Floating Vs. Glue-Down Wood Flooring: Installation, Pros and Cons

The word floating flooring has become synonymous with certain styles like luxury vinyl, laminate, and engineered hardwood. This format has become incredibly popular with homeowners with a knack for DIY projects, although glue-down flooring is better suited for some installation. With that in mind, we’re going to compare floating and glue-down wood flooring in case you’re undecided on which one is the best for your home.

Wood Flooring: What you Need to Know

Outside of natural stone, solid hardwood flooring is the go-to option for homeowners that want to add value to their home. The only real disadvantage to having wood floors in your home would be water, which is why many homeowners use luxury vinyl tile and planks in bathrooms or kitchens. Water damage can have a major impact on wood flooring – especially if the wooden planks are glued to the floor.

Wooden flooring is resilient and most all solid hardwood flooring can be refinished. This gives it the ability to last more than a hundred years as witnessed by the wooden flooring found in homes today from the 1800s. While solid wooden flooring is generally nailed down, new advances in technology have changed things along with the invention of engineered flooring.

Engineered flooring can refer to any type of flooring that is composed of multiple layers. With vinyl, that includes a core, image, and wear layer. Laminate flooring also has an image layer but is not synthetic like vinyl so there is a measure of wood in the core which is compressed from wood particles and resins. While laminate has been referred to as “wooden” flooring, it was only due to the core and image layer.

On the other end of the spectrum is engineered hardwood flooring. It is also a product made up of multiple layers, but the top is a veneer or slice of real thin wood. Engineered hardwood floors are the closest thing homeowners can get to solid hardwood, and even have similar profiles for an extra layer of realism.

What are floating floors?

Whenever you hear the word glue-down when looking for flooring, things are clear about how the product will be installed. Floating floors are different, however, as the term can be misleading for several reasons.

Floating flooring essentially means that the flooring is not bonded to the subfloor. It can be loose lay vinyl flooring, which uses weight and friction to keep boards and tiles in place. It can also refer to flooring that locks together along the edges, which is how most forms of floating engineered hardwood flooring are installed.

Floating vs. Glue-down Flooring

Below, we’re going to put these two types of wooden flooring against one another in several key areas. It’s for engineered hardwood flooring, however, considering solid hardwood has always been nailed or stapled down.


The most clear-cut difference between glue-down wood flooring and floating flooring is the installation process. It’s an area where floating floors have a clear advantage, including those that require a bit of glue along the edges and seams.

Engineered hardwood flooring can be glued directly to most types of subfloor with the proper adhesive using the manufacturer’s directions. The process itself is slower, so it will cost more if the flooring is installed by a professional. They will stay firmly in place, however, which is a benefit for more than one reason.

Glued-down flooring will be firmer underfoot and more stable. That means there is less chance of noise from squeaky floorboards, so they will feel and sound different in a room. Staples and nails are also an option with thicker engineered hardwood flooring.

Alternatively, all click-lock floating flooring systems utilize a unique milling system along the edges and ends. This allows each piece to lock firmly into place when properly installed, and it speeds up the installation process considerably. Only a handful of tools are required to install engineered wood flooring as well.


Every homeowner wants flooring that’s easy to clean and maintain. That’s one reason hard flooring surfaces are preferred over carpet, especially for homeowners with pets or allergies. Vacuum cleaners can be used on engineered hardwood, but they can also be swept, lightly mopped, or dusted.

We feel that both glue-down wooden flooring and floating floors are incredibly easy to clean, no matter what style or size you choose. What sets these two formats apart is the repair process; something that can be difficult with flooring attached to the subfloor.

Repairing engineered flooring with surface damage isn’t easy once it gets past the wear layer and into the veneer. If the board is water damaged, it will also need to be removed and replaced. You can simply remove the baseboard and work your way to the damaged board with floating flooring. While tedious, the likelihood of damage to surrounding boards is minimal.

With glued-down flooring, the board will have to be physically pried from the subfloor, which directly affects the boards around it. There are some tricks you can use to minimize things as you’ll see in the video below, but floating flooring is far easier to repair or replace.

Colors & Sizes

One of the perks of solid hardwood flooring is the fact you can purchase both domestic and exotic species. This offers consumers a nearly endless array of options once you factor in finishing techniques and stains. Thankfully, the same holds true for both floating and glue-down engineered wood flooring as well.

There are hundreds of options to choose from whether you prefer something with a natural tone along with wood-like materials including bamboo. With sizing, we feel that floating flooring has a significant edge. There’s more of a selection in plank format although the selection narrows with parquet tiles and similar options.

The Green Factor

Homeowners considering an eco-friendly form of flooring tend to lean towards natural materials like hardwood. Engineered wood flooring isn’t quite as clean as solid wood because of its construction, but is a significant step up from vinyl, carpet, or even laminate flooring.

Whether glued to the subfloor or in floating format, high-quality engineered will can last 25 to 30 years or more. Some thicker engineered hardwood can even be refinished, and as they only use a thin veneer, fewer trees are forested to produce this flooring.

VOCs are typically not a concern with engineered hardwood when compared to luxury vinyl or other forms of synthetic flooring. If you or people in your home are sensitive, it’s still a good idea to check on VOC emissions from finishes and adhesives from the manufacturer, however. Low-VOC adhesive is an option for glue-down engineered hardwood as well.

Final Thoughts

Whether floating flooring or glued-down flooring is the best fit for your home comes down to preference and price more than anything. We found that many styles can be glued down, nailed, or installed in a floating fashion, which makes these styles even in many regards. Just remember to keep the removal process in mind along with the installation.

You cannot install one type of floating flooring on top of another, and glue-down engineered flooring can be difficult to remove. Consumers that intend to change their floor plan before this type of flooring wears out should definitely plan ahead. Our guide to the best engineered flooring can also help you settle on a brand and style if you’re not sure what to look for.

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