We had installed our vinyl planks using the floating installation method. After about 1 month some of the planks were unclicking. Sigh. To be honest I’m not surprised, we were perhaps hopeful but naive in thinking our method would work. In our defense, we were also just following the instructions that came with the packaging.
This is what we have learned through trial and error about vinyl planks in bus conversions.
The instructions that came with our planks advised the following:
Use the floating installation method, do not glue
You can use an underlayment but we don’t recommend it
Store and install the planks between 55 to 85 °F
We followed this advice as best we could, but we chose to put an underlayment underneath. We used CeraTex, a ceramic paper insulation, as we wanted to help keep our feet warm. It took us 3 days to install the planks. During the day we could control the temperature inside the bus (it was the middle of winter), however at night the temperature would drop below 55. It was out of our control but we did the best to heat the bus up when we could.
What went wrong? My guess is that the underlayment was the biggest issue. As we walked on the planks they would slightly sink into the CeraTex. Which felt good on our feet but it makes sense that they would come unclicked because of this.
We googled how to fix this and we found ways to glue the perimeter of the planks together with silicone and with the help of a suction cup and mallet to push the plank back into place. It was only happening in a few spaces. This felt like putting a bandaid on the problem though. We decided we needed to fix the problem at the source otherwise we will probably continue to have to try to spot treat our floors for years to come.
We knew what we had to do, we needed to pull our subfloor up and place the CeraTex underneath so that the planks could lay on the smooth and hard plywood surface. I was still concerned about this floating installation method so I called the manufacturer.
After explaining to them how we are converting a bus and what happened with our first plank installation, they recommended that we glue the planks down using a very specific acrylic adhesive made by them. At first I was very frustrated that their instructions recommended the floating installation only but on the phone that was not the case. After a few breaths, I realized what we had forgotten - a bus is not a house. What works in a house will not necessarily work in a bus - a big metal box left out in the elements which becomes a rolling earthquake as it drives down the road.
They agreed the planks we had chosen were great for this application - thin, flexible and able to withstand temperatures of -25 to 155 °F (after installation), and that we would be much happier if we glued the planks down to the subfloor.
We continued to have nightmares about pulling the subfloors up, but when it came to doing the job it was really not a big deal. It took us a day to unclick our planks, stack them in rows so we could put them back down in the same order, roll up the CeraTex, unscrew the plywood subfloors, roll the CeraTex back down and screw the plywood down again. We should have done this from the beginning, now our CeraTex is sandwiched between ½ inch plywood and ¾ inch plywood.
It then took one more day to glue the planks down. The adhesive was rather expensive ($200 for 4 gallons, even though we only needed 1 this was the only size available) but man did those planks stick to it. I don’t believe these planks will be going anywhere.
We measured out 3 rows worth of planks, using a chalk line to create a line and applied the glue 3 rows at a time. They were also very specific about the size of the trowel we should use to create very small grooves in the adhesive. This was a fast drying adhesive, it took ½an hour to an hour to set. You know it is ready when it turns clear (starts off white) and is tacky but doesn’t come off on your fingers. We found using fans helped the glue to set faster.
Another little trick I learned from YouTube, as I was determined to do all I could to make sure this was the last time we were doing our floors, was to use a rubber mallet to help click the front and back end of the planks together. The sides (the long side) are easy to click together, the front and back (short sides) are harder. You actually have to whack it surprisingly hard but they click together well and create a smooth even finish from plank to plank.
Last step was to use a 65 -100 lb weighted roller to really sink the planks into the adhesive. This we rented from the hardware store for very little money. As I said, these planks feel solid now and like they will stay put!
We get started on building Don’s desk and music studio.
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We have used CereTex throughout our bus build. This is a High Temperature Insulation made from Ceramic Fiber Paper. Ceramic blankets and papers are used in high-end RVs and motorhomes.