Floating floor has increasingly become the installation method of choice for many types of floor coverings. Due to its ease and simplicity, floating floor installation saves money and helps installation go a lot faster.
Floating floor is not a type of flooring. Rather, it is a method of installing a floor. Individual planks, boards, and–in rare cases–tiles attach to each other, not to the subfloor. They may attach with glue or by snapping together.
Floating Floor Examples
Laminate Flooring: The prime example of a floating floor is laminate flooring. Almost no laminate flooring is glued down to the substrate. Nearly all laminate is installed on a floating basis. This allows the flooring to respond to changes in a room’s relative humidity by expanding and contracting.
Luxury Vinyl Flooring (LVF): LVF snaps together, board-to-board. It can also be glued to the subfloor. Tiny tongues and grooves engineered into the boards allow them to lock together.
Engineered Flooring: Most engineered wood flooring nails or staples down to a plywood substrate. However, a few brands–such as Armstrong’s Lock & Fold–can be installed on a floating basis.
Non-Floating Floor Examples
Solid Hardwood: Solid hardwood is never installed as a floating floor. Instead, it is nailed into the subfloor.
Ceramic Tile: Almost all tile is mortared to a substrate. However, a couple of floating tile floors are available, most notably Soapstone. Rather than mortaring down the tile to the floor, the tiles are attached to each other via interlocking plastic trays. High cost has been the obstacle to this product catching fire in the consumer market.
Carpeting: Wall-to-wall carpeting, at first, may appear to be a floating floor. Yet the edges are secured to the subfloor via tack strips. In any case, the floating floor designation applies only to hard floor coverings (laminate, vinyl, etc.), not soft coverings, like carpet.
Floating Floor Is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle
One way to understand the floating floor concept is to think of a jigsaw puzzle. With a jigsaw puzzle, pieces connect to each other, not to the table. What keeps the puzzle in place are the weight of the puzzle; friction contact between puzzle and table; and side-to-side attachment of the individual pieces.
You can also think of a floating floor as a type of rug, but a rug that is made of hard materials. In theory, you should be able to move your floating floor around minutely in order to readjust it, much as you would do with a living room area rug. In practice, this is impossible for the reasons listed below.