vinyl plank flooring is separating

32 Replies

I've installed vinyl plank flooring in a rental, I really like it but it keeps separating (I helped install this with someone who has installed alot of flooring previously but never the vinyl plank type, so maybe we did something incorrectly).  

Has anyone else had this problem, I've removed the baseboards and tapped it back together once already but it continues to separate, not really sure what to do, it looks great and holds up super well, except for the gaps!  Anyone have suggestions or encountered this problem??

@Sol Bergren

Is this new flooring or flooring thats been through some usage?

How many seems are opening up?

It is very common to see some seems open up (especially on cheaper made brands) over time.

I've also noticed that if a floor has a low spot that is parallel with the planks it can keep the planks from locking fully.

Hi @Erik B. :) 

The flooring was installed about 4 years ago, but actually started separating pretty shortly after install. It was installed in a house that is over 100 years old and the subfloor wasn't perfectly level, but not horrible.

I'm seeing seems open up near the bottom of the stairs/entrance and in living room area, I guess mainly the higher traffic areas.  Probably only about 5% of the seems but it's enough to make the floor look not great.

I think the vinyl plank flooring was decent quality as it was quite a bit more expensive than the laminate I was looking at initially, but maybe I could have bought even more expensive vinyl.  Not really sure on that front, that could be the issue.

Based on my experience with engineered hardwood, I doubt that you need to remove baseboards. After seeing a video somewhere, I made the tool in the photos, using wood, some screws and stick-on rubber safety tread from Harbor Freight: https://www.harborfreight.com/self-adhesive-rubber-safety-step-tread-98856.html. Just put the tool on one of the boards that has a gap and hit the slanted end with a rubber mallet. It took about five minutes to close the gaps in my floor. A few of them opened up again, so a few months later I repeated the process but put a little wood glue in the cracks first. Not enough time has elapsed to tell if the glue will be a permanent fix. 

I don't know the cause of this problem, but in other areas of this floor you can feel low spots where the concrete slab was not completely level before the flooring was laid.

Same idea... I use a glass puller (double suction cup) and a rubber mallet. Vacuum out the gap first... sometimes use a toothbrush to make sure there isn't dirt in there that will prevent clicking together. 

Cheap suction cup didn't work for the vinyl plank tiles, but the $30 double suction worked good.  Seams aren't perfect but are not bad now, looks like it will end up being a regular maintenance task but at least I don't have to pull up the baseboards anymore!

Same issue on 2 both the Costco and Lifeproof products. I've put down several houses worth of laminate & engineered floor before without having this problem -NOT happy. Tapped Costco vinyl plank flooring back together from end last month, but has spread again. I love the IDEA of the products, but they are far to expensive to be needing to be reset constantly. The Costco floor was put down in April - problems in less than 6 months. Will be experimenting with glue in ends before tapping back this time (no matter which mechanical means I find). IMHO this isn't an acceptable trait in a flooring material.

 I've come across several products online that are basically a block with double-stick tape, but I like the tread idea on the block you have.  Not really cool to be handing new tenants a block to fix the flooring with however. Currently the manufacturers "solution" is to "not allow the temperature inside the house to vary". Who are they kidding????

I think this stuff needs to be redesigned or pulled from the market if this is how it is (not) performing. As good as it looked when it was first put in, if this isn't something that can be fixed I can't really recommend it at $3/sq ft. Will update after testing Super Glue in the end groove.

I've had similar experiences with the luxury vinyl planks.   I have completely stopped using them and instead starting tiling everywhere.  

Originally posted by @Deanna Opgenort :

Looking forward to learning about how the cyanoacrylate (superglue) adhesive works to keep the cracks closed. Did not know about this disagreeable feature of LVP.

Although not as sensitive as hardwood to temperature, humidity and sunlight, these things still effect LVP. Acclimating for at least the manufacturer's recommended time period, temperature and humidity prior to installation is key, as well as keeping the subfloor at the recommended temperature during install and after, sanding down any high spots/leveling the subfloor as much as possible (less than 1/8 in. over. few feet is ideal), leaving a 1/4" gap against the walls for expansion, and limiting the number of heavy objects placed on the floor in one area can help reduce gaps forming after install. Also be sure to click all the seams together really well and don't force them into each other with a pull bar or hit it too hard with a tap block as that can mar the edge. Be careful not to pin the flooring down with the baseboard or shoe moulding. Seam sealer can be used to help keep the gaps tight in problem locations.  

LVP should not be installed above 80 degrees or below 55 degrees. This could cause gapping. The right glue helps too. If you spend all that money on a DIY buy the best glue you can. There are tricks of the trade you cant get every time on YouTube that matter. 

If it keeps on gapping you have the wrong glue. If the first fix is all  there is to fix it, you installed it at the wrong temp. DIY and YouTube are great but don't stop there. Look into (and Google for) building science websites that will give you the whole scoop. 

I always have my floor "climatized" for each job for at least 2 days before I ever install it. I still have the occasional issue and it is fixed the first time usually. This is important to do. When you are on a tight schedule you need to plan for this. Just put it in an out if the way corner and let it climatize to the house conditions. You will have much better luck than ever before. 

I installed too thick of underlayment which caused the floor to not float like it should in my kitchen. My girlfriend installed LVP with smaller than recommended gaps against the walls and she doesn't have gaps. She swears the gaps just give more problems. 

I had the same gap issues with LVP flooring that you had too use a plastic mallet and tap the joints together, never a gap in the long seam, always the short joint. I have switched to the LVP that has the adhesive seams and I have not had any gap issues with this flooring, even after 2-3 tenants, and 3+ yrs of use. It is also a lot easier to install. Also I have used some of the wood planks that were jointed, it cost more, but they have not separated either. Have only used the wood in my townhouses, and personal home as I didn't want to upgrade the 4 plexs to wood floor.  

I had the sames issue within a month of installation of some LVP I got.  I don't remember what the brand is, but it was a very thin click-lock from Home depot.  It was one step up in price from the really thin glue type; but I think the glued seam would have been better.  The sub floor I installed it on wasn't perfect, but only have very minor imperfections.  I've installed laminate click-lock many times with no issues. 

I ended up using a vinyl glue and banged it back together, but couldn't get it all perfect (there were separated seems all over the place.   When my tenant moves out, I'm just going to eat the cost and put in the flooring I've put in my last few rentals that went in very well, look great, and, so far, no issues; the Pergo Wet Protect from Lowes.  

Also, FYI, on most holidays Lowes does an .89 square foot install cost.  Even if I'm not ready for new flooring yet, if I know I'll need flooring soon, I'll lock in the price on a holiday and schedule getting the measures a month+ out when I'm ready.  We did this on the last house a month before we even closed.

I've had this problem as well.  I noticed it more in areas where I hired a certain kid to install it.  He didn't take the time to make sure it was clicked together.  It can look okay at first, but if you don't take your time, it will come apart.

I've switched to thick floating sheet vinyl that looks like planks.  It goes in much faster and is more water resistant.  Lowes used to have some nice material, but then they cheapened it and it looks more like plastic again (it used to have a faux wood grain).

LVP seems to be best on "naked" concrete slabs.  Whenever I have used it on raised foundations it had issues, separating and bowing.  It follows the floor and if the house is old and not level, you will see the high and low points on the floor.  I have used Hardie board under the LVP and had much better results, but it drives up the cost.

It is cost-effective and there are not a lot of good alternatives at the price point. 

@Sol Bergren Underlayment helps. Vinyl is pretty stable but the wood underneath isn't - especially if your climate changes often and drastically, or moves a lot. What happens is the wood underneath expands and contracts at a rate that is different than the vinyl. Wood moves a lot, vinyl not so much. The underlayment float helps with this, it lets it slide as a group better. Backing board helps as well. If the subfloor is the cheaper plywood this is more likely to happen, as the crappy surface gives it more sticktion. 

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

We hate spam just as much as you