Peel and stick vinyl planks: my experience

Because of my nearly-new job, I needed home-office space in a hurry and without spending a lot. A few weeks ago I spotted some peel and stick vinyl planks at my local Lowe’s store, sold under the Style Selections brand and priced at 98 or 99 cents per square foot, so I picked some up. I also installed them in my entryway.

For the money, I think they’re very good. I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again.

peel and stick vinyl planks
These peel and stick vinyl planks have been in my entryway for about six years now. They’ve held up pretty well, especially given the cost and the low level of effort to install them.

The nice thing about self adhesive vinyl plank flooring, as opposed to tiles, is that you can get away with an occasional gap in them. I have real wood floors in several rooms, and believe me, those 50-year-old floors have an occasional gap too. If anything, a slight mistake makes the floor look a little more realistic. This forgiving nature is nice.

I’ve installed lots of vinyl squares too, and I find the planks easier to work with.

Dealing with repetition

I bought a box of roughcut oak and two boxes of golden oak. Mixing them up helped break up the repetition. Roughcut pieces look a bit faded and worn next to the goldens, but on my real wood floors, I have the same thing going on. Not every board took the stain uniformly, and after three families grew up in this house, some boards took more abuse than others.

One thing I wish I’d done is open up all of the boxes and sort the planks. Each box was prone to repeat one pattern that had a knothole in a particularly obvious place. If I’d sorted those particular planks out, it would have made mixing them up throughout the room much easier, and it would have let me work faster.

The golden oak boxes were heavier on the grains and lighter on the knots. That made them less prone to obvious repeats. The fewer repeats you have, the more natural and realistic the floor looks.

Installation tips

Having a floor roller really helps. It cost as much as a box of planks, but I use it more than I expected I would.

One thing I don’t regret doing is buying a quart of vinyl adhesive. I spread a thin layer with a 3″ paintbrush. Then when a line of it was dry enough to be tacky, I’d stick a row of planks down on it and then roll it. Then, once I had the whole floor down, I rolled the whole floor a couple of times in both directions to really help cinch the planks down.

Using the adhesive, I was able to lay 15-20 square feet per hour. I don’t think that’s a bad rate. I had little to no trouble getting my peel and stick wood planks to stick. If yours give you trouble, I have some tricks that will help, mostly involving heat. I tend to have more trouble with tiles than with planks when it comes to sticking, but different brands will behave differently.

You’ll probably get some adhesive on the surface after you put the planks down. I use a bit of ammonia to scrub it away. Using ammonia regularly isn’t a good idea on vinyl, but it’s fine for one-time adhesive removal, and it’s effective. Here’s more on removing excess adhesive.

And if you get a gap, here’s a fix for small gaps. Like I said, gaps in tile bother me more than gaps in planks, but if you get one that looks bad, it’s not hard to fix it. I’ve had good success with disguising the gaps and no issues with durability.

To get around door jambs or other obstacles, paper templates help. Here’s how to make them and use them to cut your planks.

Durability and longevity of peel and stick vinyl planks

Since I’m a landlord, I’ve put down several vinyl floors now, both in my house and in my rentals. The biggest problem I’ve seen with off-brand vinyl is the adhesive. The surface holds up fine, but the tiles shift around more than they should, or worse yet, come up at the corners. I had Armstrong tiles in my entryway from the late 1970s and they only started to fail a year ago. How do I know they were that old? I found bits of newspaper on their undersides.

I’m not sure these peel and stick vinyl planks will last 35 years, but the price was right. So far I’ve gotten six years out of them and they still look good. I think the low price and ease of installation made them a good value. Six years is a good run, and these aren’t running out of time yet.

Replacing individual peel and stick vinyl planks

I only have a single plank showing much wear. If it got too bad, it wouldn’t be difficult at all to replace single planks. Just heat up the plank with a heat gun or a hair dryer to reactivate the adhesive. Work a stiff metal putty knife into the gap between the plank and its neighbor until you peel up a corner. Once you get a corner lifted, gently pull up to avoid disturbing the neighboring planks. Slowly and carefully pull the tile up.

Consider masking off the edges of the adjacent tiles to protect them from the new adhesive. Brush down a little bit of vinyl adhesive into the void where you removed the old plank. Let the adhesive set up, which shouldn’t take more than an hour. Then stick down a new plank and roll it.

So far I’ve gotten six years out of my planks, which I think is pretty good.

Care and cleaning of peel and stick vinyl planks

Use a mild cleaner on the planks as necessary. Don’t use ammonia if you can avoid it, as ammonia will dry out the vinyl and make it brittle before its time. We rarely need to use anything more aggressive than vinegar on them. Dirt doesn’t stick to them all that well anyway. Frequently just spot cleaning with a damp cloth is all we need to keep it looking fine.

You can put Zep floor sealer on the vinyl planks to make them easier to clean. The acrylic finish will probably reduce wear on the vinyl,and it’s self-leveling. So about two times a year, after you clean the floor, apply a bit more of the floor sealer on top of what’s there and it will smooth out any scuffs in the finish and be good for another six months.

Vinyl is naturally water resistant but if moisture gets into the gap between them, however tiny the gap may be, eventually the moisture can cause a plank to lift. Using floor sealer helps protect those gaps and makes the whole floor more water resistant than it would be on its own.

The nice thing is, not only are these floors easy to install, they’re also easy to take care of.

Further reading

A few years after this project, someone asked me about using vinyl planks on walls. It’s a little different from using them on the floor, but definitely doable. They should last even longer on the wall than they do on the floor.

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