Does Vinyl Flooring Expand & Contract?

Does Vinyl Flooring Expand & Contract?

Vinyl flooring is known for its style, affordability, and versatility. Luxury vinyl floors can also last for a long time, upwards of 10 years in some cases. While these might be the main reasons to have it in your home, there are certain things you need to know about this flooring type. One of the most common questions we receive is: does vinyl flooring expand & contract? Keep reading below to find out the exact answer to this query and other queries related to this frequently asked question.

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Does Vinyl Flooring Expand and Contract?

Normally, vinyl plank flooring does fractionally expand and contract. When new vinyl flooring accommodates its new home, it usually slightly expands or contracts depending on the conditions. Hence why, most vinyl flooring products have a recommended acclimation period of 48 hours. 

Now you know that it’s normal for vinyl flooring to slightly expand or contract during the acclimation period. But what about the more evident cases of expansion or contraction? 

In some cases, vinyl flooring can drastically expand and contract, making the flooring pop out of place or create gaps between where the planks join, totally ruining your floor. Severe vinyl plank expansion or contraction is typically caused by four main culprits; drastic temperature fluctuations, prolonged contact with water, no acclimation period, and no expansion gaps during installation. Keep reading below for a detailed explanation of these four main culprits.

Leading Causes of Severe Expansion & Contraction in Luxury Vinyl Floors

It is a nightmare noticing holes in your newly installed vinyl plank floors. Even more of a nightmare when it starts popping out! You begin to wonder why you are experiencing such troubles right after installation. There are several reasons for drastic expansion or contraction. Here are some of the major causes:

Prolonged Contact With Water

Now, I know what you may be thinking, vinyl flooring is waterproof, right? Well, not completely. There’s a reason why vinyl plank flooring can’t be installed outdoors. Simply put, prolonged contact with water will make most vinyl floors expand or contract. 

For example, a water spillage left for a few days won’t affect lvp flooring. But installing vinyl flooring under shower heads, for example, is a big no-no. Vinyl flooring simply can’t handle the constant moisture. It can be installed in bathrooms, but not in wetrooms, under shower heads.

Additionally, moisture beneath the flooring leaves a big gap and compromises the integrity of the vinyl flooring. 

Drastic Temperature Changes

Vinyl flooring expansion and contraction can also result from cold and hot temperatures. It expands in hot temperatures and contracts when the weather gets colder. Persistent fluctuation in cold or hot will cause a gap issue on the vinyl flooring, or even worse; it might cause your floor to pop out.

To achieve a minimal reaction to expansion and contraction in the vinyl flooring, the temperature should be between 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

No Expansion Gaps

As mentioned before in this article, vinyl flooring will expand or shrink over time due to fluctuating temperatures, usually caused by weather seasons. Because of that, you need to leave expansion gaps where the vinyl floor meets the walls to allow for any long-term expansion. Most installers recommend a 12mm expansion gap. Failure to leave expansion gaps during installation can cause vinyl floor buckling or gaps to appear in between the planks.

No Acclimation Period

Although some vinyl plank products don’t need an acclimation period, most do. Luxury vinyl flooring will fractionally expand or contract in the first 48 hours of adaptation to its new home. Failing to acclimate the floor prior to installation can cause a disaster. Those fractional changes can lead to your floor popping out of place or large gaps in between the vinyl planks.

Heavy Furniture

Homeowners should take precautions when transporting large objects like furniture across the vinyl planks. Such activity can create a shift in the vinyl, thereby leaving gaps. It is safer to lift an object rather than drag it on the floor. 

Vinyl Flooring Expansion Gap
The expansion gap should be at least 12 mm wide.

Why Are Expansion Gaps So Important?

Expansion gaps can create sufficient relief for the pressure from the expansion. It will help prevent the expansion of the floating floor before it finds its way to a vertical, immovable obstruction like installed cabinets, supporting columns, and walls. It is essential to ensure that the expansion gaps are uniform when installed around the floor perimeter or any static obstruction. 

Expansion gaps prevent the peaked appearance or noticeable buckling. A typical expansion gap is between the immovable obstruction and outside the edge of the floor. A piece of trim molding helps to hide the gaps. In places like metal doorframes where the mold is not usable, color-coordinated silicone caulk fills the gap and ensures the floor is expanded into the floor when required. 

Does Luxury Vinyl Flooring Need To Acclimate?

How important is it to acclimate your vinyl flooring? Very. It is the pre-installation process of ensuring that the flooring gets used to the environment. Vinyl plank flooring is solid but possesses a porous core. Air gets into this core through tiny spaces, exposing the floor’s integrity to an alarming rate of humidity. The vinyl plans will shrink in low humidity and swell in high humidity. Cold weather makes it hard to work on the vinyl plank since it makes it brittle and stiff. 

Most luxury vinyl plank floors will need acclimation. The acclimation period depends solely on factors like temperature, humidity, geography, and floor materials. More importantly, you need to leave the luxury vinyl plank for 48 hours on the floor you intend to install them. Do this correctly by opening all the flooring boxes and laying them side by side (not on top of each other). The planks will have enough time to adjust to the room temperatures and humidity. 

Vinyl Flooring Installation
Floating installation doesn’t require adhesive or nails.

What is Luxury Vinyl Flooring Buckling?

Heat can be one of the reasons why the vinyl flooring is buckling. It usually happens in the areas of the house most exposed to sunlight. When the vinyl floor materials get warmer, there is slight shifting, causing expansion. When the vinyl floor is glue-down or self-stick, the adhesive bonding can be removed by extreme heat. It will cause a shift in the tiles. This problem is commonly associated with vinyl flooring that features a fiberglass inner layer. Moisture and dragging heavy objects over a loose lay flooring are other causes of vinyl floor buckling. Allowing water to increase under the flooring from most concrete subfloors will weaken the adhesive. 

How To Prevent Glue-Down Vinyl Floor Buckling

To prevent the buckling of the vinyl plank flooring, homeowners should adhere to the following instructions:

  • Use proper or top-quality adhesive for the glue-down installation process. Low-quality adhesive loosens quickly and can lead to buckling. 
  • Use a 100-pound roller to roll the floor. Do this after the glue-down vinyl plank flooring is laid. It will ensure that the adhesive and floorings are secured evenly to the subfloor.
  • Since sunlight and heat are responsible for buckling, this is essential to protect the areas directly exposed to it. You can use glass tint or UV film on the window to limit heat transfer. Thermal curtains will come in handy in protecting the section of the floor facing the windows.

How To Fill Gaps in Between Vinyl Planks

If your vinyl floor is showing gaps between the plank due to shrinking, filling them might save you from losing your beautiful vinyl flooring. First, you need to thoroughly sweep and mop the floor of any particles. An easy way of doing this is using a vacuum cleaner to get rid of unseen articles on the floor. Before you inspect the floor or any gap:

  1. Allow it to dry out completely for a minimum of 24 hours. You can use your finger to see if the space is dry.
  2. Use matching paint to cover the patches.
  3. Allow the floor to harden up and dry before you walk on it. 

Do You Need Spacers For Vinyl Flooring?

The answer to this question is yes. During installation, vinyl plank flooring needs spacers to ensure the accurate expansion gap between the obstacles and planks. Click-clock vinyl requires an expansion gap to expand and contract. Since it is a floating floor, it is essential to use spacers or shims along the wall perimeter. The spacers are usually needed to fill the gaps in between the baseboard. Do not move them when applying pressure to allow the floor to snap correctly. Spacers are easy to remove and also stay firm in place for the purpose it intends to serve. 

Need an Installation Pro?

Lots of our readers often complain that they can’t find flooring installers in their area. We suggest you try our free estimation tool to get at least three free quotes from qualified & approved installers in your area within 24 hours.

The tool is powered by Networx, who have been helping people find qualified flooring installers for over 20 years.

In a Nutshell

Vinyl flooring can certainly expand and contract for many reasons. Most of the time, the expansion or shrinkage is just fractional, but it can be severe in some cases. Taking preventative measures is a must. You should, most importantly, ensure to acclimate your floor properly and leave expansion gaps during installation. Thanks for reading.

Feel free to share any experiences you’ve had with flooring expansion or contraction or any helpful tips you have in the comment section at the bottom of the page.

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