How should I install floating wood floors?

Floating wood flooring takes its name from the type of installation required, namely floating installation. In contrast with solid wood flooring, which is installed using glue or nails, floating wood flooring clicks together. This means that fewer tools and less knowledge are required to install it.

The different types of floating wood floors

There are two different types of 'floating' wood flooring available. To help you choose between them, here is a quick overview of the characteristics of each one:

  • Laminated floating wood flooring: this is the most economic choice. It consists of three different layers: a chipboard core, a decorative layer designed to look like wood and a top layer that protects the wood flooring from wear and tear. Whilst it is the least expensive option, laminate doesn't last as long as other types of wood flooring.
  • Engineered floating wood flooring: this also consists of three different layers. It has two layers of chipboard covered with a layer of hardwood (oak, bamboo, beech, etc.). It strikes the perfect balance between the two other types of click-together floating wood flooring as it lasts longer than laminate but is less expensive than solid wood flooring. It also requires no treatment once installed.

For more information and advice on how to choose the right floating wood floor, see our article: Which wood floor should I choose?

Our guide to perfect floating floor installation

Floating wood flooring clicks together, making it very easy to install. As a result, it requires few tools and little time to add charm and comfort to your house or flat.

Our top tips for installing floating wood floors

To install your floating wood flooring, you will need floor strips (you should add 2 to 5% to the actual surface area in m² to know how many you need to install), a roll of underlay and skirting boards. For your safety, we strongly advise you to wear gloves, safety goggles and kneepads to protect your knees.

Instructions for installing floating wood flooring

Click-together floating wood flooring can be installed in four steps:

  • Pre-installation preparation
  • Installation of floating wood floor strips
  • Making precise cuts
  • Finishing touches

To ensure the best possible hold, the wood floor strips should be installed on a smooth, flat, dry and clean surface. Floating wood flooring can be installed on top of tiles or vinyl flooring but not on top of carpet. If you have underfloor heating, ensure that your chosen floating wood flooring is compatible before installing.

You can also use a spirit level to ensure your floor is flat. Any gaps or bumps should not exceed 5 mm with a 2-metre spirit level.

One last piece of advice before we get on to installation: move your wood floor strips to the room 48 hours prior to installation. This will enable them to acclimatize to the humidity levels in the space.

Step 1: Pre-installation preparation

Before installing the first strip of floating flooring, it is important to vacuum the space one last time to ensure the floor is clean. You can also take any doors off their hinges to ensure easy accessibility.

Wood flooring strips should generally be installed in the direction of the light entering the room. However, if you want to create a sense of space, you can also install them in the direction of the narrowest part of the room. For more information, see our advice on choosing the direction of installation for your floating wood floors.

If your room is on the ground floor with no crawl space, has a low-temperature heated floor or a reversible heated/air-conditioned floor, you will need to install a vapour barrier to protect it from humidity. To do so, overlap sheets of vapour barrier and tape them together with aluminium tape to ensure the floor is airtight (and therefore protected from humidity). Our top tip: don’t hold back from taping the sheets up the wall as well. You can always remove the excess once the floor has been laid.

Finally, to ensure your floor is thermally and acoustically insulated, install underlay perpendicular to the direction that you will install the floating wood floor in.

Underlays more than 3 mm thick (excluding fibreboard panels) or highly compressible underlays should be avoided.

Step 2: Installation of floating wood floor strips

The first click-together strip should be installed in the corner of the room based on the type of installation you have chosen. The strip should be laid so that the grooves face the wall. That way, the tongue that enables you to click the next row into place will be on the right side. To ensure perfect installation, the last strip in the first row should measure at least 30 cm.

As wood will naturally expand, you should insert 8-mm expansion joints around the entire room. You should also place an expansion wedge at the beginning of each row of strips and every 50 cm of floor covered.

To click the second strip into the end of the first, squeeze a thin line of glue onto the plank tongue widthways (wipe away any excess), then position the floating wood floor strip at a 30 degree angle so that it easily slots into the other one. If needed, you can use a rubber mallet to ensure that the strips fit snugly together. And that’s all there is to it! Now all you need to do is continue laying strips for the first row by gluing the ends of each one together (only for this first row).

Once you have reached the end of the row and there isn't enough space to install another full-length strip of click-together floating wood flooring, place an expansion wedge and measure the distance between said wedge and the end of the last strip you laid. Mark this measurement on a strip, trace the cut line, then use a jigsaw to cut it. Once this is done, you can click the last strip of the row into place.

To start the second row, use the off-cut from the last strip in the first row. Ensure that this is at least twice the width of the strip itself for aesthetic reasons.

Continue laying by adjusting the strip and clicking it into place once rotated. Place the next strip end-to-end with the preceding one, inclining it at an angle of around 30 degrees, while fitting it against the horizontal tongue (longitudinal locking), then push the strip down until it is in contact with the floor (lateral locking).

Now you have all the information you need to finish installing your click-together floating wood flooring.

Step 3: Making precise cuts

You now know how to install click-together floating wood flooring. However, not all rooms are completely square, nor free from obstacles. But don't panic. Here are our top tips on how to get a professional finish when cutting strips to size.

Installing click-together wood flooring around pipes

If your floor is fitted with pipes, use a profile gauge to record what cuts need to be made. Once complete, mark the outline on a strip of wood flooring. To make the cut, drill into the strip with a flat wood drill bit, then neaten up with a jigsaw. For a clean finish, lightly sand the edges. And there you have it! Now your wood floor strip will click easily into place, despite the pipes.

Installing click-together wood flooring around corners

Got a room with internal corners? No problem! First, you will need to measure out the strip that will border the corner. Click a marker strip in place, ensuring it is in line with the last row installed. Place an expansion wedge next to the wall, followed by a second marker strip against the second one that you positioned next to the wall. This will enable you to measure out the strip to be cut. Don’t forget to put an expansion wedge against the wall and to measure the width between the wedge and the marker strip in two places. Do the same with the length.

Then all you need to do is to mark out these measurements on a strip of wood flooring, trace the cut lines with a set square and cut the strip with a jigsaw. You can then replace the marker strips with the strip that you have just cut to fit the corner in your room.

Installing the final strip of floating wood flooring

The final row may prove the final challenge when installing your floating wood floor. Generally, you should cut the strips lengthways. To measure, place an expansion wedge against the wall. Measure the distance between the last row of strips and the wedge in two different places.

Next, place a strip on the floor in the direction you are laying it and mark your measurements on it. Trace the cut line and cut with a jigsaw. You can now click the strip into place. Please note that it is sometimes necessary to use a pull bar and a mallet when installing the final row.

Your click-together floating wood floor is now fully installed and the process is almost complete.

Step 4: Finishing your floating wood flooring

Once all the strips of floating wood flooring have been installed, leave the expansion wedges in place for a further 24 hours. If there is any excess underlay or vapour barrier, trim with a Stanley knife.

Installing skirting boards

First, measure the dimensions of each skirting board to be cut. Record the measurements on a board and cut to the required dimensions using a tenon saw. Top tip: when cutting corners, use a mitre box. Next, glue the skirting boards using wood glue.

Finally, install them on the walls by sliding a slim expansion wedge between the skirting board and the freshly laid floating wood flooring so that the wood can naturally expand. Leave to dry and you’re done!

Creating a feeling of cohesiveness

Use a threshold strip to create a seamless feel between two different spaces in your home. Measure the dimensions of the threshold and cut the strip to the correct size. You can glue or screw it in place, depending on the type of strip.

Step 5: Finishing touches

And voilà! After a few hours of (hard) labour, your floating wood floor is complete. Make sure you put the doors back on their hinges and check that they can close fully without scratching the floor. In case of friction, lightly plane the bottom of the door before replacing.

To keep your new floating wood floor looking its best, we recommend reading our practical guide on the best maintenance products.