Pro Tips for Laying Vinyl-Sheet Flooring

by Joseph Truini

If you're thinking about new flooring for your home and would like to install it yourself, consider resilient vinyl-sheet flooring. Despite the widespread use of hardwood and porcelain-tile floors, resilient vinyl flooring remains extremely popular. According to Floor Covering News, a leading trade publication, nearly 17 percent of all flooring sold during 2015 was resilient vinyl; that's more than wood and tile combined. (Carpeting remains the undisputed king of all floor coverings at a whopping 60 percent of market share.)

There are several reasons why resilient vinyl flooring is popular: it's durable, affordable, easy to clean, highly stain-resistant and suitable for all rooms, including kitchens and baths. It's also readily available in a wide range of colors, patterns and textures, including ones that resemble wood planks and stone tiles. From the DIY aspect, vinyl-sheet flooring is extremely quick and easy to install. In fact, it's the easiest of all floors to install, requiring a few simple hand tools and no floor installation experience.

Foolproof "Floating" Vinyl Flooring - NO GLUE NECESSARY!!

Vinyl-sheet flooring has evolved into a very DIY-friendly product. At one time, vinyl flooring had to be glued down to the entire subfloor with sticky mastic. Then, perimeter-bonded vinyl was introduced, which only had to be glued down around the perimeter of the room. While there are still some glue-down products sold today, the latest generation of vinyl sheet is nearly as easy to install as a throw rug.

Called floating vinyl-sheet flooring, these new products are not fastened down in any manner, but instead simply "float" over the subfloor. Plus, floating vinyl flooring is much thicker and more durable than standard vinyl sheets, resulting in a floor that lays flatter, lasts longer and provides a soft, cushiony walking surface.

Vinyl-sheet flooring is available in 10- to 12-feet-wide rolls, which can be cut to virtually any length. That means seamless coverage in most rooms, but you can easily seam together two pieces, if necessary.

When shopping for vinyl-sheet flooring, you'll notice that prices vary widely from one flooring to the next, even though they look exactly the same. The difference is in the quality construction of the flooring; some are simply higher quality than others. Fortunately, all major flooring manufacturers offer several lines of vinyl-sheet flooring, ranging from good to better to best. Higher-quality products cost more, but are also thicker, more durable, and have longer warranties. So, when comparing vinyl flooring, be sure to check not only the price but also the manufacturer's warranty. Now let's take a closer look at the basic DIY steps to installing a floating vinyl-sheet floor.

Tip: Vinyl flooring with smaller patterns, such as 2-inch-square tiles, look best in smaller rooms, and larger patterns work best in more spacious rooms.

The beauty of natural stone is captured in
this diagonal pattern vinyl-sheet floor.

Step 1: Prep the Subfloor

Pry off the shoe molding from around the room, but leave the baseboard in place. If you plan to replace the shoe, remove it carefully to avoid breaking it.

It's best to remove the existing floor, whenever possible, and start with a clean subfloor. However, if the floor is covered with old vinyl or linoleum, you can save time by simply nailing ¼-inch plywood underlayment over the old floor and then laying the new resilient vinyl sheet on top.

If you remove the old floor, check the plywood subfloor for any obstructions that would interfere with the new vinyl floor. It's important that the subfloor is flat, smooth and clean.

Use a 6-inch-wide drywall knife to carefully scrape the subfloor clean of dried glue, joint compound and paint blobs. Then, use a hammer to tap all protruding nail heads flush with the plywood surface. If the plywood is screwed down, drive any protruding screw heads below the surface with a cordless drill.

Tip: A plywood subfloor will often have pieces of veneer missing from the top surface, which creates deep recesses. To prevent these defectives from telegraphing through the new floor, fill all recesses, holes and gaps with wood putty.

Step 2: Trim the Doorways

Resilient flooring is relatively thin, but you may still need to trim doorjambs and casings to allow the flooring to slip underneath. That's much easier than trying to notch the flooring to fit around each doorway.

Take a piece of cardboard that's approximately the same thickness as the new vinyl floor and place it in front of the doorjamb. Then, lay a handsaw on top of the cardboard and saw through the jamb. (It might be worthwhile to purchase an undercut jamb saw (left), a specialized hand tool for cutting jambs for flooring installation. With all the money you are saving doing the installation yourself, it's well worth the cost... typically under $30.00!

Remove the cardboard and severed pieces of jamb to reveal a gap wide enough to accommodate the flooring. Finally, vacuum the subfloor clean of all dust and debris.

Step 3: Make a Paper Template

To ensure the new vinyl floor fits perfectly, you must first make a paper template of the room, and then use the template to mark the cut lines onto the sheet flooring.

Make the template from inexpensive builder's paper, which comes in 3-feet-wide rolls. You could also use butcher's paper or brown kraft paper.

Start in one corner and roll out about eight feet of paper, positioning its long edge within 1/8 inch of the baseboard.

Every three feet or so, use a utility knife to cut a 3-inch-long V-shaped flap into the paper. Fold over the flap and then stick the paper template to the subfloor with strips of 2-inch-wide painter's tape.

Continue to roll out the paper template along each wall. Cut V-shaped flaps into the paper and stick it down with tape. Also, tape the sheets together where they meet at each room corner.

At a closet door, cut short pieces of paper template to wrap around the wall and into the inside of the closet.

When done, peel up the paper template, being careful not to tear it. Fold the template into a manageable size and carry it over to the new vinyl flooring.

This vinyl-sheet flooring by TrafficMaster
resembles natural slate pavers.

Step 4: Trace the Template onto the Flooring

Unfold the paper template and place it down in the middle of the vinyl flooring. Position it about an inch inside the edge of the flooring. Be sure the edge of the template is parallel with the pattern lines in the flooring.

Press pieces of tape over the triangular cutouts to adhere the template to the flooring. Then, stick down the perimeter edges of the template with loops of tape, spacing the loops about two feet apart around the entire template.

With the paper template secured, use an indelible marker to trace around the template.

Once you've traced the outline of the paper template onto the vinyl flooring, remove and discard the template.

Tip: If you lay the flooring on a driveway or garage floor for cutting, be sure the flooring doesn't pick up and transfer any dirt or debris into the room.

Step 5: Trim the Flooring to Size

Cut the flooring using a utility knife with a hook blade. Slip the blade's hook over the edge of the flooring and pull it toward you. You'll initially feel resistance, but once the blade starts to cut, it'll easily slice through the flooring.

Steer the hook blade down the center of the line, keeping steady pressure on the knife. Don't worry if the cut isn't perfectly straight—the shoe molding will conceal it.

Continue to cut along the lines around the perimeter of the sheet flooring. Then go back and cut the notches for the doorways. When you're finished, roll up the flooring and carry it into the room.

Tip: Start cutting the flooring with a brand-new hook blade. A dull blade will leave a ragged
edge and force you to pull harder, which will increase the chance of cutting off line.

Step 6: Lay the Flooring

Set the vinyl flooring down at one end of the room, and then unroll it across the subfloor.

Check the fit along the walls and around the doorways. If necessary, lift up one corner, stand on the subfloor and tug the flooring into position. Carefully slide the flooring beneath doorjambs and casings.

Go around the perimeter of the room and check the final fit. If there are any spots where the flooring fits too tightly, carefully trim away the excess with your utility knife. Finally, replace the shoe molding, nailing it to the baseboard, not to the floor.

Save your scraps!!!

Last but not lease, at the end of the installation, save any leftover flooring in case you ever need to make a patch to repair the floor or if you need to make a color match for furniture or other accents.

About the Author: Home improvement expert Joe Truini is the author of many do-it-yourself books, and writes on home improvement and DIY topics for The Home Depot. Joe also has many years of hands-on construction carpentry experience. For more research information flooring options, visit the Home Depot website.