Vinyl Plank Flooring Not Laying Flat – Reasons + How to Fix It

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Reasons why Vinyl Plank Flooring Not Laying Flat+ how to fix it

Vinyl plank flooring is a popular flooring option due to its affordability and beautiful look. However, as with anything good, it has its shortfalls. And one of these is uneven vinyl plank floor surfaces.

Vinyl plank flooring doesn’t lay flat if improperly installed or in-floor areas prone to moisture and heat. Fortunately, you can fix it by leveling your floor, adding underlayment padding, and using vinyl adhesive. Get premium-grade planks and leave an expansion gap to help to prevent buckling.

Here are the reasons why your vinyl may fail to lay flat and how to fix it.

Why won’t my vinyl floor lay flat?

If your vinyl floor isn’t laying flat, it’s either due to buckling, peaking, or curling at the edges. Buckling is an issue more associated with laminate flooring, but it does happen on vinyl floor surfaces as well. If your Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) floor is raised or not flat at certain spots, it could be due to moisture damage, heat, and sunlight, an uneven subfloor, or improper installation.

Moisture Damage

A wet subfloor will also cause your floating vinyl floor to buckle. If it’s glue-down vinyl, the moisture weakens the bonding power of the adhesive, resulting in buckling.

Heat and Sunlight

As vinyl planks warm up due to heat and exposure to sunlight, they expand, and buckling may occur. While the planks should contract back to their original size when temperatures drop, this isn’t always the case. Permanent buckling can occur, especially if there’s no expansion gap around the perimeter of the room.

Uneven Subfloor

As the plastic vinyl settles over time, it assumes the shape of the subfloor. Thus, if there are any significant dips and bumps on the subfloor, the vinyl floorboards may get raised on the bumpy areas. If it’s click-lock vinyl, you may have raised lips at the seams of adjoining planks. That’s because the uneven subfloor below them causes partial failure of the locking mechanism.

Improper Installation

Another common cause of vinyl floors not laying flat is poor installation methods. For instance, installing vinyl planks without leaving an expansion gap along the edges will lead to buckling. As the floorboards expand whenever the temperature rises, the lack of an expansion gap causes them to lift upwards instead.

Failure to install baseboard molding may also cause LVP flooring to curl up around the edges. Meanwhile, if you’re using a hammer and a tapping block during installation and tap too aggressively, it might cause lifting at the seams of some of the planks.

Dragging Heavy Items

When you drag heavy appliances and furniture over floating floors such as vinyl, buckling may occur. This is especially common in loose lay vinyl flooring.

Can you fix uneven vinyl plank flooring?

Fortunately, there are ways to repair your vinyl floor if it’s uneven due to buckling, peaking, or curling at the edges. The best fix for vinyl floors depends on whether it’s glue-down vinyl or loose lay/click-lock vinyl.

Vinyl Plank Flooring Not Laying Flat -  How to Fix It

Fixing Uneven Glue-Down Vinyl Flooring

  1. Using a hair dryer, heat the section of the floor around a raised seam to make the lifted plastic vinyl plank more pliable. You can also use a heat gun in place of a hair dryer. Avoid heating the vinyl surface for more than 30 seconds, as the goal is to make it more workable without melting it.
  2. Next, remove the affected plank and apply LVT/LVP glue to the underside. You can easily do this using a putty knife.
  3. After applying vinyl adhesive, press the floorboard back into position until its flat/laying level with the rest of the floor.
  4. Using an old cloth, wipe off any excess glue. Then, for an even flatter surface, run a 100-pound roller over that section of the floor.
  5. Keep foot traffic off that section of the floor for up to 24 hours. This is to allow enough time for the glue to set. Meanwhile, place some weight on the plank to help flatten out the floor.

Fixing Uneven Loose-Lay Vinyl Flooring

Loose lay and click-together vinyl planks can be easily removed to fix any subfloor issues causing the flooring to not lay flat. If the issue is an uneven subfloor, level out the subfloor using a thinset to fill out dents after taking out the vinyl floorboards. Meanwhile, sand down any raised high spots. Alternatively, you can install vinyl underlayment material, which will hide such minor subfloor imperfections.

Meanwhile, if the issue is the lack of expansion space, you should uninstall the baseboard molding and shoe molding. Then, cut out a ¼-inch from all the edge planks. Finally, reinstall the planks, followed by the moldings. Note that moldings should not be screwed or nailed down to the subfloor. Doing so eats up into the expansion space, causing some of the planks to lift.

How to get vinyl flooring to lay flat

Instead of having to fix lifted vinyl planks every time the problem occurs, you can avoid the problem altogether by taking various measures to ensure the flooring lays flat. These include leveling the subfloor before installation, leaving an expansion gap around the perimeter, avoiding dragging stuff across the floor, using premium-quality glue, and installing window treatments.

How to get vinyl flooring to lay flat

Level the Subfloor

Before installing vinyl plank flooring, ensure your subfloor is smooth and even. You can use thinset to fill out any dips on your concrete subfloor. Once it cures and the floor is flat and smooth, you can now lay your LVP flooring.

Leave an Expansion Gap

When installing your plastic vinyl planks, cut the edge planks to ensure there’s a ¼-inch gap around the perimeter. That’s enough room to allow for free expansion of the planks without any buckling/lifting.

Use a Premium-Quality Glue

High-quality vinyl adhesives are less likely to lose their bonding power when exposed to moisture. Also, after applying adhesive, allow it enough time to set. This will enable it to form the most secure bond.

Install Window Treatments

You can also prevent buckling by installing window treatments to filter out the sun’s rays. Examples of effective sunlight screens include glass tints, thermal curtains, and UV films.

Does vinyl plank flooring move?

Another common vinyl plank floor problem is shifting/moving planks. For glue-down vinyl, this usually occurs due to heat/exposure to sunlight. As heat from the sun causes the adhesive to become weaker, the planks become free and start to move out of position. You’ll occasionally feel such planks move as you walk on the vinyl floor.

Floating floors like loose lay or click-lock vinyl floors are also more likely to move if you have underlayment installed. As one walks over the surface, the underlayment padding is compressed, causing the planks to move.

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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