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What Is a Floating Floor?


What Is a Floating Floor?

Laminate Flooring is One Example of a Floating Floor

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Definition: Floating floor is a method of installing a floor rather than a specific type of flooring material. In this method, the individual planks, boards, or tile attach to each other--either by means of gluing or snapping together--but do not attach to the substrate (whether underlayment or sub-floor) on which it is being installed.

A floating floor is sometimes erroneously thought of as a floor that is vertically elevated from the subfloor, so that there is a space between floating floor and subfloor.

A jigsaw puzzle is a good analogy for understanding floating floors. With a jigsaw puzzle, pieces connect to each other, but not to the table. Serving to keep the puzzle in place: weight of the puzzle; friction contact between puzzle and table; and side-to-side attachment of the individual pieces.

How It Works:

For ages, floor coverings were attached to their underlying substrates. Hardwood floors do need to be nailed down to the sub-floor. Ceramic and porcelain tile, too, need to be mortared to their bases.

As do-it-yourself floor installation gained in popularity, methods had to be developed to ease the complexity of installation for homeowners. Development of the floating floor freed novice floor installers from dealing with manual nailing or air compressed floor nailers.

Like the puzzle, a floating floor stays in place because of four factors:

  1. Sheer Weight: Even though individual laminate planks are lightweight, collectively they can weigh several hundred pounds across an entire room.
  2. Friction: Below laminate is foam or cork underlayment. Friction between flooring planks and underlayment controls lateral movement.
  3. Joinery: Laminate boards positively snap or glue together.
  4. Confinement: Laminate flooring is contained on three or four sides by walls. While an expansion gap is required around the perimeter of laminate flooring, these walls will help to confine the floor.


The prime example of a floating floor is laminate flooring. While laminate flooring can be glued down to the underlayment, most laminate is installed on a "floating" basis.

Even some types of tile flooring are floating. Rather than mortaring down the tile to the floor, the tiles are attached to each other via interlocking plastic trays.

Solid hardwood is never installed as a floating floor.


  • One advantage of the floating floor method of installation is it allows for the floor to move and expand in response to changes in a room's humidity.
  • More importantly, floating floors remove many obstacles to do-it-yourself installation. For instance, nailing down hardwood flooring can be a daunting task for DIYers. But with a floating laminate floor, the floorboards easily attached to each other with no specialized tools such as a floor nailer.


  • One of the disadvantages of a floating floor is that it is thinner and less substantial than flooring that attached to the subfloor.
  • Floating floor tends to command lower resale value than traditional nailed-down hardwood or mortared-down tile.
Also Known As: float floor
Emilio decided to install a floating laminate floor because he had no experience with installing traditional nail-down hardwood flooring.
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