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How to install luxury vinyl plank for the first time

Do you have a neighbor whose house you always slow down to admire before you pull into your driveway? You know, the one who installed their new flooring over the weekend? They boast about how easy it was to install themselves but where would you even begin? 

Well, first of all, congratulations! You finally decided it was time to replace your tired, dated flooring and you chose the stylish yet affordable option: luxury vinyl plank (also known as LVP). 

Luckily for you, you are about to learn all about installing luxury vinyl plank flooring and you don’t need any prior experience! 

installing Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring

This is a floor that you could install in a weekend (depending on the amount of flooring) but you will need some time beforehand to measure, order, receive, and acclimate the flooring. Give yourself three weeks for the whole process. Once we completed the planning steps, it took us three full days to install the LVP flooring in our living room, hallway, and kitchen.

SIDE NOTE: If you are wondering what LVP or LVT flooring is, The Flooring Girl has a whole article that explains it all, plus the pros and cons of this type of flooring. LVT stands for Luxury Vinyl Tile, but it can also refer to LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank). The most common term is usually LVT, even though you could be using a plank. 

What I love about using this type of flooring is how easy it is to install – it uses a simple tongue and groove system to lock the planks together. Any beginner, with the right tools and direction, can install this floor. It can also be a great waterproof flooring option. 

But we already know how versatile this type of flooring is – now let’s find out how to install LVP!

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HOW TO INSTALL LUXURY VINYL PLANK FOR THE FIRST TIME


MATERIALS:

  • LVP (with pad attached already)

TOOLS:

You can print the material list and instructions below.

FULL PROJECT VIDEO

Want to see how it all comes together? Check out the full project video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube, so you don’t miss out on future projects!

installing LVP with playback button

BEFORE YOU INSTALL THE LVP

How to measure your room for LVP flooring

Before you start ripping anything out, the first thing you need to do is to determine how much flooring you will need, specifically, how many boxes of planks or tile. This will help you when you’re ready to visit your local flooring store or shop online for flooring.

You do this by measuring the room to obtain the area in square feet (example: 12 feet by 12 feet = 144 sq ft). Make sure to add 10% onto your measurement to allow for trimming mistakes.

I would recommend sketching out the room(s) on paper and writing in the measurements. Save this sketch in a safe place until you are ready to install the flooring – you’ll need it for step 4.

TIP: Each box usually notes how many square feet it covers.

You will also need to purchase ‘transition pieces’. A transition will be wherever the flooring ends and starts something new (transition from plank to carpet, stair nose, quarter rounds, plank to tile, plank to plank, etc), or if you need to break the flooring to change directions (we talk about that is step 3).

Order your flooring ahead of time because it could take a couple of weeks to get to you.

SIDE NOTE: Our flooring arrived within a week but we had to replace damaged boxes, so it actually took two weeks. And yes, you can use some damaged boxes because you need to cut ends but we had a LOT of damaged boxes (the forklift won that battle!).

STEP 1: Prep the floor

While you are waiting for your flooring to arrive, you need to prep the area. This would mean removing any old flooring that you cannot place the planks over (carpeting, for example).

Please note that different vinyl plank manufacturers offer guides on what flooring this could be placed over. The key is to instal  luxury vinyl over a sound, flat surface.

SIDE NOTE: Although I have seen this type of flooring placed over concrete, tile, wood floor, and another vinyl floor, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions so your warranty will remain valid. 

If your current floor is not flat (level), the planks will bow when stepped on, giving you a clicking noise that will annoy you for years to come. And if the floor squeaks already, it will still squeak with the new flooring.

Take the time to prep the floor by removing any squeaks and leveling the floor with a surface leveler. Check out our shower tutorial to see how we used a concrete leveler to level the floor.

Don’t worry, this is not as difficult as it sounds and it will give your floors the finished look you want. 

SIDE NOTE: When we originally had luxury vinyl planks installed in our basement, the company that installed the floor assured us that we did not need to level some of the floors because it was under the 1/4” recommendation. Years later, we’ve noticed the planks bulging together in these troublesome areas. That’s why you should fix these issues now to prevent future problems later.

This time around, we are installing our new vinyl plank flooring over a wood floor that was covered by carpet. We made sure to remove all staples from the carpet and fixed any squeaking on the wood floor. We also sanded some areas of the wood to give us the flat surface we needed.

old wood floor before new flooring

Next, I recommend removing your baseboards and trim around doors. This will give you a cleaner finish when you place the baseboards and trim over the new floor rather than installing a quarter round.

(If you’re worried about breaking the baseboards or denting your wall, I have a full post about how to remove baseboards easily without damaging the wall, and the secret is one inexpensive tool!)

Now that you have removed your baseboard, trim, and old floor (if needed), clean the area thoroughly. Use a shop-vac to remove all dirt and dust and make sure you remove any nails, screws, or staples.

STEP 2: Cut around door jambs

When you install your luxury vinyl flooring, you will want it to go underneath any door jambs to help it stay in place and for a sleek look.

Choose a small piece of the LVP floor to be your guide – the smaller, the better, as you don’t want the cut to be bigger than your floor.

Place the guide on the floor next to the door jamb.

Using an oscillating multi-tool saw, place the blade of the tool flat on the flooring guide and cut the door jamb.

cutting door jamb with oscillating tool

Cut each door jamb that needs adjusting using this method.

Clean the area with a shop-vac to make sure there is no debris.

STEP 3: Decide the placement on the floor

Which way do you want the flooring to run? My recommendation is to ask yourself the question, do you want the room to look longer or wider?

*Please read the instructions of your flooring to help you determine the best placement of your floor. Sometimes long sections need a transition, or you may want a transition between rooms.*

For example, a hall with the flooring traveling the length of the space will make it seem longer. Personally, I think it looks nicer this way when you have a standard 3-foot hall but for a wider hall, either way, would be fine.

In our case, we decided to run our flooring the length of our hall to make the hall look longer and  to make our kitchen look wider.

Take some time deciding the best placement (the direction the floor runs) for each room and if you need a transition between anything.

STEP 4: Determine your starting point and plank cuts (AKA: Layout)

This next step will take a few days but it is essential! Your flooring needs to be installed at a specific temperature (65-85 degrees F) and it should sit in the room that it will be installed in for some time to acclimate to the room temperature.

SIDE NOTE: I allowed my vinyl planks to sit for 48 hours in the room before installing.

old wood floor before installing LVP


Begin by opening the boxes to inspect the planks (I would choose about 8 different boxes). You will notice that there are different patterns inside the boxes – you will want to use even color variations across the floor (you will not want the same two planks right next to each other).

pile of new LVP flooring

Also, be aware that some planks might be damaged. Set up a separate pile for damaged planks so you will know which spare planks to cut from when you need to.

When you are ready to start installing your vinyl plank flooring, you will need to start in a corner, preferably a left-hand corner.

Now grab that sketch you created earlier to determine how much flooring you would need. Place  an arrow to help you remember the direction of the plank and then place a star in your starting position.

sketch of room where LVP will be installed

Using the sketch, you need to determine how you want to cut the plank starts/ends of each row and how much to remove from the first and last row on the sides.

TIP: It’s a great idea to have all ends and sides of the flooring around the room as a ‘cut’ edge, not whole pieces of plank.

Also, try to avoid having a row or end that is less than 2”.

Let’s walk you through a real-world example: assume we are using planks that are 9”x60” (that is the flooring size I used) and let’s say the room is 14-feet by 18-feet and the plank will be going the 18-feet direction (longer direction).

  • To find the starting row and ending row size, you would multiply 14 feet by 12 inches to give you the total length in inches, in this case, 168”. Then divide this number by the size of each plank, 168”/9”=18.666. This would give you approximately 18 full 9” rows of the plank with the last row being 6”. Ideally, you want the start and ending row to mirror each other so I would recommend cutting them both to 7-1/2” (9”+6”=15 / 2=7.5”). Thus, you will end up with the following layout: a starting row of 7.5”, then 17 full 9” rows and ending with a 7.5” row.

SIDE NOTE: You will also want to subtract the gap you need to leave between the wall and flooring to allow for expansion (1/4” or 1/2” depending on your flooring), so these rows would be 7-1/4” or 7” depending on your flooring.

  • To determine the length cut, you will repeat the same process. Multiply the 18 feet by 12” to give you the total size in inches, 216”. Then, divide this number by the length of the plank, 216”/60”=3.6. This tells you that you will need three full planks and have 36” leftover, minus the gaps for expansion. Maybe have one row start with a full plank minus the tongue, next 36”, next 24”, after 48”, then a 12”, then start all over again. These cut pieces then can be used at the other end of the length giving you less waste.

SIDE NOTE: You don’t have to do this many staggering planks but I would recommend having the same cut pattern as much as possible. And you don’t want to start a row with a piece smaller than 8”.

Don’t worry if these cuts are not perfect because, guess what, rooms are not perfectly square, but the extra work upfront will help your actual installation go smoothly.

Ideally, you want your flooring to be staggered, so the joints do not look like a “stair-step” or “H” patterns.

staggered joints for LVP flooring should and shouldn't look like

INSTALLATION DAY OF THE LVP:

STEP 5: Installing vinyl plank flooring

* It is vital that you read the manufacturer’s instructions for your flooring because they offer more specific directions for their products. Also, if you do not install the floor according to the manufacturer’s instructions, it could make your warranty invalid.*

TIP: You will want your first row as square as possible to the room to compensate for walls that are bowed and not square. One way to square a wall is to mark both ends of the wall the distance of the expansion gap. Then, snap a chalk line between these points. This will give you a straight line to work with. Adjust your first-row cut to this line to provide you with a straight row but also the expansion gap. If you need more assistance with squaring your room, WikiHow has a great tutorial on how to square a room three different ways.

Start by cutting your first plank row to the size determined above. Remember, in the example above, it was 7-1/2” before removing the gap for expansion.

SIDE NOTE: You will want to cut the tongue from the plank when you start in the left-hand corner of a room.

Next, place the spacers (1/4” or 1/2”) along the wall plus where the start and end of the row will be.

SIDE NOTE: Be sure to leave the gap (1/4” or 1/2”) wherever the flooring will come in contact with other fixed fixtures (pipes, door jambs, etc..).

HOW TO CUT LVP FLOORING:

Before we jump into the actual install, I wanted to share how to cut the flooring. There are many ways to cut LVP and LVT flooring. Here is a list of tools you can use:

I used a miter saw when cutting straight end cuts or start cuts on the planks. I used a jigsaw to cut angles or around fixtures (vents, doors, etc.). 

cutting LVP with miter saw

I sometimes used a table saw to cut the plank’s length, but this was more often done with the jigsaw since it was already out.

using jigsaw to cut LVP

STARTING THE FIRST ROW OF LVP:

Now let’s begin the actual installation: 

Lay the first plank in the corner with the cuts against the spacers. Remember, the groove will be facing toward you if you started in the left-hand corner.

Install the second plank into the first row by inserting the plank’s short tongue side into the last installed plank groove at a 20-degree angle. Press the second plank so that it lays flat. Make sure the joint between the two planks is end to end, leaving no gaps.

Continue installing the first row in the same fashion until you reach your last plank.

TIP: Remember to vary the colors/patterns of planks adjacent to each other.

TIP WHEN CUTTING THE END PLANK TO SIZE:

This is a useful tip that I learned from “Fix This, Build That” to help you cut the last plank to fit but still maintain the appropriate expansion gap at a wall.

When you reach the last plank of a row, place a spacer against the wall where the plank will be. Then, place the plank so that the side that should be installed into the previous plank (tongue) is against the spacer at the wall. This plank should overlap the last installed plank.

spacer on LVP

SIDE NOTE: You can also have the plank right next to the row, so they don’t overlap to get this mark.

You will notice that you are adding the gap for the expansion and the plank that is overlapping the previously installed plank is the end that needs to be cut.

You will then mark the overlapping plank where the two joints will meet if installed (end to end). And yes, these cannot be installed together, but this marks the location for where the overlapping plank would end to meet the other end.

TIP: It helps to use a square to give you a straight mark.

marking LVP to cut end piece

After you have marked the end plank, cut the plank to the mark then install it into place.

installing end piece of LVP
using pull bar to attach LVP

INSTALLING THE REST OF THE ROWS:

Before installing the second row, confirm that the first row is straight and square.

It’s a good idea to use the remaining piece cut from the previous row to start the next row but only do this if the piece is larger then the size you determined previously in step 4 (it should be) and it needs to end with a groove.

SIDE NOTE: Remember, you never want to start with a full plank. You need to cut the tongue off first. And you also want staggered joints, so you may want to use the last row on a different row.

Angle the plank at a 20-degree angle on the long side and insert the long side tongue into the previous row’s groove. Lower the plank down until it is flat, and the joint is end to end.

For the next plank, insert the short tongue into the last plank groove. This plank will be offset on the long side from the previous row.

installing luxury vinyl flooring over wood

Elevate both this plank and the previous plank at about 20-degrees then gently slide the plank into the previous row’s long groove. Then lower both planks flat to the floor to allow the joints to be end to end.

attaching LVP planks together

TIP: Make sure all joints from this plank and the last are end to end. If not, use a tapping block with a rubber mallet to snap the joints together (check first that your flooring allows you to use a tapping block before using it).

how to install LVP over wood flooring

SIDE NOTE: I found this to be the most challenging part of the install. It took some time to figure out the best technique for my flooring. I share how I did this particular technique on the how-to video at the beginning of this post.

Repeat this process with each plank until you reach the end of the row.

installing LVP flooring

TIP: Only install one row at a time!

Continue all the whole process for each row until your last row – take a pause, admire your work, and get ready for the final step below.

CUT THE LAST ROW OF FLOORING:

Remember, the last row will need to be cut, but how do you ensure a proper fit? Here is what a great professional installer recommended:

  1. Lay a plank right on top of the last full row that is installed so everything is lined up (grooves and sides).
  2. Then, lay another plank on top of that plank with the tongue side touching the wall.
  3. Use the top plank as your straight edge guide and mark a line the length of the first plank on top of the installed rows.
  4. Cut this marked plank and install it in place.
  5. Continue this process until the floor is finished.

I had already installed my flooring when I found this technique so I am also going to share how I cut my last row. I used the same technique as cutting the end of a row but used the plank’s long side. 

  1. Place spacers against the wall where the plank will be then place the plank so that the side that should be installed into the previous plank (tongue) is against the spacer at the wall. This plank should overlap the last installed plank.
    • You will notice that you are adding the gap for the expansion and the plank that is overlapping the previously installed plank is the end that needs to be cut.
  2. Mark the overlapping plank where the two joints will meet if they were installed on both ends of the plank. And yes, these cannot be installed together.
  3. Use a ruler to connect the two marked ends. Cut the plank at the mark; then, install it.
  4. Continue this process until the floor is finished.
installing Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring

STEP 6: Install the baseboard and trim

Once all the flooring is down, you can install the baseboards.

To ensure that the floor can float (expand and contract), make sure the nails you use to install the baseboard or quarter round are attached to the wall and not the floor.

SIDE NOTE: See how to make your baseboards look professional by apply caulk to the joints.

STEP 7: Install the transitions (if needed)

At this point, you can place the transition for where the new floor meets other types of flooring.

SIDE NOTE: You will want to leave the same expansion gap where these transitions are installed.

Most of these transitions have a metal or plastic piece that is attached to the subfloor, then the transition snaps into that piece to cover the expansion gap.

And that’s it – you’ve just finished installing your new luxury vinyl flooring! Maybe now’s a good time to invite that neighbor over for a chat as they secretly admire your new floors!

Yield: install LVP

Installing LVP for the first time

installing LVP flooring

Do you need to replace your old outdated flooring? But you are looking for an inexpensive way to update the floor? LVP is your solution. Follow these steps to see how you can install luxury vinyl planks for your first time.

Prep Time 1 hour
Active Time 36 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 36 minutes
Difficulty Moderate
Estimated Cost $$$

Materials

  • LVP (with pad attached already)

Tools

  • miter saw
  • oscillating saw
  • jigsaw
  • spacers
  • rubber mallet
  • tapping block (optional and depends on your flooring)
  • pull bar
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • knee pads
  • square
  • safety glasses
  • face mask (for dust)
  • ear protection

Instructions

  1. Measure the room to determine the amount of flooring needed.
  2. Prep the floor by removing carpet, baseboards (optional), staples, making it level, removing squeaks, etc, and cleaning.
  3. Remove the bottom of the door jambs with an oscillating tool.
  4. Determine the placement of the flooring, starting point, and what cuts will be needed.
  5. Allow the new flooring to acclimate to the room.
  6. Install the flooring by staggering the joints.
  7. Install baseboards and transition pieces around the flooring.
how to install vinyl plank flooring from wood to LVP