Floating Floors 101
What Is a Floating Floor?
A floating floor, also known as multilayer flooring, is flooring that’s installed above the subfloor or existing flooring. The flooring then, as the name implies, floats above the existing floor or subfloor.
Floating floors refer to the installation of the flooring, rather than the flooring material itself. They consist of multiple layers of flooring which include the protective base layer and the decorative top layer.
There are three flooring types that work best as floating floors.
3 Common Types of Floating Floors
Luxury Vinyl Plank
Arguably the most bang for your buck, luxury vinyl plank offers the widest array of design options while remaining a relatively low-priced flooring option. LVP is installed by snapping the flooring pieces together using what is known as the click and lock method.
Though engineered hardwood is commonly installed by stapling the flooring to the subfloor, engineered hardwood also works well as a floating floor. The decorative surface layer of the hardwood is glued to a core layer and then installed just above the subfloor or existing floor.
Like engineered wood, laminate floating floors are installed by gluing the decorative layer to the core layer and then locking each flooring piece together. Laminate floating floors are great for homes that experience wide ranges of humidity, as the material and installation method allows for the flooring to expand and contract without buckling. Laminate floating flooring is great for areas with high traffic such as kitchens or living rooms.
What’s not a floating floor?
Carpet, solid hardwood, and tile are three traditional flooring types that are not usually installed as floating floors.
Advantages of Floating Floors
- Affordable. Floating floor types are typically less expensive than flooring that requires nail- or glue-in installation (non-floating floors).
- Environmentally friendly. Less material is used to make and install floating floors, making them better for the environment.
- Reusable. Because their easy removal leaves virtually no damage, these flooring types can also be reused later on.
Disadvantages of Floating Floors
- Not as long-lasting. Floating flooring types may cost less in the beginning but require replacement and/or updates earlier than nail-down floors such as solid hardwood or carpet.
- Sound amplification. Because floating flooring types are generally thin and lie just above the subfloor, they tend to be much louder underfoot than non-floating flooring types.
- Can’t be refinished. While floating floors may be easy to replace, they can’t be refinished or repainted as easily as, say, a solid hardwood floor. Because of this, floating floors will likely need to be replaced completely if damaged or worn.
Floating flooring types are often less expensive than traditional nail-down or glue-down flooring, but the price varies depending on the quality of the material and whether you opt for professional or DIY installation. The average cost of each flooring type:
- Luxury vinyl plank: $2-$10 per square foot
- Engineered hardwood: $6-$13 per square foot
- Laminate: $8-$15 per square foot
Floating Floors vs. Non-Floating Floors
We know that floating floors are generally engineered wood, laminate, or luxury vinyl plank. But which flooring types are not installable as floating floors? The answers are solid hardwood, carpet, and tile. Let’s take a look at the differences between floating and non-floating flooring types.
|Laminate, LVP, Engineered Wood
|Hardwood, Carpet, Tile
|Ease of Installation
|Easy to install and uninstall
|More difficult to install
|Easy to remove and replace but don’t last as long as non-floating floors
|Harder to replace and more difficult to clean but tend to have a longer lifespan than floating flooring types
|Can be comfortable with the right underlay
|More comfortable underfoot due to more padding and support
How Are Floating Floors Installed?
Though each flooring type is installed in a slightly different way, the general installation process remains the same.
Step 1. Smooth the subfloor and trim door casings
First, the substrate or “subfloor” is smoothed out completely to prepare the area for the new flooring. It’s during this step that you’ll also want to trim the casings of door frames to make room for the following to slide underneath.
Step 2. Roll out the underlayment
Next, a thin layer of foam, also known as underlayment, is rolled out over the subfloor to help absorb sound and make the finished flooring more comfortable underfoot. Some floating floors come with this underlayment already installed. If so, this step is skipped completely.
Step 3. Lay the flooring
Lastly, the flooring planks are assembled, starting from the walls and moving inward. It’s common to install floating flooring with a small gap between the material and the walls to make space for expansion and contraction due to humidity and temperature changes. Don’t worry! These gaps are covered to make for a seamless flooring look.
Are Floating Floors Right for Your Home?
When it comes to affordability and versatility, floating floors are the way to go. Easy to install and easy to replace, these flooring types work for virtually any space or home.
Still not sure if floating floors are right for you? Visualize different types of flooring in your home with a free floor visualizer tool!
What types of flooring cannot be installed as a floating floor?
Carpet, solid hardwood, tile.
How can I tell if I already have a floating floor?
You can often tell if your floors are floating based on the material used (LVP, engineered wood, or laminate). Otherwise, you can tell your floors are floating based on the general sound and feel underfoot.
Are floating floors waterproof?
Most floating flooring types are also waterproof, yes! While laminate and luxury vinyl plank flooring are waterproof, engineered hardwood flooring.