Floating Floors 101: Types and The Pros and Cons

By Samuel N •  Updated: 02/05/23 • 

When it comes to flooring, there are two main types available – floating and fixed floors. Floating floors have grown in popularity over the recent years because they are inexpensive and, best of all, DIY friendly. What is a floating floor? Are there different types of floating floors? Plus, what are the pros and cons of installing floating floors?

In this post, I’ll cover the important elements of floating floors to help you make an informed decision. Enjoy.

What is a Floating Floor?

A floating floor refers to any flooring installed over the subfloor and underlayment by locking the flooring planks or tiles together. Floating floors snap together into place one piece at a time. Once the pieces snap together, they form a mat-like surface held by their collective weight.

Unlike traditional fixed floors, floating floors are not nailed or glued into place. Floating floors are held in place by gravity and friction, thus the name floating floor.

Installing A Floating Laminate Flooring

Installing A Floating Laminate Flooring

To install a floating floor, the subfloor has to be prepared properly for any imperfections that may translate to the floating floor. It should be flat and smooth because any unevenness might translate onto the floating floor. Underlayment is also added to absorb movements and make the floating floor feel softer and quieter.

Floating floors can also be installed over old floors, which saves up on renovation and repair costs. They work well with floor heating systems by making them efficient and easier to install.

Types of Floating Floors

There are different types of floating floors available. Below are the three most commonly installed floating floors.

1. Floating Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is the best example of a floating floor in the market. Laminate flooring is designed to be installed over any floor or subfloor without the need to be nailed or glued. When installed, the floating floor method allows laminate flooring to respond to changes in temperature and humidity by expanding and contracting without buckling. Each plank locks onto the other plank along the edges and the ends using a tongue-and-groove system, or a click-lock system, because of the sound it makes when two planks lock to each other.

Laminate Flooring

2. Floating Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl is one of the most popular types of flooring because it is practical, durable, also easy to maintain. Although traditional vinyl was installed using glue, it is now available as a floating floor. Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) is the type of vinyl that comes as a floating floor and usually snaps together in the same way as laminate planks. Luxury vinyl planks can imitate the look of different elements such as wood, stone, ceramic, and many other designs. It is durable compared to laminate floating floors and comes in semi-flexible or rigid planks.

Luxury vinyl plank flooring

3. Floating Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered wood flooring has long been installed by stapling it down to the subfloor. However, some brands have come up with floating engineered wood flooring. Like LVF flooring, floating engineered wood flooring is constructed with multiple layers of real wood. The top layer is the finished layer and comes in different wood species depending on your choice. Floating wood flooring comes with a tongue and groove system that interlocks the planks together. Engineered wood floating floors can be installed over different subfloors, like concrete, and can also be used to conserve your cherished hardwood floors.

Installing Engineered Wood Flooring

Installing Engineered Wood Flooring

Apart from these three types of floating floors, there are also floating cork flooring, floating hybrid flooring, and floating bamboo flooring.

Pros of Floating Floors


The biggest advantage of floating floors over fixed floors is they are fairly inexpensive. They cost less to manufacture and install than glue-down or nail-down floors. If you’re working on a tight budget and looking for cheaper flooring to renovate your home, floating floors are the way to go. You can also cut costs by installing floating floors over existing floors instead of ripping the floors to put something else down.

Easy to Replace Damaged Planks

Because they are not glued down to the subfloor, floating floors are easier to remove and replace. If one plank is damaged, it is easier to take it off and replace it with another piece. Floating floors can also be removed and reused later on because they leave no damage behind.

DIY Friendly

If you are a DIY enthusiast, then floating floors are your go-to flooring. They are simple to install, and you can do it yourself without the help of a professional flooring installer. This allows you to save by eliminating the need for a professional installer.

Quicker Installation

Choosing to install a floating floor also means the installation is quicker. During the process of installing new flooring, your home is essentially a construction zone. The faster you do it, the quicker you’ll have your home back. Fixed flooring, both nail-down and glue-down, take time to install. However, floating floors are easier, plus there is little clean up after you finish up.

Laying Out A Laminate Flooring

Laying Out A Laminate Flooring

Cons of Floating Floors

It cannot Be Refinished

A major disadvantage of floating floors is refinishing. Unlike solid floors like hardwood flooring, once floating floors are dilapidated, you cannot refinish them. However, a floating floor like engineered wood flooring can be sanded one or two times.

Can Sound Hollow

Sound is also another possible weakness of floating floors. Most users complain of hollow sounds while walking on floating floors. However, there are different ways to lessen sound effects, such as selecting thicker materials and using the right underlayment.

Apart from hollow sounds, you can also hear squeaky noise as the floating floor ages, and the click-lock system wears down. This can be fixed by installing a floating floor on a stable subfloor and using the right underlayment.

Floating vs Fixed Floors

The main types of floating floors include laminate, LVP, and engineered wood. For fixed floors, the major ones are solid hardwood, tile, and carpet. If you’re looking for something easy to install or uninstall, cheaper to buy, and comfortable when walking on it, a floating floor is a right choice. However, if cost is not an issue and you’re looking for a flooring option that will last years to come, a fixed floor is your best bet. A fixed floor, like solid hardwood flooring, also increases the value of your home, not to mention its aesthetic properties.

Should You Install a Floating Floor?

Floating floors are excellent if you’re looking for a budget-friendly, easy-to-install, and stylish flooring option. They are versatile and can be incorporated in residential and commercial areas. While some, like laminate and LVP, cannot be refinished, their performance, especially LVP, is very good and could last for years to come. Some of their disadvantages, like hollow and squeaky sounds, can be fixed by selecting quality flooring and using the right underlayment.

Samuel N

Samuel N is the founder of Improve Floor and has been in the flooring industry since 2005. Since then, his mission has been to make flooring easier for everyone. He helps countless people with flooring installation, finishing, maintenance, and repairs each year.