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What are Floating Floors?


Sadly, this is not a magic item. It specifically refers to how certain floors may be installed. You’ll see it described as a floor which is left free to “float” over the subfloor, the wood or concrete base on which you’re installing your new flooring. While accurate, this still threatens to leave a confusing image in the mind, of a floor that slides around under foot as you walk on it. This is also not the case. Basically, a floating floor is one which, when securely installed into your room, is not directly attached to the subfloor, neither by a glue, nor with nails or staples. The pieces are connected to each other on all four sides, and the overall friction underneath the entire floor keeps each piece in place.

The broadest terms for the way the pieces of flooring lock together are “click together,” “click and lock,” or similar terms usually involving “click”, because most of them do. When the edges of two pieces are joined as instructed, they lock together. The specific kind of locking system will depend first on the material. Floating floors are the primary type of laminate flooring available, are common in engineered hardwood, and have even recently become available in vinyl plank flooring as well. In hardwood, you usually have a very basic “tongue and groove” system, and it requires glue where the two join together. For laminate, some require glue in the seams and some don’t, and the many systems have a single broad difference in one step. Some are fall under an “angle angle” style, and some are “drop and lock” type systems. Within these, each manufacturer has its own specific cut for the mechanisms, but in the most general sense, you have a click together locking system, and maybe some glue.


With a floating floor, you lose the hassle, noise, and needed skills related to nailing or stapling planks to a subfloor. Therefore they can go into places where nailing down a floor is not recommended such as concrete or particle board. They can go right over most existing flooring. They are comparatively easy to install, which saves you money, and they can be taken up and re-used in another home if you move.

Despite the ease and flexibility, there are still some musts with a floating floor. The biggest is that your subfloor still needs to be level. There can be no hills or valleys, otherwise your planks will not lock together, and even in areas where that’s possible, you may still hear squeaking when you walk. Floating floors are already louder than floors which are attached, so many employ padding, a 2 to 5 millimeter cushion which goes between the floating floor and that upon which it sits.


– – – –
David is a Writer at Floors To Your Home (.com), as well as the PPC Manager, a Marketing Strategy Team member, a Researcher, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jitō. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’) and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on W. David Lichty’s Google+

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2 comments on “What are Floating Floors?
  1. Ed Kara says:

    I am doing some research for my son-in-law regarding flooring. Can hardwood be installed over a concrete slab? If so what special technique is used?

    If hardwood cant be installed what options are there instead of laminate?
    thank you for your considerate response.

    • admin says:

      Hello, Ed!

      First, concrete floors have some issues that can affect any flooring, and some which specifically affect hardwoods. The main issue is moisture, and that’s going to be a much likelier concern for a floor installed below ground level. You would need to do a moisture test if your concrete subfloor sits right on the ground, testing various areas of the house during the wettest part of the year. This is the area where I can be least helpful with specifics because the moisture tolerances vary too much for me to give even general guidelines about what numbers you want to see. That will always be specific to the kind of floor (even the species of hardwood) you’re looking at. Rather than looking for a floor and then seeing if you can use it, it may be best to test the floor and then have the numbers which will show you which floors are okay, and which should be ruled out. That might begin the narrowing of your selection process.

      But I can better help with the other issue, flatness, which shouldn’t be confused with levelness. Any subfloor (usually concrete or wood) needs to be flat for almost any floor covering (Hardwod, Laminate, Vinyl etc.). Each make of a floor will have its own specific instructions, but in general you need the floor to be flat within 3/16″ in any 10 foot radius or within 1/8″ across any 6 foot radius. If the floor doesn’t meet the standard, most home stores carry what is called Leveling Compound, a poured mixture designed to fix just this issue.

      This is different from being level. If your house was mysteriously built on a 15 degree slope, then your floor could be perfectly flat, though sloped the 15 degrees. Your flooring will go down fine, even if all water, balls, detritus and, sadly, leveling compound would always gather against the same wall when spilled or dropped.

      Second, there are two main types of hardwood, Solid and Engineered.

      Engineered Hardwood Flooring can go over any subfloor in any room, including the basement. It basically has the same requirements that apply to a Laminate or Vinyl Plank floor for any given space in a house. The looks of Vinyl and Laminate keep improving, so that they are now very realistic. It is unlikely that you wouldn’t be able to get the look you want in any of these three types of flooring.

      The biggest reasons why a person would choose one over the others would be:

      Vinyl Plank – It’s 100% waterproof.
      Laminate – It has the most durable surfaces for pets and high traffic
      Engineered hardwood – It *is* Hardwood, so it obviously has the best, true hardwood look.

      Solid Hardwood is more limited. It can only be installed atop concrete if the concrete is above ground level (called ‘above grade’ by flooring insiders). A plank of Solid Hardwood is basically a big, rectangular chunk of a living thing designed to wick up moisture wherever it can get it. Concrete floors in basements simply create too much of a moisture issue for solid floors to last there. This is even true in Arizona.

      Also, solid hardwood flooring has to be nailed down, and you can’t nail into concrete, so it requires an underlying layer of wood between the Hardwood and your concrete slab. It’s basically a subfloor on top of your subfloor. This can raise your floor up to 2″, which can affect doorways and even cramp rooms with already low ceilings. On the other hand, it can make the flooring a lot warmer underfoot.

      I haven’t covered Hardwood installation in detail on my site, so let me point you to a few decent guides from others on putting Solid Hardwood over concrete, to give you an idea of what could be involved.

      How to Get a Concrete Slab Ready for Wood Floors
      Installing Hardwood Floors on Concrete Slabs
      and another Installing Hardwood Floors Over Concrete

      I referred to specific instructions above. Here’s an example that shows the kind of helpful details these can give. You should be able to easily find these for any floor you’re checking out before you buy it. We post them with each product, and I’m sure most other places do as well.

      If you need any more help, please just ask – here, or you can call us at 1 (800) 804-5251. We’re not hard sellers, so feel free to call us just to get the help you need.

      – David

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