This edition of Ask the Home Flooring Pros is about cutting vinyl plank flooring. It can be the trickiest part of installation, and it’s where the most mistakes happen. However, when you know how to cut vinyl plank flooring and have practiced a bit, mistakes and waste will be minimized.
The tools needed are listed along with their costs. And then we explain the most common types of cuts employed. By the way, if you’re not yet committed to DIY, you might benefit from getting advice and free estimates from local flooring installers.
Tools, Supplies & Costs for Cutting Vinyl Plank Flooring
Here is your tool list with prices:
- Metal measuring tap: $5-$15
- Carpenter square for guiding straight and angled cuts: $12-$25.
- Level (optional) A level at least 4 feet long can be used to guide rip cuts: $25-$75.
- Utility knife. A quality metal or wood-handle knife is preferred because you’ll be exerting significant downward pressure when cutting. Avoid those plastic knives with snap-off blades because they are cheap and can break, potentially causing you injury: $7-$12
- Pack of replacement blades: $3-$6
- Aviation snips (optional) for curved and notch cuts: $15-$30+.
- Electric jigsaw or compact circular saw (optional) for lengthwise cuts: $45-$60+.
- Fine-tip marking pen, like a Sharpie: $3-$6 per pack.
- Chalk line kit for marking long cuts (optional): $7-$15
Cutting Vinyl Plank Flooring: Step by Step
Score and snap is the basic technique, but it must be applied in three different ways:
- Crosscuts are short cuts across the plank.
- Rip cuts are long cuts down the length of the plank.
- Notch cuts remove small pieces to fit flooring around door jambs, pipes and similar.
How to Make Crosscuts on Vinyl Plank Flooring
These cuts make the plank shorter. They are made on planks as you complete a row and as you cut planks to stagger vinyl plank flooring.
Step 1. Measure and mark the plank on the waste side of the cut line.
Step 2. Place the plank on a surface you won’t mind cutting on such as the subfloor or a piece of waste flooring with the bottom side up. You won’t cut through the plank, but your knife blade might contact the floor after it runs off the plank.
Step 3. Use the framing square to guide you as you score the plank across the “grain.” Scoring means to cut through the surface to roughly half the depth of the plank.
Step 4. Snap the plank. One method is to bend it at the cut point with the surface away from you. A second method is to lay it surface-side up on a table with the piece you want to remove hanging just over the edge. Snap it by pushing down on the piece you want to break off.
Pro tips for cutting vinyl planks.
- If you find snapping difficult, you might not be scoring the plank deeply enough.
- Always keep a sharp blade in the knife. This will make effective scoring easier and prevent you from having to apply too much pressure. That’s when accidents and injuries happen.
How to Make Rip Cuts on Vinyl Plank Flooring
There are two rip cut types.
First, the tongue portion of planks installed against the wall must be removed on some flooring. The installation instructions will let you know if that is the case with your product.
To make this cut, hold the plank firmly with one hand, and run the knife blade down the edge to pare away the tongue. If you go slow and steady, you won’t cut into the plank. Instead, it will serve as the guide.
The second rip cut is to make a plank narrower.
Step 1. Measure in from the side near both ends of the plank, and make a small mark where the cut will be made. Again, remember to make your mark on the scrap side of the plank, the piece to be trimmed away.
Step 2. Lay your level along the plank to connect the small marks. Use the pen to make a cut line. If you don’t have a level, anything with a hard, straight edge such as a 1×2 or 2×4 or a spare plank will do.
Step 3. Use the straight edge as your guide to score the plank. And then snap it along the cut line and remove the scrap.
Optionally, a jig saw can be used to make the cut.
Pro tip for rip cuts: It can be difficult to hold the piece in place without it moving when scoring it lengthwise. Use a table and two woodworking clamps to hold the level and plank secure for this purpose.
How to Make Notch Cuts on Vinyl Plank Flooring
These are definitely times you want to measure twice and cut once to be sure your notch or semi-circle cut-out is exactly where you want it.
Step 1. Create your cutting line with the marker.
Step 2. Score the plank freehand. Rather than scoring the plank in one swift motion, as you might a crosscut, it is better to score it slowly and carefully several times. Then snap out the notch or semicircle. A pliers is useful for snapping out small notches.
Optionally, use aviation snips or tin snips to cut out the notch or semicircle without first scoring the line.
About the Author:
Rob joined the Home Flooring Pros team in 2014 and is a freelance writer, specializing in flooring, remodeling and HVAC systems.
“I’m the son of an interior designer and picked up an eye for design as a result. I started hanging wallpaper and painting at 14 and learned enough on the job to be the general contractor on two homes we built for our family and did much of the finish plumbing, electrical, painting, and trim work myself.”