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What Are Floating Floors?

For many years, floating hardwood floors were available only in a "glue together" configuration.
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  • Written By: Linda Hinkle
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2014
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Floating floors are floor coverings that are not nailed, glued, or attached in any way to the surface beneath them. These flooring types consist of planks that attach to each other, but not to a subfloor, allowing the floor to "float" over the underlying surface. The planks usually interlock by use of a tongue and groove system, and are either clicked or glued together, depending on the type of flooring. Metal clips hold some floating hardwood floors together.

There are several types of floating floors available, including hardwood, laminate, vinyl, and cork. Each type also comes in various prices, designs, and colors. Most hardwood types come with a pre-finished surface, some of which can be sanded and refinished. As with most flooring installation methods, floating floors have both advantages and disadvantages.

Ease of installation is one of the most popular reasons for choosing a floating floor. The installation is also usually faster and cheaper than most other methods, and requires no special tools. Many homeowners install floating floors themselves, often completing a project in a single weekend. These floors can be installed over most existing floor surfaces, including tile and concrete, as long as the surface is hard, well-secured, and flat. Floating floors are not recommended for use over most carpets.

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Floating floors are especially well-suited for use in areas where the humidity is high or where moisture is a concern. Fluctuations in moisture and humidity can cause wood flooring to expand and contract, which can cause gaps between planks when humidity is low and buckling when humidity is high. A floating floor is not attached to a subfloor, so it expands and contracts as one complete unit, thus eliminating gaps and buckles. Small spaces are left where the floor meets the wall to allow for the expansion.

A common complaint about floating floors is that they are louder than traditional attached floors. Walking often produces a hollow sound or a squeaking noise, and there may be a slight wavering feeling. A special pad laid underneath the flooring is sometimes used to help control noise.

Another consideration is that even though a floating floor can be installed over most surfaces, the surface must be completely level. The pieces of flooring are difficult or impossible to fit together if the subfloor is uneven. This is important to note, because improper installation is likely to cause problems with the flooring later on.

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