners and curves.

Techniques for Straight Cuts

When it comes to making straight cuts on vinyl planks, having the right tools and technique is crucial. You’ll need a utility knife, a straightedge, and a measuring tape. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Measure Precisely: Before any cuts, ensure your measurements are exact. Measure the space where the plank will go and transfer these dimensions to the plank you’re cutting.
  2. Use a Straightedge: Place a straightedge along the line where you need to make the cut. A metal ruler or a carpenter’s square can serve as your guide, ensuring your cut is straight.
  3. Score the Plank: Run your utility knife along the straightedge, pressing firmly to score the vinyl plank. Don’t try to cut all the way through with one pass.
  4. Snap the Plank: Once you’ve scored the line, gently bend the plank at the score line, and it should snap cleanly along the line. If needed, use the knife to cut any remaining backing.

For long cuts, patience is key. Multiple gentle scores may be better than one forceful pass, as it reduces the risk of veering off the line.

Navigating Around Corners and Curves

Corners and curves require a bit more finesse and a detailed approach, but they’re not impossible tasks:

  1. Template Creation: For irregular shapes, creating a paper template can save a lot of guesswork and wasted material. Trace the exact shape and size onto paper or cardboard, then transfer it to the vinyl plank.
  2. Gradual Trimming: Sometimes, especially with curves, you’ll need to make several small cuts instead of one large cut. Gradually trim away the excess material, checking the fit against the actual space frequently to avoid overcutting.
  3. Use a Jigsaw: For complicated cuts, a jigsaw with a fine-tooth blade can be your best friend. It’s perfect for detailed work around corners or if you need to cut out a section for pipes or other obstructions. Always start with a pilot hole in a safe area to begin your cut smoothly.

Remember, it’s always better to cut a bit larger and trim down than to cut too small. Vinyl plank material is forgiving with straight cuts but can be less so with intricate curves and corners.

Installing the Vinyl Plank Flooring

Installing vinyl plank flooring on concrete is a project that can transform your space dramatically. By following a structured process and understanding the steps involved, you’ll ensure a smooth and successful installation. Let’s walk through the essential phases of laying down your new floor.

Beginning the First Row

Starting off correctly sets the tone for the entire installation. Position your first plank in the corner of the room, with the shorter end against the wall. Remember, maintaining a gap of about 1/4 inch between the plank and the wall is crucial. This space accommodates expansion and prevents warping. Use spacers to consistently maintain this gap. Check the alignment of the plank with a level; even on concrete, small variations in height can throw off your entire layout. Once satisfied, proceed to lay down the next plank.

Securing Planks Together

Vinyl plank flooring typically comes with a locking system that makes installation relatively straightforward. To secure planks together, angle the new piece at a slight incline and insert its edge into the groove of the plank already on the floor. Gently lower it down, applying slight pressure until you hear or feel it click into place. For stronger joints and to ensure a smooth surface, tap the planks together using a rubber mallet. This method helps minimize gaps and prevents future issues with plank separation. Proceed with this technique throughout the room, always checking for alignment and making necessary adjustments.

Finishing with the Final Row

The last row can be the most challenging due to potential space constraints. Measure the gap remaining between the last row laid and the wall, subtract the expansion gap distance, and mark this on your vinyl planks for cutting. When cutting the planks to fit, use a sharp utility knife and straightedge to score the surface, then snap the plank along the scored line. Once cut, install these final pieces using the same method of angling and clicking into place.

Don’t forget to remove all spacers around the edges once you’ve completed the installation. You can now admire your handiwork, knowing you’ve laid a beautiful and durable new floor with your own hands.

Throughout this process, patience and precision are your best tools for achieving a professional outcome. By attentively installing each plank and ensuring proper alignment and securing, you’ll create a seamless and long-lasting vinyl plank flooring on your concrete subfloor. Remember to refer back to your preparation steps, like ensuring a level subfloor and a dry, clean surface, to guarantee the best results.

Tips for Effective and Durable Installation

Installing vinyl plank flooring on concrete requires attention to detail to ensure a lasting, beautiful floor. Following these tips, you’ll maximize the efficiency and durability of your new flooring.

Expansion Gap Considerations

Understanding the necessity of expansion gaps is crucial for preventing future flooring issues. Vinyl plank flooring, like many materials, expands and contracts with temperature changes. Failure to account for this movement can lead to buckling or gaps in your flooring.

Expert Tip: Always leave a gap of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch around the perimeter of the room, including against walls, cabinets, and other fixed objects. Use spacers during installation to maintain these gaps consistently until you’ve installed the baseboards or trim. Remember, the trim will hide these gaps, so your floor will look flawless while still being functional.

Handling Transitions and Doorways

Transitions and doorways present unique challenges when laying vinyl plank flooring. Not only do these areas require precise cuts, but they also must accommodate differing floor heights or types.

For Transitions: If you’re transitioning from vinyl plank to another type of flooring, using a T-molding or reducer strip will create a smooth, safe transition. Measure the space carefully, and cut your transition strip to fit. Most strips can be attached with a track or adhesive, making this a straightforward addition to your project.

For Doorways: When approaching a doorway, measure the width of the door and cut the vinyl plank to fit snugly underneath. Ideally, the flooring should extend under the door when it’s closed, ensuring a consistent look across rooms. Remember to check the door’s clearance if you haven’t removed it before installation. Sometimes, doors need to be trimmed at the bottom to accommodate the new floor height.

By addressing expansion gaps and the specifics of transitions and doorways, you’ll ensure your vinyl plank flooring installation on concrete is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and durable. Keeping these considerations in mind, you’ll avoid common pitfalls and achieve a professional finish that stands the test of time.

Care and Maintenance of Vinyl Plank Flooring

After successfully installing vinyl plank flooring on your concrete subfloor, maintaining its appearance and longevity becomes the next crucial step. Proper care ensures your flooring remains beautiful and durable for years to come. Below, find focused guidance on regular cleaning practices and how to prevent and deal with scratches effectively.

Regular Cleaning Practices

Maintaining the cleanliness of your vinyl plank flooring requires a consistent and gentle approach. Regular cleaning not only keeps your floors looking their best but also extends their lifespan.

  • Sweep Daily: Use a soft-bristle broom or a dust mop to remove dirt, dust, and debris daily. This prevents the accumulation of gritty particles that can scratch the surface of the flooring.
  • Weekly Wet Cleaning: Once a week, use a damp mop with a mild, pH-neutral cleaner to wipe down the floors. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, wax-based products, or steam mops, as these can damage the vinyl’s surface.
  • Immediate Spill Cleanup: Spills should be wiped up promptly with a clean, damp cloth to prevent staining. Vinyl is water-resistant, but letting spills sit for too long can cause damage over time.
  • Use Protective Mats: Place doormats at entrances to catch dirt from shoes. In high-traffic areas or under heavy furniture, use protective mats or pads to prevent wear.

Following these steps regularly can keep your vinyl plank flooring in pristine condition, making it a lasting addition to your home.

Preventing and Dealing with Scratches

Vinyl plank flooring is known for its durability, but it’s not completely impervious to scratches. Here’s how you can prevent them and what to do if they occur:

  • Furniture Protectors: Place felt pads under the legs of furniture to avoid scratching the floor when items are moved or used. Regularly check and replace these pads to ensure they remain effective.
  • Trim Pet Nails: Pet nails can scratch vinyl flooring, so keeping your pet’s nails trimmed is a good preventative measure.
  • Lift, Don’t Drag: When moving heavy objects, lift them instead of dragging them across the floor. If lifting isn’t an option, use plywood panels or a furniture dolly to distribute the weight and protect the flooring.
  • Dealing with Scratches: If scratches do occur, you can use a vinyl floor repair kit available at most hardware stores. These kits often include clear liquid that fills and seals minor scratches, making them less noticeable.
  • Consider Professional Help: For deeper or more severe scratches, consulting with a flooring professional for repair or replacement may be your best option.

By adopting these preventive measures and knowing how to address scratches when they happen, you’ll ensure your vinyl plank flooring remains a visually appealing and functional part of your home for years to come. Taking the time for proper care and maintenance is the key to enjoying the full benefits of your new flooring.


You’ve now got all the tools and knowledge to transform your concrete subfloor with vinyl plank flooring. Remember, the key to a stunning and long-lasting floor lies in the details—meticulous preparation, precise cutting, and careful installation. Don’t forget to maintain those expansion gaps and keep everything aligned for that professional touch. With the added tips on caring for your new floor, you’re all set to keep it looking great. Sweep daily, clean wet weekly, and tackle any scratches quickly to ensure your floor remains a highlight of your home. Here’s to a successful installation and a floor that you’ll love for years to come!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can vinyl plank flooring be installed on a concrete subfloor?

Yes, vinyl plank flooring can be successfully installed on a concrete subfloor, provided the surface is properly prepared to be clean, smooth, and dry.

Is it necessary to maintain gaps for expansion when installing vinyl plank flooring?

Absolutely, it is crucial to maintain expansion gaps around the perimeter of the room to accommodate the natural expansion and contraction of the flooring.

What techniques are recommended for cutting vinyl plank flooring?

For cutting vinyl plank flooring, it is recommended to use a utility knife for scoring the plank and then snapping it along the scored line for a clean cut.

How often should I clean my vinyl plank flooring?

Vinyl plank flooring should be swept daily to remove debris and dust, and it is recommended to perform a wet cleaning with a mild cleaner once a week.

What can be done to prevent scratches on vinyl plank flooring?

To prevent scratches, it is advised to use furniture protectors under legs of tables and chairs, and to avoid dragging heavy furniture across the floor.

How should I address scratches on my vinyl plank flooring?

Scratches on vinyl plank flooring should be addressed promptly using a manufacturer-recommended vinyl flooring repair kit to maintain its appearance and durability.

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