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Floating Hardwood Floors

by Adele Joy

Floating hardwood floors are stable, quiet, durable and easy to maintain. Unlike traditional hardwood floors, which are nailed or glued down, floating hardwood floors are not attached to the subfloor. Because they ‘float’ like this, though being glued or snapped together, movement in the boards is spread across the entire floor, making gaps less likely to appear and improving stability. They can be installed over virtually any type of subfloor, such as concrete, plywood, sheet vinyl or ceramic tiles.

This makes them the ideal option in areas where hardwood flooring cannot be attached to the subfloor, for example when the subfloor is concrete. Floating hardwood floors are usually laid over a foam underlay which provides many further benefits: a moisture barrier, good noise insulation, and 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.

  • Laminate flooring is a budget option for those who want the look of real wood without the price tag. This is accomplished by photographing real wood flooring and pasting the images on to the laminate. Today’s laminates are of excellent quality, with a highly authentic look.

  • Engineered flooring consists of several layers of wood veneer glued to a plywood base. It is resistant to changes in humidity, expanding and contracting less than other types of wood flooring and thus very stable.

Bamboo flooring is one popular floating hardwood floor option, and is available as both engineered and laminate flooring.

Installing Your Floating Hardwood Floor

Installation is relatively easy, making it a great DIY project and money-saver (by avoiding the need for professional installation). The most common way of joining wood planks in a floating installation is to use an adhesive between the joints

  • Preparation
    If the room is carpeted, remove it to expose the subfloor, and 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 a 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.

  • Layout
    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. Generally, floating hardwood floors can be laid in any direction so you can choose the layout that best suits the environment of the room and of course your tastes. Many people take into account where the light enters the room and the entrances and exits.

  • Installation

    • Vacuum the subfloor to remove any dust and debris. If it 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.

    • While installing the floor, take steps to protect it by laying tools on a towel or soft cloth, as well as kneeling on one.

    • Lay the first plank with its tongue edge facing out, and run a bead of glue along the joint or edge of the wood.

    • Working from left to right across the room, insert the second plank and gently tap together using a hammer and tapping block, which protects the tongue or edge of the plank from damage.

    • Continue laying the floor as above. 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.

    • Lastly, conceal the expansion space with baseboard molding. Ensure it is nailed to the wall and not to the floor.

    • Once the installation is complete, let the floor set before walking on it.



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