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Question DetailsAsked on 7/12/2016

Will vinyl laminate plank flooring stick to slightly uneven concrete floor?

I'm not sure if the floor is level or not. This is a diy project and I don't want to do any more than I have to. I am replacing the original carpet in the room. It is not a high traffic area. I want to put economical and easy to install flooring but with a good look.

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How well it sticks will be dependent on how rapid or sharp the changes in slope and level are - very smooth, gradual dips and rises that the plank can conform to, especially with very flexible material like with adhesive-back thin vinyl plank like Pergo makes, might well work fine as long as the dips and rises are not "sharp" - a lot of change in a short distance. A stiff product with significant thickness, especially if it has a significant resitance to bending like 3/4" or thicker hardwood or engineered wood, would not make contact at many of the low points so it would "bridge" over the low points and would be expected to be springy, not adhered well, and possibly make "slapping" or "snicking" sounds when those parts are walked on - and could eventually develop fatigue marks or "pregancy stretch marks" - streaky lighter-colored areas where it is bending, or even cause joints to pull apart or break off the interlocking elements.

You might be able to get a few strips of the type of product you are looking at cheap or even free from a flooring dealer (odd-lot leftovers from a job) and may them out on your floor - if they lay conformably on the surface without gaps underneath, or the gaps go away with VERY gentle pressing down on the flooring, will probably work OK. If it wants to bridge the low spots and takes more than just a touch (like maybe the weight of a roll of paper towels in the center of the low spot) to hold it down tight to the surface, then I would expect possible problems with it not bonding right or gradually peeling loose over time.

To check if planar (meaning a "flat" surface regardless of whether it is level or not) either get a very long level (6 foot or better yet 8 foot), or get an 8 foot boards like a 1x4 or 2x4 with a visually straight edge and lay it on edge a varying locations and orientations around the floor and loo to see how gradual the dips and rises are, and how extreme they are. You can also get a feel by just putting your head down sideways on the floor and looking along it - if it looks like long, smooth sweeping but shallow dips and rises of not more than about 1/8" over several feet or 1/4" or so over 4 or more feet or so might be fine with a somewhat flaxible vinyl - if it looks like sharp dips and rises like sand dunes or there is more than about 1/8-1/4" difference between low and high spots, probably an issue. (Note how "level" the floor is matters only for appearance, and walking ease if significantly sloped - but a planar or "flat" floor that is tilted from edge to edge would not affect the flooring itself - just general appearance and, with significant tilt, a funny feeling walking on it, like walking on a heeling boat deck.

Check out manufacturer website info on how far out of planar your floor can be and still work - some products like thin flexible pure vinyl strip and most sheet materials like sheet vinyl and linoleum can readily handle gently rolling out-of-plane conditions. One thing to consider, especially with plank, is it pretty clearly shows (especially in the "lay" or "long direction" of the planking) waves in the subfloor - makes them visually more obvious than with omnidirection pattern sheet flooring. Other alternatives would of course be carpet again - either roll or fitted pieces (since low traffic area), or even the fit-together flexible vinyl or carpet blocks which are basically just peel and stick.

OF course, the professional way to take care of both out-of-level and out-of-plane or eneven floors is with a self-levelling coat - of self-levelling grout in your case, after removing any existing paint coat and roughening and cleaning the surface as applicable for the product used. Not real hard to do on bare concrete as long as you take care to prep the surface properly, mix per instructions, and not paint yourself into a corner so you have to walk on the levelled surface to get out - that REALLY makes a mess, especially with the epoxy-modified levelling compounds.


One MAJOR thing to consider - predominately if this is a slab-on-grade or basement slab - the existing carpet may have adequately handled any moisture coming up from the concrete fine till now, dissipating the moisture (which can be as much as 5-10 gallons per DAY) into the air. Or maybe it did not and you will be hitting a bit of a mold or mildew farm when you peel the carpet back - check that BEFORE selecting the new flooring type. But putting down a pretty much vapor barrier material like vinyl or laminate may cause water condensation under it and form mildew and mold, so be sure to check for moisture issues first. Commonly, putting down clear plastic sheeting on the bare concrete taped all around the edges and letting sit a couple of days (assuming this is the season when your water table is at its highest and that your areas is not subject to elevated water table during floods) to see if condensation forms on the underside of the plastic sheet is a common test - most basements and slabs on grade in wetter areas will fail. You can test the whole floor with large sheet of thin painter's plastic drop cloth, or do several spot locations like near dampest outside wall and near center and near any sump pit with about 3-4 foot pieces. If you see condensation, then a full sealant coat on the concrete plus a full edge-sealed vapor barrier under a "floating" floor is probably your best bet - or a "hard" floor like tile, stone, or polished or "painted" concrete.

Generally, in dryer areas like much of the southwest and midwest slab-on-grade (no basement, base slab sits basthe runoff well away from the house and with good external surface drainage can handle products like you are talking about - except in basically desert-like areas in the Southwest, drier parts of California and the Basin and Range Province, west Texas, and dryer parts of Rockies, I do not recommend adhered products directly on basements slabs unless total inorganic - tile or stone. Full vapor barrier and a floating product, or maybe a well-ventilated carpet is a lot safer to avoid future moisture problems.

Also consider if this location is ever going to be subject to possible flooding during major rain storms or spring snow melt - either by rising water table under the slab or through basement walls.If so, most products cannot be taken up and reused, and adhesive-bondede products can be a REAL pain to take up and reprep the surface for new flooring, so that is a consideration.

One other possibility, though not traditionally a DIY project for many people but more and more are having success with it - is polished and sealed concrete, stained concrete, or epoxy decorative floor "paints" which can give a WIDE variety of appearances, good wearability, easy cleaning, and highly resistant (if surface is prepped right first) to water issues.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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