The Reason Your Vinyl Plank Floors are Buckling (and What to Do About It)

The Reason your Vinyl Planks are Buckling

It goes without saying that whenever you finally make the upgrade to vinyl plank floors, you don’t want to see it falling into disrepair anytime soon. After all, that’s a significant investment, especially with some luxury options so popular these days! But even the best of the best can start showing wear and tear for various reasons, and some will even begin buckling despite remaining a relatively new addition to your home. Why does this happen, though, and how are you supposed to go about fixing it? Continue reading because we’ve got you covered. 

What Causes Vinyl Plank Buckling?

Vinyl plank flooring is a rather hearty option that gives you great looks, comfortability, and a certain amount of durability found lacking in other floor choices. Yet buckling and its resulting hills and dips in what should be your perfectly level surfaces is relatively common. Part of this is because there are just so many things that can contribute to the issue. While not an exhaustive list, some of the most typical causes for your vinyl plank woes include:

Exposure to Increased Heat or Sunlight

Do you know how your hands will sometimes swell up a bit in the summer? Well, our floors do their own version of this, expanding and contracting as temperatures shift and sunlight changes between practically nonexistent in the dreary winter months to overly plentiful in the hot, sunny months of summer. The warmer and brighter it is, the more your vinyl plank material will expand, eventually forcing the planks up from their original positioning and releasing the glue on any self-adhesive versions. The good news is, you’re not out of luck, there are ways to protect your vinyl planks from heat and sunlight.

Lack of Caution When Moving Objects

While high amounts of direct sunlight and hotter temps can both truly do a number on your beautiful vinyl plank floors, there are other explanations for why your boards/tiles are starting to resemble a wavy potato chip or a sinking ship. One of these is entirely controllable: a lack of carefulness when moving furniture/other heavy things around. 

Any kind of dragging motion can cause the object you’re moving to catch on the vinyl plank edges, potentially making them lift or loosening any glue that’s keeping them where they belong, which will ultimately hurt their longevity just the same. So, try your best to always lift rather than drag. It’ll reduce buckling and also prevent scuff marks. 

Higher than Normal Levels of Humidity and Moisture 

Several damaging influences cause buckling, yet perhaps none are more common than too much moisture. Like you’d expect, it is the natural enemy of our floors, weakening the glue that holds down the planks, thus allowing them to move out of position. It’s a massive problem for those with concrete subfloors, thanks to its natural and moisture-emitting properties, and often requires a multi-approach solution to fix the issue. 

Underlayment with an attached vapor barrier can easily prevent damage from moisture. QuietWalk Luxury Vinyl underlayment comes with an attached moisture barrier to protect your flooring from moisture-emitting concrete floors. However, all underlayments with attached vapor barriers have their limits. If your concrete subfloor emits substantial amounts of moisture, installing a 6-mil vapor barrier directly over the subfloor is best. We recommend performing a calcium chloride test to find the amount of moisture your concrete is emitting. 

How to Perform a Calcium Chloride Test

No Expansion Gap Created During Installation 

Vinyl plank flooring doesn’t seem incredibly complicated at first glance, and you’d be right. Of all the popular choices on the market, it’s undoubtedly one of the easier ones to install and repair should any damage (including buckling) occur. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t knowledge required to do it right. Vinyl has its particularities and needs like anything else. 

For example, it needs a small expansion gap between its edges and the wall. The gap leaves space for that expansion and contraction we mentioned before. Skip this crucial step, and you’re bound to run into some buckling sooner rather than later, the planks having nowhere to spread out as they heat. It’s also a step you can’t come back from unless you want to redo the floors throughout your entire home. Translation: do your homework before installation. Do it right the first time, and you can kick back and enjoy your beautiful, fully intact floors for far longer. 

How to Fix Your Vinyl Plank Floors

Now that we’re all completely clear on the fact vinyl plank floors need to be repaired and repaired fast once any buckling crops up, you’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to fix them anyway. It’s pretty straightforward, and you have a couple of options here. 

There are two ways you can go about this: with glue and with loose-lay flooring. However, both largely revolve around the same thing, which is removing the damaged section of your vinyl plank flooring and replacing it with new matching pieces of vinyl. That means there isn’t necessarily one method that’s inherently better than the other. Using glue and loose-lay flooring are both super simple. Just pick whatever you prefer. Although do be warned – the glue option can get a little messy. If you’re opposed to that, perhaps stay away from opting for glue. 

For those who don’t mind this, you’ll start fixing up your vinyl floor by cutting out an appropriate piece of vinyl to act as a replacement. This doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make sure it’s a little bigger than the piece that’s damaged. Then, carefully cut out what you’re looking to fix, place some foil on the spot, and heat it with a hairdryer to soften any leftover adhesive. 

Scrape this off, apply a healthy new layer of glue, and press down your replacement vinyl. Some extra adhesive seeping out? No worries. Wipe it off, lay something heavy down on the new vinyl to secure it, and leave it there to set for a while. Once it’s completely dry, your job is officially done, and your beloved vinyl plank floors are practically as good as new. And for the good folks set on not using glue? Do the same thing minus the sticky adhesive, simply securing the vinyl with a rubber mallet instead. 

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