While most hardwood floors are either nailed or glued to the subfloor beneath them, that's not the only way they can be installed. Free-floating floors — in which the hardwood boards are connected to each other rather than the subfloor — are another valid installation method. Free-floating floors rely on the fact that hardwood is extremely heavy. The heavy hardwood boards create a substantial amount of friction with the ground, preventing them from sliding around when you walk on them.
Free-floating floors can be made from either engineered hardwood or solid hardwood. Engineered hardwood is a product consisting of natural hardwood slats bound to a plywood core. When used in a free-floating install, the engineered hardwood boards are manufactured with tongue-and-groove interlocks on the sides. The boards slide into one another when you're placing them on the ground, which locks them all together. When using solid hardwood, the boards are attached to one another using clips placed on the underside of the boards.
While free-floating hardwood floors aren't as common as their nailed or glued counterparts, they do have a number of advantages. To learn about the advantages and disadvantages of free-floating hardwood floors, read on.
Advantages of Free-Floating Hardwood Floors
The main advantage of free-floating installation is that it's very simple. Removing your existing floor in order to expose the subfloor underneath will likely be the most difficult part of the project. Once the subfloor has been cleaned and left to dry fully, you roll out a foam underlayment and tape it to the subfloor in order to provide a surface for your hardwood boards. Afterwards, you simply begin placing the boards on the ground and locking them together one by one. There's no need to nail the boards to the ground or work with messy glue, so installing free-floating flooring is much easier. It's possible as a DIY project, and the ease of installation also makes the total cost of your new floor less expensive if you're having it professionally installed.
Another benefit is that it's easy to replace damaged floorboards in a free-floating floor. Free-floating floors can be removed by simply unlocking the boards from one another. If one of your hardwood boards has become badly gouged and needs to be replaced, you can easily disassemble your free-floating floor in order to access it and replace it with an undamaged board. When your hardwood floor has been glued or nailed to the ground, accessing individual boards is much more difficult.
Disadvantages of Free-Floating Hardwood Floors
The chief disadvantage of free-floating floors is that they can be noisy, especially when they've first been installed. They're not attached directly to the ground, which means that they will shift upwards and downwards a bit when you walk on them. This results in a clicking noise as the boards scrape against one another.
Thankfully, you can minimize the noise by using a quality underlayment over the subfloor when you're installing your free-floating floor. Underlayments with heavy padding will prevent the hardwood boards from shifting around as much, making them quieter. In addition, free-floating floors tend to become quieter over time as they settle, which makes them less likely to shift when you're walking on them.
Overall, the primary advantage of installing a free-floating hardwood floor is that the installation process is much easier, and it's also easy to remove the floor once it has been installed. While they can be noisier than floors that are nailed or glued to the ground, you can keep noise to a minimum by using a underlayment with heavy padding. If you're thinking about adding a hardwood floor to your home and are looking for a simple method to install one, a free-floating floor is your best bet.
For more information about hardwood floor, contact a flooring company in your area,