Step-by-Step Guide: What to Do If Water Gets Under Vinyl Plank Flooring

what to do if water gets under vinyl plank flooring

Vinyl Plank Flooring has rapidly gained popularity for its durability, cost-effectiveness, and aesthetic appeal, simulating the look of natural materials like wood without the associated maintenance hassles.

However, despite its many advantages, one issue that homeowners often face is water seeping underneath these planks.

This situation, if not addressed promptly, can lead to damage and unwanted expenses.

This guide provides a comprehensive, step-by-step procedure for effectively handling this common problem, aiming to mitigate its impact and prolong the life of your flooring.

Step 1: Assess the Situation

Before effectively tackling a problem, you must first understand its scope.

In my own home, I’ve had a few moments of panic when I noticed my vinyl plank flooring wasn’t looking quite right.

Identify Signs of Water Damage

1. Warping or Buckling of the Vinyl Planks

In my experience, one of the most telltale signs of water damage is the warping or buckling of the vinyl planks.

I remember the time I walked into my living room and felt an uneven surface under my feet.

On closer inspection, I realized that several of my vinyl planks were no longer lying flat, indicating that water had gotten underneath them.

2. Discoloration or Stains on the Surface

Another sign to look out for is discoloration or stains on the surface of the planks.

Once, I noticed a darker patch near my kitchen sink. At first, I thought it was just a shadow or dirt.

But when the area remained dark after cleaning, I realized it was a water stain.

3. A Musty Odor in the Room

If you’ve smelled it once, you’ll never forget it – the musty odor of dampness.

This smell is a red flag that there is excess moisture somewhere.

It was this very smell in my basement that led me to discover a water issue with my flooring.

Determine the Source of the Water Intrusion

1. Plumbing Leaks

A plumbing leak was the culprit behind the water damage in my guest bathroom.

The leak was slow, and I had no idea water was seeping under my vinyl flooring until I noticed the planks starting to buckle.

2. Flooding

I’ve heard horror stories from friends who’ve had their vinyl flooring ruined by flooding.

If you live in a flood-prone area, this is something to remember.

3. Spills and Moisture from Above

Sometimes, the water source isn’t as dramatic as a leak or flood.

It can simply be a spill that wasn’t cleaned up in time.

I learned this the hard way when my young nephew spilled a big jug of water, and we didn’t notice until hours later.

By then, the water had worked its way under the edges of the vinyl planks.

By correctly identifying signs of water damage and figuring out the source of the water, you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and stress.

Trust me, it’s worth taking the time to assess the situation carefully.

Step 2: Immediate Action

Acting quickly can be the key to mitigating damage and facilitating the repair process.

Here are some vital steps you need to follow immediately upon discovering water damage:

Safety First

1. Turn off electricity in the affected area

The first thing you should do, as I did when I discovered the flooding in my bathroom, is to eliminate the potential hazard of electrical shock.

I remember how swiftly I navigated to the circuit breaker and turned off the electricity in the impacted area.

2. Avoid walking on wet flooring to prevent slips

I’ve learned from personal experience that wet flooring can be surprisingly slippery.

After a minor slip event during the bathroom leak, I now make it a point to avoid walking on wet flooring unless necessary.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Remove Any Standing Water

  • Using towels, mops, or a wet/dry vacuum

Next, it’s essential to eliminate all the undesirable water from the affected area. I vividly recall a spill, where I discovered the practicality of using readily available towels to soak up pools of water.

However, during the unfortunate bathroom incident, a wet/dry vacuum was my saving grace, effectively removing water that had seeped under the flooring.

Regardless of the tools you have on hand, don’t hesitate to take immediate action.

Open Windows or Use Fans for Ventilation

  • Aid in drying the area and preventing mold growth

Once the water is gone, it’s vital to dry out the area thoroughly.

When I dealt with the leak in my basement, I strategically placed fans around the room and opened as many windows as possible.

This not only helped in speeding up the drying process but also played a crucial role in preventing mold growth, which thrives in moist environments.

Step 3: Lift and Inspect the Affected Planks

Carefully lift the vinyl planks

Once the area is dry, it’s time to inspect the damaged components.

During a basement flood, I learned the importance of patience and precision.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Use a utility knife or a pry bar

To lift the vinyl planks, you’ll need a utility knife or a pry bar.

I used a pry bar to lift the affected planks in my basement.

Remember, it’s crucial to be gentle to avoid causing further damage.

After all, you can reinstall these planks if they’re not too damaged.

Examine the subfloor and underlayment

When you remove the planks, you’ll see the subfloor and the underlayment underneath.

1. Look for signs of water damage:

Always check for stains, changes in color, or warping.

These are signs of water damage that could lead to structural problems if not addressed.

2. Ensure they are properly dried and ventilated:

Aiming fans at the exposed subfloor, I managed to dry out my bathroom floor in a couple of days.

You want to make sure it’s thoroughly dry to prevent the growth of mold or mildew.

If the weather allows, opening windows can also expedite the drying process.

Step 4: Dry the Subfloor and Underlayment

Use dehumidifiers to reduce moisture levels

Investing in a dehumidifier can speed up the drying process significantly.

Position it in the affected area and let it work its magic. A dehumidifier can be a real game-changer, reducing moisture levels rapidly and creating an environment where mold and mildew can’t grow.

1. Speed up the drying process

For me, acting fast was vital.

That’s why I recommend getting industrial-grade fans and heaters, if possible, in addition to the dehumidifier.

It was astonishing to see how quickly the drying process became.

Remember, time is of the essence here. The faster you dry the area, the less likely you’ll encounter more significant problems.

Repair any subfloor damage

Now onto the repairing part. In my experience, dealing with water damage often means you’ll have some repair work to do.

  • Replace or repair sections if necessary

Whether you’re dealing with a small leak or a significant flood, some parts of your subfloor will be irreparably damaged.

You’ll need to cut out and replace these sections with new materials.

If the damage isn’t too severe, you can repair the sections instead.

Nevertheless, consult with a professional before making the final decision. After all, your home’s structural integrity depends on it.

Step 5: Address Mold and Mildew

Once you’ve dealt with the immediate aftermath of water damage, the real enemy reveals itself – mold and mildew.

Taking a page from my playbook, I will walk you through how to tackle these unwanted guests effectively.

  • Inspect for Mold Growth

Mold is a silent invader. It’s sneaky and often appears in places you’d least expect.

So, thoroughly look around, checking hidden corners, under the carpets, behind wallpapers – leave no stone unturned.

  • Remove any Visible Mold or Mildew

Once you’ve found the mold, it’s time to remove it.

You can scrub non-porous surfaces with a mixture of water and detergent.

Consider Using Anti-Microbial Treatments

Anti-microbial treatments can be a lifesaver when combating mold.

  • Follow Manufacturer Instructions

Whatever product you choose, follow the instructions in the letter. I can’t stress this enough.

Prevent Future Mold Growth

Dealing with mold is one thing, but preventing it altogether is another. And trust me, prevention is far less of a headache.

  • Improve Ventilation

One simple step to prevent mold growth is to improve ventilation. After the attic fiasco, I installed new windows, which made a significant difference.

  • Use Mold-Resistant Underlayment

Lastly, consider using mold-resistant underlayment, especially in areas prone to moisture.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Step 6: Reinstall Vinyl Planks

After you’ve addressed the mold and mildew issue, it’s time to reinstall those vinyl planks. Here are some steps I suggest you follow based on my experience.

Make Sure Planks are Completely Dry

First things first, make sure the planks are completely dry.

It’s similar to when I tried to install a set of planks prematurely; they weren’t dry and caused a lot of havoc.

You wouldn’t want that, trust me.

Let them dry out thoroughly – patience is key.

Reinstall Using Manufacturer-Recommended Adhesive or Click-Lock System

When it’s time to put the planks back, don’t just use any random adhesive.

I always stick to the manufacturer’s recommended adhesive or the click-lock system.

This saves a lot of time and ensures the planks fit perfectly, just like when I reinstalled the flooring in my living room last year.

Apply Pressure to Ensure a Secure Bond

The third step is to apply pressure to ensure a secure bond.

Remember, when pressing down, use a roller or a similar tool to distribute the pressure evenly, just like I did when working on the kid’s room renovation.

And yes, my kids helped, and it was a lot of fun!

Allow for Proper Expansion Gaps

Do not forget to leave room for expansion gaps.

Just like humans, materials expand and contract with temperature changes.

I learned this the hard way when I had to redo my kitchen floor because I didn’t account for the expansion gaps.

Check for a Level and Even Surface

Lastly, always check for a level and even surface. Use a level tool for this.

There’s nothing worse than walking on a bumpy floor, trust me, I’ve been there.

It’s all about the details, and this step is as crucial as any other.

Step 7: Preventative Measures

  1. Fix Plumbing Issues

One of the most common causes of water intrusion is faulty plumbing.

I still recall when my basement was flooded due to a burst pipe.

It was a nightmare! So, it’s always a good idea to regularly inspect your plumbing system for any leaks or potential issues.

If any are found, repair them immediately to prevent unwanted water damage.

  1. Waterproofing Treatments

Another effective way to prevent water intrusion is by waterproofing.

When I was renovating my old home, I invested in waterproofing treatments for the basement and bathrooms.

It was the single most influential decision I made to avoid any water intrusion issues in the future.

Consider Area Rugs or Mats in Moisture-Prone Areas

Area rugs or mats can work in moisture-prone areas like the kitchen or bathroom.

I have a beautiful area rug in my kitchen; not only does it add to the decor, but it also helps absorb any unwanted moisture.

Similarly, using mats in the bathroom can help avoid an excess of water on the floor.

Regular Maintenance and Inspections

Lastly, regular maintenance and inspections cannot be stressed enough.

It’s like when I noticed a small water stain on my ceiling.

Instead of ignoring it, I called a professional to inspect it.

It turned out to be a leak from the roof that could have caused significant damage if left untreated.

Regular inspections can help spot potential issues and address them before they escalate into major problems.


Looking back at the road we’ve traveled together on this journey, it’s clear we’ve covered quite a bit of ground regarding steps to address water under vinyl plank flooring.

We’ve discussed fixing plumbing issues, waterproofing treatments, using area rugs or mats, and regular maintenance and inspections.

Just like I took immediate action when I saw a water stain on my ceiling, it’s essential to tackle these issues head-on.

I can’t stress enough the importance of a swift response regarding water damage. Remember my basement flooding incident?

The quicker you act, the less damage your home will sustain. Delays only escalate the problem and increase repair costs.

Plus, quick action can prevent the onset of mold or mildew, protecting the health of your household.

Prevention, as they say, is better than cure. Investing in preventative measures, as I did with waterproofing my basement and bathrooms or with regular inspections, can save you from many headaches in the future.

I’ve learned that proactive measures are often cheaper and less stressful than reactive repairs. So, don’t wait for the first signs of trouble – be the master of your home and take precautionary actions today.

Through all of this, let’s not forget that vinyl plank flooring, when properly cared for, can be an excellent addition to your home.

It’s stylish, durable, and low maintenance. I’ve never regretted my decision to install vinyl plank flooring.

With a combination of care, maintenance, and a watchful eye, you can enjoy it for years to come, and it can even add value to your home. So, let’s protect it together and ensure its longevity!


Hi! I’m Kobby, one of the co-owners of and the newest house owner in town. I’m a huge fan of most things natural. Over here on this site, I'm happy to share all the exciting hacks, tricks, and tips I have learned and continue to learn each day about taking care of natural stones.

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