Developed as an alternative to nailing or adhering materials to a subfloor, floating floorboards are joined together with a tongue-and-groove system that clicks into position.
The floors actually do float, expanding and contracting with weather and moisture content.
When installing it’s important to allow for this expansion by leaving a 10mm gap around the perimeter that’s usually covered by the skirting boards after the floor is laid.
The boards are sold in different sizes and usually supplied with a finished surface so there’s no need to sand or seal.
They can be installed over tiles, concrete, vinyl or timber.
DO IT YOURSELF
To install a floating floor DIY you’ll need to buy a floor laying installation kit, $25, underlay, $45, duct tape, $5, and the floorboards.
To lay 20sqm of flooring at about $30 per sqm will cost about $670.
TIP If laying a floating floor over a new slab leave it for one month per 25mm thickness to ensure the concrete has completely cured.
Have it done by a carpenter at a cost of about $400 a day to lay the floorboards plus materials.
Floor companies offer a supply and lay price starting at about $70 a square metre for flooring, underlay and labour, so a 20sqm floor costs about $1400.
TYPES OF BOARDS
Laminate, engineered flooring and bamboo are the three main materials available for a floating floor, with laminate the most affordable.
Laminate consists of a base layer of moisture-resistant resins then a woodchip composite layer. The top is high-strength paper with a photograph of timber, ceramic or stone covered in melamine resin to help the surface resist damage.
Engineered flooring consists of a precoated natural timber 3 to 4mm thick glued to a cross-laminated plywood base. It’s strong and less likely to warp from moisture.
Bamboo is an eco-friendly choice made from stalks that have been processed and machined into strips, costing from $45 a square metre.
PREPARING THE SURFACE
Floating floorboards can be laid over a variety of subfloors after a little levelling and preparation work.
CONCRETE Grind off high spots and fill low areas with a self-levelling compound mixed to a slurry, spreading it lightly with a steel float.
VINYL Most sheet vinyl floors provide a relatively level surface and are likely to
have a hardboard underlay, making them a good laying surface.
TIMBER Particleboard and tongue-and-groove strip flooring needs little to no preparation. Use a power planer to level any raised edges flush and punch in all nail heads.
CALCULATE SQUARE METRES
To work out how much flooring to buy, multiply the length by the width in rectangular and square rooms. For irregular shaped rooms, draw a floorplan to scale using a grid of one metre squares then count up the
total number, rounding up partial squares.
LAYING THE BOARDS
To prepare for installation, clear the room, remove the skirting boards and vacuum the subfloor.
Remove the boards from their packaging so they can acclimatise to the moisture content of the room then carefully read the instructions and decide on both the laying direction and pattern to be used.
Use a quality moisture-resistant underlay for impact cushioning and sound insulation. Butt-join the underlay then apply duct tape to the joints.
Trim the bases so the new floorboards will fit underneath. Position an offcut of flooring and underlay next to the doorjamb to get the height of the cut then saw off the base of the jamb.
Lay the boards in sequence, keeping the tongue against the wall. Join or click long sides together first, leaving a small gap at the end. Use a tapping block to close the long sides and tighten the joints, leaving a 10mm gap around the outside for expansion.
Position the end board and hooking a pulling bar over the edge against the wall. Tap the upturned edge of the pulling bar with a hammer to close the gap between boards. Finish laying the floor and replace the skirting.