Homeowners today have installed vinyl flooring in any room you can imagine, and it’s not unusual to find this product used on outdoor patios or recreational vehicles as well. One area that’s always proved difficult, however, are staircases which can challenge even the handiest of homeowners. We’re going to talk about the best way to install vinyl plank flooring in this guide along with a few alternative floor coverings designed for stairs.
Think about your staircase...
You may walk up and down the stairs in your home on a daily basis, but have you stopped to think about how they are designed? When installing vinyl plank flooring on stairs, there are three parts to keep in mind.
The tread is the board that goes across the top of each stair, and can also be the widest depending on the size of the staircase. On the front of each stair are risers that are vertical and cover the front of each stair. Stair nosing also receives heavy foot traffic and is found across the edge of the tread and top of the riser.
If your stairs are hardwood, you may not want to cover them with the adhesive needed for vinyl flooring on stairs, so consider any future plans. Spindles, stringer fascia, and shoe mouliding should also be taken into account beforehand along with pre-cut planks designed for stairways.
Manufactured Treads and Risers
The goal of our guide is to tell you the proper way to lay down vinyl flooring on stairs, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best option for every homeowner. Using boxed vinyl flooring has several advantages as it provides an unlimited palette of styles and is considerably cheaper in most cases. With that in mind, some vinyl flooring manufacturers produce pre-cut vinyl pieces that you can simply glue down in place.
One of the most recognizable names in this area would be Shaw, who has a product called Treadz. It’s designed to match with the company’s Floorte and Floorte Pro vinyl flooring but will work on any stairs that have been properly prepped. While they are incredibly easy to install, each piece only includes the tread and nosing – not the riser.
Another company with matching stair treads is Mannington with SimpleStairs. This is another tread cover designed to fit over the top of each tread along with the nose. They match their Foundation and REALTA SPC vinyl collections, which means they are durable, scratch-resistant, and 100% waterproof. Not all brands will have coordinating pieces, but the ones that do may match your existing floor or make life easier from an installation standpoint.
If you’re not trying to find an exact match, but still want something simple there are a number of products available online and through home improvement stores as well. Cap A Tread is one of the more popular options from Home Depot, although there are vinyl risers and treads from well over a dozen companies.
How to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring on Stairs
When you plan to install traditional plank flooring on a staircase, the first thing to remember before making a tool list are drying times. The stairs in your home will essentially be “out of order” until this project is complete, which could take 24 hours or longer.
If your stairs are carpeted, you’ll need to remove the carpet and prep the surface beforehand. This could include a light sanding or trimming on the nose but is usually minor and nothing homeowners can’t handle. You can lay vinyl plank flooring directly on top of other hard surfaces that are fixed or nailed into place but may ruin the surface below with the adhesives used for the treads or risers.
Tools required to Install Vinyl on Stairs
The number of tools required to install vinyl planks on stairwells is minimal, but there’s one thing that will speed up the job and help homeowners that are new to this type of project. It’s called a stair tread template and can provide you with perfect measurements which ensure a clean fit on short or long stairs.
For measuring, we also recommend picking up a speed square and a good tape measure if you don’t have one lying around the house. You’ll need something to cut vinyl with as well which is surprisingly simple given the right tools. Laminate and vinyl are similar in construction, and while vinyl is thinner, it’s still cut with a powered saw.
Circular saws are the cheapest way to cut vinyl plank flooring, and we’re fans of these tools for their versatility around the house. Floor cutters are an option as well, however, and can be used indoors with no electricity and they do not leave sawdust behind. Adhesive is also required for vinyl plank flooring on stairs, and can actually be the most challenging thing for homeowners to wrap their heads around.
From liquid nails to adhesive caulk, there is no shortage of options when it comes to adhesive for vinyl flooring. While you need a spreader to apply the product in some cases, you should always check the manufacturers’ recommendation for adhesives beforehand. Products like Roberts 7530 mixture are ideal for LVP or WPC vinyl plank flooring, but not the only option.
Gorilla Glue construction adhesive
Products like Gorilla Glue construction adhesive will work, and there are a number of colored and clear caulks to fill in any gaps. You’ll need a caulk gun for most of these products, and It’s still a good idea to check with the manufacturer of the vinyl flooring you plan to use for the best recommendation on an adhesive.
Installing Vinyl Click Lock Plank Flooring on Stairs
If the stairs you plan to install vinyl on have nosing built in, you’ll need to adjust that in one of two ways. You can cut the extra overhang off the tread which will require a jigsaw or oscillating multi-tool. You can also cut and glue a thin sheet of plywood over the riser to give you a flush finish. While more expensive, it can be easier than cutting the nose off a long flight of stairs.
When installing click lock vinyl plank flooring across stairs, it’s recommended to begin at the top and work your way towards the bottom as you’ll need to let the vinyl dry before stepping on it. You also need to ensure the steps are completely free of debris before you start the installation and any major damage or humps have been addressed.
Installing Vinyl Plank Risers
To install vinyl across the risers on stairs, you’ll need to measure the length and height of the riser. With a tape measure or stair tread template, measure the distance across the front of the existing riser and then measure the height.
At your workstation, take the carpenter square and mark a straight line across the back of the plank – not the front. Use the saw or flooring cutter to cut the plank, get your adhesive and head back to the stair where it will be installed.
Before applying adhesive to the back of the plank, place it on the riser and make sure it’s a good fit that will line up as needed with the tread. When satisfied, spread adhesive across the back of the plank in an “S” like pattern and firmly press it into place on the riser.
Depending on the stairs and the thickness of vinyl used, you may have to use small nails or screws to hold the plank in place until the adhesive dries. In this case, place them near the edges where they can be covered by nosing, stringer fascia, or caulk. Repeat his process for each stair to ensure the measurements are correct from top to bottom.
Installing Vinyl Treads and Nosing on Stairs
The process behind installing vinyl treads on stairs is also straightforward. Again, you will need to start at the top and work your way down, measuring each tread individually as you go. The key with treads lies with the outer edge, which has to be exact.
If the new vinyl stair tread hangs over too far, it can affect the installation of nosings on the stairs. This is another area where you need to retrofit the board before gluing it in place. If it’s too short, you could end up with a gap while a stair tread that’s too wide will overlap the riser. Remember to always account for the stair nose when measuring the depth of each tread on a staircase.
In the case of wide stairs that are wider than the boards you purchased, you’ll need to make a rip cut and connect the two pieces. We’ve discussed this cut in numerous guides, and it’s something you’ll need a circular saw to accomplish. When ripping LVP, pay attention to the click-lock mechanism and the overall measurements to ensure a tight, seamless fit.
For a stair nose, you need to cut the piece of trim to fit, spread adhesive across the back, and press it firmly into place. While you can use finish nails along the edge of risers and treads, nosing is thin pieces, so fasteners of any kind are not recommended. For stair nosing that needs a shim; nail or screw it down flush across the edge of the stair before adding the nosing.
Q: How much does it cost to have a professional install vinyl flooring on stairs?
A: You can expect to pay anywhere between $300 to over $1,000 as that depends on the number of stairs and factors like the location can play a part as well.
Q: Can sheet vinyl flooring be used on stairs?
A: While we have seen homeowners cut and piece sheet vinyl onto staircases, it’s not as durable or ideal for the treads.
Q: Is linoleum better than vinyl on stairs?
A: In our experience, vinyl flooring is easier to install and comes in a wider variety of patterns and styles compared to linoleum.
Q: How do I install peel and stick vinyl tiles or planks on stairs?
A: With any peel and stick flooring, you simply need to follow the directions on the back of the package and will use a utility knife, instead of a saw for cuts.
Q: Is it safe to use vinyl flooring on stairs?
A: Yes, and it’s one of the more popular alternatives for staircase makeovers. Just choose vinyl flooring with a textured surface for a bit of extra grip. You can also install a runner