How to Cut Vinyl Flooring: A Complete Guide

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how to cut vinyl flooring

Vinyl flooring is one of the easiest floors for DIY homeowners to install themselves.

However, it isn’t as easy as some instructional videos make it look, especially if you have no prior experience with the planks.

One of the most difficult aspects of installing LVP (and other forms of vinyl flooring) is getting the right cuts to minimize your effort and produce a high quality result.

This article will cover everything you need to know so you can quickly learn how to cut vinyl flooring and get your new floor project completed.

Most Common Cutting Methods for LVP

LVP is a simple flooring to install as a DIY project, but you still need to prepare and cut the planks to size and fit. Here are the most common cutting types

  • Cross cut. A cross cut is the most common cutting type. It shortens the board by cutting across the width of the plank.
  • Rip cut. A rip cut is also quite common and is used to fit planks into their final spot. Usually found on the final row of an install, rip cuts cut down the length of the plank, making them narrower.
  • Notch cut. Notch cuts aren’t as common but are still needed in almost every project. These are smaller cuts, usually at 90-degree angles to fit one or more boards into an awkward spot.
  • Specialty cut. Any other cut for LVP that isn’t common or requires a specific type of knife or saw is considered a specialty cut. These can include going around fixtures, corners or on stairs.

Buyer’s Guide: Tools to Cut Vinyl Plank Flooring

buyers guide tools to cut vinyl flooring

Cutting vinyl requires tools and having the right tools for the specific types of cuts is important. There are certain saws and knife types that will help you get the job done right and others that can hinder your results. Let’s get a better idea of the tools needed for cutting vinyl.

Saw Types

You have a large selection of saws to choose from. The most common types are table saws, circular saws and handheld jigsaws. You can also use utility knives, razor knives, hacksaws and snips.

You can also buy or rent vinyl plank cutters. While these machines are aimed towards flooring professionals, the average homeowner can also find and use them, if it is needed. However, when planning your budget, these may fall out of your expected price range.

When cutting around corners, fixtures and awkward angles, oscillating cutters and handheld jigsaws are the best option. 

Cut Styles

When it comes to making cuts, you also have to realize there is more than one cut style. The basic cut cuts across the width of the plank. This is the most common cut, of course, but there is so much more.

A rip cut, for example, cuts down the length of the plank to make them thinner. You also have corner cuts, round cuts and cutting to fit around door frames, counters and other obstacles. These are known as notch cuts.

We will explore each of the three main cut types below. Just be aware that each one will require a different tool to get the best results. 

Cleaning and Preparations

It is one thing to simply grab a plank, pick a saw and make a cut. However, the process is much more involved than that. It begins with the preparation. Your space needs to be clean, the planks need to be prepped and ready to install.

This means using a vacuum, broom and dustpan and even a duster to clean the space, the plank you are going to cut. You also need to ensure the plank is free of dirt, dust and debris to get a clean cut without causing damage to the face of the board.

For this you will need the proper cleaning tools, including that hard flooring vacuum or cleaning solutions rated for subfloors, vinyl and your tools.

Measure Twice

Measuring for your cuts is arguably the most critical aspect of the cut. You must know where to make the cut and to do that, you have to measure. Using a tape measure is the quickest method, but there are others. Squares, rulers, yard sticks and more can also be used. 

Keep it Level

A bubble level can also help your saw and plank stay level while you are cutting, if you don’t have a square. Most power saws will come with a bubble installed already, but you also need to think about bending physics.

If you are making a rip cut, for example, the board may bend downward at the far end, causing the center line to shift slightly. With proper support on the board and the use of a level, you will always ensure your cut is clean and straight.

Mark it for Precision

When it comes to making sure your cuts are accurate, nothing beats a line to follow. When you make your measurements, it is easier to follow a drawn line than to maintain the tape measure in place while you cut.

For this, we use pencils, markers or even chalk lines. When you mark, though, make sure you mark on the bottom side of the plank. This will keep your boards clean and looking great on the side you will eventually see and walk on.

Specialty Cutting

Some cuts need to be made at sharp angles or you need an extra small cut to fit in an awkward area. For these cuts a table saw or circular saw may not work well and a jigsaw might be too much power for the edge of the board.

You can use snips or a hand saw with a miter box. It isn’t recommended to use these tools for the entire project, but for highly specific cuts they will work wonders and much faster than the other options.

Cutting Vinyl Flooring the Right Way

cutting vinyl the right way

Now that we know what it takes to get the right cut on your vinyl floors, let’s learn the exact steps to get the best cut each and every time. By the end of this section you will be a professional vinyl flooring cutter!

Cross Cutting Vinyl Planks

A cross cut is, as the name implies, a cut across the width of the plank. When you are done with a cross cut, the board will be shorter than before, but maintain the width. By and large, this is the most common cut you will make, so it is important to know how to perform it correctly.

We will assume that you have cleaned and prepped the area for install and it is now time to measure, mark and cut your board to place it in the proper position. It is highly recommended that you start the first row of planks with a crosscut.

6-inches is recommended for the first board of the first row. The only other plank on the first row that should be cut is the last one, if it doesn’t fit. By performing the cross cut on the first board you will create the staggered effect essential to holding the LVP in place.

  • Measure. Even if you are cutting the starter 6-inches off, it is still important to measure the entire row. This will tell you if there are any adjustments needed so you can minimize cuts. For example, if you find that a full board would fit if you start with a 4-inch cross cut, or likewise a 9-inch cross cut, do that instead.
  • Mark. Using a sharpie, pencil or chalk marker, mark your measurement on the bottom of the vinyl plank.
  • Extend mark. Now that you know where on the board to make your cut, use a square or ruler to draw a line from one side of the board to the other so your cut line is clearly visible and across the entire width of the plank.
  • Guide and score. Put the square on the board and hold tightly. Using your utility knife or razor knife slowly but firmly score the mark line. You won’t be able to go through the entire plank, but you should make it through the wear and photo layers and deep into the core. You may need to score the line a few times to get the proper depth. Your blade should go at least halfway through the board.
  • Snap. Once the scoring is complete, move the board to the edge of the table or cutting surface, face up. Push firmly and quickly on the edge you wish to remove, snapping the plank in half at the score mark.

If you have done the cross cut correctly, the board should snap clean off and be ready to install. While you can use a circular saw or jigsaw for a cross cut, this can burn the board edge or even warp the wear and photo layers. It is better to score and snap than to cut with a power saw here.

Rip Cutting Vinyl Floors

A rip cut is any cut that runs the length of the board. Because these are typically long, tedious cuts, it is almost impossible to accomplish with the scoring method of a cross cut. Now, it is time to move to the table or circular saw.

The most important aspect when using a power saw is to use a slow and steady pace with a vinyl-approved, sharp blade. Dull blades, dragging the saw or going too fast can cause edge burning on the board.

There is one situation when a razor knife can be used. For the very first row you may be required to remove the tongue side of the plank. Here you use the knife to run down the tongue and cut it off, using the edge of the board as the guide.

Since you never cut into the plank, using the knife is plenty. You can go slow and there isn’t a need to ensure you are straight or centered, since the plank itself is the guide and center point. For all other cuts, though, see below.

Once again, we assume that the cleaning and preparations are completed. Rip cuts are typically done for the final rows, after cross cuts are made and the entire row has been measured.

  • Measure again. With a rip cut there is no going back. Once you make the cut too deep, you will need to start again with a fresh plank. Always measure at least twice on the space and twice again on the plank itself.
  • Mark. As before you need the guideline to help you know where to cut. However, since boards can be over 4 feet long, it is much easier to use a chalk line and snap the guide down instead of trying to keep a marker or pencil centered.
  • Prepare to cut. Place the board on the table saw guide rail, secure into place and align the blade with the chalk line. If you are using a circular saw, make sure the board is clamped and supported on either side of the blade for the length of the board.
  • Cut. Start the saw and begin cutting. You want to go fast enough to not drag the blade but slow enough to not burn the edges. A steady, constant pressure will ensure the blade moves evenly throughout the cut.

Notch Cutting Vinyl Flooring

Notch cutting is something that is done the least often. There are even some projects that won’t need to make a single notch cut. Others, though, may need to make several. It is important to know the steps in case you find yourself needing to make a notch cut on your vinyl flooring.

As the name implies, here you are cutting out a notch to fit a particular space or area. This is notable around door jambs, piping, counters and permanent affixed island tables.

The steps are essentially the same, measure, mark, guide and cut. However, what sets this apart is you are generally working on a small section of the plank, maybe even a corner or center of an end.

Because of this factor, using a hand saw, table saw or even scoring may not work. So what are your options?

  • Freehand scoring. By going slow and making multiple small score lines without a guide you can follow your marks with more precision and can then snap out the scored piece with more ease.
  • Pliers scoring. If you need to work in the center of the plank you can score a circle freehand (or any shape) and use a pair of pliers to snap out the scored section. The pliers will give you the leverage in the right spot to make a clean snap.
  • Snips cut. For extra small areas that may be difficult to score and snap, you can use aviation snips or tin snips. Basically you make your marks as a guide and then carefully use the snips to cut out the area. This may be more difficult on thicker vinyl, though.

Specialty Cuts for Vinyl Plank Flooring

special cuts for vinyl flooring

Sometimes there will be a need for specialty cuts that go beyond what we already covered. While these definitely aren’t the normal cuts for vinyl, they still come up in a lot of projects. Let’s take a closer look at specific cuts you might encounter and how to handle them.

How to Cut Vinyl Plank Flooring Around Corners

When you need to go around a corner, the cut can be difficult. This is especially true if the corner is angled, not square or even rounded.

Depending on how much of the plank will be cut, freehand scoring or pliers scoring may be good enough. However for difficult cuts you will want to use an oscillating cutter. These are specifically designed to be accurate in tight spaces. They are also perfect for making cuts at install locations. You can place the plank in place and cut out the spot you need using the corner as the guide.

As with any powered tool, though, you will need to practice using the oscillating tool. Choosing the right head and grip pressure will be critical. It is also highly advised you use clamps since both hands will be needed to keep the cutter on track with your cut marks.

If you have steady hands or are otherwise talented with woodworking, a handheld jigsaw can also be used. Because it has a higher speed you need to be able to control the blade to prevent burning, but it can be a quick answer to tricky corners.

How to Cut Vinyl Floors Around Toilets

Similar to corners, cutting around toilets can also pose a lot of problems. Not only because they are oval or rounded at the base but because you also have to maintain the curve through several boards. The best option here is to make a template.

Using carpenter’s paper you can create a cut out of the toilet that will act as your template. This prevents you from having to remove the toilet and you can get accurate measurements.

Once you have the toilet base shape cut out of the paper, you can place it on top of the planks that will be cut (assembled on a table) Using your marker you can then make your guide marks and score and snap each board as needed.

You can also use a jigsaw or oscillating cutter to cut all the boards in a single go. Once the cuts are made, you can then disassemble the planks, and put them in place around the toilet, completing the project.

How to Cut Thick Vinyl Plank Floors

Thick vinyl usually has a rigid core with stone and plastic elements included. Scoring and making a clean snap is virtually impossible. Instead, for these boards you want to use a circular saw that is rated for vinyl.

Table saws with a guide will be needed for rip cuts on thicker boards. It is also advised to cut these face down, so the wear layer and photo layer don’t splinter as the saw goes through.

As before, you want a medium pace and even push with the blade to ensure a straight, smooth cut. Thicker boards are more prone to burning because the blade has to work harder. Going faster on the push, without losing control or causing blade drag will help the blade cut more evenly without burning.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq how to cut vinyl flooring

In this section we will answer the most common questions about cutting LVP (and LVP in general). If you have another question not listed here or in the article above, please feel free to use the comment section below.

Q. Do I need to worry about expansion on cut boards?

  1. Yes, installing LVP will always have expansion and contraction that needs to be accounted for. Each brand, size and style will have different requirements that are included in the owner’s guide that comes with your LVP. Make sure you know the measurements for the expansion and add these numbers into your measurements.

Q. What does “measure twice, cut once” mean?

  1. When working with anything you need to cut to size, measurement is a critical aspect of the process. The common phase simply means to put more emphasis on the measuring and marking aspects rather than the actual cutting. You can always remeasure and make new marks if your measurement is off, but once you make the cut, you can’t undo it.

Q. Will rip cuts make the planks vulnerable to moisture?

  1. Anytime you expose the core it will be vulnerable to moisture. However, rip cuts are rarely exposed, placed on edges that are covered by molding, baseboards and other fasteners. When properly cut and installed, you won’t have to worry about moisture getting into the core of the planks. 

Conclusion

LVP and vinyl in general is relatively easy to install as a DIY project. This is one of the main reasons why LVP has become so popular in recent years. However, this doesn’t mean that installation is not without its difficulties and concerns.

Cutting LVP to size and to fit can be a tedious and challenging endeavor. With the right tools, knowledge and a little practice, though, you will be a cutting pro in no time. Hopefully you have found that this guide has given you the knowledge and confidence to finally get your new LVP floor installed.

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AUTHOR

Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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