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Can You Put a Floating Floor on Uneven Surface? (How To)

Floating floors are convenient and easy to install, making them a good option for home applications. However, I was curious about how much leeway one has where surface unevenness is concerned.

Floating floors can be installed on uneven surfaces. By virtue of the floor not being tightly bonded to the subfloor, imperfections, bumps, and any unevenness will not reflect on the actual floor. Typical materials used in floating floors are vinyl tiles, laminate, and wood.

Man working on the floating floor

Should You Put a Floating Floor on an Uneven Surface?

Man working on the floating floor

Can and should are two different words, and simply because I can install a floating floor on an uneven surface does not mean it is the best option. The question then turns from can you put a floating floor on an uneven surface to should I install a floating floor on an uneven surface?

It is not optimal to install a floating floor on an uneven surface. This is especially true for ceramic and porcelain applications that tend to crack, given the right amount of time. In wooden applications, planks may move or come apart on top of being a bit noisy where the wood does not sit well.

What Tools Do You Need To Put a Floating Floor on an Uneven Surface?

Confused man standing

Depending on the degree to which a subfloor is uneven, one may choose to install it without surface preparation. Unless your floor is fairly even, it is always best to prepare the surface first, as it is very easy to miss something when assumptions are made. Some floors are so uneven though that some preparation is a prerequisite.

With an uneven surface, one needs extra tools for preparation before installation. If the subfloor is uneven, there will be dips and bumps in different areas. To level both, tools needed are sandpaper, carpenter’s level, hammer, finishing nails, filling compound, floor patches, and a vacuum.

What Preparations Do You Need To Install a Floating Floor on Uneven Surface?

Man working on the floating floor

When it comes to preparing an uneven surface for floating floor installation, making it level is the first step. The following is how you prepare an uneven surface for floating floor installation.

Preparations for installing a floating floor on an uneven surface include sanding down high points, filling groves, gaps, & holes using floor patches and leveling compounds, and vacuuming to get rid of the dust for a clean surface. This is the first approach and is much easier.

Leveling compounds come as premixed chemicals or a powder for mixing with water. The process of filling and sanding may need to be repeated more than once to finally get the subfloor just right. Whenever the floor is sanded, it is wise to vacuum any dust off before using a level tool to measure results.

Depending on the drying time for the leveling compound, this process could be time-consuming. If there are still any bumps, one has to wait for the compound to dry in order to sand the surface again. Common concrete putty is a good filling agent to use here, as it is easy to acquire and cheap.

There is a second method, but it is more time-consuming and complicated. The first step is to comprehensively clean the area of installation. Next, measure the places where there are dips and rises.

These measurements guide how much adjustment needs to be done on the ‘legs’ of the floor. Each measurement, whether a dip or a rise, must be accurate to avoid future cracking, noises, and overall complications. The support apparatus under the flooring (legs) is responsible for making up for any height deficiencies and bears the pressure from the floor.

How To Install a Floating Floor on an Uneven Surface

Confused man standing

I have already established that it is not a matter of whether one can install floating floors on an uneven surface but which method will be used. Ideally, it should be the easier, cheaper, and safer method.

Installing floating floors on an uneven plane first entails preparation of the surface. This refers to cleaning, removing any left behind elements from previous installations such as nails and bolts, leveling (sanding and filling), and then finally doing the installation itself.

Simple as it may sound when condensed into one or two sentences, the process involves several steps that cannot be compromised. Each step should be properly followed in the exact order to achieve the best results.

One would first open the packaging of whatever flooring you will use. For the purpose of demonstration, I will mostly refer to laminates. The laminate is laid flat in another room outside of the box to adjust to the temperature.

Depending on the type of pre-existing flooring, now is the time to remove it. Other flooring applications need removal several days prior to floating floor installation.

Use a vacuum cleaner to clean the bare surface before you start the leveling process. Compounds such as putty and filler work best on clean surfaces free of debris. It is also important to sand any coarse surfaces that need filling. Depending on the state of the particular area, irregularities may cause the compound not to bond to the subfloor well enough.

Using a carpenter’s level, I would now place it on the surface, starting at one end and working my way to the other end. This would let me identify the low spots in the room.

A visual inspection with abundant light is important to identify holes and such that need filing.

At this point, it is time to use the leveling compound. Apply it to the lower areas and any present depressions with a wide putty knife, leveling it off at the edge. Give the compound 24 hours to dry off properly before moving to the next stage.

On the next day, the compound should be fully dry and ready for the next part. Here, I would make sure the places I filled up were flat and not protruding from the surface. I would also repeat the process of checking for any low points using a carpenter’s tool.

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Finally, sand and fill any spaces as needed. Many installers recommend using coarse and fine-grain sandpaper, depending on what the surface needs.

Coarse paper is used when one is far from the level surface, while fine-grain paper is used to attain the last degree of uniformity with the level ground.

From one end of the surface, I would start laying the laminate boards in the same direction as the longest linear wall of the room. The first step is to lay the first entire row along the length and repeat.

When I am laying each piece, I need to tap it with a wooden board and a small hammer. Place the wooden board between the laminate and the hammer. Directly tapping on the laminate may cause damage. I prefer to use a small hammer because it is harder to damage or break the plank in the case of an accident or slip.

Nail the boards from the first row into place using finishing nails at the tongue. The tongue is where the boards lock into place where there is a grove. Depending on the type of flooring, manufacturer, and style, the overlap may vary, and it is very important to take extra caution here. It is also best to use a small hammer here, because heavier ones may make it much easier to break the pieces if I miss.

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I would then install the next row of planks just as I did the first row and repeat until I am done.