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Which Direction To Install Vinyl Plank Flooring? – A Complete Guide

By Fortino Rosas / December 28, 2021 / 0 Comments

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Vinyl plank flooring is a popular floor cover for both residential and commercial applications. It’s a relatively easy floor type to install if you’re a DIY handyman, but some factors do need to be considered when deciding which direction to install vinyl plank flooring. 

When taking the vinyl planks out of the box in preparation for laying the floor, you may be wondering how essential it actually is to lay them in a certain direction. If you want to get a professional look that’s aesthetically appealing, though, laying the vinyl plank flooring in the right direction matters a great deal. 

When the vinyl planks are running in the right direction, the end result will be stunning, changing the look of the whole room. Knowing which direction to lay the vinyl planks also influences how you cut the floor tiles so you don’t end up wasting the planks you’ve bought for the project. 

To ensure your DIY project is a success, read on to find out what factors you need to consider when deciding on the direction when laying vinyl plank flooring. This way, you can sit back when installation of the vinyl planks is done and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!

What You Need To Know About Vinyl Plank Flooring

Before we start talking about which way vinyl plank flooring should run, let’s do a recap on this type of vinyl flooring. Vinyl flooring is made of synthetic materials, normally PVC,  with three to four layers. This type of floor cover is a popular alternative if you’re wanting to create a look similar to hardwood, tile, or stone flooring without forking out enormous amounts of dough for the real deal! floors. Vinyl planks come in various thicknesses with a textured appearance. Homeowners love vinyl flooring because it’s easier to clean and maintain than hardwood floors

Laying vinyl floor planks is an affordable way to improve the resale value of your home and it’s also one of the easiest floor covers to install if you’re planning to do the job yourself. Before you start installing the planks directly out of the box, though, let’s talk about which direction to lay vinyl plank flooring to get the best results. 

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Which Direction Should Vinyl Plank Flooring Be Laid?

The direction in which you run the vinyl planks will influence how your floor looks after installation. The direction the planks run will change the whole appearance of the room, in either a good or bad way! Consider the following factors when planning your vinyl plank flooring installation and rest assured that your room will look awesome once the job is done.

What is the Shape of the Room?

The layout of the vinyl planks will make a room seem bigger or smaller. This means you need to factor in the shape of the room and plan which direction the planks should be laid to give a room an expansive feel. When running vinyl planks parallel with the longest wall in the room, you’ll instantly give the smallest room a feel of being bigger than it actually is. 

Narrow spaces such as a hallway or a long kitchen could benefit from vinyl planks running widthwise instead of lengthwise along the wall. By choosing this direction, you can avoid accentuating the thinness of such a room space and instead, create an impression of wideness. If the room has angled walls, you’ll get the best visual appeal by running the planks diagonally.  

Run flooring perpendicular to front door
Run flooring perpendicular to front door
Run flooring perpendicular to front door
Don’t run flooring parallel to front door

Consider Adjoining Rooms

If you’re planning to lay vinyl planks in one room, take into consideration adjoining rooms. This could be the passage onto which a bedroom leads or the living room transitioning to the dining area. It’s essential to note that the wider the transition between two rooms, the more a mismatch will stand out if the planks are laid in the wrong direction. 

To create a feeling of openness, it’s recommended to run the vinyl planks in the same direction as the flooring in the adjoining room. This trick works well if both rooms are small. It also allows for a smoother transition from one room to another; however, if you want to make a distinction between the two rooms, laying the planks in the opposite direction will give you this impression. 

If the adjoining room is carpeted, you can decide which way to run the vinyl planks based on the room size and whether there are other factors influencing your decision such as angled walls and lighting. 

What Natural Lighting Does the Space Have?

The flow of natural lighting in a room will influence which direction you run the vinyl planks. The general rule of thumb, when laying any plank-type flooring, is to follow the same direction of lighting coming into the room. This rule doesn’t necessarily apply if you’re laying vinyl planks in a narrow or small space, but it is something to consider. 

If you’re laying vinyl plank flooring in a large area with big windows or glass doors that the sunlight is coming in through, go with the direction of the rays. This means running your planks towards the doors or windows so you can maximize on the flow of light, creating a visually appealing look in the room. 

Narrow spaces such as a hallway with little to no natural lighting or rooms with very little daylight coming in could benefit from vinyl planks being laid in interesting patterns. By laying the planks diagonally or using a herringbone pattern, you can create a space that’s aesthetically appealing. 

Are There Stairs?

If you have steps leading into the room in which you’re installing vinyl planks, you’ll need to decide if you’re going to lay the same flooring on the stairs. To create a seamless look, we recommend you lay the planks horizontally on the steps as well as in the room. 

The same principle applies if you have stairs leading up from the floor where you’re installing the vinyl planks. The planks will need to be laid horizontally both on the floor and on the steps. This gives the room a neat and uniform look. 

Consider Focal Points in the Room

The decision regarding which way you should lay vinyl plank flooring will also be influenced by focal points in the room. This could be a fireplace, the island in the kitchen, or a striking cabinet at the end of the room. Vinyl plank flooring should be running towards the focal point, giving a seamless flow for your eyes to follow while highlighting the main feature. 

If the same room has large windows or glass doors with an abundance of natural lighting coming into it, you’ll need to decide which feature to go with. Oftentimes, going with the flow of light has more impact than trying to highlight a feature such as a fireplace or piece of furniture with your flooring. 

diagonal kitchen flooring
Diagonal kitchen flooring

Highlighting Colors and Patterns of the Vinyl Planks

If you want to highlight the colors and patterns of the vinyl planks, you’ll need to consider lighting in the room. Once again, you can rely on natural lighting to draw out the colors and patterns of the vinyl plank flooring by running them with the light flow, but focal points could also bring out the textures of the floor as well as the shape of the room. 

Laying planks diagonally can enhance the colors and patterns of the planks as well as color of the walls, pieces of furniture, or the type of rugs used on the floor. 

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7 Tips to Laying Vinyl Plank Flooring in the Right Direction

When you’ve taken all of the above-mentioned factors into consideration, you may still be left with the question of which way to lay your vinyl plank floor. Perhaps the room has a focal point, large windows and steps all combined, making choosing the right direction a dilemma! Here are some tips to help you make a well-informed decision before you start installing your vinyl plank flooring. 

1. Take Your Time

Laying a new floor will enhance the appearance of your home when done properly. It’s important to not rush the process and to take your time when deciding which way your vinyl planks should run. A number of factors could influence your final decision and taking them all into consideration will help you decide how to install your planks.

When in doubt, speak to a professional floor installer who can advise on how you should proceed. 

2. Buy the Right Vinyl Planks for the Room

It helps to know all the factors BEFORE you buy the vinyl planks. By picking the right color and patterns for the specific room you’re planning to upgrade, you can be sure the overall look will be visually appealing. This also makes it easier to decide which direction to lay the vinyl planks if you want to emphasize the colors and patterns of the floor. 

Don’t discount the possibility of using subtle colors without designs when laying planks diagonally or in a herringbone pattern. 

3. Opt for a Patterned Layout

It’s normal to think all vinyl planks should be laid in one direction or another. But, you could also consider running the planks diagonally, which adds more dimension to the room with its 45-degree angles. The herringbone pattern is a classical parquet flooring design which adds elements of sophistication to a room. 

Another popular design used when laying vinyl planks is offset or running bond. This staggered pattern offsets half the length of a plank, giving the floor an interesting appearance while hiding any flaws at the same time. 

Patterned floor layout
Patterned floor layout

4. Draw Up a Floor Plan

Drawing up a floor plan will help you to visualize the final results of your vinyl plank floor. You’ll need to take the measurements of the room, factor in any angled walls, focal points, windows and doors as well as adjoining rooms in the floor plan. You’ll also need to include the expansion gaps along the walls.

Draw the planks going in both directions and decide which looks more appealing. You could also draw up a floor plan with the planks being laid in a patterned layout. Another benefit of doing this exercise is seeing how many planks need to be cut when using one direction or another. 

5. Have a Dry Run

If you really can’t make up your mind which direction is best for your vinyl plank flooring, have a dry run. This may seem like a time-consuming exercise but if you’re serious about creating the best look for your floor, it’s worth it. Experiment with the layout by laying the planks in various directions. 

Experiment with the layout
Experiment with the layout

A dry run works well if you’re deciding between running the planks towards a large window or to a focal point. You don’t have to cover the whole floor. Instead, lay a few planks heading towards the window to see if the lighting makes a difference to the flooring. Next, run some planks towards the focal point and decide if that has a bigger impact on the room as a whole. 

6. Take Photographs

If you’re doing a dry run, take photographs of the planks laid in one direction before swapping them into the other direction. Take another photograph of the alternative direction and compare the photos. By looking at the pictures, you may get a better sense of which direction is more attractive. 

If you’re following the flow of light, consider taking photos at different times of the day. This will help you see how the lighting influences the appearance of the planks, depending on the direction they’re laid. 

7. Go With the Direction That Appeals to You

While there are certain tricks of the trade you should follow when laying vinyl floor planks, following a certain direction doesn’t always have to be adhered to. If you really like the look of the vinyl planks running horizontally to large windows, there’s nothing stopping you. 

Going with the direction that appeals to you is often guided by your gut feeling as to what looks best for your room and its decor. Every person is different and what works best for you and your style is often the right answer when deciding which direction vinyl plank flooring should be laid. 

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FAQs

Does it matter which direction you lay vinyl plank flooring?

The direction in which you lay vinyl plank flooring can be influenced by factors such as natural lighting, the shape and size of the room, steps, and focal points. Laying vinyl floor planks in a certain direction can impact the feeling of the room and whether it feels busy or calm

However, if you prefer to run the planks in a certain direction that goes against the norm, it really doesn’t matter. The direction doesn’t impact the durability or performance of the vinyl planks. 


Which way do you lay vinyl plank flooring in multiple rooms?

When laying vinyl plank flooring in multiple rooms, floor installers recommend using the diagonal approach. This direction links all the multiple rooms, creating a spacious feel and look while giving them a modern appearance. Vinyl planks can also run in one direction throughout the house, giving the whole floor a seamless look while eliminating the need for transition strips


Can you install vinyl planks in both directions?

While most floor installers suggest running vinyl planks in one direction, parallel to the longest wall, you can lay this type of floor cover horizontally. This direction works well for steps, some hallways, and long rooms as well as larger spaces. 

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Final Thoughts

Vinyl floor planks are one of the most popular floorings used by DIYers when upgrading an existing floor in the house. This type of flooring is easy to install, simple to clean and maintain, and looks good in any room. You have a wide range of colors and patterns to pick from, making it easy to match your interior decor. 

If deciding which direction to install vinyl plank flooring is stressing you out, relax! Use our complete guide to help you make the right decision. This way, you can have peace of mind that your vinyl plank flooring is aesthetically appealing when the job is done.  

If you have any comments or first-hand experiences with which direction to install vinyl plank flooring, please post them below or share your pictures via our social media. 

About Fortino Rosas

Chief Floor Critic, 32 years of experience in flooring installation and sales

Fortino Rosas is an independent flooring contractor with 32 years of experience in residential and commercial flooring installation and sales. He joined the Floor Critics team to share his expertise with our readers. Fortino has acquired vast knowledge and skills in the areas of product selection, space planning, and installation. He has installed flooring in residential, government, and commercial office projects in the Midwest.

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