Glue Down or Floating Floor: Which Flooring Option is Better for My House?

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When it comes to home remodeling projects, homeowners usually choose between floating or glue-down installation methods for their floors. It’s crucial to choose the right technique because the success of the project relies on how things are installed in the building.

So should you have the floors at home glued down or floating? The installation technique used in the flooring is almost as important as the flooring material itself. There’s no easy answer between the two choices because there are several factors to consider, such as the installation process, durability, ease of replacement, noise, flooring material, costs, and possible problems.

Glue Down vs. Floating Floor: A Side-by-Side Comparison

One important thing to consider when choosing the right flooring material for the house is how it should be installed. Vinyl remains the most popular flooring option for 35% of the homeowners in the country because it’s cheap and durable. Hardwood floors are also great additions to any home because of their longevity and aesthetic value. Both of these flooring options are installed by gluing the materials down or floating them.

While each option offers different strengths and weaknesses, it’s up to the homeowners which installation technique has the most benefits for them. To help you decide whether to glue down the flooring or float them, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two based on different factors:

Installation Process

Glue Down

Gluing down the flooring material involves the application of adhesive to the concrete base. This installation technique allows the material to have great dimensional stability while ensuring that the natural qualities are maintained. There are two types of adhesives used in glue down installation technique:

  • Hard Set – Hard set adhesives are applied along the subfloor to hold the flooring material in place firmly. It’s best used for areas that have heavy loads and foot traffic. The main feature of hard-set adhesives is that they absorb the heavy point loads from fixtures, appliances, and furniture. It also helps reduce the appearance of indent on the surface of the vinyl or hardwood.
  • Pressure Sensitive – Pressure-sensitive adhesives are more commonly used because they’re versatile and easy to replace. They’re usually reserved for retail spaces and hospitals that require frequent floor renovations.

Floating Floor

Floating vinyl installations are usually classified into two kinds: loose lay and click vinyl. Floating floors mean that there are almost no adhesives used for its installation over the underlayment. Floating is a relatively old installation technique, but it still remains to be the most preferred method.

  • Loose Lay – As the name implies, loose lay vinyl installation refers to putting the flooring directly above the subfloor. The installation process is quick and simple, but it leaves a beautiful finish once the project is done. The detailed steps vary depending on the product, manufacturer, or installer, but the main idea is that the planks on the edges of the room are glued first before laying the rest of the floors loosely.
  • Click – Click vinyl has slowly gained popularity over the years among residential and commercial buildings because it’s easy to accomplish. Just click and snap the planks into place using the click-lock feature of the flooring product.


Another factor to consider when choosing the right installation technique is how it helps maintain the material’s durability. This factor is closely related to considering the room where the flooring should be installed and how the room is used.

Glue-down floors physically adhere to the concrete subfloor, which makes it firmly anchored in place. This is the perfect installation technique for rooms that expect heavy loads and foot traffic. The strong adhesive keeps the flooring from lifting and chipping, so homeowners are sure that the glued-down floors are highly durable.

While floating floors don’t exactly adhere to the underlayment, they’re still quite durable. However, this isn’t the right pick for rooms with constant rolling traffic because there’s a huge possibility that the flooring lifts from the subfloors.

Ease of Replacement

Regardless of the installation technique that homeowners pick, they’re bound to renovate the house and replace the flooring at some point in the future. This might not happen within the first few years, but it’s best to be prepared for it.

Replacing the glue-down floors only takes minimal effort and labor because homeowners may easily put the new flooring on top of the old layer. Removing the loose tiles and planks is a pain-free process because professionals only have to take the affected planks or tiles instead of lifting the surrounding area.

On the other hand, replacing the floating floors are slightly more complicated since each piece interlocks with another. If you want to remove or replace a single plank or tile in the room, then you need to lift the other tiles or planks in the section or its path.


Noise is one of the most overlooked factors when it comes to choosing a flooring installation technique. Most homeowners are often unaware that the flooring type also affects the sounds and acoustics in the room it’s installed in. The sounds created in the room are either absorbed or bounced back by the floors.

Both installation methods are great for the acoustics of the room because they absorb noise and other sounds well. Contractors may even add acoustic backings for the floor’s underlayment to help with noise reduction if the client requests it.

Another determining factor when it comes to the acoustics of the room is the shape of the subfloor where the materials are installed in. Flatter subfloors that make for better glue adhesion and even floating planks are also excellent for noise reduction.

Popular Material Options

Different flooring options require different installation methods. Here are the best floor options for each installation technique:

Glue Down

  • Solid Hardwood – This flooring option may be high-maintenance and expensive, but there’s nothing like the look and feel of classic solid hardwood. It also lasts for decades with extensive care and maintenance. Solid hardwood installation usually requires the contractor to glue or nail the planks onto the concrete subfloor.
  • Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles – Tiles are usually mortared into the subfloors. Both ceramic and porcelain tiles are high-quality and durable with many designs to choose from. Natural stone tiles have unique finishes, but they’re also usually mortared into the concrete substrate.

Floating Floor

  • Laminate – This affordable yet durable flooring option mimics the appearance of natural wood, tile, or stone. It’s also the prime example of floating floors because almost all the laminate products available in the market are installed in this manner. This specific installation technique allows the laminate boards to respond better to different humidity levels.
  • Luxury Vinyl Tile – Vinyl tiles were developed to replicate the appearance of different flooring materials while providing practical benefits to homeowners. Most luxury vinyl tiles in the market are usually made with tongue and groove features that allow each piece to interlock with ease. Luxury vinyl tiles that are interlocked don’t need to adhere to the subfloors.
  • Engineered Hardwood – Engineered hardwood is similar to solid wood, but it doesn’t easily contract or expand with the slightest changes in humidity and temperature. Homeowners don’t need to worry about buckling and warping in engineered hardwood as long as they’re installed through the floating method.

Recommended Room

Worker carpenter doing laminate floor work

It’s also crucial to consider which room in the house the floors are installed in. Some of the important factors to consider are the load, foot traffic, warmth, and moisture levels in a room. Glue-down floors are better for rooms with heavy load and foot traffic because they’re more stable. On the other hand, floating floors have more room for warping and buckling that are triggered by changing temperature and moisture levels in the room.

Vinyl floors and tiles are some of the best materials to install in the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. They’re both durable and moisture resistant. However, it’s also important to remember that vinyl floors and tiles require different installation techniques. Vinyl floors should be installed using the floating technique, while tiles need to be glued down with mortar.

Another thing to consider is the size of the room. Larger rooms have less stability for click-lock installations, which is why glue-down floors are the best option. Since the floors properly adhere to the subfloor, there are fewer chances for the planks or tiles to have vulnerable seams or accidental lifts.


Both flooring installation options are quite affordable. The total cost of the project mainly depends on the price of the specific flooring material used. Vinyl flooring is usually cheap while hardwood floors are on the opposite end of the price spectrum.

The glue-down method is slightly cheaper than the floating technique at around $1.70 per square foot. Floating floor installation is usually priced at around $2.99 per square foot.

Possible Problems

Before finally choosing the best way to install the flooring for each room in the house, it’s also crucial to learn about the possible problems for each option early on. Here are some of the different ways that flooring problems might manifest based on the installation technique used:

Glue Down

Glue-down floors provide excellent stability to the flooring materials installed in any room. The adhesive used for the floors is what makes this possible, but it’s also the source of possible problems in glue-down floors. Here are some of the most common adhesive-related problems that come with glue-down flooring installation in a home:

1. Bleeding Adhesives

There are three main reasons why adhesives bleed after the floors are installed:

  • When an excessive adhesive is used to glue the floors down to the substrate, it leaves a visible film that’s too thick. The excess adhesive might also travel to other parts of the room when constant foot traffic and rolling load are applied.
  • The adhesive didn’t dry or develop properly. A professional flooring contractor should know how to estimate the drying time of the adhesive while taking substrate absorbency, humidity, and temperature into account.
  • Moisture in a room causes the adhesive to re-emulsify even after it has dried. This causes the material to ooze and appear as a thick film.
2. Adhesive Incompatibility

Residues left on the subfloor’s surface usually led to different adhesion problems, such as de-bonding, discoloration, and deterioration. Here are some of the most common kinds of residues found on the surface of the substrate and how it reacts with the adhesive:

  • Oily residues – discoloration and bonding issues
  • Curing compounds and sealants – adhesive compatibility and bonding issues
  • Heating oil spills – adhesive deterioration and discoloration issues
  • Solvent spills – adhesive deterioration and discoloration issues
  • Gypsum wall texture – bonding issues
 3. Adhesive Removal

Contractors and homeowners should pay extra attention to the material when the adhesive is removed from the floors. Some of the adhesives might be removed completely, while some of them remain as thin residue on the floors. It’s also important to be extremely careful when removing the adhesive because older ones contain asbestos.

Floating Floor

Floating floors have become popular because they’re easy to install without the need for specialized tools. Instead of nailing down the flooring material, the friction between the planks keeps the held in place. But since they’re just floating over the subfloors, homeowners might experience the following problems over time:

1. Chipping

Floating floors are usually made from thinner materials, which makes chipping easier. The mallet and tapping block used when locking the planks and tiles in place dents and mars the surface of the flooring material. Chipping might also occur naturally as a result of the gradual wear and tear.

2. Warping

If the floors are installed onto the subfloor without a moisture barrier on the underlayment, water vapor might accumulate beneath the surface. This causes water damage that leads to buckling and edge-warping. Surface water also causes buckling and warping so make sure to avoid cleaning the floating floors with mops or rags that are too damp.

3. Peaking

Peaking refers to the high spots in the flooring caused by the pressure between two floorboards. This usually happens when there isn’t enough expansion space between the planks or surrounding walls. The best way to treat floor peaking is to cut a small portion of the floor to relieve pressure and replace the molding.

4. Mold

The first sign of mold and mildew contamination on the floorboards is the presence of a strong musty odor in the room. These organisms grow on the floorboards when the environment is too moist. Before installing the floors in a room, ensure that there is no existing mold or mildew in the area. Always remember to install a moisture barrier first to prevent the mildew and molds from growing on the floorboards.

Choosing the Right Installation Option for Your Floors

  Pros Cons
Glue down Glue-down floors are a lot more stable. They also work for uneven surfaces well. It’s difficult to replace the glue-down floors if you’re aiming for a complete renovation of the room. It’s easier to just install the new floors on top of the glue-down floors.
Floating Floating is a quicker and easier way to install the floors onto the subfloor. Floating floors require a vapor barrier to prevent moisture problems and mold buildup beneath its surface or on the subfloor.

Glue down and floating installation options both have their strengths and weaknesses. After looking at their detailed differences, it’s up to the homeowners to take their pick while considering the cost of installation, the type of flooring material, and the existing conditions in the room. 

If you’re still unsure about the right flooring installation technique, it’s better to consult a professional flooring contractor before making any final decisions.

Zothex Flooring: The Trusted Source of Flooring Options in Sacramento

Here at Zothex Flooring, we are more than just salespeople that provide high-quality flooring options. We’re also your partners in remodeling the house, which is why you can trust us to guide you every step of the way – whether it’s about choosing the right flooring material or asking for advice about different installation techniques.

Take the first step and share your vision with our design experts today by visiting our website. You can also reach out to us by calling (916) 925 – 1958.

Learn more: How to Eliminate Termites in Hardwood Floors

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