How to Lay a Floating Wood Floor

Floating wood floors are made of interlocking boards that "float" above a thin base layer of foam matting called the underlayment. The boards in a floating wood floor are designed so that they snap together with tongue-in-groove joints. There is no need to nail or staple the wooden boards to the underlayment or baseboard of the room, thus, floating floors are easy to remove.

If you like the look of finished hardwood, bamboo, or pine flooring, but don't want to spend a lot of time remodeling, engineered flooring is the perfect solution for you.

Planning Stage

First, you must understand how the system of wooden boards and foam padding works. The foam underlayment comes in rolls which you roll out over any flat floor surface (bare baseboards, linoleum, ceramic tile, etc.) After the foam padding is in place, the planks are laid over it, each one clicking into the adjacent plank. See the horizontal cross-section image below.

Once you understand the floor's structure, the next step is to decide on the type of wood. Engineered flooring comes in so many varieties that it can be hard to choose. Some woods are more expensive than others, but all are very durable.

Taking Measurements

After selecting the type of wood for the floating floor, measure the dimensions of your room and the width of the boards. You will need these numbers to determine the total length of floorboards needed, and the total number of planks.

For example, suppose your room is 15 feet by 20 feet and the boards are 10 inches wide. First you find the area of the room in square inches, which in this example is (15)(20)(144) = 43200 sq.in. Then you divide this number by the width of the board (in inches) to find the total length of wood needed (also in inches). Since 43200/10 = 4320, you need a total of 4320 inches of wooden boards. This is equivalent to 360 feet.

If the planks are 12 feet long each, then the total number of planks you need is 360/12 = 30.

You should buy extra boards in case you need to cut some planks, or replace damaged pieces later.

Laying the Floor

Clean the floor space and roll out the foam underlayment that serves as a base for the floating wood floor. If you need to use more than one piece of foam, lay the edges flush and tape the seam together with duct tape. Trim the edges around the room with a utility knife.

Now lay the wooden boards over the foam, keeping 1/4 to 1/2 inches of space between the boards and the walls. This allows for expansion of the floor boards during warm seasons. The exact allowance needed depends on the type of wood and your climate. If you lay the boards flush with the wall, they may buckle and warp as temperature and humidity fluctuates.

Use a rubber mallet to tap each successive board in place alongside the previous one. After laying the last board, add trim all around the perimeter of the room. Nail the trim to the wall, rather than to the floor. This allows boards can truly "float." Be sure to select trim that is wide enough to hide the gap between the wooden planks and the wall.