What Are Floating Wooden Floors?

A floating wooden floor is one of three engineered wood floor installation solutions. Floating floors consist of interconnected tongue-and-groove planks placed on top of a concrete or wood subfloor. Unlike the alternative ‘glued’ or ‘nailed’ methods, the boards are not fixed to the floor, hence the name ‘floating wood floor’.

Why Choose Floating Wooden Floors?

Of the three engineered wood floor installation methods, the floating wooden floor method is commonly regarded by DIY enthusiasts as the simplest and most cost effective installation solution. Let’s take a look at the three methods in question to better understand the difference.

The three methods of engineered wood floor installation:

  • The Nailed Down Method
    Nailing wooden planks in place is typically only advisable in cases of wooden subfloors – drilling prep work may be required in cases of concrete subfloors. This method is considerably cheaper than the “Glued Down” option (see below) as there are no adhesive costs. The result is a solid and quiet wood floor – replacing these floors is time consuming (also, any nail damage to the subfloor must be repaired when replacing the wood floor).
  • Glued Down Method
    The glued down method involves gluing engineered wood floor boards directly to the subfloor. Moisture barrier adhesives are available – and the adhesive itself is typically thick enough to provide some acoustic insulation. The glued down method is the most expensive method of engineered wood floor installation – removing a glued floor is also time consuming (the adhesive must be removed in full to prevent an uneven subfloor on which to lay the new floor).
  • Floating Wood Floor
    Installing a floating wood floor requires fewer tools, less experience, and less time compared to other methods of installing a wood floor. First, a moisture barrier underlay is placed on top of the subfloor. Next, the tongue and groove boards are clipped together on top of the underlay. This method does not require glue or nails (glue can be used on the edges of the wooden boards to provide additional protection against spillages seeping through to the subfloor).

NOTE: Subfloor moisture levels must comply with building regulations – this should be tested at the point of installation, meaning an existing subfloor should be compliant. However, moisture barrier underlay is recommended as an added layer of moisture protection (underlay also helps to soften noise from foot traffic).

Floating Wood Floors – Installation Considerations

Before beginning work on installing a floating wood floor, open all wood flooring packaging and allow the boards to acclimate to the humidity levels in the room (allow around 2-3 days). This often overlooked step helps to prevent issues with ‘squeaking’, which occurs where non-acclimated wood is laid flush to the walls – the wood will likely expand once acclimated. Once the wood is ready, there are further beneficial considerations before starting work:

Wood floor installation preparation:

    • Flat Surface
      Test the ‘flatness’ of the subfloor by laying a plank of wood on the surface in multiple areas.
    • Added Strength
      Lay planks perpendicular to any jousts that may be supporting the subfloor
    • Cut Groove Side Only
      When planning to fit the boards against walls, cut only the groove side of the wood (not the tongue side). This doubles as a consideration for how to lay the initial board (i.e. with the tongue facing the wall).
    • Leave a Gap
      Leave a gap of around half an inch between the wood flooring and the walls. This will allow ‘breathing space’ (the wood will naturally expand and contract slightly under varying seasonal humidity levels) that will prevent bowing, cupping, and squeaking.

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