Stephen Perrera, Owner Of Top Floor Installation Co. and native Tucsonan since 1955 has been in the flooring trade for over thirty-two years. He is licensed, bonded and an insured state of Arizona Flooring Contractor and detailed troubleshooter who performs moisture testing and floor failure analysis, installing a variety of floor coverings. Top
Floating Vinyl Plank Issues
Personally, I love to install floating vinyl planks. Not many floors are easier to install with just a straight edge, roller and utility knife and maybe a tapping block for the newer click together ones in a residential setting. However, I see a few commonly repeated mistakes when out doing inspections on these floors that can easily be avoided. These issues are not solely DIY issues either as even some professionals have the same problem.
The style of vinyl plank I see having the most issues are the grip strip ones with the pre-glued edges. For some odd reason I find more claims against these floors in manufactured homes. At first I thought it was a fluke. But there are totally obvious reasons for this. And these issues are plainly described in the manufacturers installation requirements.
Number 1 Issue: Floor Flatness
Manufacturers point out floor flatness requirements that should be strictly followed. When you have a dip or high spot in the floor this causes stress on the grip strip. As the floor expands and shrinks this causes stress of the glued edges which in turn causes the edges to gap. When this floor gaps there is no way it is going back together by itself. Same thing applies to the click planks.
Manufactured homes have a tendency to settle or when they are installed they are not leveled properly. Many people - DIY and Pro alike - seem to think there is no easy way to correct this other than calling in a professional to re-level the home which can be costly. Installers are under the gun to get the job done and move onto the next job. The last thing they want is to have to leave a customers house all torn up. This I understand fully. However, just throwing the flooring in to get a paycheck can cause lost time and ruined flooring if you have to come back to fix it.
Low spots can be filled in very easily with tar paper and roofing tiles just like a hardwood installation. Patch is frowned on as it can break up and make an awful crunching sound. High spots can be planed or sanded down.
Number 2 Issue: Long Runs
Some manufacturers change the installation requirements on longest runs, width and length like we change our underwear... well most of us. If one allows unlimited runs then the next manufacturer feels compelled to stay competitive and reciprocate.
I see runs going completely from one end of the manufactured home to the other, in and around the bathrooms, tons of furniture and appliances sitting on the floor, toilets set on top of the floor and no transitioning strips to allow movement from one section of the house to another. And everyone from the rep to the retailer to the installer is stumped as to the cause of the floor gapping.
When installing this flooring think like your installing a laminate floor or floating hardwood floor. Use a vinyl transition strip in the doorways of the bathrooms at least if you have toilets set on top of the flooring. Or perhaps the least used bedroom doorways. Of course they are ugly, of course no one likes them. But, it beats coming back and tearing apart the consumers home to fix it.
Number 3 Issue: Perimeter Gaps
Most gap requirements say to use a 1/8 inch gap around the perimeter. Again, think like your installing a wood or laminate floor. Longer runs mean a bigger gap is needed. If your using a 5/8 quarter round to cover the edge then why not increase the gap to 1/2 inch! Or how about 3/8.... maybe half the distance? Seriously, this is not rocket science. Think of the 1/8 inch gap requirement as a minimum requirement. Such as all the other requirements really are.
When I go out on a claim and I see end gaps and side gaps I can literally walk in a straight line up and down to the opposing ends of the room and find that flooring is locked in at the wall or some other obstruction and there is a hump in the floor somewhere close by. It literally is the easiest money I can make in five minutes.
I know manufacturers do not want to hear about what us installers think. But here it comes anyway. Make more coordinating trim pieces like T-cap, and end caps available to consumers and pro's alike and require them on longer distances. Make more reversible planks for ease of installation. I can walk into any store that stocks this flooring and find no accessories like this stocked beside the planks or tiles. Here is another one. If you require the professional installers to use a 100lb roller then make the DIY'er use a 100lb roller. Believe it or not some allow consumers to eliminate this step and they wonder why these products are getting bad reviews.
The last inspection I did on one of these I thought I was stumped. A large localized area of assorted end gaps and side gaps in the middle of the living room. Everything looked perfect, the floor was flat, the casings were undercut, the flooring was acclimated properly, the ph test on the strip turned out neutral, the size of the planks were right on. The perimeter gaps were fine as well(yes I pull quarter round and base to check). The father and son team were going on and on about how they followed the manufacturers instructions to a T.
I was being pressured for an answer as the tag team was going to the extent of calling the product cheap and they would never buy another product like this as long as they lived. There was but one exception, a post coming down from ceiling to floor near a vent in the ceiling for the evaporative cooler three feet out from the exterior wall. As I peered down at it to see if it had been undercut, trying to dig around at the half inch of caulking surrounding the post, one of them absent mindedly said they put that post there to prop up the sagging ceiling. I asked, "Before or after the installation sir?" He said "After the installation." Case closed.! Blank stares were coming from both pair of eyes.
That inspection claim may have been the silliest one I have performed to date with the exception of another classic example of fool hardiness A remodeling contractor had "his guys" install a grip strip plank over top of a hump in the floor. With my straight edge teeter tottering on it - the floor was out 1 inch in five feet. The seams separated of course. So what did he do? He put in a click floating plank right over the grip strip one that was separating. I bet you can figure out what went wrong with the second installation.
Edited by Admin 3/18/2013
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