How to install vinyl planks?

Vinyl panels are becoming more and more popular. They are durable, waterproof and resemble natural wood.

How are vinyl planks installed?

The method of installing vinyl panels depends on their type. The most popular are vinyl panels mounted on the so-called click. They are distinguished by the fact that we install them in a classic "floating" manner, similar to the laminate floor. We must then remember to maintain the appropriate dilatations provided by the manufacturer.
There are also self-adhesive vinyl panels on the market, or vinyl panels glued to the subfloor, the so-called dryback. As for self-adhesive panels, they are not recommended by sellers as their quality is poor. Dryback vinyl panels are very thin. They are 2-2.5mm thick. These are panels intended for gluing. They require a perfectly even subfloor. To achieve it, a new screed is usually made, which is then sanded, primed and prepared especially for gluing vinyl panels. This work requires specialized tools and considerable experience. The panels are glued by specialized assembly teams, and such a floor is most often installed in large public buildings.

How to install vinyl planks in a click system?

Click-mounted vinyl panels are a very broad category. Rigid vinyl panels (the so-called RIGID or SPC) stand out among them. They are thicker and stiff, so we can easily clip them in. Click vinyl panels must be thicker. This is due to the technology of their production and the need to mill the locks. Modern locks are extremely precise, and cutting them out is the most complicated element of the production process. The individual elements of the "feather" must, however, have a certain strength, therefore click panels should not be thinner than 4mm. Depending on the type of vinyl panel, there are different locks. From modern 5G lock in which the SPC panels are connected by sliding the board with the long side into the profile of the lock and lowering the plank connecting short side. When two panels are properly connected, we will hear the characteristic “clicl” sound. 2G locks, which have been proven for years, are also very good. They are mounted at an angle on both the short and long sides. The connection in this type of locks is mechanical, the contoured elements interlock to create a durable, secure connection that protects against forces acting in all directions. The assembly does not require any tools, and you do not need to hit the locks with a hammer. However, most importantly, the use of such a lock also allows us to disassemble a fragment of the floor without the risk of damaging the locks. Which results in less waste on assembly.

A cheaper solution are force locks, the so-called drop down. This type of assembling often requires "tapping" on the short side, and the panels are joined by "punching" and stretching the milled parts of the panels. In fact, this lock is a one-time use, disassembly causes damage to the panel and prevents correct re-installation. There is also no guarantee of proper installation, too light tapping in may result in detachment during use, due to the natural tension of the material. Impacting it too hard may in turn damage the panel during installation. There is also a risk that minor unevenness in the ground will undermine the lock and it will detach after installation. Such a lock does not require such precision and accuracy in the production process, so the entire process is cheaper, and the final product has a lower shelf price of up to EUR 2-5 per m2 of a comparable product, but with a reputable lock.

Installing vinyl panels in a floating floor system is similar to laying laminate panels. It begins with the selection of the right underlay, selected in accordance with the floor manufacturer's requirements. You should always read the installation instructions for the floor, so you can be sure that the warranty conditions will be met.

Laying vinyl panels in a floating system does not require advanced equipment, such as when installing tiles, or any special skills. However, in order to do it right and enjoy a beautiful floor for years, we must start with a solid floor preparation. Let's check if the floor is even - or we can even out unevenness with a self-levelling screed. If we intend to lay vinyl panels on tiles, we must fill the joints. A well-prepared substrate should be clean, stable, even and dry. The maximum deviations are each time specified by the manufacturer.

We install a vinyl click floor – correct underlay selection.

Although we are laying the floor on an existing floor, we should not forget about the underlay for vinyl panels. It will provide, above all, a more stable surface. Additionally, it will reduce noise in the room and protect our vinyl panels from damage. Locks are particularly vulnerable part of planks which, if not secured with a suitable underlay, may undergo micro-damage over time, which will affect the quality of use of the entire floor. So let's remember that a floor underlay is the foundation of a beautiful and durable vinyl floor.

How to install vinyl planks - where to start?

We start laying vinyl panels from the left to right and go backwards. We do it in accordance with the direction of light in a given room. So, traditionally, the boards are placed perpendicular to the windows. At the same time, we should remember to leave an expansion distance of 5 mm from the walls (if the single surface exceeds 200 m2, the expansion distance should be increased to 10 mm).

To do this, place pressure blocks between the board and the wall - we can buy them at any DIY store. Floating mounted vinyl click floors do not require glue or nails. We arrange the boards in rows. First, connect the vinyl panels with the shorter side, and then clamp the entire row with the long side to the previously assembled rows. To attach a vinyl panel, lift the end of the board you want to install at the right angle, positioning its tongue against the groove of the previously laid panel. Pressing the tongue down and, while freely lowering the element, we will hear a characteristic "click" sound, which informs us that the element has been correctly installed.

When arranging panels in this way, we must remember about the appropriate expansion gap (minimum 5 mm). We start laying the next rows from the element that was cut off when installing the last board in the previous row. We apply a board offset of not less than 30 cm. The choice of the way of arranging the panels basically depends on two issues: the dimensions of the room with our style preferences and whether we want to minimize the amount of waste. Vinyl click panels should be arranged with a regular shift. As standard, you can use a 1/2 shift (one row of vinyl panels shifted in relation to the next by half the length of the board), or a 1/3 shift (one row of vinyl panels shifted in relation to the next by 1/3 of the length of the board). In the latter case, the grout is in line every 3rd row.

How to install glued vinyl panels?

Vinyl floors are also available in a dryback version - as panels or glued tiles. Despite the very small thickness (2.5-3 mm), the quality of the top layer is not inferior to click type floors. Dryback is gaining popularity, among others due to a very attractive price and excellent acoustic properties.
Installation with glue requires time, great skill, accuracy and a perfectly prepared substrate. Even a millimeter unevenness on the floor will be emphasized, and even the smallest detail (e.g. an unevenly putty joint) will be visible on the glued floor. For a good effect, the surface should be level like a table. After spreading a thin layer of glue on the floor, you should usually wait several dozen minutes, arrange 2-3 rows of panels and repeat the operation. The floor can be used after 24 hours.
An alternative is a mounting mat with a self-adhesive layer. The mat can compensate for minor, point unevenness of the substrate, it speeds up and facilitates installation and, unlike glue, allows the floor to be used immediately after its installation.

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