top of page
  • mattweyandrepairs

To Stick Or To Float? - That is the Question!


In this issue’s project highlight, we did away with the carpet and installed glue down vinyl plank flooring. You may be wondering why did they use glue down instead of floating or why should one be used over the other? The question that needs answered at the fork in the flooring is, should it stick to the floor structure or float on top of it?  

Most vinyl plank manufacturers recommend a smooth, flat (no dips or humps), and a  levelness of 1/4” in ten feet subsurface for the flooring to be installed over, regardless if it’s a floating floor or glue down. In most circumstances, getting your existing floor subsurface to this expectation can be cost prohibitive. It’s important to know if any of those recommendations are truly needed or is it just the manufacturer’s CYA type of language. Below I’m going to share my thought process on determining which type of vinyl plank flooring to use. Also, I’ll touch on some of the easily overlooked conditions that must be considered!

Dips! Humps! The Level Truth On Subsurface Condition Needs

It is IMPORTANT that the subsurface is flat with no to only minor dips and humps! If your floor is like a roller coaster, some significant prep work will be needed! With that said, if your floor is like a roller coaster meant for a toddler, than you may be able to get away with using glue down or a rigid core floating vinyl plank flooring with minimal prep. How will you know which situation you’re in… keep reading!

What’s the problem with dips and humps? The main issue is related to getting or keeping the floor together without seams between the planks. As you install glue down vinyl plank flooring, it’s going to adhere to the contours of the subsurface. If there’s a nice size dip or hump, the flooring will touch in the middle and not on the ends or the ends but not in the middle. For a floating vinyl plank, it may seem like all is well, Matt doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about! Give it a month or three or a year and eventually there will be enough steps on areas where the floor dips that the flooring will start to come apart. The tongue and groove locking mechanism may break or the floor will become unlocked. Either way, you’re pretty screwed!

Not all dips and humps are equal! It matters how extreme they are! Is it like walking across a speed bump every few seconds or is it more of a gradually dip or hump? If it’s gradual, you may be able to install the planks in a particular direction where it won’t have much of an influence so there will be no to tiny seams that you can’t really see when looking at the flooring. But if walking across your floor is like driving on Muncie’s roads right after winter, prep work will be needed!

Hey Matt! I’ve seen vinyl plank flooring installed over tile. Aren’t all the grout lines like a bunch of tiny speed bumps? Yes they are and there is a special vinyl plank flooring type that is designed so it can be installed over grout lines. The vinyl plank needs to have a “rigid core”. The rigid core makes it a much more stiffer floor. It won’t flex when walking over it, allowing it to stay locked together. Being aware of the floor’s pad and thickness also becomes important. If the floor is too thin and/or there isn’t much of a pad, the grout lines will start to wear through and show in your flooring. Similar to when you were a kid and put a piece of paper over something and rubbed a crayon over the paper. The ridges of the texture under the paper appear.

Does it will really need to have a levelness of 1/4” in ten feet? Not in my opinion!  If you’re just in a situation where you know which corner all of the dog’s balls will end up, I think you’ll be good to go. Why do I think this? The reality is your house is going to settle. If you were to go to the expense of getting floor leveler poured or ripping out the subfloor, sistering joists, installing new subfloor… Yea, it will be level right now! Give it a few years or a decade and there’s going to be some settling.

I definitely do not see an issue with a glue down vinyl plank on a floor that tilts but is in plane and free of dips and humps. I can see a little argument for the issues this can cause a floating floor. Eventually, the floor will creep it’s way to be tight against the lowest corner. This could result in the expansion gap not being covered at the highest corner. With a little pre-planning I believe this risk can be mitigated!  

Does the V in Vinyl Plank Flooring Stand for “Vampire”?

A vinyl plank floor will not burst into flames, disintegrate, and blow away in the wind when hit by sunlight! But it does NOT get along with unfiltered SUNLIGHT! The number one thing that gets overlooked when considering glue down or floating vinyl plank flooring is the amount of unfiltered sunlight it will receive. Your mind may have jumped to, fading! That is a concern but not what is most often overlooked. It’s EXPANSION!

The direct sunlight will heat the floor up in particular areas and will cause the vinyl plank to EXPAND! This expansion is planned for but it’s planned for under “typical” circumstances. In our experience, it’s nothing to worry about with a standard window that results in one particular spot on the floor having 1 to 2 hours of direct sunlight.

The issue happens when there’s a bank of windows or a patio door with no coverings facing the Sun’s path. This causes areas of the floor to stay in direct sunlight for much longer periods of time. Making it much hotter! Causing it to expand much more than it would in “typical” circumstances.

Glue down vinyl plank flooring is NOT an option for spaces that will have extended periods of unfiltered direct sunlight. The planks in the direct sunlight will eventually expand to the point where they bubble up. It will be like having your own special mountain range!

You may be thinking, “So glue down flooring won’t work but a floating floor will right?! It’s floating so it can expand and contract however it will need!” Like with most things in life the answer is more complicated than a yes or no. In general, you can use a floating floor and there are things to keep in mind.

The expansion of the floor is not uniform and that is what wrecks havoc! In a room where the flooring is installed in a perfect rectangle or square, there won’t be much of an issue. Let’s say, the flooring is installed in a kitchen and there’s an island or it goes from a large room and continues into a hallway. Mattering where the unfiltered direct sunlight is concentrated, the flooring may expand much more around a narrower spot than a larger area. This will cause the floor to buckle up and leave you baffled because you know the expansion gap was perfect everywhere!

What to do about this? First things first, the best thing to do so you can use either type would be to add window treatments to limit the amount of unfiltered sunlight on the floor. If that’s not an option and the floor of your dreams comes as a floating vinyl plank floor, be prepared for the install to take longer! What we do in this circumstance is install the floor how you typically would but we will NOT cover the expansion gap. We will come back towards the end of a sunny day to inspect the expansion gaps and make adjustments. We will repeat this process for 3 to 4 times. Then we will install the trim to cover the expansion gap.

Oh No! My Beautiful Floor!

Life happens! An unknown rock is stuck in a shoe or your toddler does what toddlers do and the next thing you know there are scratches on the floor. There are a lot of highly durable vinyl plank flooring options but none of them are kid proof! Over time the floor will become damaged. The last commonly overlooked decision to consider when selecting vinyl plank flooring is determining the game plan on how to handle damage to the floor.

Some of the vinyl plank flooring options have a clear coat on top. If your flooring has a clear coat, minor scratches may appear just in the clear coat. In these situations the scratch may be able to be polished out. When the scratch is deeper, you can try using a marker to make it blend better. We’ve had mixed results with this and do not really consider this as a viable solution.

When selecting the flooring, take a moment to look at an unfinished edge. If it’s a floating floor look at the tongue or groove to see what color it is. If it’s glue down, look at the edge. This will give you an idea of the color that will appear if there is a scratch. Will that interior color blend well with the finish appearance of the flooring? If so, maybe the scratches won’t be noticeable and it’s nothing to worry about.

Ultimately the best option is the ability to replace a plank! The option to replace a plank in a glue down vinyl plank floor is far superior than a floating floor. For a glue down vinyl plank, you usually can use a hair dryer, get the area warm, peel up the damaged piece, and then put a new piece down, and you’re done!

For a floating floor, it’s much more complicated! You have to cut out the bad plank very carefully to not damage the surrounding planks. You then modify part of the locking mechanism so one large side and one short side do not lock into place. The replacement plank is locked in on two sides and then glued into place on the two other sides. Getting it where the floor stays tight without a seam is next to impossible. Over time this is now a weak point in the floor system and it’s not uncommon for it to come apart.

TOO LONG!!!                      Give ME The Cliff Notes!

Keep in mind, if your floor is like a Muncie road after Winter, you’ll need prep work regardless of the installation method! If it’s more of a Muncie’s version of a mountain, you may be good or just need minimal prep work. If you have a smooth walk to get the dog’s ball from the same corner of the room, you should be good!

If sections of the floor will be in unfiltered direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time, make a plan for window treatments to limit the amount of unfiltered direct sunlight. If that’s not an option, avoid glue down vinyl plank like a vampire! You can use a floating vinyl plank flooring but plan on there needing to be extra work and a longer install period.

Does “Life Happen” a lot to you? Be realistic on how long you’re wanting your floor to look beautiful! Vinyl plank is a great option when you have pets. It’s easy to clean and know it’s clean. Some of the flooring options will get scratched by your pet’s claws. For a lot of people this will just add character to their floor. If something changes and you’re wanting it to look perfect again, a glue down floor will make this much easier to happen!

1 view0 comments


bottom of page