Find out how to install floating flooring yourself. Learn what a floating floor is: one that sits above the old floor with no glue or nails attaching the two. Get tips on following the manufacturer's recommendations when figuring out whether you need an underlayment and making sure you don't trap your dishwasher if you're installing the floor in your kitchen.
LESLIE: Well, one of the most common questions we get here on The Money Pit is how to install flooring. And the good news is that installing flooring has become easier and easier to do, making it a perfect do-it-yourself project.
TOM: Absolutely. And that is especially true when it comes to the wide array of products that can be installed as floating floors. For the step-by-step on this project, we turn now to how-to expert, Tom Silva , from TV’s This Old House , who practices magic in his spare time and knows how to make floors levitate and float all by themselves.
TOM SILVA: (chuckling) Oh, yeah. Well, it’s nice to be here, guys. How are you doing?
TOM: Oh, it’s great to have you, Tommy. And let’s talk about what a floating floor  is. It’s not quite that magical but it means that it simply sits on top of an old one, right?
TOM SILVA: Right. It’s really the way that you install the floor, so it’s a floor installation . So that new, floating floor just sits on top of the floor below.
TOM: So no glue, no nailing, no physical attachment.
TOM SILVA: (overlapping voices) No mechanical fasteners, right.
TOM: Got it, got it.
TOM SILVA: Right.
TOM: Now how many floors use that kind of design today? Are there a lot of options in materials?
TOM SILVA: You can get just about anything you want; any width, any species. Like you can get laminate floors, you can get engineered hardwood floors; you can bamboo, cork and even vinyl and tile.
LESLIE: Now, because they’re floating, what about an underlayment? Is there something specific to each type of floor that you should be using when doing the installation?
TOM SILVA: The first thing you want to do is you want to read what the manufacturer recommends. Some manufacturers want a vapor barrier under it and some manufacturers have their own vapor barrier that they want you to use. Some manufacturers recommend a foam underneath it. So, like I say, it’s very important that you follow their instructions.
LESLIE: And what about during the installation process? I mean you always see some sort of finish around the baseboard, whether it’s a shoe molding or a quarter round. Do you need to give yourself some sort of gap around the perimeter of the room, for expansion?
TOM SILVA: Right. When you put a floating floor together, each piece connects to itself. It clips together, glues together depending on which one. So now that floor now becomes one giant piece of flooring. That flooring is going to expand and contract and it’s going to need some place to go. So you have to create a gap around the perimeter of the room; a minimum, usually, of a ¼ an inch. You can cover that gap with the baseboard or a shoe molding.
TOM: Sounds easy enough. Now, because you’re putting a second layer of flooring on top of the original, there’s some thickness that you’re building up there. By the time you get done with the flooring and the thickness, you’ve got to be up to a ½-inch or so. Are there situations where that could kind of get you in trouble?
TOM SILVA: Absolutely. Suppose you’re going to a kitchen, for example, and you’re putting a ½-inch floor on top of that kitchen. And that dishwasher that’s under that counter just made it in there.
TOM: Oh, yeah.
TOM SILVA: Well, if you’ve got to service that dishwasher, are you going to be able to get it out? You’ve got to think about that. So, you think about the thickness of the floors; it’s very important.
LESLIE: Now, Tommy, since you work in older homes quite often, have you ever encountered an instance where this floating type of flooring just isn’t going to work there?
TOM SILVA: I actually haven’t encountered a situation where I couldn’t use it but it takes a little more prep work to make the floor go in and look good.
TOM: I’ve got to tell you, I’ve got an 1886 kitchen with a floating floor on it right now. I would be embarrassed to tell you how many dips and weaves there are in that. (Leslie chuckles) It’s really stood up quite well.
Tommy Silva from TV’s This Old House. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
TOM SILVA: It’s my pleasure.
TOM: And there’s a great video and article on ThisOldHouse.com on this very subject.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch more tips from Tom Silva and the entire This Old House team, on your local PBS station.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.