Floating Floors

Floating Floors can really enhance a room if they are installed carefully.

Through all the fickle trends of the last century, one style of flooring has
consistently triumphed: floorboards.

They come in so many different types, shades and widths of timber,
that you'll never be hard up finding a timber floor that suits.
However, they can be expensive.

A much cheaper and often more practical alternative is an engineered timber floating floor.
It's literally a floor that "floats" on top of your existing one.

Floating floor

Floating floors come in a huge range.

Floating flooring are manufactured (man-made) timber boards,
often made with an MDF or a plywood substrate with either a solid timber,
timber veneer or manufactured laminate surface.

They are also known as laminate flooring and can be made of bamboo as well.

Boards come in a huge variety of timber varieties (colour, grain etc), widths and quality.

Fastlock Michigan pine laminate flooring.

Fastlock Michigan pine laminate flooring.

They are relatively easy to install as you literally clip and tap them into place.

Once you're on a roll, laying a floating floor is not that difficult, but success lies in fastidious preparation
and attention to detail. Oh, and it can be taxing on the knees.

Floating floors can be installed over just about any existing floor, just get your prep right.

Timber Impressions river birch laminate flooring.

Timber Impressions river birch laminate flooring.

Boards are normally sold in pre-bundled packs, so you will probably
end up with more than you need.
This excess may come in handy for repairs down the track.

Be very careful with newly poured concrete floors, they take months
to fully dry out and you can't lay your floor until they have.


Measuring
Floating floorboards come in bundles and may need to be acclimatised 

to your home before being laid. (Image: Tarkett installation instructions.)

Measure up your floor and purchase enough foam underlay and panels
to allow for 10% wastage.

Your floorboards must not extend from one room to another.
Different rooms will have different temperature and humidity conditions,
which means the boards will expand and shrink at different rates in each room.

That expansion and shrinkage is managed by laying the floor with expansion
joints between the flooring and walls.

Woodtrends Tasmania myrtle laminate flooring.

Woodtrends Tasmania myrtle laminate flooring.

Really large rooms may need to be divided up into smaller sections.

The level of new floor will be higher than the existing one so investigate
any issues that change may cause.

For example will your new boards will fit under existing skirting boards
or you will have to remove then replace them later.

Check the gap under doors too.

There are a variety of materials that need to be laid under your floating floor depending on your circumstances. Steve Maxwell demonstrating the peel-off tape covering glue to secure each length of waterproofing membrane to the next (right). Another variety of underlay being rolled onto the floor. Photo: Tarkett installation instructions.

There are a variety of materials that need to be laid under your floating floor
depending on your circumstances. Steve Maxwell demonstrating the peel-off tape
covering glue to secure each length of waterproofing membrane to the next (right).
Another variety of underlay being rolled onto the floor.
(Photo: Tarkett installation instructions.)

Use the string line to see if your walls are straight. If the walls are bowed
you will have to mark the bowed profile on the first row of boards and cut
these length-wise to fit. This will not be much fun but the end result will be
really dreadful if you don't.

Note where boards will meet up with other floor surfaces.
You will need to accommodate any changes in floor height and cover joins
between the two materials.

Preparation

Select your starting point and lay the first boards with wall spacers. Image: Tarkett installation instructions.

Select your starting point and lay the first boards with wall spacers.
(Image: Tarkett installation instructions)

A lot of manufacturers recommend leaving the panel packs for a week or so
in the room to acclimatise, that will minimise expansion once the floor is down.

You can run a floating floor over concrete, plywood, sheet vinyl, even ceramic tiles,
but you need a level, clean, dry, stable floor to start with.

If your floor surface is not level it will show in the finished job.
Do not underestimate just how much it will show.

Timber Impressions spotted gum laminate flooring.

Timber Impressions spotted gum laminate flooring.

Levelling your floor may mean having to pack out low spots or use
a cement based levelling compound on cement floors.
High spots will need to be sanded or ground down.

Make sure you secure anything that's loose and eliminate
any creaks and squeaks. If your sub-floor is covered with something like
lino that's loose or in poor condition it may be best to pull it up.

Vacuum the room immediately before starting.

Architraves may need to be sawn off at the base to fit the floorboards underneath. Image: Tarkett installation instructions.

Architraves may need to be sawn off at the base to fit the floorboards underneath.
(Image: Tarkett installation instructions)

Underlay

Concrete flooring will require a moisture barrier and all surfaces need a foam underlay.
The underlay will run in the same direction that the floating floor is laid.

Roll out one width of the underlay the length of the room and cut to fit.
Lay your underlay as you go rather than in one hit. Follow the instructions and
overlap the lengths and tape the seams together with the appropriate tape.

Ezyclic applewood laminate flooring.

Ezyclic applewood laminate flooring.

You may want to consider additional acoustic insulation beneath your floating floor
if you don't have a concrete substrate; there are many excellent products now
available that can drastically reduce noise between floors.

Laying the floor

If you have skirting boards, it's usually easiest to just leave them in place.
You can run beading around the edges when you're done to cover any rough joins
if the floating floor doesn't fit underneath.

Many floating floorboards lock together by angling the tongue of one board into the groove of another. Image: Tarkett installation instructions.

Many floating floorboards lock together by angling the tongue of one board into
the groove of another.
(Image: Tarkett installation instructions)

Architraves are often best cut at the bottom to allow the boards to slide underneath.

Place your first row of panels length ways along the longest wall. Laying boards
 in the direction of incoming light works well in square rooms.

Always lay the boards with the cut end against the wall, the tongues should
face into the room towards where the next board will be joined on both the short and long sides.

Woodtrends tallowood laminate flooring.

Woodtrends tallowood laminate flooring.

Use spacers at each end and against adjacent walls to allow for a 12mm
expansion joint at the perimeter.

You will also need to trim boards to give you the same expansion joint
around pipes or other structures projecting from walls such as columns.

Tap the panels together using a rubber mallet and block, never hit the boards
directly with a hammer or mallet.

From Steve Maxwell's helpful how-to guide, showing his son is using a mallet and a block to carefully tap the boards to get a snug fit.

From Steve Maxwell's helpful how-to guide, showing his son is using a mallet
and a block to carefully tap the boards to get a snug fit.

When you get to the end of a row, you'll need to cut your last piece to fit manoeuvre
it into place with a pinch bar.

If any of your rows end with a gap of less than 300mm between them and the wall,
you will need to trim the first board against the wall where you started,
to make a larger gap for the last board.

When you're cutting the boards with a handsaw have the "good" side up and
you won't splinter the timber finish. With and electric jigsaw or a circular saw,
face the good side down. Handsaws cut on the downward stroke, power tools cut upward.

Floating floor from Solid Lock.

Floating floors click together in a wide range of ways. Some require glue and nails,
some just click and lock.(Image: Solid Lock)

Continue with the next row in the same way, you can use the offcut from the last board
as the first board in the next row. Again make sure these shorter end boards are
at least 300mm long.

Randomly staggering the joins across the floor will not only look better,
it will make the floor stronger.

A plank that runs across a door will have to be notched to fit inside the doorway.

Steve Maxwell trimming a board with a jigsaw, note the board is good face down to avoid damaging the finished surface.

Steve Maxwell trimming a board with a jigsaw, note the board is good face down
to avoid damaging the finished surface.

Use your rubber mallet and block to tap the boards together both length ways
and width ways as you go.

As you work, keep checking that the boards are sitting together snugly and are lying flat.
Tap boards to close any gaps.

After every few rows check that the flooring is square by either measuring the rows
against the opposite wall if that wall is square or measure back to the wall you started with.

Take your measurements at several places along the row.
Continue to do this as you go.

If you start to see any undulations in the boards, stop. They will not go away.
You will need to take up what you've done and go back to the floor levelling stage.

Most floating floors these days do not require glue or nails.

Finishing

When you get to the final row, you'll almost definitely have to trim the width
of your final row to fit, allowing for the 12mm expansion joint.
This is where you'll need your skills with the pinch bar to wedge the final row
into place unless you've removed the skirting boards.

When the room is finished, remove the spacer blocks. Replace the skirting boards
or run beading or quad around the perimeter to conceal the rough edges.

Simply measure and cut to fit beading. You may choose to stain the beading
the same colour as your floorboards for a seamless finish.

Unless your boards needed to be glued, you will be able to walk on the floor
right away and move your furniture back in.

Safety tips

  • Use kneepads, goggles and dust masks when laying any floor.
  • Ensure the room is well ventilated.
  • Take extra care when using power tools.

The DIY information provided is general in nature.
You should consult experts to get full details relating to your job.

 
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For further information please send me an email to;

Master@masterflooring.com.au