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How to Install Vinyl Flooring

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Flooring > How to Install Vinyl Flooring
How to Install Vinyl Flooring

Durability, affordability, and ease of installation make vinyl flooring a great choice for many applications. A virtually endless choice of styles in modern vinyl flooring makes it possible to achieve almost any look too, taking vinyl out of the kitchen, bathroom, and basement and bringing it to living, dining, and even bedroom areas with great success.


Vinyl flooring comes in a number of types, though the most popular for homeowner are sheet vinyl, vinyl tiles, and vinyl plank flooring. The preparation process for installing each type is similar, and though the installation methods vary slightly, there is a vinyl product suitable for DIYers of every skill level.


Preparation Steps

There are a few steps to follow to prepare the subfloor for your installation. Many vinyl flooring products can be installed directly over concrete or existing flooring if it is smooth, stable, and in good condition, but if not, the old flooring should be leveled, removed, or a new subfloor of ¼ inch plywood installed over it.

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• Pry bar and wood block Beginner to Intermediate 1 to 8 hours
• Jamb saw
• Straight edge trowel
• Filling/leveling compound
• ¼ inch plywood sheets
• Circular saw
• Hammer
• Ring shank nails or construction stapler

    1. Measure the Job

    Measure the square footage of the room by multiplying its length by its width; don’t forget closets, alcoves, and the space under appliances. If your room has a rather complex footprint, use the largest dimension in each direction to be safe. Some flooring products are sold by the square yard. To convert the area into square yards for simpler shopping, simply divide the area in square feet by nine. Be sure to add 10 to 15 percent to allow for cuts and waste.

    2. Acclimate the Flooring

    Allow your flooring material to acclimate to the environment it will be installed in by bringing it inside a few days before installation. This step can prevent expansion and contraction and ensure flexibility, which helps avoid miscuts and will result in a better finish.

    3. Clear the Room

    Remove the furniture and appliances from the room, including the toilet if applicable. It is not necessary to remove base cabinets, but if they will be replaced in the course of a remodel it will be simpler to install your flooring without them in place.

    4. Remove the Doors and Trim

    Remove the hinge pins from interior doors and take down the doors to make working a little easier. Use a pry bar and wood block to carefully remove baseboard trim from the walls.

    5. Trim Door Casing

    If there isn’t enough space to slip your new flooring (and underlayment, if necessary) under door jambs and the case moulding around the doors, trim their bottom edges with a jamb saw. To determine how much to cut, measure the thickness of the underlayment and flooring or lay the materials on the floor in the door location and use them as a guide to mark the trim for your cut.

    6. Level the Subfloor Surface

    The best method for preparing the floor may depend on the current surface and the type of vinyl you are installing, but in general, it must be smooth and secure to prevent adhesion problems with the new flooring. Any surface imperfections or texture will transfer through the new vinyl product, so reduce high spots and build up low spots as needed. If the current flooring or subfloor has a pattern (such as grout lines) or seams (where plywood sheets meet), removing the flooring or smoothing the surface with a leveling compound will give you the best results.

    7. Clean the Subfloor

    With the subfloor in place and smooth, clean the floor thoroughly and sweep with a shop vacuum to remove dust and contaminants that can interfere with adhesion or alignment of the flooring.


Installing Sheet Vinyl Flooring

Sheet vinyl is typically available in six and twelve foot widths. The wider material makes it possible to minimize the number of seams in large spaces, while the narrower vinyl is simpler to handle in small areas, like halls and bathrooms. It is ideal to install a single sheet, if possible, so choose the size that best suits your application. In any case, a large sheet of flooring can be a little unwieldy, so it is often easier to measure and cut the material on a clean, open surface, like a garage floor. There are two common methods for measuring the flooring before making cuts though, so consider the accessibility and complexity of your room before choosing to make a template first or cut the flooring in place.

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• Tape measure Intermediate 2 to 4 hours
• Kraft or builder’s paper
• Masking tape
• Pencil or marker
• Utility and/or hook knife
• Straightedge or framing square
• Knee pads
• Scrap 2x4 lumber
• Notched trowel
• Vinyl sheet flooring
• Vinyl floor adhesive
• Floor roller
• Seam adhesive
• Block plane
• Transition strip

    1. Make a Template

    If your installation site has a number of corners or is an odd shape, the simplest way to measure and cut the flooring is with the use of a template. Use a template kit or pieces of kraft paper layered over one another to form a replica of the floor layout, including pipes, vents, and other obstacles—be sure to slip the paper under the door trim and stationary appliances. Keep the edges of the paper about 1/8” away from the walls, and use masking tape to hold sections of the paper together while you work. To keep the paper from shifting, cut one- to two-inch holes at regular intervals and apply tape across the holes so it makes contact with the subfloor.

    2. Measure to Fit

    If your room has a simple layout, it may be more convenient to rough cut the flooring to size in another location and trim it to fit in place. For this method, carefully measure the dimensions of the room and make a diagram of the layout to use for initial cuts on the material.

    3. Cut the Flooring

    Use your template or diagram to transfer the measurements and features of the floor to the sheet vinyl with a pencil or washable marker and cut with a straight edge and a sharp utility knife. Be sure to work on the top side of the flooring, and place a scrap sheet of plywood under the material to protect the surface underneath when you make cuts. If using the trim-in-place method for your cuts, leave an extra three inches of material on all sides and mark the location of vents or pipes, but if using a template, mark and cut to match the template precisely.

    4. Place the Flooring

    Roll the sheet vinyl and position it in the room as it will be secured. It may help to mark the underside of the flooring to indicate which side of the room is on the leading edge to simplify positioning the roll of material. Unroll the vinyl and shift into place.

    5. Trim to Fit

    If you cut your flooring with a template, only minor adjustments should be necessary, such as cutting small slits to accommodate pipes that the flooring cannot slip over. If cutting in place, position the material with the excess three inches evenly distributed and curling up the walls. Carefully cut V-shaped notches toward the floor on inside corners and vertical lines on outside corners to allow the material to lay smoothly on the floor. Press a 2x4 on the floor along the wall to crease the corner and mark locations for cutting, then use a straightedge and utility or hook knife to trim away excess material and openings for pipes and vents.

    6. Adhere the Flooring

    With the vinyl positioned correctly, roll half the material back over itself to reveal the subfloor. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to apply an appropriate adhesive with a notched trowel and allow it to set as required then roll the flooring over the adhesive. Repeat the process with the other half of the flooring and use a floor roller to press the material into place, working from the center of the room outward. If your installation requires multiple pieces of flooring, use an appropriate seam adhesive as required to secure seams.

    7. Replace the Trim and Doors

    With the flooring secured, reinstall baseboard trim and re-hang doors. Use a block plane or sandpaper to trim the bottom of the door if necessary for clearance. Check the flooring manufacturer’s specifications before replacing furniture and appliances though; the adhesive may need to set up for 24 hours or more. Install transition strips in openings where your new flooring meets other surfaces.


Installing Vinyl Plank Flooring

Vinyl plank flooring is generally available in rigid types that are glued to the subfloor or lock together and form a floating floor, or more flexible types that are adhesive-backed and stick directly to one another or to the subfloor. All are laid out and cut in similar ways, though “peel and stick” flooring generally makes for the simplest installation.

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• Tape measure Beginner to Intermediate 2 to 6 hours
• Chalk line
• Utility knife
• Speed square
• Straightedge
• Framing square
• Circular saw, chop saw, or jigsaw fitted with a carbide-tipped blade
• Knee pads
• Vinyl plank flooring
• Notched trowel
• Flooring adhesive
• Floor roller
• Wood shims or spacers
• Transition strip

    1. Lay Out the Floor

    Measure to the center of opposite walls and snap a chalk line to mark across the center of the room. Repeat on perpendicular walls so the lines intersect in the center of the room and check the intersection for square. Since walls are not always perfectly square, use these marks as a reference point for laying planks throughout the room.

    2. Choose a Starting Point

    Decide which direction to lay the planks and choose a wall to start from that is parallel to the length of the flooring. Measure from the corresponding centerline to ¼” from the wall (or whatever allowance the flooring manufacturer recommends) and snap a line along the length of the wall. Keep in mind that the dimensions of the room may prevent you from having a first and last course of the same width. If you would like both sides to be even, do the math to calculate how much to trim off the first and last course.

    3. Install the First Course

    If using an interlocking or overlapping floor product, cut off the edge with a tongue or upper lip (trim this edge to size the planks if accounting for width) and place the first plank along your reference line at the starting wall, leaving a ¼” space between the end of the plank and the perpendicular wall. If necessary, place wood shims or spacers between the first course and the walls to keep a floating floor from shifting. Continue along the line to the end of the wall, making sure your final piece is at least six inches long.

    4. Making Cuts

    To cut planks to fit at the end of each course, carefully measure the space, accounting for the expansion gap, if applicable, or hold a piece of flooring in position and mark it in place. Use a speed square and utility knife to make straight cuts directly through flexible flooring or to score rigid material, which you can then snap off. For a large job using rigid material, it may be more efficient to mark each piece with the speed square and make the cuts with a saw fitted with a carbide-tipped blade.

    5. Installing Additional Courses

    When using several boxes of flooring, work from multiple boxes at the same time. This can help avoid creating a patchy effect in case there are slight variations in color between boxes. Follow the appropriate method to secure the second course of planks to or alongside the first, staggering seams at the end of planks by at least six inches. For interlocking or adhesive-strip types of flooring, fit the concealed edges together as indicated by the manufacturer. For glue-down vinyl, use a notched trowel to spread adhesive before laying planks in place and wipe away excess glue immediately. Self-stick planks can simply be pressed into position after removing paper backing from the adhesive side of the material. Continue in the same manner, cutting for obstructions as needed and slipping the flooring under the edge of door jambs and trim as required.

    6. Finishing Up

    With the installation complete, reinstall doors and trim, planning and adding transition strips as needed to accommodate the new floor. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for using a floor roller and to allow curing time for glue-down planks before moving furniture, fixtures, and appliances into the room.


Installing Vinyl Tile Flooring

Vinyl tiles are available in similar types and installed in much the same way as plank flooring products. Though the process starts out the same and has an equivalent level of difficulty, the layout for tiles is generally different than for planks.

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• Tape measure Beginner to Intermediate 2 to 6 hours
• Chalk line
• Utility knife
• Speed square
• Straightedge
• Framing square
• Circular saw, chop saw, or jigsaw fitted with a carbide-tipped blade
• Knee pads
• Notched trowel
• Flooring adhesive
• Floor roller
• Transition strip

    1. Lay Out the Floor

    Locate the center of a wall and the one opposite and mark the center line across the room with a chalk line. Repeat with the remaining walls to locate the center of the room where the lines intersect.

    2. Choose a Starting Point

    Select one of the quadrants created by marking the center of the room in which to start laying tile. You will complete one quadrant at a time, so consider access to the room, obstacles, and special cuts when planning where to start and finish, especially if you will be using an adhesive that needs to set up before taking a lot of foot traffic.

    3. Install the Tile

    Starting in the center of the room, install your first tile along the intersected lines you marked earlier. Apply adhesive with a notched trowel if required, or remove the paper backing from the tile and press firmly in place. Continue in the same manner, following your grid lines toward the walls and butting tiles together or interlocking as required. Cut tiles to fit as needed when reaching the perimeter of the room, slipping tiles under door jambs and trim. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for pressing adhered tiles in place with a floor roller or leaving space for expansion against the wall (if using a floating floor product).

    4. Replace Finishes

    Install transition strips, baseboard trim, and doors, planning as needed to accommodate a higher floor. After allowing the time needed for adhesives to cure, move appliances and furniture back into the room and enjoy!


Level of Difficulty

Installation methods vary slightly between different types of vinyl flooring, but there are products suitable for do-it-yourselfers of all skill levels. Individuals with an intermediate level of experience may be better suited for working with large sheets of flooring or troweling on adhesives, while applying peel-and-stick planks and tiles is a great project for any home improvement beginner. Installing interlocking floating flooring calls for a bit more precision and skill than self-stick floors, but is still very doable for an advanced beginner or intermediate DIYer.


Find a Pro

If you don’t have the skills to install the vinyl flooring you have in mind for your home, or if you just don’t have the time to tackle the job yourself, connect with a local Redbeacon floor installation pro who can handle the installation for you. The independent contractors in our network have the experience to get the job done right and have already been checked out by Redbeacon, so you can be assured you are hiring an expert in the field who is properly licensed and insured.

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