How to Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring [Like a Pro]

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how to stagger vinyl plank flooring

When laying plank flooring of any type it is important to stagger the plank rows.

There are several reasons you should stagger your planks, which we will cover in this article.

While the actual staggering of the planks isn’t overly difficult, it is important that you handle it the right way. You want the result to look great and professional, but you also want it to hold up over time.

Improper staggering or not staggering at all will make the work faster but the floor won’t last nearly as long.

In this article we will cover why you need to stagger, what materials and tools are needed and take you step by step through the floor laying process.

Why Stagger LVP?

Staggering vinyl plank flooring is important for several reasons. Let’s see what those reasons are.

  • Aesthetics. A properly laid and staggered floor will give you the best look. Mimicking hardwood, staggered planks give you the look you desire.
  • Durability. When properly installed, a staggered LVP floor is more durable, able to spread weight distribution around and will hold up longer to normal wear and tear.
  • Prevents lifting. The weakest point of any plank floor is at the end joints. If a floor is not staggered these end joints line up and will eventually lift and separate.
  • Easier to remove. If a plank or two does become damaged, you can more easily remove the damaged planks for replacement, without lifting the entire floor.
  • Aids in waterproofing. One of the many benefits of LVP is it’s water resistance. A staggered floor will help minimize water absorption or pooling, allowing you to clean up faster and easier.

Materials Needed for Plank Staggering

When laying plank flooring (even engineered hardwood planks or even laminate planks) you need the proper tools. For the ideal stagger there are extra tools needed. Let’s cover the entire list.

Vinyl Planks

Of course you need your LVP. Choosing the right brand or the best LVP for your home is a crucial step. We have a few guides here for various LVP brands and best options for your LVP needs if you haven’t decided already.

Flooring Spacers

Flooring installation spacers run along the walls to keep the minimal gap required for a proper install. These inexpensive rubber spacers make laying the first few rows easier and allow for proper expansion of the planks when the install is complete.

Hammer and Knocking Block

You want to ensure that all of the planks are firmly locked together on all sides. Using a hammer and knocking block will ensure the planks slip in their grooves and lock together without causing damage to the planks themselves.

Circular Saw

When you stagger your flooring, you will need to cut some planks to make them smaller. A circular saw or table saw will make quick, even cuts keeping the edges flat and straight.

Tape Measure

You will need to measure a lot of the planks before and after cutting. This will ensure you have the right space needed for a proper stagger and that your cuts are to the required length. A tape measure is the best method for getting the right measurements.

Chalk Line

While not essential, a chalk line is a cheap and fast way to find room and wall center and helps to keep your first row in line for a proper install. If you choose not to use a chalk line, you will need a yardstick or T-square to keep everything in line.

How to Stagger Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring

how to stagger lvp flooring

Staggering simply means the process of shortening planks so that the end joints (short edge) do not align on every row. It is also called bricking or walling, if that term is easier to understand. Basically your floor planks will lay side by side, at different lengths, giving you the appearance of a brick wall or off-centered planks.

Starting the First Row

The first row is one of the most important parts of the process. If you don’t get the first row laid correctly, the rest of the floor will look bad in the end. It is important to take your time getting everything set up for the first row. Laying subsequent rows will get faster as you go.

First you want to measure your floor along the longest wall. Find the center of the room and run a chalk line from center to the wall. This is the center point of the wall. Next you want to place a chalk line along the wall measuring half the width of your plank plus 1/8-inch.

For example, if your plank is 4-inches wide, you want to snap a chalk line along the wall that is 2 1/8-inches from the wall. This will be the center point of the planks as you lay them, allowing for spacing.

Next you want to take your first board and cut 6 inches from the end. It is also optional to cut 1/8 to ¼ inches off of the side of the plank that will go against the wall. This will remove the grooved edge and give you a flat surface to expand against the wall in the end.

With the first plank cut you want to place your rubber spacers on the end and along the sides where the plank will lay. Push the first plank up against the spacers. Take your second plank and do not cut the end off. If you are cutting the long edge, do that for this plank and lay it end to end with the first.

Make sure the end joints lock together. Repeat this process until you reach the other side of the room. If you need to cut the final board to fit, do so. Just remember to place your spacers along each board and at the ends of the first and last board.

Congratulations! Your first row is complete.

Second Row Stagger and Install

When you begin the second row you have an important decision to make. You must determine if you want to make a single board cut or two board cuts for the remainder of the floor laying process. Neither option is wrong and it is up to you which you go with.

If you decide on a single cut, you will begin the second row with the 6-inch piece you cut from the very first plank. Lay this as the start of your second row, knocking it into place against the first plank laid on the first row.

If you decide on two cuts per row, you want to now cut 12-inches off the new plank and then lay it in place. This method requires that you cut most of the first boards from here on out. Most installers option for the first method of using the cut end from the previous row.

With either method, once the first plank (or piece of plank) is laid, you only need spacers on the two ends. Lay full planks alongside the first row, knock them into place using your hammer and knocking block and cut the final plank to fit.

As you can see now, the end joints of the two rows do not line up, they will be off 6 (or 12) inches from the ends of the previous row. This is your stagger and the entire point of this process.

Now, you just have to continue.

Finish Laying Planks

As you move along laying rows of planks, you want to use the cut end of the last board to start a new row. If that piece becomes too small, or the eventual row where the final board does not need to be cut, start over with a 6-inch cut as you did on the first row.

These cuts and re-use of the cut end will give you a perfect stagger and repeating joint lines that look great and hold strong.

As you continue to lay rows you will see the stagger pattern begin to repeat and as you near the final row you will understand the importance of this process and how great it makes the flooring look.

Everything is the same for all remaining rows. Use spacers on the ends and knock the lengths of each row together so they lock in place and lay flat. When you get to the final row, you have a little bit more work to do.

Final Row Install

Before you lay the final row you need to make a lot of measurements. Some find it helpful to snap another chalk line to establish center once more.

You also have two options.

The easy route is to go back and remove all the rubber spacers now. They are easier to get out before the final row is in place.

However, this can cause uneven shifting. We recommend you opt for the “harder” route and leave the spacers in until you are done. With that, you will continue to use end spacers for the final row as well.

Sometimes the final row needs to be cut lengthwise. You can do this purely for aesthetics and remove the grooved edge that faces the wall, or you can leave it.

However, if you only have 3-inches of subfloor showing and a 4-inch board width, you need to cut that inch off so the boards fit.

You will also find this row the toughest to install. Most planks will need to be bent, twisted and knocked flat to lock into place. LVP is pretty strong, though, so don’t worry about bending and twisting too much. Just go slow and take your time with each plank.

Once you have the final row in place, go back and remove the spacers. You want to remove the end spacers first and the edge spacers last. This will prevent uneven shifting of your floor as you walk around on it.

Once all the spacers are removed, you need to allow time for the floor to settle. This set time will vary from brand to brand, but all brands require at least 16 hours. We recommend you wait at least 24 hours before using the flooring.

Once the set time is over, you should clean your floor, replace the thresholds, molding and baseboards. You can then clean the floor, sweeping and mopping to make it look its best and then move your furniture back in.

You should now have a clean, functional and properly staggered vinyl floor.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq staggering vinyl planks flooring

In this section we will answer a few of the common questions about staggering vinyl flooring. If you have more questions, please feel free to use the comment section below.

Q. What happens if I do not stagger my LVP?

  1. Not staggering your plank flooring will cause all of the end joints to line up. When this happens your floor has a major weak spot and will lift at the end joints eventually. Some can get away with it for a few months, others have the lift happen as soon as they put furniture in the room. In either case, your floor will need to be pulled up and properly laid, adding time, effort and cost to your floor.

Q. Which way do you lay vinyl planks?

  1. Vinyl planks are usually run alongside the longest wall of the room. Doing this will give you an appearance of a larger space, requires less cuts of the planks during install and tends to hold up longer. However, going along the shortest wall can alter the look and give you a floor that stands out. There isn’t a “wrong” way to do it, but following the longest wall is the recommended method.

Q. Do you need a moisture barrier for vinyl plank flooring?

  1. This will depend on the type of subfloor, quality of the plank and type of underlayment used on the planks. High quality boards will generally have a waterproof underlayment already attached, which means you don’t need extra protection. Likewise, if your subfloor is anything other than concrete, you won’t need a moisture barrier, either. Concrete subfloors can condensate, though, which may require a 6mil moisture barrier regardless of plank and underlayment type.

Conclusion

Staggering your vinyl plank flooring does a lot more than just give you an aesthetically pleasing pattern. It also adds durability, functionality and longevity to the floor.

A proper stagger is easy to implement, takes no more time to install and can add years to your flooring life. Hopefully, with the aid of this article you are better prepared to properly install your vinyl plank flooring. 

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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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