There’s a bit more that goes on behind the scenes when installing wood floors than you would think. It’s important to consider various installation methods, all of which can be influenced by your home type, the look & feel you’re aiming for, and of course, the cost. One big question you will have when it comes to hardwood flooring is glue-down or floating? Read on to find out more about the two options.
Hardwood Flooring: Glue Down or Floating? + Everything to Consider
We will start off with the basics. Floating hardwood floors are comprised of layers of hardwood planks that are locked together via tongue and groove. They’re simple and quick to install, leaving little room for error or headaches. Gluing down hardwood floors is a more permanent flooring option and this method lends itself to the truly traditional hardwood floor look and feel. Glued down floors are more resistant to foot traffic, scratches, drops and spills. They aren’t immune to these things, but their more permanent fixture helps to withstand everyday life a bit better than floating planks.
What to Consider About Subfloors
Different types of subfloors allow for different installation methods. Plywood and concrete subfloors are an acceptable base for both floating hardwood floors and glued down floors.
Many apartments or condos have lightweight concrete or gypsum floors. If that’s the case, then floating floors may be the only option. The weight of the glue and planks can become too overwhelming for the lightweight concrete or gypsum and ultimately lead to disastrous results. Glued down floors are also not a good fit for below-grade concrete or high moisture subfloors which are often found in basements. If you’re looking to install in a basement, then floating floors with a good moisture barrier is your best bet.
If you’re worried about installing hardwood floors in wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms, don’t fret. Both installation options will hold up well in these areas so long as the floors themselves are properly cared for.
Hardwood Flooring Cost; Glue Down vs Floating
Cost of a huge factor for most people when it comes to installing new flooring. After all, who doesn’t love saving money? Both glued and floating floors have pros and cons when it comes to the overall price.
Floating floors are quick and beloved for their ease of installation. Their simplistic design typically allows for at least one room, if not an entire project, to be completed in a single day. They’re also easy enough for most people to install on their own. The quicker installation time and the possibility of this being a DIY option can mean significantly lower labor costs.
However, floating floors require a moisture barrier. With glued-down floors, the glue acts as a moisture barrier between the hardwood and the subfloor. The cost of glue versus the cost of a moisture barrier is another consideration. Glued down floors may cost less in materials but they require a professional to install them. Floating floors can be a little more costly but having the flexibility to be a DIY installation could save you in the long run.
Aesthetics, Feel, and Sound
As far as the look of the floor goes, there isn’t much difference between floating and glued down floors. If you’re a stickler for details though, then the difference is there. Floating floors have greater space between the planks which allows for expansion and contraction as the weather changes. Because they are all interlocked rather than glued in place, the entire floor will move. It doesn’t move enough for anyone to notice but it does move enough that certain precautions must be taken.
Transition moldings, or T moldings, are installed in areas where the opening is less than four feet wide. They’re typically seen in doorways. These little moldings allow for the floor to expand and contract but some people don’t care for their appearance. They match the floors so they’re hardly noticeable, but you may feel like something is aesthetically lost without the smooth transition of the floors from room to room. The planks within glued down floors expand but the planks themselves do not move. This allows the floor to stay stationary and therefore no transition moldings are needed.
The Better Option for a Unique Design
Glued down floors are the better option for parquet floors. If a herringbone pattern or any other unique design is your end goal, this is best completed by gluing the planks. It’s not that it’s impossible to do with floating planks, but the glued down option helps the unique design hold in place better as the humidity changes and while it is subjected to foot traffic.
Hardwood Flooring Feel & Sound Glue Down vs Floating
Another consideration is the feel and sound of the floor. Floating floors can feel a bit bouncy and tend to have a more hollow sound. Because they aren’t directly attached to the subfloor, they may feel as if there is a bit of give under your feet when you walk. The underlayment beneath floating floors can make the floors feel a little softer under your feet, which can be nice. Glued down flooring sounds more solid and is less forgiving as you walk. The feel and sound of glued-down flooring is reminiscent of the traditional hardwood floors of generations past.
As mentioned previously, glued down floors are a bit of a more permanent option. This isn’t to say that they can never be changed, but ripping them up to replace the entire floor is a bit more labor-intensive. Each plank has to be separated from the glue and the glue has to then be removed from the subfloor. However, glued down floors are actually a bit easier for replacing just a plank or two at a time. Since the planks are individually placed and do not interlock, you can remove one at a time if needed. If you end up having to replace just a couple planks of floating floors, then you end up having to remove the entire section in order to get to the planks needing replacement.
What it all comes down to is this; if you plan on changing your floors in the next few years or you want to install them yourself then floating wood flooring is the best option for you. While either method allows for the floors to be sanded and stained, if you end up going for a new look entirely like carpet or tile, then floating your planks will make this transition much easier. If you want a unique design like the Herringbone pattern and the traditional solid feel of hard floor beneath your feet, then go with the glue down method.
Feel free to reach out with any remodel questions in the comments below + follow along with our house remodel journey over on Instagram!
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