A vinyl flooring project provokes deliberation concerning durability, comfort, and installation. At the forefront of the decision is whether you should use padding. We reviewed flooring manufacturer and home improvement expert recommendations concerning vinyl floor padding.
Most vinyl plank and sheet flooring installations do not require padding. The only times that you would use padding for either type are:
- For sound absorption, thermalizing, or moisture barrier.
- For concrete or unsmooth subfloor.
- When underlayment is less than 1 mm thick.
- When the flooring is 4 mm or thicker.
Read on for information from our vinyl flooring padding research. Review vinyl floor material and environmental considerations, and to see if vinyl flooring installation is a DIY or professional installer project.
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What is the difference between plank vinyl and sheet vinyl flooring?
Vinyl plank and vinyl sheet flooring are waterproof, durable, and anti-bacterial. It resembles tiles, stone, and wood. The textured anti-slip wear-layer above the print film is polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or vinyl. Urethane enhances appearance and endurance as the top layer. The backing is typically vinyl, plasticizer, and fiberglass.
Vinyl plank flooring is more rigid than sheet vinyl. Individual planks provide a more realistic look over sheet vinyl. The individual plank format can allow water to funnel to the subfloor.
Sheet vinyl flooring does not provide plank separation realism; however, it does provide waterproof features. It comes on large rolls and is less rigid than vinyl planks. Sheet vinyl flooring may require edge curl-up repair over time.
How Is Vinyl Flooring Thickness Determined?
Vinyl flooring thickness is expressed in two measurement units. Though similar in appearance, mm is the abbreviation for millimeter, and mil represents 1/1000 of an inch. Wear layer thickness is usually recorded as mil and overall thickness as mm.
The transparent vinyl wear layer (between top urethane and image layers) helps influence durability. Wear levels range from 4 mils (approximately .1 mm) to 40 mils (approximately 1 mm). The recommended minimum residential wear layer is 12 mil. Vinyl flooring total thickness ranges from 4 mm to 8+ mm.
What is Vinyl Floor Padding?
Padding, or underlayment, is a thin layer between the subfloor and vinyl flooring. It may help smooth the floor surface, provide additional comfort, increase thermal properties, or assist with sound absorption. Vinyl floor padding should be no more than 1 mm. Refer to manufacturer specifications if using flooring with attached underlayment.
Loose-lay sheet floors or adhesive-secured floors typically do not need padding. No more than one layer should be used, or shifting of the flooring could occur. Install floors thinner than 4 mm directly over the subfloor.
Is Vinyl Flooring Installation a DIY or Professional Project?
For the moderately handy with a relatively easy installation area, vinyl plank flooring makes an excellent do-it-yourself project. If any flooring issues must be resolved before installation, if working with sheet vinyl, or if the room has a complicated layout, it may be time to call in a professional.
What is the easiest vinyl flooring to install?
Vinyl plank flooring is usually easier to install than a vinyl sheet. It allows you to work with small click-lock or peel-and-stick planks. Vinyl sheet flooring requires dealing with large rolls, adhesive, and precise seam-sealing methods.
Can you install vinyl flooring on concrete?
Vinyl flooring is a solid option for concrete. Fill dips, smooth raised areas, and repair cracks. Concrete subfloors should be cleaned and dried before beginning installation.
Can you install vinyl flooring on wood?
Wood provides a good vinyl flooring surface. A wood subfloor does not have concrete moisture considerations; apply adhesive installations directly. Uneven wood floors should be covered to smooth installation and increase durability.
University of Massachusetts Amherst Building and Construction Technology Department documentation indicates that, while particleboard is smooth, it soaks up moisture and is not recommended for fully adhered sheet vinyl or tile floors.
Do You need a moisture barrier under vinyl floors?
While vinyl flooring protects from moisture issues from the top, you need to consider below-flooring moisture. Plywood subfloors do not typically require a moisture barrier. Installations over concrete subfloors will need a moisture barrier underlayment. Interlocking underlayment panels may provide an easy installation option.
How do you install vinyl flooring?
While some of the steps differ for vinyl plank versus vinyl sheet flooring, most installation steps are similar.
Step 1 Measure and Calculate
Measure the floor in feet. Divide irregularly-shaped floors into sections. Multiply to get square footage and recommended overage (length x width x 1.1 for 10% overage or 1.2 for 20% overage). Add multiple or divided floor totals.
Step 2 Determine order amount
Divide by nine if the material is sold by square yards. Divide the total by box or roll to determine order quantity. Remember to calculate any needed padding or vapor layers
Step 3 Order flooring
Order flooring in time to allow for any manufacturer-recommended room acclimation. Typical acclimation timing requires 1-3 days. Order any needed tools and underlayments.
Step 4 Prepare for Installation
While awaiting flooring material arrival, remove furniture, carpet, padding, trim, baseboards, and doors. Leave no more than one layer of previous flat smooth vinyl flooring in place.
Raise cabinetry and make any new flooring thickness adjustments. Use a piece of flooring and underlayment to determine door jamb trim (Consumer Reports). Repair, level, and clean the floor.
Step 5 Dry and Mark Floor
To more quickly dry the floor, use a dehumidifier to dry the air and fans to circulate the air. Using a measuring tape or laser measuring tool, find the center point of each wall. Use a chalk line to connect the lines from each to determine the room center.
Step 6 Plan and Cut
Before cutting the flooring, verify manufacturer layout and expansion gap guidelines. Start in the center of the room. Use the preparation step chalk lines.
Resize vinyl planks and tiles with utility knife score and break. Use a sharp utility knife to cut sheet vinyl. Some flooring stores will cut vinyl sheet flooring to the needed length.
Step 7 Install and Secure
Install underlayment or vapor barriers row-by-row as you work to avoid dirt and damage. For adhesive-secured flooring, apply adhesive directly to the subfloor or underlayment using a trowel. Roll sheet flooring to smooth and secure. Vinyl plank flooring will have a floating click-lock install or a peel and stick install. Mix planks from different boxes to avoid dye lot inconsistencies.
Step 8 Finish the Floor
For vinyl plank flooring, a pull bar tool will help tighten click-lock flooring joints. Be sure to join sheet vinyl seams. Finish edges with transition strips, thresholds, baseboards, and quarter-round.
While the easy answer is that vinyl flooring does not need padding, some moist or non-smooth subflooring conditions dictate the need for it. Use no more than 1 mm thick underlayment. Consider flooring thickness (minimum 4 mm) to determine whether to use padding at all. Finally, review and adhere to manufacturer guidelines.