Floating floors have become popular in DIY circles due to their ease and speed of installation without specialized tools. Rather than being nailed down, it is held in place by its weight, friction between the floor and its underlying subcontrols, and/or its snapped-together joints.
Floating floors are not a floor covering itself, but rather a method of installing planks, boards and sometimes tile flooring.
Floor coverings like laminate, luxury vinyl or engineered wood flooring may be snapped together to create a one-piece uniform surface, rather like a jigsaw puzzle.
They “float” above the subsurface to allow for expansion and contraction in reaction to a room’s humidity level. A non-floating floor example would be hardwood, carpet or ceramic tile.
Even though they are popular choices, floating floors don’t come without their problems.
Four Floating Floor Problems
Since floating floors are just that – floating, problems can manifest themselves in four ways: chipping; warping & buckling; peaking; and mildew & mold growth.
Since most floating floors are made from thinner materials, they tend to be less substantial flooring options and easily be chipped during installation when a tapping block and mallet are used. This can also result in dents and mars. Chips in floating floors can also be created by cleaning the floor with a beater-bar attachment on a vacuum cleaner.
- Warping & Buckling
If floating floors are installed without a proper moisture barrier between it and the subsurface, accumulated moisture from water vapor or water damage can cause edge-warping or buckling. Surface water can also cause warping or buckling; water should never be used to clean a floating floor. This is one of the most common of floating floor problems.
“I’m not sure how to explain it, but there is a certain bounce to the plank, or rather, a hollow under the plank that allows the floor to move up and down. I am not talking about side-to-side expansion movement. This is purely vertical. In some of the more extreme cases, you can even see the plank moving up and down, mostly from the way the light reflects off the wood.”
– ladoladi, Houzz Discussions
The third of our floating floor problems, peaking occurs when two laminate floor boards are forced together by pressure, which causes them to peak at the seam or joint, resulting in a high spot in the flooring. This is generally caused by a lack of expansion space between the flooring and the surrounding walls and moldings. To remedy the problem, remove the molding and cut away a small portion of the flooring to relieve the pressure. Replace the molding.
“Peaking refers to a situation in which the laminate floor boards push up against each other and result in high points at the joints…The most common cause of peaking is a lack of expansion space between the laminate floor and the walls around the perimeter of the installation, or a lack of expansion space between the laminate floor and laminate moldings”
- Mildew & Mold
A strong musty odor is generally a giveaway that a floating floor is contaminated with mold or mildew, which generally arises from an excessively damp environment. Before installing a new floating floor, check for mold and mildew and eradicate it, and install a moisture barrier that will inhibit the growth of mildew and mold.
How Can I Fix My Floating Floor Problems?
You can’t just slap some glue under the affected flooring and call it a day.
You’d be setting yourself up for failure and creating more floating floor problems in the future. Rather, you’d be better served to replace any damaged boards and solve excessive moisture problems with a moisture barrier.