What is a floating floor?

Home Builder with The Flooring Girl

What is a floating floor?  I get this question often from customers because someone has told them they should get it.  But, they don't understand what a floating floor is.  Do you?  (Lots of customers get this term confused).

laminate floating floor in westchester NY and stamford CT

Technically, a floating floor means that it is "floating" on top of the floor below it and is not directly secured to the floor (i.e. no nails and no glue).  Instead it is held down or secured around the edges of the room - the base molding/shoe molding and transitions.  This is often used if it is going over an existing floor or on top of cement - more abt this later.  Now, because the floor is floated and not secured to the floor there tends to be a bit more movement in the floor - you especially see and hear this in laminate floors and it's more noticeable if it was poorly installed. 


Given the definition, there are many types of floating floors as you'll see below, so anytime someone tells me they want or think they need a floating floor, I need to dig a little deeper to make sure I'm understanding their wants and needs because there are many types of floating floors.  (Plus sometimes someone tells me they need a floating floor and when I get to their house I discover that they don't need a floating floor).

1.  Laminate floors - Laminate floors are floating floors.  Laminate is fake - it looks like hardwood, but it's not - it's a digital picture of hardwood and it clicks together.  (There are also versions that look like tile)  One of the advantage of laminate is that is less expensive than hardwood - both material-wise and labor-wise and it can often be placed on top of existing flooring without needing to rip it up, so this saves more money in labor.

2.  Some engineered hardwoods are floating floors.  Hardwoods can be installed 3 ways: 1) nail down (if there is plywood there), 2) glue down (engineered only) and 3) floated (engineered only).  See my previous post on solid vs. engineered hardwood.  Some hardwoods are specially made to click into place just like a laminate does (they are easier for do-it-yourselfers and some can be installed over radiant heat).  You click them into place and once they clicked, they are locked into place.  The other option for non-clickable engineered hardwood is to glue the joints of the hardwood.  Either way, both options require underlayment underneath the hardwood just as you would use for a laminate.

3.  Cork is a floating floor.  They come in interlocking pieces (usually 1 ft x 3ft) and click together just as a laminate does.

4.  Some vinyls are floating floors (but most aren't).  Usually vinyl is glued down, but some of the more recent fiber floors that have some fiberglass and extra cushion for your feet can be glued or floated.  If they are floated, they just lie on top of the floor and are secured along the basemolding or cove base along the walls and cabinets.  There are some floating luxury vinyl floors that look like wood planks that interlock w/ some adhesive.  They tend to be sold in the big box stores as they claim to be "do it yourself," but watch out as these are low quality products and based on how most homeowners install, they usually pop up at the edges within 1-2 months.


So, after all of that, why would someone want a floating floor?  Here are some of the reasons:

1.  They want to save money by not ripping up the floor.  Instead, they just want to go on top of it.

2.  They have asbestos tile on the floor and it would be dangerous/illegal to remove that (or very costly to have an abatement company come in and professionally abate it).

3.  They have a floor where glue will not adhere to it well (e.g. epoxy floor or floor w/ lots of ridges and not a flat surface.

4.  They are putting hardwood on top of radiant heat (and hence need to avoid adhesives and nails).


Here are some reasons why customers mistakenly THINK they need a floating floor.

floating laminate floor westchester1.  They don't have plywood or it's going over a cement subfloor.  This is the most frequent area of confusion.  While floating floors definitely will work over cement, you do not need to do a floating floor.  You can, but you also have the option of doing an engineered hardwood and gluing it down.  So, be sure to understand your objectives and your budget before ruling options out.

2.  It's below grade/in a basement.  Floating floors can work in the basement, but other floors can also work so this is where it's necessary to understand the objective of the room, moisture issues and budget.

3.  There is a moisture issue.  Well if there is a moisture issue, this should prob. be addressed first.  Or, if you are not going to make any changes, then pick the appropriate floor that will work with moisture.  Hardwood, laminate and cork are no no's if you have a moisture issue.  Many customers mistakenly believe that laminate is waterproof, and I have news for you...it's not. It's made w/ hardwood shavings, so if you are concerned about hardwood and moisture, same goes for laminate.  If there is a moisture issue, consider vinyl or tile.

4.  They have a sloping or uneven floor.  Hard surfaces don't generally work well over uneven floors regardless of whether it's hardwood, laminate, or tile.  it's best to level these out first, but the floor prep will cost you more money.  If budget is a concern w/ the leveling, the consider a more flexible surface such as vinyl, carpet or rubber.

I hope that this made some sense.  I know there are a lot of issues to consider and I suppose this is why it's best to consult a professional.  Everyone's situation and budget is different.  Frequently, I will narrow down to the 2 or 3 choices that could work for my customers and price them all out and then let them decide what works best with their needs and budget.  I'll always add in my 2 cents (or sometimes even a nickel).

What is a floating floor?


Re-Blogged 9 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Sandra Steele 09/05/2010 04:59 AM
  2. Kristine Ginsberg 10/15/2011 02:05 AM
  3. Beverly Femia 10/15/2011 02:54 PM
  4. Steven Cook 10/15/2011 05:04 PM
  5. Cheryl Ritchie 10/15/2011 08:48 PM
  6. Elizabeth Fabian 10/18/2011 04:55 AM
  7. Mark Woodward 04/12/2012 11:10 AM
  8. Deirdre Fahy 04/16/2012 09:02 PM
  9. Sharon Denning 09/19/2012 10:38 PM
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Dagny Eason
Dagny's Real Estate - Wilton, CT
Fairfield County CT, CDPE Homes For Sale and Condo

Debbie, you are getting so many reblogs, because you are such a fabulous Rainer and friend to all.   We all love you girl! 

Oct 15, 2011 03:38 PM #37
Laurie Clark CRB Angel Realty LLC Your Monument Realtor 719-502-6572
CRB-CCSS-ASD-HBS-RSD-Denver Short Sale Agents - Monument, CO
Angel Realty, LLC

This is good information on floating floors. Thank you for posting.

Oct 15, 2011 03:48 PM #38
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


I am going to bookmark your blog.  My clients probably don't understand the difference just as I didn't.  So now I have an authoritative blog about the subject.  Thanks for the info.

Oct 15, 2011 04:01 PM #39
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA


Thanks for the great information. Pergo is noisy. It is widely used in our area in place of other more expensive flooring. It is too widely used, in my opinion. I was in a house today with Pergo covered floors in most of the house. Noisy when walked on! Pity the poor person who lives downstairs from someone who installs Pergo floor (or almost any laminate flooring).

Oct 15, 2011 04:11 PM #40
Denise Hamlin, Broker/Owner
Cardinal Realty ~ 319-400-0268 - Iowa City, IA
Helping Happy Clients Make Smart Choices

I'm glad this was featured Debbie. Great information. 

Oct 15, 2011 04:36 PM #41
Jon Quist
Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996

Quite a definitive posting. I knew of some of those variations but not all. Now I just have to wait for someone to bring up the subject. I'm ready.

Oct 15, 2011 04:41 PM #42
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

Debbie - This is a wonderful explanation of what floating floors are,  and are not.  Was referred by a re-blog by Beverly (#37).  This might be getting more play this year than last because even more people are looking into getting flooring changes (maybe because they will be staying in houses for a while longer.)

Oct 15, 2011 05:03 PM #43
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Beverly - thx so much for the reblog.  I'm so thrilled.

Dagny - Thx.  You are too kind.  This one was resurrected, thanks to Kristine Ginsberg.

Angel Realty - Thx so much.

Evelyn - Oh good, I'm so glad.

John - that can be true, but it can also be solved by adding a cork underlayment which is a sound barrier.

Denise - Thx so much.  Yes, it was definitely a suprise.

Jon - Good.  I'm glad I could help prepare you.

Steven - Thank you so much for reblogging.  I really appreciate it.  Thanks to Kristine Ginsberg for reblogging it and giving it new life.

Oct 15, 2011 05:35 PM #44
Kristine Ginsberg
Elite Staging and Redesign, LLC - Short Hills, NJ
NJ Home Stager

Debbie - I know a winner when I see one and this post is superb! So glad to see that well deserved star and did in fact email Bob and he always does the right thing! Congratulations on writing such a great post, teaching us all so much about flooring and being who you are! Always love talking to you and I hope you get some well deserved R&R tomorrow!

Oct 15, 2011 06:47 PM #45
Valerie Baker
Exit Real Estate Professionals - Spokane, WA
Spokane Realtor

Debbie, Thanks for the great information! Do you think floating floors hold up as well as other types?

Oct 15, 2011 07:00 PM #46
Valarie Swanson
CENTURY 21 Award - San Diego, CA
San Diego Real Estate

Debbie, thanks for the information. You'd be surprised (or maybe not) how many clients ask me about the floors in a home we're viewing. Now, I'll have a little more confidence in my answers. Thank you. I'm off to read your other post about the engineered hardwood. I hear that question a lot as well.

Oct 15, 2011 08:27 PM #47
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge www.GoldenResults.com - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566

What an interesting article to read about floating floors . I really enjoyed the explanation of what they are plus, better yet, what they are not. After you read this you have one thing clear. You need to consult a professional floor person to guide you through the selection and proper installation maze. Reblogged!

Oct 15, 2011 08:50 PM #48
David Popoff
DMK Real Estate - Darien, CT
Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct

Debbie, great post, very informative, thanks for putting it together.

Oct 16, 2011 12:39 AM #49
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Kristine - Thx.  You are such a good friend.  Thx for sending the letter.  Sorry about all the mix up drama here.  thank you again for resurrecting this one.  Good talking to you yesterday.  I was out late last night, so just waking up.

Valerie - Thx.  It depends what you are comparing them to and how well the item is made.  In general, for hardwood, if you can nail it in, that is best; if not, and if you can glue, that is 2nd best followed by flooring.  Then, it depends on the item being used.  There are some great floating hardwoods with strong warranties that are 25+ yrs.  There are also some cheap ones w/ 10-12 yr warranties (and there may even be some really cheap ones w/ less).  Most of the laminates I install have 20 yr warranty and will hold up better vs. a sheet vinyl and will scratch less than a hardwood.  Some hardwoods can be refinished thought so in the end those may last longer, so it really depends.

Valerie - Oh good. I'm so glad this will help.

Cheryl - Oh thanks.  Yes, it is better when you can consult a professional.  Thank you so much for reblogging.

David - Thank you so much.

Oct 16, 2011 01:19 AM #50
Nancy Timberlake
RE/MAX Shoreline - Portland, ME
REALTOR - Southern Maine

Very informative.  I learned a lot from your post.  Thanks!

Oct 16, 2011 01:55 AM #51
Scott Godzyk
Godzyk Real Estate Services - Manchester, NH
One of the Manchester NH's area Leading Agents

One of the most important things i learned on floating floors is to make sure you install a "felt" or pad before laying down the floor. The felt keeps the floor from "clicking" or knocking when you walk on it.

Oct 16, 2011 01:59 AM #52
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Great info Debbie, thank you.  I wasn't aware of some of this and can use this to advise clients.

Oct 16, 2011 02:04 AM #53
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Nancy - Oh good, I'm so glad.

Scott - Oh, yes, you definitely need some sort of underlayment.  It serves as a moisture and sound barrier and prevents the laminate/hardwood rubbing against the subfloor.  (Of course, you don't need one for cork floors - it's built in - nor vinyl.

Gabe - Good, I'm glad to hear that.

Oct 16, 2011 02:27 AM #54
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Another great post by the Flooring Girl!  Debbie, sorry I am so behind on commenting on this.  I just caught it on a re-blog from Kristine.  This is excellent input for people to consider when choosing their flooring.

Oct 17, 2011 05:15 PM #55
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Deedee - thank so much.  I really appreciate and thrilled you caught it on the reblog.

Oct 17, 2011 11:27 PM #56
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Debbie Gartner

The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers
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