Vinyl flooring started to show up in the mid-1900s as a convenient, low-maintenance substitute for linoleum and cork. Today, vinyl flooring is the most popular option for people who want to combine affordability, style, durability and ease of use.

As a type of resilient flooring, vinyl is flexible and comfortable. Even when it’s installed over a concrete slab, the surface doesn’t shock your bare feet in the winter. It also provides some cushion underfoot.

But vinyl’s flexibility is its downfall as well as its benefit. Vinyl can crease, ripple and wrinkle, making it difficult to install and unsightly on your floors. Learn how to get waves out of vinyl flooring before and after installation so that you can take advantage of the material’s benefits.

Do the Waves and Bumps Appear Over Time?

Sometimes, a vinyl floor that has been in place for a while begins to develop bumps, waves and creases. Small bumps and uneven areas could be caused by an uneven subfloor.

Vinyl tends to molds itself to the surrounding surface. Therefore, the vinyl can only lie as flat as the surface below it. When you initially install the flooring, it may appear to have a smooth surface. But as it settles, imperfections in the subfloor will make themselves known.

Do the Ripples Have Air Beneath Them?

Do the ripples in your vinyl floor have some give when you press on them? Bubbles may show up immediately, or they may take years to become apparent. Once they appear, they don’t go away on their own.

Air bubbles can develop for a number of reasons, including the following:

Moisture – If your subfloor is not prepared and sealed properly, it could become a magnet for moisture. Wetness weakens the adhesive that holds vinyl to the subfloor. As that happens, it releases the bond in some areas, causing bubbles beneath the surface.
Excessive Heat – Does sunlight stream in through your window onto the vinyl floor every day? Does heat from the vents in your home continually aim at a particular area? Those spots may expand more than the rest of the vinyl. If you don’t account for this issue during installation, you might end up with bubbles in the hot spots.
Lack of expansion gap – An expansion gap is a small space around the perimeter of the flooring that allows for movement. It gives the vinyl room to expand without getting crowded. If you don’t include an expansion gap in a floor that requires one, the vinyl won’t have anywhere to move but up as it expands.

How to Prevent Waves in Vinyl Flooring

Waves in vinyl flooring can be difficult to repair. The best way to keep waves out of your vinyl flooring is to prevent them from forming in the first place. Being meticulous during the installation process will save you headaches down the road.

1. Prepare the Subfloor

Prevent imperfections in the subfloor from showing up by preparing the surface correctly before installing your vinyl. A well-prepared subfloor will give you a smooth surface to start with and improve adhesion if you plan to use glue or double-sided tape.

Some of the steps that you should take include:

  • Conducting a moisture test
  • Repairing cracks, holes and grooves
  • Making sure that the subfloor is level
  • Sanding down lumps and bumps
  • Cleaning the subfloor to remove grease, dust, dirt and debris

2. Choose the Right Material for the Space

If you’re installing a vinyl floor in a high-moisture area, such as a bathroom, kitchen or basement, look for a waterproof product. You should also consult with a professional to ensure that the subfloor is prepared adequately.

Some vinyl flooring is designed to go directly over your existing floor. Floating floors are made with thicker vinyl, which is less likely to warp or settle into dips in the subfloor. They’re the best option for installing over tiles or textured surfaces.

3. Opt for High-Quality Vinyl

Today’s vinyl is different than your grandmother’s flooring. Vinyl flooring ranges from 2 to 8 millimeters in thickness. Luxury vinyl tile, or LVT, is generally thicker and sturdier than vinyl sheeting.

4. Use the Right Installation Method for Your Flooring Type

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to install the flooring correctly. If you’re using adhesive, go over it with a weighted roller. This will ensure that the material sticks to the substrate without creating air bubbles and will prevent waves in the future.

5. Don’t Drag Heavy Furniture Across the Floor

Because vinyl is subject to subtle movements, it can wrinkle if you drag heavy objects across it. Loose lay and floating vinyl floors are especially susceptible to this type of damage.

Place plywood over the floor if you’re moving large appliances, boxes or furniture over it. Lift the objects instead of dragging them over the material.

How to Deal With Existing Vinyl Floor Ripples

You have some options for eliminating waves that crop up in your existing vinyl flooring.

  • Take the following steps to get rid of bubbles that are less than one inch in diameter:
  • Use a strong, sharp needle to pierce the center of the bubble.
  • Use your fingers to press on the bubble and release air.
  • Place a thin towel over the spot.
  • Warm an iron to a medium heat setting, and place it over the towel.
  • Flatten the bubble using heavy books for 24 hours.

If the bubble is more than one inch in diameter, take the following steps:

  • Place a towel over the bubble, and apply heat to the towel using an iron.
  • Slice the bubble with a sharp utility knife.
  • While the vinyl is still warm, peel it up carefully.
  • Apply adhesive to the underside of the vinyl.
  • Smooth the material into place, wiping away excess adhesive with a damp sponge.
  • Place wax paper over the spot before piling books on top of it.
  • Allow the adhesive to dry underneath the weights for 24 hours.

If you don’t want to puncture your flooring, you can try the following method:

  • Heat the rippled area using a hair dryer on the lowest setting.
  • Smooth the spot using a floor roller.
  • Apply a board with weights on it for 24 hours.

Vinyl planks or tiles are relatively easy to replace. If you notice warping or bubbling in this type of floor, remove single planks. Correct moisture and subfloor issues before installing a new section.

With the right installation, maintenance and care, vinyl floors last a long time. They stand up to spills and don’t develop moisture issues as readily as some other porous materials. However, they’re not invincible. Follow the tips above to prevent waves in your vinyl flooring. If you notice ripples, take action as soon as possible.

A professional can give you the best advice for fixing ripples in your floors. Even if you prefer to do projects like this yourself, you may have better luck and extend the life of your flooring by working with an expert.