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Your Guide on Floating or Fixed Wood Foor Systems
A floating installation is a way to lay a floor without fixing it to a subfloor or substrate. Since the planks are snapped or glued together but not to the ground, this type of floor fitting is called ‘floating’.
Floating installations can be used almost everywhere and they can work very well with engineered flooring as well as laminate.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Floating Floors
Floating installations are traditionally used with engineered floors because solid wood cannot handle moisture or temperature changes well. Engineered floors, however, are cheaper than solid hardwood, in general, and is much easier to install in comparison. If you attempt to fit a floating floor you will find it is an easy DIY project because of the modern click and lock systems used today which will also save you money from installation.
One of the main benefits of floating floors is the fact how suitable they are for places with high humidity. Having a moisture barrier above your subfloor can help prevent potential water damage.
Constant temperature changes have little effect on floating installations since such a floor has no trouble expanding and contracting, unlike solid wood where the risk of cupping or bowing is significantly higher.
Floating installations can be used almost everywhere, even in places where fixed floors never would never work as long as the subfloor is levelled sufficiently. This includes a fitting process over concrete, plywood, sheet vinyl (not tile) and in areas like a basement where having a solid hardwood floor would be a really bad idea.
Floated floors are comfortable to walk upon because of the created air cushion but they also wear out a bit faster than fixed ones. While walking you can feel the floor bouncing and this puts some pressure on the planks since they are not glued to anything to keep them completely immobile. Eventually, this will build-up and lead to a shorter lifespan.
Some people find the hollow sound and the feeling of walking on a floating installation a bit unnerving. It depends on a lot of the person and the type of floor. A thicker engineered floor should feel different than low-grade laminate, especially when combined with proper underlay.
There is a common misconception concerning the floating floors about them being not able to undergo a sanding procedure. This is only partly true as almost all floating floors are engineered and the floating versions hardly differ from the regular hardwood. Whether or not they can be sanded depends on a lot of the thickness of the top layer of the engineered floor. If it is too thin it means cannot undergo sanding but this specification alone has more to do with the design of the engineered floors rather than their installation method. You can find sanding quite a bit more difficult when the floating floor is laid over foam underlay but you can easily do it if it is over concrete. Even then, you better trust a flooring expert to do this for you.
The Benefits and Downsides of Having a Fixed Floor
Floating floors can move a lot. Sometimes, when you walk upon them, you can even see furniture moving especially if the floor hasn’t been laid properly. Fixed floors do not suffer from such issues for obvious reasons.
It has been mentioned already that some people do not like the produced hollow sound when walking on a floating floor. Those are the people who love the feeling and the sound of stable, solid wood under their feet.
Fixed floors are usually made out of solid wood and this will cost you a lot more than the floating engineered alternative and that is on top of having a harder and more expensive installation.
Installing a floating engineered floor is easy and you can do it yourself. To glue down a fixed floor is a much more involving task which is better left to professionals.
If you are ever to remove your fixed floor you may find it is not a very pleasant task. Some of the stronger adhesives can even pull pieces of the subfloor with them when removed and this would require a new levelling before laying a new flooring.