What is a Laminate Floating Floor?

Jim Williams
Posted in:

Once you have purchase laminate floor, next on your to-do list is its installation. The most common installation method for laminate flooring is floating the planks over your existing floor (subfloor). You are probably wondering how a floor floats, but actually, the term "laminate floating floor" is a misnomer. A laminate floating floor does not literally float in the air, but rather hovers over your structural subfloor and underlayment.

Many homeowners, contractors, designers, and business owners choose floating laminate flooring for its ease of installation. This type of floor can be installed almost anywhere - from existing flooring material like tile and hardwood, to concrete and carpet; whereas materials like tile, hardwood, bamboo, and cork require the installer to tear out existing subfloor before the material is installed.

Usually, with a floating floor, you would glue or click the planks together instead of gluing it directly to the subfloor.


What is it and How it Works With the Floating Floor

Most commonly, a protective layer, known as an underlayment, is laid between the sub- and floating floor layers. Installing underlayment is a critical and sometimes ignored step in the laminate installation process. An underlayment sits between the structural subfloor and the flooring material, according to INSTALL (International Standards and Training Alliance).

Even if the laminate floating floor doesn’t touch the surface beneath it, moisture could rise up and cause long-term damage. The damage may be minimal at first due to a laminate floor's resistance to moisture, however after an extended period of time cupping and buckling occur. All in all, Installing underlayment may cost a little extra money, but is a small price to pay for extending the life of your laminate floating floor.

Other Considerations

Before you think you are in the clear, make sure you consider what type of flooring lies under your floating floor, as each material has a different need. The About.com’s Home Renovation expert Lee Wallender notes that, “Hardwood floor do need to be nailed down to the subfloor. Ceramic and porcelain tile, too, need to be attached to the base subfloor by mortar.” The four most popular wood and laminate underlayments are:

  • Standard Foam
  • Combo
  • Upgraded
  • Cork

Understand the varieties and uses of underlayments before moving forward with your floor covering project.

Tips for Installing a Floating Floor

Although laminate flooring is a synthetic material it’s still constructed with wood elements making it midly succeptable to humidity and temperature changes. Both the subfloor and laminate planks will react differently to temperature and humidity. With that being said, make sure when you install the underlayment and laminate planks that you leave at least ¼ inch on the ends for expansion and contraction.

Also note that flooring installation instructions will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer; so inquire with a representative to make sure that you are following instructions.


A floating floor usually is thinner and less hearty than subfloor-attached flooring, which deters some individuals from buying this type of flooring. Additionally, floating floor tends to command a lower resale value than traditional hardwood or tile, notes About.com’s Waljender. (But, keep in mind that the upfront cost of laminate tends to be considerably lower than most hardwood applications, tile, bamboo, and even carpet.)

Hopefully this article has answered the all-important question, “What is laminate floating floor?” In summary, laminate floating floor is an economical and easy-to-install flooring application that hovers over a structural, ground layer. Floating floors work best with a layer in between, or underlayment, to provide extra support and a moisture barrier. Consider all flooring options before writing the check for your next flooring project - but keep floating laminate in mind!