Fly Architecture

Soar through Design Realms, Explore Indoor and Outdoor Inspirations, and Beyond

What are Some Common Causes of Vinyl Plank Flooring Lifting?

Vinyl plank flooring is a popular option for many homeowners due to its affordability, long-lasting durability, and wide range of colors and styles. However, vinyl plank flooring can sometimes suffer from problems like warping or lifting—especially in areas prone to extreme temperature changes or moisture. Understanding what causes this problem helps homeowners take preventive steps to avoid the issue in the first place.

In this article, we will discuss some common causes of vinyl plank flooring lifting and what preventive measures can be taken:

Common Causes of Vinyl Plank Flooring Lifting

Vinyl plank flooring is a popular and affordable choice for many homeowners, but there are a few potential issues that can arise with its installation. One of the main issues is lifting, which can lead to buckling of the flooring and other related issues. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as improper installation, lack of acclimation, and moisture.

In order to properly address an issue with your vinyl plank flooring lifting, it’s important to understand the common causes:

  • Improper installation
  • Lack of acclimation
  • Moisture

Improper Installation

When vinyl plank flooring is not installed properly, it can cause problems such as lifting. First, the subfloor should be flat and have no bumps or hollows. If necessary, use a self-leveling compound to fill in any imperfections before installing the vinyl planks. The planks should also be cut to fit tightly around door frames, walls, and other obstacles in the room. Improperly spanned joints can lead to buckling or lifting of the flooring material due to moisture trapped between planks. Additionally, many manufacturers advise against using nails or glue to secure vinyl plank flooring. Too much adhesive can cause buckling and heaving over time as well as separation between planks if not applied correctly.

You should also inspect your existing subfloor before installation for signs of water damage such as rot or swelling caused by high humidity levels or flooding event that could compromise its integrity and make it more susceptible to heaving. Furthermore, areas with high foot traffic may require an underlayment layer on top of the subfloor to provide extra cushion and protection against wear and tear which can lead to lifting or warping of the boards over time.

Finally, proper ventilation is required on all levels so that air circulation throughout basement rooms prevents excessive moisture buildup under floors which can accelerate deterioration of materials causing them to lift prematurely if left unchecked.

Subfloor Moisture

Subfloor moisture is a frequent cause of vinyl plank flooring lifting. Subfloor moisture occurs when there is too much water exposed to the plywood or particle board under the flooring. Areas prone to high humidity are especially at risk, but exposure to water can also damage the subfloor over time, leading to weakened adhesion and lifting.

To check for moisture in the subfloor, use a moisture meter on all base boards and joints. If any readings exceed 15%, your floor should be resealed or replaced as soon as possible.

Other key areas affected by subfloor moisture are:

  • Rooms that are subject to flooding from rain or melting snow.
  • Bathrooms with consistently moist air.
  • Laundry rooms where clothes washers may leak during use.

These areas must have extra protection with a quality sealant such as an air barrier membrane or waterproof paint to further protect against subfloor damage and subsequent peeling of vinyl planks. Properly installed vapor barriers can also reduce the amount of water entering your flooring material’s construction—allowing them perform longer with increased risk of peeling and lifting problems due to water damage.

Poor Quality Adhesive

Poor quality adhesive is one of the most common causes of vinyl plank flooring lifting. The inexpensive glue used to install vinyl plank flooring often contains invisible chemical contaminants that are not easily seen by the naked eye. Over time, these contaminants can interact with the adhesive and cause it to break down, resulting in loose or detached planks. Additionally, low-grade adhesives may not contain proper curing agents, making them less resistant to heat or moisture and leading to flooring buckling or popping up.

It is always recommended to use professional-grade adhesive and follow manufacturer instructions when installing vinyl plank flooring. High-quality adhesives usually include UV-stable formulations, preventing them from breaking down over time due to exposure from sunlight. Additionally, top tier products come with a more comprehensive warranty coverage if any problems occur during installation or after years of use. Therefore, it is always important to check for certification when purchasing your adhesive and ensure that it meets industry standards for quality and strength.

Improper Expansion Gaps

One of the most common causes of vinyl plank flooring lifting is improper expansion gaps that were installed between every row of planks. Expansion gaps are a necessary part of any floating floor installation, allowing for the material to move freely within them when affected by temperatures and humidity changes throughout the year. Too small or omitted expansion gaps can cause rows of vinyl planks to expand and push up against each other, creating buckling and lifting along the length or width of your entire floor.

Most expansion gap requirements are listed by manufacturer in terms of lineal feet per hundred square feet, with many suggesting an amount that ranges from ¼ inch to 1 ⅓ inches for each 10 feet. When not specified, use an expansion gap wider than 1/4 inch for standard LVT/LVP installations.

How to Diagnose the Problem

Vinyl plank flooring can be a great and cost effective choice for your house. However, over time, the flooring can start to lift and buckle which can be an issue. Understanding the underlying causes of the lifting can be a key first step to addressing this issue and preventing it in the future.

This section will discuss some of the most common causes of vinyl plank flooring lifting, and how to diagnose and fix the problem:

Check the Subfloor

When vinyl plank flooring begins to show signs of lifting, it is important to identify and correct the underlying problem in order to prevent any further damage. The first step is to check the subfloor beneath your planks for signs of underlying issues.

In some cases, a weak or uneven subfloor may be the cause of your lifted vinyl planks, as this can cause instability and separation between the flooring material, adhesive and subfloor. In other cases, moisture or humidity may be present in high levels beneath the vinyl planks, which can also lead to standing water between the flooring and adhesives.

If your subfloor is weak or uneven, you can use scissors or a utility knife to trim any jagged edges that stick out from beneath your planks before adding adhesive and flattening it with a weight or other heavy object. If water has built up beneath your flooring material, it may be necessary to dry out the area prior to applying any adhesives.

Check the Adhesive

If your vinyl plank flooring is lifting, there can be a few different causes that need to be diagnosed. A comprehensive inspection of the flooring system beneath the visible layers should be completed to determine the cause and ascertain the best solution.

The first step when diagnosing a lifting issue with vinyl plank flooring is to check the adhesive. The adhesive layer must have been installed correctly in order for it to hold all of the planks and tiles together, and any issue with it can cause your vinyl plank flooring to lift up in places. If you’re having trouble determining whether or not there was an issue with installation, an experienced professional can help by providing an expert opinion on what might have gone wrong.

When you look at the adhesive layer after removing a lifted piece of vinyl flooring, examine it close-up for signs such as discoloration, liquid residues or damage from moisture exposure. These could indicate that water or chemicals seeped through from above, which weakened the adhesion and caused your vinyl plank flooring to start lifting up. Another possible cause for lifting is not properly preparing your subfloor before beginning installation – make sure that all surfaces were fully cleaned and free from any dirt or debris before laying down new vinyl planks floors. Finally, if you discover that there was an incorrect amount of adhesion used during installation – too little or too much – this could also lead to problems with loose tiles in certain areas.

Check the Expansion Gaps

One of the most common causes for vinyl plank flooring lifting and losing its adhesive is insufficient expansion. Expansion gaps are included around the edges of a room during installation to allow for expansion due to temperature and moisture changes. If these expansion gaps are not observed, then the vinyl planks can be forced up from the subfloor as it expands, especially during summer months or humid conditions.

Vinyl plank flooring manufacturers require that an expansion gap of at least 4 millimeters remain around the perimeter and any breaks in the floor larger than 6 feet by 6 feet.

It is important to check that all expansion gaps have been properly filled with spacers placed every 6-10 feet within the field installation of your vinyl planks. Use a ruler or tape measure to measure out these distances and verify that no part of your vinyl planks have overlapped with an adjacent piece which could impede their ability to expand freely. If you find overlapping pieces, it can be remedied by cutting away either piece back to its full required width of 4mm with a sharp utility knife. Additionally, inspect any thresholds or transition pieces between rooms and make sure they are properly closed allowing no air gaps in a same manner as mentioned above. Any voids found here should be filled with compatible caulking or expanding foam prior to reinstalling any quarter round if necessary for aesthetics purposes at end of job completion.

How to Fix Vinyl Plank Flooring That is Lifting

Vinyl plank flooring offers a simple and affordable way to makeover a room with minimal effort. However, if your flooring is lifting, then it can create an unsightly and potentially dangerous situation for you and your family.

In this article, we will cover some of the most common causes of vinyl plank flooring lifting, and provide you with some tips on how to fix the issue:

Replace the Affected Planks

If the vinyl plank flooring has lifted in only one or a few planks, replacing these few affected planks should be sufficient to resolve the issue. Examine each affected plank closely to make sure they need replacement. The lifting may be due to other issues such as improper installation, poor adhesive or even moisture issues.

If there is no blockage that is affecting the adhesive bonding the vinyl to the subfloor and there are no signs of damage – then you may be able to re-stick or glue down the planks. Make sure that any surface contaminants such as dust, oil, wax or grease are removed with a mild detergent and that it is completely dry before you attempt to re-stick down any loose planks.

Use a solvent-free vinyl tile adhesive specifically designed for this task and ensure that you use an adequate amount of adhesive when laying down new tiles. If there are any gaps between plates, these should also be filled with a suitable tile filler thereafter covered with another layer of adhesive if necessary. Once complete, press down firmly on each plank for several moments until it sticks and leave for 24 hours for full adhesion as per manufacturer instructions before walking on it again.

Re-Adhere the Planks

Re-adhering the planks is a cost effective fix, but it requires that at least one side of the lifted floor can still be attached. In cases of severe lifting, this may not be possible. If you are able to repair the damaged vinyl planks by re-adhering them, use an appropriate adhesive for vinyl for best results. However, avoid using products labeled as carpet adhesive or mastic; these products do not work well with vinyl and will cause further damage to the flooring.

When applying the adhesive, cover all surfaces of the joint that need to remain secure in order to avoid any further issues after installation. It is important to note that excessive adhesives should be avoided as this could restrict expansion and contraction due to moisture and temperature changes in different seasons. Use a notched trowel to ensure even coverage around each end of each plank and allow sufficient time for drying before walking on the floor or replacing furniture over it.

Use a Moisture Barrier

In addition to using glue or seam tape, using a moisture barrier can help prevent moisture from seeping up into your vinyl plank flooring. A moisture barrier is composed of a thin foam that should be placed directly over the entire subfloor before the vinyl planks are installed. It provides a cushioning surface, adds insulation, and shields the existing floorboards from excess moisture that could cause them to swell and loosen.

In some instances, moisture can still seep up through crevices between adjacent boards of the subfloor. If this occurs, a vapor retarder should also be applied as it acts as an additional line of defense to stop water from entering your vinyl plank flooring. Vapor retarders are generally composed of tar paper or heavy plastic sheets that should be applied in one layer directly on top of the foam padding. This can help protect your floor and reduce how often you may need repairs in the future due to mobility issues with your floors.

Install Expansion Gaps

Expansion gaps are extremely important when installing vinyl plank flooring, especially in large spaces. If you don’t leave adequate space at the edges of your subfloor – 1/8 – 1/4 inch for every extra 8 feet of flooring – then your floor won’t be able to expand and contract as needed due to temperature and humidity changes. As a result, the vinyl will start to buckle, which can cause the edges or even the entire planks to lift.

To fix this issue, you’ll need to:

  • Use a recip saw or jigsaw to cut out enough of each plank edge along its entire length in order to create an expansion gap on all sides of the room – 1/4 – 3/8 inch is usually enough.
  • Pry off any lifts using a putty knife or another prying tool like a crowbar.
  • Add an appropriate self-leveling compound over any buckling.
  • Re-install your planks starting with the longest straight wall first.


In conclusion, there are many possible causes of vinyl plank flooring lifting, ranging from environmental and environmental factors such as humidity and temperature to underlying structural issues. While some causes of lifting may be repaired with adhesive solutions, others may require professional inspection and repair. Be sure to consult with a professional regarding any developing lifting issues for your flooring before further damage occurs.