The term “floating floor” spread mainly in the 90´s and it means a floor made of the laminate or wooden pieces that are snapped or glued together. However, the technology of floating floors has been known for several decades already.
What is actually a floating floor? Simply said, it is a floor that is not connected to the walls around it, so it creates a significant sound isolation.
The Quality Is Determined By The Material Of The Carrier Layer
You cannot really evaluate the quality of the flooring at the first sight, it will not be apparent until about 6 – 12 month after the installation. The laminated floating consists of 3 layers: the upper laminate layer, the carrier layer and the stabilizing layer.
The finish top layer is not so determining for the quality of the floor (although its top resin, the melamine layer, causes the resistance against abrasion) as the carrier layer is.
Some of the laminate floorings have the carrier layer made of IMDF or MDF (medium density) boards, which are definitely not recommended. For the floating floors, we recommend only the floorings with a carrier layer made of HDF (very hard) board that is at least 8 mm thick. A floor does not usually lose its functionality because of the surface damage, but due to the instability of the carrier board. Some floors with the HDF layer also offer a protective impregnation against swelling on the edges (which are the most vulnerable parts), while other floors have the protection all over the board surface.
The User Classes Of The Floating Floors
Higher quality laminate floorings have several top layers, that is why they are extremely resistant to wear and surface damage (so they are especially suitable for pet owners). Vendors indicate the recommended level of load on the floor on the packages, which is called the user classes. There are 3 of them for the residential areas flooring:
AC1 – light duty, class 21 (recommended only for the minimally used spaces, such as a guest room),
AC2 – medium load, class 22 (children’s room, dining room),
AC3 – heavy-duty, class 23 (living room, corridors, interconnecting spaces).
Apart from the quality of the carrier board, you can also be guided by the guarantee offered. Check the guarantee carefully with your dealer, as it should be around 15 years. In this case, there is nothing to worry about.
Proper Installation Of A Floating Floor
It is especially important to comply with the optimal conditions and work procedures, so that the floor was really “floating” and functional.
The requirement is a precisely prepared, dry and really flat base (the tolerance is max. 2 mm by a random lay of a 2 m level).
If you install the flooring on a cast floor or a concrete subfloor, it is necessary to use a 0.2 mm thick polyethylene vapour barrier with the overlaps of min. 20 cm, or a glued or welded one.
Furthermore, it is necessary to use the underlay made of polyethylene foam (mirelon) of a sufficient thickness (min 2 mm).
These polyethylene pads must be pulled 20 mm up the walls for the wall trim, if you want a really floating floor, i.e. the one that is not in direct contact with the surrounding walls; a flexible underlay forms a sort of tray and prevents the sound transmission.
The compliance of the expansion gaps is crucial, and they should be min 1.5 cm, but rather 2 cm wide (away from the wall); otherwise over the time, the influence of temperature and the humidity changes will cause swelling of the floor and creating inequalities or even bumps.
To prevent the formation of unsightly gaps, it is important to thrust the tongues and grooves (the lock system) together firmly and carefully (the tolerance is max. 0.15 mm) by means of a special mounting ruler.
The factors also include the temperature and humidity during the installation (which must be according to the manufacturer’s recommendations); the material should be piled on the installation ground under the specified conditions and min. 48 hours before the installation.
If you plan to install the floor yourself, which is manageable for an average handyman with a little skill, be certain to follow all of the installation recommendations!
If you are going to hire a company for laying the floor, insist on keeping the construction documents (e.g. a single building dairy), which makes any complaints, when not satisfied with the result, dramatically easier.
Wood, Laminate Or Cork
The last thing is the choice of the material. You can choose a cheaper laminate flooring, a wooden flooring (however, keep the more demanding maintenance in mind) or you may be pleasantly surprised by the cork flooring. It has an extremely durable derivation known under the brand name marmoleum, which is the true linoleum (not PVC) made of cork flour and linseed oil.