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Do Vinyl Tiles Need Expansion Gap?

Vinyl flooring, whether in plank form or tile form, is currently the fastest-growing floor type on the market. Relatively easy to install, whether it requires an expansion gap or not is determined by whether it is a stick-on or a floating type of floor.

Stick-on vinyl tiles, being the type that is stuck directly onto the subfloor with adhesive, do not require an expansion gap. A floating type of vinyl floor, which involves tiles that click directly into each other, requires an expansion gap around the outside perimeter of the room.

What type of vinyl flooring is used determines how it must be installed, and it is essential to understand the requirements of this type of floor before embarking on any installation on your own.

Do Vinyl Tiles Need an Expansion Gap?

Stick-down vinyl tiling, also referred to as peel and stick flooring, is a type of flooring that makes use of individual tiles, or planks, which are stuck directly onto the subfloor using adhesives. Because these tiles are stuck directly onto the subfloor, there is no need to have an expansion gap around the external perimeter of the room. These tiles do not expand and contract independently of the subfloor to which they are attached.

If there were an expansion gap left for this type of flooring, the individual tiles themselves would start to shift towards the expansion gap. This would result in unsightly gaps in the flooring, which would not only be displeasing to the eye, but would also lead to an accumulation of dirt and dust in these spaces.

Floating vinyl floor, however, works differently. This type of floor is not connected to the subfloor, but each tile is connected to the next tile via a tongue and groove system. In order to prevent buckling and rising of the tiles, a ¼ inch expansion gap should be left around the entire external perimeter of the room. 

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This allows for the entire floor to expand and contract into this space without causing any disturbances to the floor itself.

Another type of vinyl floor tile makes use of an adhesive on the edge of each tile, which sticks onto the next tile. This type of flooring requires an expansion gap, too, as it is also a floating type of floor.

How Large an Expansion Gap is Needed for a Vinyl Floor?

The expansion gap is needed to allow for expansion of the floor due to humidity as well as changes in temperature. This expansion gap needs to be around ¼ inch in order to ensure that the floor does not buckle or warp at any point.

The expansion gap is hidden by the skirting boards, which are reinstalled after the floor has been installed. A half-round can also be nailed into place to ensure the floor is secure and the expansion joint is invisible. It is essential, however, that this half round is fixed to the subfloor/skirting and not to the vinyl floor, as this fixture will prevent the floor from being able to move and expand when necessary.

Stick-down Versus Floating Vinyl Floor

There are several advantages and disadvantages to each type of floor.

The first factor to consider is cost. Glue-down vinyl floors are often cheaper than the floating options, but additional materials are usually required in this type of installation. 

Because the floors are glued into place, it is often preferable to bring in a professional to complete the installation. This can bring with it an additional cost.

Floating floors, due to their click/ tongue-and-groove systems, are a simpler option when it comes to installing the floor on your own. Their ease of use allows for individuals to complete the installation without the need to hire any professionals.

Durability is another major factor to consider when choosing which type of vinyl floor to install. Because floating floors are not attached to the subfloor, there is a chance that individual tiles could begin to lift in high-traffic areas. In this instance, glue-down floors may be preferable as they will be more durable in areas with high foot traffic.

Repairs may become necessary at a point, and this is often easier with the glue-down option. In this case, individual tiles can be lifted and replaced. With the floating vinyl option, because the tiles are all interlocking, the whole section may have to be lifted up to the point where the floor meets the wall in order to replace tiles or make repairs.

Are Transition Strips Necessary?

Transition strips are a necessary component of vinyl flooring where two different floor finishes meet. This could occur, for example, if a bedroom has carpeting, and the hall alongside is going to be finished with vinyl tiles. The transition strip will create a neat joint between the two floor types, and can also help to assist in the transition between two slightly differing floor levels.

These transition strips are manufactured to match the flooring type, and attach to a molding track which is usually supplied. This molding track is essentially a u-shaped metal strip that attaches to the subfloor. The transition strip then clicks into place in this molding track, hiding the gap between the two floor types.

How to Create an Expansion Gap

In order to create an expansion gap for the installation of floating vinyl floors, it is important to make use of spacers. Spacers can be purchased at home improvement stores where the flooring itself is purchased. These spacers are placed between the wall and the newly installed floor throughout the process of installation, ensuring that the new floors remain precisely in place during this process. Once installation is complete, the spacers are removed, and the baseboards and half-rounds are installed to ensure the floor remains in place.

How to Fix Glue Which Comes Up Between Tiles

When installing glue-down vinyl tiles, an issue can occur where glue seeps up from between the tiles and creates unsightly markings on the surface of the tiles. This glue creates discoloration on the tile while also attracting dirt.

To avoid this occurring in the first place, it is advisable to use a thin layer of adhesive, and waiting until it becomes translucent and tacky before attempting to apply the tile.

If the glue still somehow seeps up between the tiles, it is advisable to wait a few days for the glue to dry. Thereafter, scrub the glue with ammonia, and you should be able to eliminate all of the excess glue.


Overall, the need for an expansion gap in vinyl flooring is determined by the type of vinyl flooring, and it is important to understand which type of flooring is best for your individual needs before making your decision.