Edmonton’s Flooring Store Since 2001

How To Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring: Step-By-Step Guide

Jul 11, 2023

In the past few years, vinyl plank flooring has become one of the most popular flooring options on the market. It’s inexpensive, very durable, adds a modern look to almost any space, and you don’t need to be a professional to install it!

However, before you work on your installation, you must know how to stagger vinyl plank flooring. Getting the staggered pattern right is the difference between a stable & beautiful floor and one that looks like it’s been installed by an amateur. 

Besides an aesthetically pleasing appearance, properly staggering vinyl plank flooring will reduce the risk of issues like warping or separation. If you take your time, make careful & precise measurements, and follow the steps in this guide, you will know how to stagger vinyl plank flooring with ease!

Tools You’ll Need

  • Utility Knife
  • Tape Measure
  • Spacers
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Tapping Block / Pull Bar
  • Straight Edge / T-Square / Speed Square
  • Flush Cut Saw
  • Chalk Line (optional)

Considerations Before You Start

Step/Waterfall Pattern & H-Joints

An H-Joint happens when the vinyl planks end at the same point in every other row. This gives off the unaesthetic appearance of an “H” and can cause joints to warp or even pop out altogether. 

An H-Joint is inadequate for the structural integrity of your floor, so be sure to avoid it as best you can when installing vinyl planks.

As the name implies, a step pattern occurs when multiple adjacent rows are placed repeatedly, giving off the appearance of stairs. 

Keep these two patterns in mind as you lay out the flooring. Both of these patterns will create an unnatural-looking floor & cause the planks to lose their structural integrity. A random & staggered pattern is the look you want to achieve.

patterns to avoid when staggering vinyl plank flooring

Steps To Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring

Step 1. Prepare The Subfloor

Even though vinyl plank flooring does not require any bonding to the subfloor, it’s a good idea to prep it sufficiently.

Fixing low spots with self-leveling concrete, sanding areas of elevation, and thorough removal of dirt and debris will go a long way in prolonging the lifetime of your new vinyl plank flooring.

Step 2. Prepare The Room

You will want to cut the door jamb so your planks can easily slide beneath it. All you need for this is a plank & flush cut saw. Place a plank with the finished side down next to the door jamb and trace a guideline, then cut on your mark.

You also may need to remove the baseboards in the room. 

Step 3. Measure The Room

In most cases, you will want to begin the installation parallel to the longest wall in your room. Once you’ve chosen the direction to lay the planks, you will need to measure the width of the room (perpendicular to how to want to lay the vinyl planks) to determine the number of complete rows required.

Start by measuring the room’s width and subtracting ½-inch to allow for expansion; this is your room’s new width measurement. Take that number and divide it by the width of a single vinyl plank; this will tell you how many rows of planks you will need to cover the room completely.

Knowing these measurements will also help to determine the size of your first and last rows, which need to be similar in size to ensure a proper stagger & an aesthetic finish. The last thing you want is to lay full-width planks on your first row, only to be left with a 1-inch gap for your final row. If that happens, cut the planks of the first row to ensure it matches the width of the last row. 

Step 4. Sort The Vinyl Planks

Take all the planks out of their respective boxes and sort them into piles of similar patterns. This will be a huge help when you get to the installation as you can rotate which pile you choose from, ensuring an even shade across the entire floor. 

If you don’t do this, you may have a problem where the finished floor is lighter on one side of the room and darker on another.

a sorted pile of vinyl planks

Step 5. Install The First Plank

Set up the spacers on the starting end of the first plank and along the length of the wall. 

Now you can lay the first plank up against the spacers; continue to add planks to this row until you cover the whole length of the wall. Vinyl planks connect using a tongue & groove system; all you need to do is insert the groove-edge of the second plank into the tongue-edge of the first and snap the planks together. 

To maintain the plank’s integrity, ensure that the last plank in the row is 6-inches or longer. If the final plank is less than 6-inches, cut off enough from the first plank to ensure the final piece meets the 6-inch requirement.

Step 6. Install The Second Row

Use the offcut from the first row to begin the second row. The end of this plank should be at least 6-inches apart from the joint in the first row. 

This step is critical as it’s where the stagger truly begins, and all the other rows will follow suit.

Adjacent rows attach following the same tongue & groove method from step 1. Insert the edges and snap together, using your mallet and tapping block to get a tight connection. 

Lay out the rest of the planks along the second row and make your cut at the end to fit. You should be left with another offcut.

Step 7. Third Row

The primary considerations for the third row are maintaining a spacing of at least 6-inches from the adjacent joint and being careful not to create an H-joint with the first row. Start by taking a full plank, then measure and cut. 

Step 8. Fourth Row & On

Continue to use offcuts, full planks, and specific cuts as necessary as you cover the rest of the room. 

By the fourth row, you should see the pattern of your stagger & understand what length of planks to lay down. Continue to be mindful of maintaining the 6-inch gap and avoiding H-joints, and you’ll succeed!

Knowing how to stagger vinyl plank flooring is vital for a structurally sound and stable floor that looks amazing.

Final Thoughts

If you want to learn more about vinyl plank floors, our team at World Floor Coverings are experts!

We assist with projects in Edmonton and the surrounding area, big or small! From renovations to insurance claims and custom builds, our team is here for your support.

Please contact us if you have questions or want to purchase vinyl plank flooring in Edmonton. We’re happy to help!

Looking For New Flooring in Edmonton?