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Floating Hardwood Floors..What is the Difference?

Updated on August 31, 2009

What is the difference between floating floors and those that are nailed or glued down?

I had the unenviable task of trying to figure out what type of floors I would need for a house I just bought.  The carpet in it was atrocious and I wanted to lay some wood flooring or laminate to make the house look more "organic".  What I soon realized is that picking out hardwood floors is nothing like picking out an outfit.  Far from it.  In fact, what material you choose and how much of a do-it-yourself-er you are really will depend on what options you should consider.  In this article, I am going to discuss the difference between floating hardwood flooring and the regular flooring that requires glue or nails to install.

What are Floating Hardwood Floors?

Floating Hardwood Floors are different than traditionally laid hardwood floors because they literally float on top of whatever they are laying on.  This could be a concrete slab or other hardwood floors.  Underneath the flooring is a cushioned underlay although newer floating floors come with this preinstalled on the bottom of the flooring itself.

Once upon a time, you would need to apply glue to each piece of wood, forming the floor, and then lightly tap each individual piece of wood to cement the floor.  Luckily for me (I am an amateur DIY floor guy), there is another option-  The click lock floating floor.  This type of hardwood flooring is still "floating" although buying glue is no longer required.  This type of flooring has a mechanical end on each piece of wood that will allow you to simply click each piece one by one.

How To Install a Floating Hardwood Floor

Can You Float any Hardwood?

Since the click flooring has risen in popularity, I guess the next question would be can any solid hardwood be floated above the subfloor?  

The answer is no.  Most floating hardwood floors are "5 ply" and aren't solid so if you want solid brazilian cherry hardwood, then your best bet would be to go with it and use the traditional nail down process of installing your flooring.

Advantages of Floating Hardwood Floors

Since floating floors isn't "solid" so to speak, you won't have to worry about humidity warping the boards and the flooring buckling over time.  Like engineered hardwood, this will limit (but not eliminate) the problems from expanding and contracting wood.

Another advantage to choosing floating wood flooring is that you can float it over anything.  This includes other wood floors, concrete, tile or linoleum.  This makes it much easier for a novice to install the floors.

Floating wood floors aren't as succeptible to moisture either which can also cause the wood to expand or contract.

Other things you may want to consider when installing floating wood floors

The biggest thing you may want to consider when laying floating floors is that you will need to get at least 5% more flooring than what you square footage is calling for.  This will cover waste (which will happen.)

Also, there are some tools you will definitely need to either rent or buy before you install flooring.  Do not skimp on this.

  • Miter Saw
  • Combination Square
  • Pull Bar
  • table saw
  • jig saw
  • hammer
  • tapping block
  • wood shims


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