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What is a Floating Floor?

 Whenever anyone thinks of laminate and sometimes vinyl flooring, the word 'floating' often comes up.

So just exactly does the word floating floor mean? Well, in this post, I'll briefly discuss why and how a floating floor system work. 

Be aware that some real wood floors, like click-lock, can be floated. As with any new floor, always refer to the manufacturer's instructions so that you can get the correct installation method. If you don't, the floor can and most likely fail within a short amount of time, which can void any warranty you'd have on it.

At least with floating floor systems, be it in wood, laminate, or vinyl, all have one thing in common. That is, they all are installed over the existing subfloor, but they are not adhered or fastened (nails, screws) to it. The planks themselves have a tongue and groove system. 

While a few laminate planks out there may require glue, almost all today in laminate, wood, or vinyl planks don't require anything to fasten them together other than physically installing them via that tongue and groove.

Hence it being defined as 'floating'. One of the first systems that used this method was laminate plank flooring in Europe. Over time, it has seen a gradual increase in the home and commercial applications. 

Since no glue, nails, or screws are involved, it makes for a very simple installation. It not only cuts down time, but it can also save you money in labor costs if you hired someone to install it. 

While a Do-It-Yourselfer may not feel secure about installing nailed down hardwood floors, they can easily do the same for click-lock real wood floors and it will look the same, as an example.

For any floating floor system to work, it must be installed properly (per the manuf. instructions) and it must have proper room transition strips and quarter round moulding around the perimeter of the room for it to 'lock' the planks into place. This, and the sheer weight of the planks being joined together, is what holds and secures the floor into place.

Be aware that some systems require underlayment, whereas other types of floating floors do not. For example, our TrafficMaster Allure flooring vinyl planks do not need underlayment. But, any laminate (unless its pre-attached already) WILL require underlayment.

This isn't due to it being a floating floor, but rather the material that it is made of. Vinyl is resilient flooring, which means it bounces back to its original shape after the person that stepped on it has left. Laminates and floating wood floors don't have that capability to disperse the weight, so an underlayment is required.

An illustration below best demonstrates this for laminate and click-lock real wood floors.

If you are deciding on new floors and the labor costs seem a bit steep for you, consider using a floating floor system. It's almost always cheaper to install versus anything that requires glue or nails. 

While floating floor systems are great for almost any room in your home, be aware that there are some limitations. 

For example, floating floor systems should NOT be installed on stairways. This is due to the shifting in a very small space, and most manufacturers of the floor won't even recommend doing so. Also, preparing the existing floor or subfloor is crucial for any new floor above it to work effectively, including any floating floor.

So, you'll always need to remove any existing floating floor systems and ensure the new floor going over it is level, clean, and firmly secured to the subfloor before starting the installation process.

Lastly, there are some sheet vinyl floors (aka linoleum) that require no glue, but you'll hear them sometimes called by another install method...modified loose lay. This is somewhat of a floating floor, but its recommended to still use double sided vinyl tape on it to hold down the middle and high traffic areas.

That's a very basic overview for floating floor systems, but for any additional questions, please don't hesitate to ask us here.


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Posted 2015-08-12T20:20:24+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL Joseph_HD_ATL