This post shares 10 tips for LifeProof vinyl flooring installation over a concrete slab. We chose Sterling Oak and love the perfect gray/brown color.
IMPORTANT NOTE: In June 2022, I was interviewed by The Intercept for a piece: TOXIC TILES: How Vinyl Flooring Made With Uyghur Forced Labor Ends Up at Big Box Stores. While the Lifeproof style I installed does not appear to have a direct tie to the findings in the article, I recommend reading the piece before making a decision on what type of vinyl plank flooring to use. I was not privy to any of the research for this piece and was only interviewed for my reaction to the findings. Shopping ethically in late-stage capitalism sure is a challenge.
LifeProof Vinyl Flooring Installation
Hey guys, I’m back with a flooring update! My last update shared a comprehensive review of 10 different vinyl plank flooring options. I left you hanging with my top three choices, including the color we were considering.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might already haven already figured out that we went with the LifeProof Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring in Sterling Oak from Home Depot. And it looks absolutely lovely!
This isn’t going to necessarily be a full tutorial for installing LifeProof Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring because Home Depot’s instructions (both the ones that come with the flooring and the official installation video at the end of this post) do a great job. In theory, installation is pretty easy, but I did hit a few bumps. I want to share some tips so that you can avoid the headaches I had. All said, we are super happy with how the flooring looks!
How to Install LifeProof Vinyl Flooring
1. Calculate what you need (and then some).
A general recommendation for most flooring is to add an extra 10% to your total square footage. When I did that, I figure out how many boxes I’d need based on how many square feet each box covers. Then I added another box for good measure.
Keep the receipt. You can return it at your leisure if you don’t need it, but you’ll be thrown off if you need to run out and get another box while working. This is especially true if you need to special order your color.
2. Plan the layout down to the inch.
I sketched up a rough outline of my room and marked lengths and widths with inches. This will help you decide if you need to rip your first plank for a more balanced look or to avoid a wonky cut at the other side of the room. A little planning will save you a lot of headaches. Do this even if your room is a perfect rectangle.
LifeProof flooring also states that no piece should be shorter than 8 inches, so if you want to start length-wise with a full plank, make sure you won’t be stick at the end of the row with a plank under 8 inches. If you are, you’ll need to cut down the first plank to ensure there is room for a longer plank at the end.
3. Remove the baseboards.
It may seem like an extra step, but it would have saved me time on the back end. I opted not to removed our baseboards because they were in great shape. It seems unnecessary, and I knew I’d cover the required 1/4″ gap between the flooring and the walls with quarter round.
But this created some tricky spots under door jambs and on some corners. And, of course, I have to buy all the quarter round, measure and cut it, attached it, fill nail holes and caulk between the quarter round and baseboard, and paint it. (I mean, it looks awesome, but it was a huge pain.)
You can see a tricky spot I haven’t finished yet below and by the door:
4. Use a broom, a rubber mallet, a tapping block, and a piece of scrap wood.
I have seen many people who use a scrap piece of flooring to tap the pieces in to place. I wasn’t able to do that. A tapping block is super cheap—buy one! We found that it was much easier to get a tight seal when locking the planks in lengthwise when we lined a piece of scrap wood up along the back of the tapping block to get a bigger surface around to whack on.
I also re-swept each area before laying planks to ensure there was no loose dirt or chunks, especially that could get into the little locking grooves on the planks. Here’s a video example of what I mean:
5. Reviews claiming you can’t score-and-snap LifeProof Vinyl Flooring are FAKE NEWS.
So many of the reviews said you couldn’t score and snap this flooring. I was suspicious of these reviews because I didn’t think Home Depot would market this method so heavily if it were a lie. 🙂
We did use our Bosch Jigsaw for some of my trickier corner cuts, but that makes a real mess, so I would recommend scoring and snapping for every piece possible. I took a video to prove it works. Don’t be afraid of hurting the plank when snapping it, either. These things are tough (which is why we chose them!). Here’s the vid:
6. Save all of the pieces until you’re done.
Organize all cuts in to piles based on which end is cut in relation to the tongue and groove sides. You might be able to use them elsewhere in the room as you continue laying planks. I was able to do that quite a bit, which helped a lot with waste.
7. Take breaks. LifeProof Vinyl Flooring Installation can be a workout!
As much as I love to plow through projects, I needed breaks. I’m no weakling, but I don’t have the hands of a full-time tradeswoman. I took breaks when my hands started to hurt (typically the hand gripping the tapping block) and wore work gloves most of the time.
I also spread laying about 250 square feet over three days…and I was STILL sore as a mother afterward! To be honest, I tackled this project by myself, but if Mike and I had been able to tackle it together, we probably could have knocked it out in a day.
8. Know there’s a bit of a learning curve.
No lie, it took me about 2 hours to lay the first row. I may or may not have confused which side the tongue was and which side the groove was (OK BUT THE PART THAT STICKS OUT SHOULD BE THE TONGUE, NOT THE GROOVE!), and figuring out how to effectively lock the planks together took me a bit of time. After the first row, I was, as my dad would say, “shittin’ in tall grass now, jack.”
Also, no where in the instructions did I see anything about how you really shouldn’t remove planks to re-position them after you’ve locked them in. (You might be tempted to do this if you don’t get a super tight seam and want to try again.)
In a lot of cases, the critical ridges on the tongues and grooves broke off, meaning the piece couldn’t be locked in place. And it was useless! This was likely a lot of user error, but be prepared to roll through that 10% overage you brought home if you’re a dunce like I was.
9. Consider an oscillating multi-tool for door trim and jambs.
We bought the Dewalt cordless oscillating tool for this job because we already have the Dewalt battery packs for our drill and nail gun. At first I thought it was a little steep of a price for what we needed it for.
But I definitely would have died cutting the door jambs and trim by hand. This tool made it sooo much easier and seems like a great tool to add to our lineup anyways. Here’s a video:
10. Don’t be a hero.
Buy the knee pads, people. Especially if you’re laying over a concrete subfloor. I wore them for most of the time, and my knees still hurt like hell. If I were planning to install a lot of flooring and not just one room, I probably would have sprung for higher-quality knee pads, too.
Materials Used for our Installation:
- Contractor trash bags
- Utility knife
- Pliers to remove nails
- Hammer to pound down nails that break off
- Pry bar to pry up carpet tacks
- Stable work space
- Straight edge, we used an L-square
- Utility knife
- Measuring tape and marker
- Jigsaw for tricky cuts
- *Transition t-molding
- *Quarter round
- *2 1/2 pine plinths
- Finish nailer, we have the cordless Dewalt
- Paintable caulk, I used DAP Alex
- Paint to match trim
You can review all LifeProof Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring options on Home Depot’s website. (We used Sterling Oak.) I hope you found my installation tips helpful. Let me know if you undertake this project! We still have a few finishing touches in this space, but here are some shots of the room before and as it is now.
Want to check out some of the other DIYs in this space? So far, they include the DIY photo ledge shelving above the desk, the modern plywood planter with hairpin legs, the DIY cat house side table, the DIY murphy bed, and the toy box bench build by the window!