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A Complete Guide: How to Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring for the Best Results

April 17, 2023 7 min read

A Complete Guide: How to Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring for the Best Results

Thinking about new flooring? You will never go wrong by considering vinyl flooring, especially vinyl plank flooring. Whether you are after pomp aesthetics or simply gratifying durability, vinyl plank flooring offers endless delight. It is also super easy to install compared to solid hardwood, engineered wood and ceramic/porcelain tiles.

So, what exactly is vinyl plank flooring? Sometimes referred to as luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) or luxury vinyl plank flooring (LVP), vinyl plank flooring is characterized by long, narrow strips rather than the conventional square tile shape. As opposed to the typical flexible sheet vinyl, vinyl plank flooring boasts several layers that cater to both aesthetics and durability.

Installing vinyl plank flooring will instantly elevate your floor's style. But how do you leverage the full extent of its appeal? The trick lies in properly staggering the planks.

This guide will give you a good grip on the staggering technique to create the most stunning floors for your space. You will also discover ways to save money using some of the inexpensive wholesale vinyl flooring options there are to choose from.

Read on to uncover more professional tips on staggering your vinyl plank flooring.

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Why Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Vinyl plank flooring perfectly blends the powerful trio of good looks, easy installation and inexpensive pricing. Beyond these three, what more could a conscious DIYer be looking for?

luxury vinyl flooring

Vinyl plank flooring presents one of the simplest do-it-yourself floor-covering projects. It takes zero effort to cut or trim and does not need to bond to the subfloor for a successful installation. The flooring easily snaps together from edge to edge and from end to end. This special attribute makes customizing the design a breeze.

Another money-saving feature of luxury vinyl is that it's waterproof. The flooring sits well in high-moisture areas like basements and bathrooms. Installation in a midsize room takes no more than a few hours.

How to Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring the Right Way

Vinyl planks typically come in only two standard sizes, so installing them right takes a keen understanding of the staggering technique.

Fortunately, we're here to enlighten you and hopefully turn you into an informed DIYer for head-turning flooring results. While the staggering process may prove daunting at first glance, our expert tips will simplify the process for you, so you can get your money's worth, enjoy the installation process and attain the desired outcome.

Whether you are after eco-friendly flooring or something a little more rigid to enliven your space, weaving a staggering effect into your installation will make all the difference. Regardless of the size of your floor, you can easily stagger the planks to your liking and end up with the most breathtaking customized look.

An important thing to always remember when staggering vinyl plank flooring is to adhere to the manufacturer's distance specification for the end joints. Do that right, and you will spare yourself tons of DIY flooring mistakes. Generally, for any adjacent plank rows, the end joints should be at least six inches apart for vinyl planks that are 2–3 inches wide. Planks wider than that can be spaced 8–10 inches apart.

Once you master the spacing specifications, plan ahead for the staggering. A fundamental part of that planning involves computing the number of vinyl planks you will require to achieve the staggered pattern you are after. Then, decide the best formula to mix up the planks for exactly that outcome.

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What Do You Need to Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring Properly?

What Do You Need to Stagger Vinyl Plank Flooring Properly?

Ready to start staggering planks? Here are the main tools and supplies you will need for a job well done:

  • Vinyl planks
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Spacers (1/4 inch)
  • Pencil
  • Mallet
  • T-squares
  • Safety gloves

Steps for Staggering Vinyl Planks Like a Pro

Armed with these tools, stagger your luxury vinyl carefully by following this guide:

1. Beware of Layout Mistakes to Avoid

During installation, place the vinyl planks randomly on the floor. Done right, random placement helps to avoid undesirable H-joints and step patterns.

H-joints reduce the variety in your flooring pattern, causing the floor to miss its intended aesthetic mark. In addition to ruining the look of the floor, H-joints also weaken the flooring's structural integrity. This raises the risk of loose planks, which may pop out of place and even start warping.

Another mistake to steer clear of in staggering is the formation of a step pattern. This pattern may arise when the plank spacing between two adjacent rows is replicated in the third row. In effect, this defeats the purpose of randomized staggering as you end up with a regular, predictable pattern instead.

2. Space the Planks Properly

As earlier mentioned, plank spacing is one of the fundamental aspects of properly executing vinyl plank staggering. The spacing we refer to here is the distance between the end joints of plank rows sitting next to each other. For correct spacing, the generally acceptable distance is about six inches. Of course, that will also depend on the plank size. 

Typically, a six-inch distance works well with planks measuring up to three inches. For wider planks, maximum spacing of 10 inches would be ideal. Keep in mind that allowing more than 10 inches of space increases the risk of H-joints forming!

Compute the Plank Quantity Required

3. Compute the Plank Quantity Required

Now, collect the measurements for precise installation. Your focus should be particularly on the room's length and width. Then, to find the total number of planks (or plank rows) to cover the entire floor, divide the width of the room by the width of the planks. This calculation will also aid you in determining the ideal size of the planks in the first and last row. You will need to maintain the same size for these two to achieve that much-needed professional-grade staggering.

That said, if you notice a mismatch between the first-row planks and the last-row planks, you will have to trim them appropriately for a precise alignment. If the last-row plank width is less than the rest of the planks, then to fit the staggering neatly, you will have to trim the first-row plank to match the size of the last-row plank.

home improvement flooring

4. Set the Stagger Spacing

Once the plank width calculations are out of the way, measure the plank lengths. It is from the plank lengths that you will correctly determine the staggered spacing. The staggered spacing is simply the minimum distance between the planks' endpoints. Measure the room's length, then divide that dimension by the full length of a plank.

If the answer you obtain exceeds the recommended six-inch staggered spacing, the first plank row will have to take up an entire plank. On the flip side, if the answer obtained is less than six inches, only a third of the entire plank will be needed for the first row.

5. Blend the Planks for Maximum Elegance

Now that the measurements are out of the way, it's time for the real staggering action. Carefully unbox the planks, and get creative with the different color shades. Blend them appropriately for a balanced appearance. This carries the most visual interest thanks to its natural flair.

6. Set the First Row

If you are certain your color psychology is sure to impress, let the plank installation begin. Grab your first plank board and gently trim off its tongue using your utility knife. Then, set the plank down, making sure the side without a tongue is facing the room's wall.

As a rule, when laying the first row of planks, ensure you leave a tiny space (about a quarter of an inch) between the planks and the wall. Since most flooring materials, such as vinyl planks, tend to expand and contract as humidity varies, this space or expansion gap will keep the planks from buckling.

After successfully installing the first plank, follow up with the rest of the planks in successive attachments until you cover the entire length of the room. Now, here comes the tricky part. If the last plank in your first row measures less than six inches, return to the first plank, and trim it slightly so that the last plank in the row can be longer than six inches. With that done, make sure not to discard the offcuts, as they might come in handy when starting the rows that follow.

7. Install the Second and Subsequent Rows

Start staggering the second row with the offcut plank from the first row. Carefully set it down, making sure its endpoint is at least six inches away from the nearest joint in the first row. Keenly observing this layout structure helps you to easily stagger the first two rows while setting the right pace for subsequent rows.

As you get to the tail end of the second row, you don't need any intricate modifications. Simply cut the plank to fit the space. However, unlike in the first instance, don't use the plank offcut in the next row to avoid creating a duplicate pattern with an undesirable stepped look.

So, for the third row, start the layout with a whole plank. Cut it to a desirable length making sure you maintain a six-inch minimum spacing from the nearest joint. While you're at it, steer clear of forming an H-joint.

From there, proceed to the fourth row, using the offcut plank from the second row. Then, use the offcut plank from the third row to begin the fifth row, and so on. For the sixth row, cut out a new plank. Keep alternating the pattern until the entire floor is neatly covered in luxury vinyl plank flooring.

Elevate Flooring Elegance With Staggered Vinyl Planks

Elevate Flooring Elegance With Staggered Vinyl Planks

Vinyl plank flooring is one of your best bets for glamorous floor appeal. Yet it only takes minimal skill, effort, time and money to install. Now that you have mastered staggering vinyl planks, you can start shopping for trusted, high-quality wholesale vinyl flooring that will give you the best results.

From eco-friendly SPC flooring to extra rigid FirmFit platinum flooring, the Wholesale Cabinet Supply Company has all your leading luxury flooring solutions under one roof.


Image Sources: 

Amnaj Khetsamtip/Shutterstock.com

twinlynx/Shutterstock.com

appleyayee/Shutterstock.com

StudioDin/Shutterstock.com

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