Last Updated on June 20, 2023 by Barry Gray
An engineered wood floor can look spectacular, but only when it has been installed correctly. However, I feel that this point about installation throws up an interesting debate.
You see, there are two methods that people will primarily use when it comes to installing a new wood floor: glue or float it. But which is best? For me, floating a floor is best if you are new to DIY. There’s fewer problems, and it’s a more simplistic approach. However, if you want a better job, then gluing the floor works better.
Now, both options tackle the same issue from entirely different angles, and I always find it very interesting to see how each option works. However, the ultimate aim is to come to some conclusion as to the best approach. After all, I would always want you to feel happy with the installation of your new floor.
But I also admit that some people may feel stressed when they think about installing a floor. Well, I’m hopefully going to help you out by also letting you see that this particular project need not be as tricky as you perhaps feared.
So, let’s get on with checking out these two installation methods to begin to assist you in picking out the best option for you.
What I Mean By Gluing the Floor Down
I will dive into the concept of floating a wood floor in just a few minutes, but let me walk you through the gluing option first.
I think this is pretty self-explanatory. After all, it makes sense that the idea of being able to glue down a floor does mean you use some form of adhesive to attach those wooden boards to a surface below.
But keep in mind that this is not just any old glue. It’s an adhesive that has been specially created just for this very job, and I do admit that it’s pretty good at what it does.
Immediately, a number of indisputable advantages leap out at me with this method but let me walk you through the process of installing a wood floor using this method before I then delve into the pros and cons.
How to Glue Down an Engineered Wood Floor
The key here is to use a special bonding agent to allow one surface to adhere to another. This particular type of glue only requires you to spread quite a thin layer over the actual subfloor and also on the edge of the boards for it to work.
An important point here is that you can then place the boards directly down onto the surface. The glue does not harden immediately, so there is some time to move planks around and get them into the perfect position. In addition, this works with any type of wood.
Also, I told you earlier how this involves a special glue, but I should also let you know that the more modern versions are far superior to the old versions. The technology in the adhesive, and there is technology, does make a huge difference.
What that means is newer adhesives have the ability to hold for longer and also cope with more pressure being applied. That, in turn, means it’s harder for the floor to move simply because the glue itself is just so good today.
Who is Best to Carry Out this Job?
I do admit that gluing down a wood floor is not for the beginner at DIY. It’s undoubtedly the tricker of the two options, but that’s only if you have never had to lay any wood floor before.
I feel that a beginner could struggle to get the planks ready and line them up perfectly with the glue. It takes a bit more precision and accuracy. However, a more experienced individual should have no problem with installing a wood floor using this method.
Oh, and it’s also best if you are not the type of person that hates mess if you plan to glue down a floor.
The Advantages of Gluing Down a Wood Floor
I see there are several clear advantages linked to gluing down a wood floor that I feel may persuade you to adopt this approach with your own installation.
Using adhesive does mean the boards will struggle to move around. After all, you do stick them down to the subfloor, so they find it difficult to move anywhere. I see this as a massive advantage over any other approach because you feel that gluing down the boards is a one-time job, and you never have to worry about it again.
It Works on Uneven Surfaces
Another huge advantage is that using glue does still work even if the surface you are working on is not entirely flat. Of course, it does mean you must be sure you are using the correct adhesive for this to happen, but when you do, then those boards are almost guaranteed to be going nowhere.
It Lasts a Long Time
Because of the glue, this floor lasts a long time. Actually, you often have more chance of the boards wearing down and looking past their best before the glue decides it’s no longer going to work.
It Can Cope with Traffic
Because of the security, this approach is perfect for areas where people will constantly be walking over the floor. That’s why it’s the ideal choice for public areas, or you would need to always get out there and make repairs, and nobody wants that.
As you can see, the advantages of gluing down a wood floor are huge, and it’s obvious why you should effectively feel drawn to using it, if possible. However, just to recap, here are the key points.
- It is far more secure
- It can cope with a lot of traffic
- It’s just not going to go anywhere when glued correctly
- The surface below need not be completely smooth
The Disadvantages of Gluing a Wood Floor
While I personally love this approach, I do admit that gluing an engineered wood floor does come with several disadvantages.
There’s no doubt that this method is messy. After all, you end up with glue all over the place, and it can become quite annoying in the process. If you hate mess and dealing with excess glue that’s in the wrong place, then this would not be the approach for you.
The other main disadvantage for me is that it’s time-consuming. You need to carefully add the adhesive to the subfloor, which is the quick part, and then add glue to the edges of the boards, and then move them into the perfect position, and then work from that point. The quickest part is the cutting of the boards, but even that can take time.
I feel that you need to prepare yourself for this method to take up more time than you would expect. However, I do believe that it’s more than worth it in the end when you see the end result you can achieve.
It’s Tough to Remove
This is a downside of the very positive advantage of this floor not moving around, and it’s when you want to remove the floor in the future. You see, you need to work hard to break that bond between the subfloor and your installed floor. The adhesive is designed for it to hold under a tremendous amount of pressure, so expect to have to work hard if you need to change things.
What I Mean By Floating the Floor
While the concept of gluing down the floor was easy to understand, I do get that the idea of floating the floor may not be quite as obvious. However, it’s an easy method to follow and one that I feel any individual can do.
You see, the idea of floating the floor involves using the tongue and groove on the side of the planks. You feed them into one another with them effectively clicking into place, and it’s that tight join that holds the entire floor together.
But what all of that means is that the individual planks are held tight to one another, but you do not do anything to help hold the planks onto the subfloor.
As before, I see a number of advantages to using this method, but there are also several clear disadvantages to be aware of.
How to Float an Engineered Wood Floor
The overall key to floating a wood floor is to have the planks prepared beforehand so everything simply slots into place. It really is a case of clicking everything together, and there’s no doubt that this method is exceptionally fast. All you need to do is to cut them to size and you are good to go.
The aim here is for the weight of the planks and the forces that then exist between them will be enough to hold the floor in place. It is a method that does work pretty well. After all, it wouldn’t be quite so common if it didn’t manage to mainly achieve its end aim.
The main thing you need to do here is to ensure you line up the planks correctly. The tongue and groove need to be perfect to allow it to click into place. However, it’s not a tricky task and merely involves you not rushing into anything.
Who Can Install it?
I see floating a floor as something everyone can do. That’s because it’s straightforward and doesn’t require any special knowledge. Even someone relatively new to DIY should have no real issues with installing this floor. Actually, the only thing I would suggest is taking your time.
The fact it’s so straightforward, and with no need for any special tools, is clearly attractive, but there are a series of useful advantages I think you should also be aware of.
The Advantages of Floating a Wood Floor
For me, this approach has several very clear advantages.
The first advantage is the speed aspect. I feel that having the ability to just click things together is faster than laying down the adhesive and waiting for that to set before the floor is really finished. Now, I know more experienced people will take less time, but I feel even people with no prior experience in laying a floor can complete a small room in a couple of hours.
It’s Easy to Do
I also feel that floating a floor is very easy to do. There’s no need for any additional equipment aside from what you need to cut the boards to size. All you need to do is mark off the boards’ length, cut them to size, and then click everything together to ensure it’s all held as one.
It’s Easier to Remove
Another huge advantage is that removing a floating floor is very easy if you wish to change how it all looks. All you need is to effectively prize up the first board, and releasing that pressure effectively unhooks the other boards. The next thing you know, you have the entire floor up, and the subfloor remains untouched below.
So if you know you will be updating the floor in the future, then this could make a difference in your decision of how to install the floor in the first place.
The Disadvantages of Floating an Engineered Wood Floor
While I understand that the advantages sound enticing, I admit that using the floating method with an engineered wood floor also comes with some disadvantages.
The Floor is Less Stable
When you first lay the floor, it’s going to appear to be perfect. However, it doesn’t stay like that when you start to walk over it and apply different forces to the boards.
The problem is that the floor you have installed is not effectively tied down to the subfloor. It just sits on top, meaning it has a certain amount of freedom to move around. That’s not something you want from a floor, and it can lead to problems in the future.
It Cannot Cope with Traffic
This floor does struggle with traffic walking over it. I’m not saying you cannot walk over it, but a floating floor is not the best solution if it’s in an area with high volumes.
It’s all because of the way it moves with the energy. I know it’s designed to do this and stay locked together, but the tongue and groove are not as strong at adhering the boards together compared to glue.
I see that as a significant issue in some areas. You would have to constantly cut, repair and replace boards if you used this installation method when people are always walking over it. At that point, it’s most certainly not worth the hassle.
Yet, I only really see these two major disadvantages of using this method for installing your engineered wood floor. Sure, you could come across other problems while trying to lay the floor, but the two disadvantages above are your main concerns when it comes to deciding which installation option to take.
Which is Best?
So, to answer the main question, is it better to glue or float an engineered wood floor? To me, it’s better to glue the floor because it does provide you with greater stability. Also, the floor will not move around the same, and I just feel you can do a far superior job as a result.
But I’m not saying you should never float a floor. It certainly has its benefits, but I would be careful as to where I use that approach. For me, it would work well in an area where I know it does not get much traffic. It just means the floor has to endure less in the way of natural pressure, so it’s less likely to weaken over time.
However, if you were planning on installing this floor at an entrance, or an area with high traffic, then the glue option would win hands down. The solidity of the floor is second to none when you glue it down, and as I said earlier, the quality of the adhesive is far superior to how it was in the past.
I think those are the main areas of concern for anybody looking to install an engineered wood floor. I can appreciate how floating will work for some, and yet for others gluing the floor is the only thing they can do.
Basically, I would think about these key points when trying to make your decision.
- Are you new to DIY or more experienced?
- What is the traffic like over the floor you will be installing?
- What is your budget?
- How much time do you have?
- Are you prepared to redo the floor in the near future?
These are all important questions to answer in order to come to the best conclusion for your individual needs and requirements.
To conclude, you should try to always glue down a wood floor if you intend for it to stay there for any period of time. It just works better, and there’s less chance of you needing to realign aspects of the floor or boards rising up against one another through use.
But if you are short on time or experience, a floating floor can still work to your advantage. However, you just need to be prepared for potential problems to occur at some point in the future.
Yet, before you go ahead and get started, I suggest checking out these articles that may help you out.