Loose Lay Vinyl – the Easiest Floor to Install!
Let’s face it, most basements will experience water damage at some point. Because it’s waterproof, durable and can be easily removed and reinstalled if you ever have a flood, loose lay luxury vinyl plank is a no-brainer for a basement – or so you’d think!
We weren’t so smart with our original flooring choice, having to replace beautiful engineered hardwood with this luxury vinyl flooring after a flood. So learn from our mistakes and start with something waterproof – like loose lay luxury vinyl. In areas prone to water, like the basement, kitchen and laundry room it's the bests choice!
Be sure to watch this video to see how easy it is to lay loose lay luxury vinyl planks.
Before installing the vinyl planks, acclimate the flooring for at least 48 hours before starting.
Determine what direction you want the floor to run (typically the length of the room). However, layout is a matter of preference. We ran our entire basement floor from the front to the back of the house.
Move everything out of the room where you’re beginning to lay the vinyl planks. The far wall below is our starting point.
Use a laser level to chalk a line on the floor in the middle of the room. Notice the green tape on the wall?
Before removing the engineered hardwood after our second flood, Hubs took the time to transfer our original laser line onto the wall using the old flooring as a guide. That way, we could quickly re-set it again for this installation.
A chalk line is fine, but we find it easily erases, so instead we transfer the laser line onto green tape as our guide.
Tip: put things you’re able to save in a flood onto dollies so you can easily move them around from room to room as the flooring installation progresses! We managed to save most of our baseboards.
It’s important to do some pre-planning to avoid narrow plank widths near walls and doors. No piece against a wall should be smaller than half the width of a plank. Using the width of the room, determine how many full planks will fit into the area and how much space remains that will need to be covered by partial planks. Divide the remaining space by two to calculate the width of the partial planks.
Take into consideration adjacent rooms too. Then change the width of your starter row accordingly to get the best layout for your own situation.
There are some areas where you’ll be able to compromise with the width of the plank against the wall. For instance, we have wall-to-wall laundry at the opposite end of where we’re starting, so have leeway there. Since you’ll never see the floor under the cabinets and laundry machines, you can ‘cheat’ and have less than half a plank.
We thoroughly explain how to install the loose lay flooring on the video near the start of this post, but the following tutorial will also help elaborate.
Proper prep is one of the most important steps to a successful loose lay vinyl plank flooring installation. The subfloor, in our case concrete, must be smooth and free of dust etc.
A level can help you determine if there are any gaps. If necessary, use a levelling compound to fill in areas that aren’t level.
Make sure that the floor is as dust free as can be. With drywall dust and dust from the crack filler, a vacuum will not get it all. So we sweep the floor with a Swiffer – before and during the installation – to pick up all the dust we can!
Now you’re ready to open some boxes and start laying your luxury vinyl floor!
We choose to start in one corner of the room and work our way out toward the other wall because we know our walls are fairly parallel from our previous installation.
To cut the planks along the length for the first row, we used the long aluminum rectangular tube as our straight edge you see below. Score on your mark, then bend along the score. Your plank will snap along the score. If the cut didn’t quite go through to the backing, use your blade to finish the cut through the vinyl plank backing to separate it.
Slide the first vinyl floor board into place. Leave a minimum 3/16″ gap against the all walls (which the baseboards will cover) to allow for expansion and contraction. Spacers can help with this step.
Dry lay all the pieces in the first row. You can either glue around the perimeter or connect them with True North LV Max Tab (which we’ll explain later).
We cut the first vinyl plank in each row in such as way that it leaves at a 6″ – 10″ stagger between the ends of each board. You’ll see that clearly further ahead.
To cut each plank to length at the beginning and end of each row, Hubs created this custom cutting jig.
You just measure, mark and cut where you want to cut the length. Just as we did with the longer cuts, snap the vinyl along the score by bending it. You may also need to use the utility knife to cut through the back of the vinyl plank to release the cut.
If you choose to use an adhesive tab system, connecting the loose lay floor together is as easy as peeling a bandaid! Once the first row is cut and in place, apply tabs to the ends to lock the first row end-to-end.
Then add tabs along the length of each plank (3 per plank, spaced 12″ apart) so you’re ready to install the next row.
Peel off the liner, then tightly place the second rows of planks. With the exception of one instance we show on the video, always leave the ends for last.
After laying the entire row, lift the ends and tab them too. The end of each plank always gets a tab after every row is laid. That’s because you want to butt against an edge without adhesive so you can position the plank. That way, you’ll get a tight seam before making contact with the rest of the tabs already in place. Watch the video and you’ll see exactly what I mean!
Below I’m actually demonstrating how easy it is to remove and replace a piece if it ever becomes damaged. That’s one big advantage of loose lay over every other flooring on the market. Loose lay is the only flooring where you can remove a piece without the possibility of damaging adjacent pieces!
Because there’s no glue necessary to hold the perimeter in our installation, we put boxes of flooring on top of the starter row. The weight holds it in place until we reach our chalk line.
As work progresses, roll the seams. You can walk on the floor right away (and Swiffer your freshly laid floors too).
Stagger Your Ends!
Here’s how randomly staggered vinyl planks, with end joints not less than 6″ from the previous end joint, should look.
Taking the time to measure the cut on the first plank, so that your boards end up staggered like this, results in a professional looking job! It also ensures that your vinyl floor look realistic – like a real wood floor!
Tip: keep all your cutoffs and use them to start new rows. Using all your scraps can speed things along and will ensure minimal waste. We put a piece of painter’s tape on the cut end so we can quickly tell which end goes against the wall!
Cut Around Walls
When you get to a place you have to cut around, like the doorway below, measure and mark carefully. Further ahead we show you now to handle measuring for trickier cuts.
As you see on the video, you have the flexibility to shift the vinyl planks down so that the last one extends past the wall. That way, you can continue the pattern into the next room.
In instances like this, we use a jigsaw to cut out the shape of the wall drawn on the vinyl plank. To keep vinyl dust from taking to the air, we make our jig saw cuts in the garage.
Tip: while our loose lay vinyl plank flooring installation was in progress, we used the skid it was delivered on as a platform to cut and drill!
Cutting around the doorway was pretty straightforward. But what if you have something more challenging, like round pipes? We have two tricks for dealing with those!
Unfortunately this post is picture heavy, so you’ll need to head to our blog for how to deal with obstructions like the pipes shown above and below (click where you see our logo).
If you’re recovering from a flood like us, you don’t have to wait before you can walk on a loose lay vinyl plank floor. As a matter of fact, you can load up your furniture immediately once the baseboards are in place! Head to our blog for tips on how to move furniture onto your new floors.
Our very last row of loose lay planks is right by our staircase. Our calculations work out for the best; we end up with a full plank where you see it most, coming down the stairs. That’s why it’s important to take the time to calculate the layout!
Once the tabs are installed and the flooring is complete, the entire floor is interconnected and acts as one solid unit! It’s not going anywhere! Unless of course we have another flood. Then, as we show on the video, you can just lift it, dry it and put it back down with new tabs!
Before and After
I’ve installed just about every kind of flooring. But I’m so impressed with how quickly and easily loose lay vinyl goes down! We were able to install an entire basement of loose lay luxury vinyl in just one weekend! That sure doesn’t happen when with most flooring products!
Would I use it again? A resounding yes! I only wish we had used this floor the first time we did the basement!
Here’s a before and after of the room we started in:
The flooring really warms up the space!
There are a few things to keep in mind when maintaining a vinyl floor (which you can read about on our blog).
Below is the view from my office into the laundry room. Things are now off the dollies and permanently re-installed – yay!
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