Floating Floor Tiles

Posted on January 21, 2017

The big question that would hit your mind if you haven’t heard of this type of flooring technique would be, what is a floating floor tile? In simple terms, a floating floor is any set of materials put together and individually attached and placed laterally together but not attached to a rigid substrate. The most common floating floors are made of laminate, wood or ceramic. In this case, our primary focus is on ceramic and porcelain tiles. 

While it may seem a great idea to install floating floor tiles, you are likely to assume that the floor would turn out to be structurally unstable but this is not the case. Many homes have installed floating floor tiles and it has worked just perfectly. This is because it is not easy for porcelain and ceramic tiles to link on the sides. Unlike the laminate and floorboards that incorporate a click and lock principle on the sides, porcelain and ceramic cannot click and lock. 

Why Opt for a Professional?

For a home owner, installing the floating flooring tiles may seem like such a difficult procedure as it involves a lot of expertise and use of several tools to bring the entire process to completion. Handling the mortar may not be an easy task for a person who just sees it and has never touched it but for professionals, this is something they do every day so they make it seem a lot easier and are more comfortable handling it. 

In case a home owner intends to install the tiles by themselves, they may need to purchase the pre-mixed tile mortar. Otherwise, mixing the mortar to the required consistency may be a big problem resulting in a less durable and shoddy work on the floor which is in turn wasteful to the buyer as these products are not as cheap. 

Another big trick is applying the tile mortar to perfectly match the backer board or the subfloor which means that the mortar will go on too thick or too thin. This is where notched trowels come in handy to regulate the mortar’s flow to the backer to achieve the right thickness. However, this does not mean that you will have to wait for an eternity till the mortar solution seeps into the backer because if you wait too long, the mortar will stiffen. 

The challenges don’t stop, spacing the tiles is quite a big deal which is why you will need to get tile spacers as well to ensure the tiles are perfectly aligned to each other. Plastic spacers may slow down the entire tiling process but this is the only way to bring out the best in the floating floor. If the space tiles are too small, there won’t be space left for the tile grout and if the space tiles are farther apart, it is likely to trigger cracking which means you will have to spend much more time than you would if you used plastic spacers. 

There is also this problem of vertical alignment of adjoining tiles that professionals in the tiling field refer to as lippage. It is obvious that on a soft base of mortar, it is much easier laying one tile higher than the next tile. This is however a safety hazard for those who walk on the floor and also results in an unattractive floor which is probably something you wouldn’t opt for. After all, the reason why you would want to install this type of floor is to have a better looking home and besides, you don’t want to keep tripping and falling all over your house. 

Floating flooring tiles installation is likened to laminate flooring since the procedure is the same and the only difference is the material used. The professionals who have dealt with laminate flooring are more conversant with floating floor tiles than those who have handled tiling in the past. This is especially because floating floor tiles are only applicable to floors unlike for the mortared tile which is applied even to shower pans, walls and tub surroundings which use the same principle as conventionally installed mortared tiles. 

The basic principle used in the installation of floating flooring tiles is the base trays through which the tiles are linked to for a finer touch. Manufacturers may have work using different methods but the one thing that remains constant is the use of a plastic tray which is strategically attached to the ceramic or porcelain tile and snaps to the adjoining base tray of the tile. The trays are meant to automatically space the tiles which means you won’t need to use plastic spacers to part them. Therefore, this means that the tiles will be perfectly aligned and that there won’t be any risks of tripping while walking on the floor. After installing the tiles, you will need to apply grout between the tiles which thus means that it will not need to be sealed since the grout is acrylic based. 

Problems Associated with Floating Flooring Tiles


When you need to add rigidity to your floating floor, you are likely to be tempted to overboard your floor to make it even more durable. This is not such a bad idea; it is in fact very thoughtful. However, for a much better finish, the additional board needs to be carefully attached to the original board and handled with greater precision. This is because if you use nails to join them, constant floor movement is likely to loosen them making it press on the tile’s underside resulting in cracks in the floor. Similarly, if the nails used are much longer, they will probably bottom out on the surface that is more rigid creating a column which will in turn make it crack.


Deflection is one common challenge that may render your floating flooring tiles useless due to the upward warping creating a ridge or downward warping that is likely to form a small depression in the ground. A floating floor, usually, is not supported by joists which means that any weight applied on the floor is likely to cause a significant movement over a big area which is usually felt as a bounce as a person walks across the floor. With increase in the weight of the load applied, the severity of the movement also increases causing creating a down warp. The edges of the floating floor are even more susceptible to excess movement since the ends are not supported which means that any load is spread only on a small area. If the mortar or adhesive used in fixing the tiles you use is not thick enough or flexible to withstand the movement, it results in cracking or delamination of the tiles and if the tiles are larger, the deflection will worsen. 

Unsupported Joints

If the joints are unsupported such that they are not correctly fixed or located, the floating floor is bound to crack along the joints of the crack. This is likely to happen at joints between the wooden boards especially if they are not well tongue and not grooved. Therefore, when selecting the wooden boards with which to install your floating floor tile, it is mandatory to ensure that they are tongue and well grooved. These have been proven as the best choice for floating floor tiles to give a perfect finish to the floor making it attractive and give durable supporting joints thus prevent cracking at the points of attachment of the tiles. 


Small tiles can be fixed into small areas of grooved and tongued floating floors or by fixing a second board over the existing one to increase rigidity and in turn prevent localized movement upon pressure. A water resistant tile backer board virtually eliminates any moisture related movement when used to overboard the floor. 

These are the stages you will go through to fix the problems in your floating floor tiling 

1. Confirm that the additional height from the over boarding can comfortably be accommodated and that the floor can also hold the load you intend to place onto it. Get the right dimensions and ensure that everything you intend to incorporate will fit perfectly, all grooved and tongued boards need to be glued securely together and then wedged at the edges until they dry up. This will ensure that in future, you don’t have to do more repairs which will mean that you have to spend much more on the process. 

2. To fix the over boarding, you will need to use at least a 15mm thick plywood and prime the back and edges of the plywood into fine and even dimensions. Once you are sure all the dimensions are right, you can lay the boards such that there is no collusion between the new joints and the existing ones. You should also ensure enough space is left to include slight gaps between the timber boards to allow for expansion. The boards should be screwed 200mm to 300mm apart and a movement joint should be left around the perimeter to give space for expansion. 

3. The final step is where you fix the tiles. This is where a lot of attention should be taken in order to achieve a desired effect. Durability and attractiveness are the most important results you want to get from this procedure. For this reason, the numbers should add up. The most recommended thickness for the solid bed into which the tiles are to be fixed should be at least 5mm. There should also be left a provision for movement which is achieved by leaving joints at least 3mm wide for grouting. Afterwards, it is necessary to leave the adhesive to set. At this stage, the tiles can be grout after which a silicone sealant can be used to fill the perimeter movement joints. 

Pros and Cons of Floating Flooring Tiles

The benefits that come with floating flooring tiles are as follows: 

1. Floating flooring tiles do not necessarily require mortaring.

2. There are no spacing problems associated with floating flooring tiles due to the existence of base trays that align the tiles perfectly therefore limiting the necessity of plastic spacers. This is also proof of precision and a perfectly done floor.

3. The plastic tray provides a surface on which the tiles lay thus preventing unnecessary dropping and alignment problems. 

4. Swift working since you do not need to wait for the mortar to dry up before you can proceed with the next course of action.

Floating flooring tiles also have disadvantages which are as follows:

1. Although mortaring is not required, you will still need to grout the tiles.

2. A number of clients have complained about the cracking of the floating flooring tiles due to the spaces that exist within the base trays with most cracking problems involving heavy loads. 

3. Lack of variety as there is a limited number of color and styles of the floating flooring tiles. It is therefore hard for a user to get the personal touch that comes with other flooring techniques. 

4. Floating flooring tiles are expensive to install and since DIY is usually not an option for most consumers, they usually tend to shy away from incorporating it in their houses.

Despite having these attractive features and being a promising form of flooring, most consumers wouldn’t opt for it as the manufacturers have not been able to make it work yet. It is also quite expensive which is why most people would prefer the old flooring techniques which they don’t invest much in and even though they involve a lot of work, they are much easier to maintain as they are less susceptible to damages that would need future repairs. Besides, the diversity of style also enables consumers achieve the looks they wish to pomp up their homes with and the capability of including it in the entire house makes it even more sought for. However, this does not have to discourage you from getting it and using it on your floor. It has worked in most homes and provided you can get an experienced professional, you will be amazed at just how perfectly these floating flooring tiles will transform your house. 

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