Can You Do a Floating Floor on an Uneven Surface?

Floating floors combine a multitude of design possibilities with simplified installation. They come in vinyl sheets and in laminate planks that look like wood or natural stone. They also are available in planks topped with linoleum, natural bamboo or cork. Because the floors float, you simply secure the edges without gluing down the entire floor. Floating floors cover minor imperfections in the sub-floor. For best results, however, you must correct larger flaws in the existing floor before installing a floating floor.

credit: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images
Floating floors are a popular alternative to wood.

Suitable Sub-Flooring

Unlike many glue-on installations, a floating installation in most cases does not require removal of existing flooring materials. For example, you can install some types of laminate flooring over concrete, ceramic, sheet vinyl, wood or asbestos tile. You can even install floating floors over several layers of existing flooring. You must, however, remove carpets and carpet padding before installing a floating floor. Since products vary, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for your particular brand and type of flooring.

Sloping Floors

Floating floor instructions normally require leveling out high and low areas. The manufacturer of Pergo, for example, states that you must level the floor within a tolerance of 3/16ths of an inch in any 10-foot radius before installing its flooring. Different laminate manufacturers give different tolerances, so follow your manufacturer's specific directions. Hometime home improvement show's website recommends leveling uneven areas in an old floor before laying a new vinyl floating floor. If you don't, the new vinyl floor will conform to the old floor, giving an uneven result.

Other Flaws

If your existing floor has loose tiles, glue them down securely before installing a floating floor. Replace any missing tiles and fill damaged areas. If your existing floor has deep markings or grooves as part of the design, you should fill those also. The manufacturer of Allure laminate flooring recommends filling any grooves, grout lines or embossed areas of ceramic or other floors whose depth exceeds 1/8 of an inch. Follow the recommendations of your flooring manufacturer.

Preparation Methods

Clean the wax and dirt from your old floor before working on surface irregularities. Level out uneven areas or holes using the method recommended by your manufacturer. For example, Pergo suggests applying a latex-based leveling compound or Portland cement. After spreading the filler, let it dry completely. Then sand it down until the floor is level. Green Leaf Sustainable Wood Floors recommends using filler for large variations but allows the use of 15-pound felt to fill small depressions in non-concrete floors. Green Leaf also recommends removing small bumps on concrete by grinding. Once you have repaired irregularities, clean the floor again before installing your floating floor.