When Floating Enginereed Wood Floors, Do You Have to Leave Expansion Gaps?

Updated February 21, 2017

Engineered floating wood floors create the look and feel of hardwood more affordably than traditional wood floors. The main structure of the flooring material is made up of particle board and covered with 1/4 inch of hardwood. The floor lays over the subfloor without being nailed down. The floor material expands and contracts with changing environmental conditions.

Floating Floors

Unlike traditional hardwood that must be nailed down, engineered floating hardwood floors can go down over most subfloor materials including old linoleum, concrete and tiles, provided the surface is smooth and flat. A thin pad made from foam insulates the flooring material, preventing it from squeaking or creaking against the underfloor material. The board sections lock together to hold the boards in place. Because the floor is not nailed down, it can shift slightly in response to the conditions inside the home.

Expansion Gap

When installing a floating engineered hardwood floor, it is critical to leave an expansion gap around the edge. A gap 5/16 of an inch between the wall and the edge of the wood floor allows the material to expand without buckling in areas. Before installing a floating floor, pull off the baseboard. Once the floor is installed, replace the baseboards to hide the gap. The floor can expand and contract unnoticed.

Covering the Gap

To avoid removing the baseboards when installing a floating engineered hardwood floor, run the flooring material up to 5/16 of an inch from the baseboards. To hide the gap, install a 1/4 round strip of trim material between the floor and the baseboard. When attaching the 1/4 round strip, nail, glue or screw it to the wall rather than the floor, recommends This Old House. When the trim material is attached to the floor, it prevents the wood from expanding and contracting naturally.

Before Installation

Allow floating engineered hardwood flooring material to acclimate before installing it. Stack the boxes flat in the same room where they will be installed. Leave the boxes for at least 48 hours. When installing engineered hardwood in a newly constructed house or building, bring the temperature up to between 15.5 and 26.6 degrees C while the floor material is acclimating and during the installation process. This allows the wood to adjust prior to installation for minimum expansion and contraction once in place.

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About the Author

Eulalia Palomo has been a professional writer since 2009. Prior to taking up writing full time she has worked as a landscape artist and organic gardener. Palomo holds a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from Boston University. She travels widely and has spent over six years living abroad.