Floating hardwood floors are those that are not attached to the subfloor. This is unlike traditional hardwood floors which are nailed or glued down. Because floating hardwood floors are not attached to the subfloor, movement in the boards is spread across the entire floor, making gaps less likely to appear. They can be installed over virtually any type of subfloor, such as concrete, plywood, sheet vinyl or ceramic tiles.
Floating hardwood floors are either glued or snapped together. They are usually laid over a foam underlay which provides a moisture barrier as well as good noise insulation. The underlay also provides cushioning so the floor is comfortable to walk or stand on for extended periods of time.
Several floating floor materials are available, such as engineered and laminate flooring. Engineered flooring consists of several layers of wood veneer glued to a plywood base. This type of flooring is very stable and resistant to changes in humidity, expanding and contracting less than other types of wood flooring. Laminate flooring is a budget option for those who want the look of real wood without the price tag. This flooring is made by photographing real wood flooring and pasting the images on to the laminate. Today’s laminates are of excellent quality and give a highly authentic look. Bamboo flooring is one popular floating hardwood floor option, and is available as both engineered and laminate flooring.
Installation of floating hardwood floors is relatively easy, making it a great DIY project and saving money by avoiding the need for professional installation. The most common way of attaching planks of wood in a floating installation is to use an adhesive between the joints of the wood planks.
First the subfloor needs to be prepared. If the room is carpeted, remove it to expose the subfloor. Check that the subfloor is level by laying a wood plank on its edge. If there is a significant space between the plank and the floor (more than ¾ inch), you will need to spread some self leveling joint compound on the floor. Ensure this has dried completely before laying the flooring. If the subfloor is sound, the flooring can be installed right on top.
Generally, floating hardwood floors can be laid in any direction so you can choose the layout that best suits your tastes and the environment of the room. Many people take into account where the light enters the room and the entrances and exits. When planning the layout it is important to remember to leave a ½ inch gap between the floor and the walls to accommodate for expansion and contraction of the wood.
Start by vacuuming the subfloor to remove any dust and debris. If the subfloor is concrete, lay plastic lining to protect the flooring from moisture. Then roll out the underlay perpendicular to the direction of the planks. Plan where you want each plank of wood before gluing. Then begin with the first plank, with its tongue edge facing out. Work from left to right across the room. Run a bead of glue along the joint or edge of the wood. Insert the second plank and gently tap together using a hammer and tapping block. The tapping block protects the tongue or edge of the plank from damage. Continue laying the floor by gluing planks together and gently tapping them into place.
Once most of the floor is installed, you will run out of room for the tapping block. At this point, use a pulling iron and hammer to draw the planks together. While installing the floor, take steps to protect it by laying tools and kneeling on a towel or soft cloth. Finally, conceal the expansion space with baseboard molding. Ensure the molding is nailed to the wall and not to the floor. Once the installation is complete, let the floor set before walking on it.