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8 Major Advantages & Disadvantages of Floating Floors

If you have made up your mind about installing floating floors in your home, hold until you read through this article. Floating floors definitely have unique qualities, but there are disadvantages of floating floors too. And we recommend you weigh out the advantages and disadvantages of floating floors to make the right decision. 

What is a Floating Floor?

Floating floor refers to an installation method where the flooring floats — as the name implies — over the subfloor or the substrate. This is quite an innovative idea in the flooring world as up until the 90s, nail or glue-down were the only commercially available flooring installation methods. It can be installed over concrete, plywood, particleboard, or existing floors secured to the subfloor.

Laminate, vinyl or luxury vinyl, and engineered hardwood are the most common types of floating floors. The floating floorboards make the installation fast, inexpensive, and DIY-friendly. However, since the floor is not secured to the subfloor, it might feel hollow underneath the feet if not installed correctly. Also, any imperfections in the subfloor are likely to impact the installation.

How does a floating floor stay in place?

A floating floor is almost like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The interlocks between the planks allow the force of friction and gravity to hold the floor in place. The click-and-lock mechanism between the planks is tough to break apart. Therefore, the planks act like an unbroken piece of flooring when interconnected. The collective mass limits any movement of the floor. Also, the underlay creates friction that prevents sliding.

Disadvantages of Floating Floors

Floating floors may not last as long

One thing you need to know about floating floors is that it really floats. If you slice an installed floating floor across its cross section and look at the layers, you will see the floor sitting on top of a layer of air above the subfloor. Although it’s easier on the joints when you step on the floor, this thin layer of air amplifies the impact on the floor from your daily activities. Which impacts its durability — hence, the untimely passing of your floors.

Floating floors are more prone to shifting or buckling, particularly in humid or moist areas. Moisture can seep between the gaps in the flooring and cause warping or damage to the boards. Also, the quality of the installation itself can significantly affect the longevity of floating floors. If the building is not done correctly or subpar materials are used, the floor may develop problems sooner rather than later. Poorly installed floating floors can create gaps, loose boards, or uneven surfaces, reducing lifespan.

You can stretch the lifespan of floating floors by choosing higher-quality materials and using an underlayment. However, you might still consider sturdier installation for high foot traffic areas — especially if you have children or pets.

Floating floors are typically noisy

Picture this: you’re walking around your cozy home, and every step you take sounds like you’re tap dancing on a drum set. Not exactly the peaceful ambiance you were going for, right?

One of the main reasons floating floors can be noisy is because, well, they float! Unlike other types of flooring that are nailed or glued down, floating floors are designed to hover above the subfloor. They usually consist of individual planks or tiles that are connected, but they aren’t directly attached to the ground.

This floating design can create a bit of a hollow sound when you walk on it. It’s like the floor is saying, “Hey, I’m here, and I’m ready to make some noise!” The lack of direct contact with the subfloor allows sound waves to bounce around and reverberate, resulting in that echoing effect.

Now, don’t panic just yet! There are ways to minimize the noise. Adding an underlayment beneath the floating floor can help absorb some sounds and provide a more solid feel. Also, using thicker or denser materials for your floating floor, like cork or rubber, can help reduce the noise factor.

Floating floors cannot be refinished

Imagine you’ve got a floating floor that has seen better days. It’s got scratches, dents, and a worn-out look that’s just begging for a makeover. Unfortunately, when it comes to refinishing, floating floors don’t make the cut.

The main reason is that floating floors are typically made of materials like laminate or engineered wood, which have a thin veneer layer on top. This layer is what gives the floor its look and protects the underlying layers. The problem is it’s not thick enough to handle the sanding and refinishing process. If you were to take a sander to it, you’d sand right through that veneer and expose the less attractive layers below. Yikes!

Unlike solid hardwood floors that can handle multiple rounds of sanding and refinishing, floating floors just don’t have that same luxury. Once that top layer is damaged, your only option is to replace the entire floor. So, if you want a floor that can be refinished down the line, you might want to consider solid hardwood or other materials that can handle a little sanding and sprucing up.

Floating floors might not work in humid conditions

Floating floors are like the Goldilocks of the flooring world—they’re a bit sensitive to extreme humidity. When the air gets humid, it can cause the materials used in floating floors, like laminate or engineered wood, to absorb moisture. And let’s be honest, nobody likes a soggy floor. This moisture absorption can lead to some not-so-fun consequences. The floor might start to expand, causing those planks to push against each other, resulting in gaps between the boards or even some noticeable buckling.

But don’t worry, there are a few things you can do to keep your floating floor happy. One option is to control the humidity levels in your home. Using a dehumidifier during those steamy months can help prevent excessive moisture from wreaking havoc on your floor. Also, ensuring proper ventilation in areas prone to humidity, like bathrooms or kitchens, can make a big difference.

Another solution is to choose flooring materials that are more resistant to moisture, like vinyl or certain types of engineered wood. These options can handle a bit of humidity without throwing a fit.

Floating floors require a completely even subfloor

Floating floors are a bit picky when it comes to their subfloor. They demand a perfectly even subfloor. Why, you ask? Well, it all comes down to their installation method. Unlike other types of flooring that get nailed or glued down, floating floors are, well, floating. Because they’re not directly attached to the subfloor, any imperfections or unevenness can cause issues.

An uneven subfloor can lead to gaps, creaking, or even a bumpy and uncomfortable walking experience. Not exactly what you signed up for, right? So, before you embark on your floating floor adventure, it’s crucial to ensure that the subfloor is smooth and level. You might need to do some prep work, like sanding down high spots or filling in low areas, to create that ideal foundation for your floating floor.

Advantages of Floating Floors

Floating floors are more affordable

One of the main reasons floating floors are more affordable is their installation process. Unlike traditional flooring options that require professional installation or specialized tools, floating floors are DIY-friendly. You can tackle the installation yourself, saving those extra bucks you’d spend on hiring a pro. Floating floors also require fewer additional materials. They don’t need adhesives, nails, or staples for installation, which means you can skip those extra expenses.

Another cost-saving aspect is the materials used. Floating floors often feature laminate, engineered wood, or vinyl, which are more budget-friendly compared to their solid hardwood or natural stone counterparts. These materials are designed to mimic the look of pricier options while being easier on the wallet.

They are DIY-friendly

Floating floors are like the best buddies for DIY enthusiasts. One of the biggest reasons floating floors are DIY-friendly is their installation process. It’s like a puzzle that’s just waiting for you to solve. Instead of dealing with complicated tools or specialized skills, you can roll up your sleeves and take on the challenge yourself. They typically come with user-friendly click-lock systems or adhesive strips that make it easy to connect the planks or tiles together.

Not only are floating floors easy to install, but they also require minimal prep work. Since they float above the subfloor, you don’t have to worry about nailing or glueing them down. You can skip the messy adhesives and complex subfloor preparations, making the whole process more straightforward and less time-consuming.

They are easier to replace or repair

One of the major advantages of floating floors is their ease of replacement. If a portion of your floor gets damaged or worn out, you don’t need to tear up the entire thing. With floating floors, you can simply remove the affected planks or tiles and replace them individually. Floating floors are not permanently attached to the subfloor. This means you can lift them up and swap damaged pieces without hassle — no need to hire a professional or deal with extensive renovation. Just pop out the old, pop in the new, and voila! Your floor is looking fresh again.

Repairs are also a breeze with floating floors. If you encounter minor issues like scratches or chips, you can often fix them yourself. Some floating floor materials come with touch-up kits or repair products that make it simple to address those little imperfections. You don’t need to be a flooring expert to give your floor a little TLC.

Now that you know all the major advantages and disadvantages of floating floors, is this the right choice for you? Comment below and let us know!

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