Do I Need Expansion Gaps for Vinyl Flooring? (Explained)
The features and advantages of luxury vinyl flooring are unparalleled. Among them are a stunning appearance, remarkable longevity, and practicality. Nevertheless, you should get more information about this flooring before installing it on your property.
Unlike a nail or glue-down floor installation, floating floors act as one entire unit because each plank is linked to its neighbor and not secured to the subfloor. And that’s why including suitable expansion space is essential for successful flooring.
According to the National Wood Flooring Association, the expansion and contraction of vinyl flooring is a natural consequence of moisture issues, which happens naturally with the changing temperature.
For this reason, a common question that most people ask when installing vinyl floors is, Do I Need Expansion Gaps for Vinyl Flooring?, especially when DIYing it in their homes.
Yes! When installing vinyl flooring, an expansion gap must be created. It is essential to provide an expansion gap around the perimeter of the space and at every wall-floor junction. Because vinyl flooring expands and shrinks with temperature changes as it ages. Moreover, it is possible that the flooring may buckle or warp if there is no expansion gap installed when the room temperature rises.
Therefore, a professional installer or the manufacturer can tell you about this and offer clear installation instructions. Although it may seem simple, having a professional installer put it on your floor is advisable. Even a tiny error can result in the loss of the entire flow.
What is an Expansion Gap & Why Do You Need One?
An expansion gap is a space between flooring and a wall left during installation. We need an expansion gap because hardwood, bamboo, eucalyptus, vinyl and laminate flooring are all hygroscopic. It means that these types of flooring can expand with any increase in moisture and contract with any decrease. And this occurs naturally with the changing of seasons.
Because of this fluctuation, floating floors compound over the entire run of each board. In a room, expansion occurs toward the perimeter, while contraction occurs towards the center and away from the perimeter. Therefore, there is a space between the flooring and all vertical objects for the flooring to expand.
How Much Expansion Gap Do Vinyl Flooring Needs?
Vinyl flooring comes in many types, each with its expansion and contraction characteristics. How much expansion space you include depends not only on your installation size but also on unexpected seasonal changes.
If you install when humidity conditions are low, wood flooring will likely gain moisture and expand during more humid seasons. Generally, you should create more expansion space using expansion spacers or transition moldings.
It is essential to provide expansion space not only around the room’s perimeter but also along the base of all vertical objects, such as cabinets, pipes, columns, fireplaces, and vents.
Vinyl Composite Tile (VCT)
Also, loose-lay vinyl planks are a cutting-edge alternative to traditional flooring options because of their unique installation method. The tiles may be installed directly into the subfloor without glue and remain in place for quite some time.
Generally, no expansion space is required when laying loose lay vinyl planks. But for the sake of safety, you can leave 0.25 to 0.5-inch space at the floor’s perimeter when laying the tiles. Usually, the tiles won’t expand or shrink, no matter how hot or cold the room becomes.
Unlike other flooring options, loose-lay vinyl planks are impervious to the humidity and temperature fluctuations expected in the home.
Luxury Vinyl Flooring (LVF)
It is recommended that luxury vinyl flooring and the wall have an expansion gap of three to seven millimeters. Additionally, these vinyl floors are waterproof and look like wood. Because it extends less than other flooring choices, a smaller expansion gap is suggested.
Sheet Vinyl Flooring
For traditional sheet vinyl to remain in place, the adhesive is required. The material can expand despite the glue, even if it is not moved or lifted. For this reason, traditional sheet vinyl should have an expansion gap of approximately seven millimeters.
Note: For installations over 30 feet, additional expansion spaces are needed. For every ten feet, one-sixteenth of an inch is added.
How to Create an Expansion Gaps for Vinyl Flooring?
A floating vinyl floor installation requires spacers to create an expansion gap. Spacers are available at home improvement stores where the flooring itself is sold.
While the newly installed floor is being installed, these spacers are placed between the wall and the floor, ensuring that the floor remains accurate throughout. As soon as the installation is completed, the spacers are removed, and the baseboards and half-rounds are installed to ensure the floor maintains its place.
Additionally, the T mold ensures sufficient expansion space on the floor during floating installations. You can install the T mold if your doorway, archway, hallway, or opening between rooms is less than five feet wide. The proper expansion space can be maintained by installing tea molds between different spaces so that each room can expand and contract independently.
What Happens If There’s No Expansion Gap?
Suppose a floating floor is forced to fit too tightly around an air vent register, and the floor expands with the change of seasons. In this case, the planks around the vent will push against the register and cause the floor to buckle upward.
Similarly, if the floor contracts and begins moving toward the center of the room, the planks along the exterior of the register next to the wall will not have enough space to move inward with the rest of the installation and will eventually separate.
It may sound dramatic, but with a floating installation, it’s essential to have a free-flowing floor, not to secure any plank to the subfloor.
There will be a 1-inch gap on the opposite side of the room if a floating floor has pinned down planks along its perimeter. Each shrinks towards the pinned-down plank. In reality, the floor isn’t shrinking more. It’s more apparent because that one plank is held in place. Ensure that no planks are pinned down so that the total expansion or traction is distributed evenly.
Therefore, no cabinets or other permanent fixtures are allowed on floating floors, and the planks must never be nailed or screwed through.
In simple words, your vinyl floor will eventually buckle if there is no expansion gap around the perimeter, and this will cause gaps between the planks.
How To Avoid Buckling?
There is a tendency for vinyl plank flooring to buckle regardless of the installation type, whether loose lay, glued down or click-together. If the tiles attempt to expand, but there’s nowhere for them to do so, they buckle. Some tiles move upward, while others move downward.
To avoid buckling, ensure you don’t have groundwater slippage in your subfloor, and your vinyl planks are protected from direct sunlight because these two factors can cause vinyl floors to buckle.
There are many reasons why your vinyl floor is buckling, so it is worth understanding the causes to help you take the necessary precautions to stop it. Therefore, please read the article below to know why your vinyl plank floor is buckling and how to fix it.
Must Read: 5 Reasons Why Your Vinyl Plank Floor Buckling (Guide To Fix It)
What Causes Gaps in Vinyl Plank Floors?
Buckling is just one of the issues that could cause gaps in vinyl floors. Other issues include using low-quality adhesive, failing to properly secure the floor after installation, dragging heavy objects over the surface, leaving an excessive perimeter expansion area, and exposing the floor directly to sunlight.
You can read about these issues and their solutions in detail in the below-mentioned article. I have also provided information on how to fix gaps in different types of vinyl plank flooring in this article as well.
Must Read: How to Fix Gaps in Vinyl Plank Flooring? (5 Easy Steps)
Vinyl Installation Do’s and Don’ts
- Your floor and room must be acclimated before installing new flooring.
- For click-lock vinyl, leave an expansion gap of three to seven millimeters.
- The subfloor needs to be leveled properly.
- If you are installing over concrete, use a vapor barrier.
- Be prepared for bump outs.
- Small boards should be used to end rows.
- Make sure door jambs and trims are cut.
- Always read the instructions that came with your product.
- Using fancy equipment
- Don’t install vinyl or LVT tile with an adhesive that isn’t approved for the purpose.
- Walking on your vinyl flooring after installation.
- Installing planks by hammering them.
- Using pins to secure vinyl planks around the perimeter.
Read More on Vinyl Floors
- 5 Reasons Why Your Vinyl Plank Floor Buckling (Guide To Fix It)
- How to Fix Gaps in Vinyl Plank Flooring? (5 Easy Steps)
- Does Vinyl Flooring Fade in the Sun? (6 Ways to Prevent From Fading)
- How to Fix Vinyl Flooring Seams? (A Step By Step Approach)
- 5 Best Way to Remove Burn Marks From Vinyl Floor (Must-Try!)