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Don’t suppress the need to float

Fitting things on top of a floating floor can lead to problems. For some this is common sense. Others may need to read this column, says Richard Renouf.

FITTING kitchen units and islands on top of a floating floor will prevent the flooring moving and so will lead to problems which range from creaking and lifting to joint distortion and damage. This will be common sense to most experienced floorlayers who’ll fit flooring up to the feet of the units while still leaving an adequate expansion gap to allow the flooring to move.

For the less experienced, however, this can be a problem. Their logic suggests that the floating flooring should be fitted while the room is empty as this will make the job easier because it avoids a lot of cutting of the flooring, and it will make the kitchen fitting easier, too.

When the flooring goes ‘wrong’ – usually within a matter of days – they can only surmise that the flooring must be faulty.

There’s a compromise that I sometimes come across. An installer knows that the kitchen should not be on the flooring and so the kitchen is fitted first. But then the installer decides it’s easier to jack up the front feet of each unit so the flooring can be edged underneath so only the front feet are standing on the panels. It’s just as effective as fitting the entire unit on top, but often the installer’s logic doesn’t want to accept this.

Argument number one is that the flooring isn’t tight against the wall and so has a massive expansion gap, so what could possibly be wrong?

Argument number two, which I’ve heard surprisingly often, is that the units are fixed to the wall and so there is no weight on the feet whatsoever! This has been stated for a kitchen which had a 30mm thick stone worktop fitted that took four worktop installers to get into the room.

I’ve fitted a few kitchens over the years and I know that the procedure is to stand the units on the floor, move them into position, level them up and align them with each other, then fix them back against the wall using small metal brackets or other appropriate fixings.

I’ve never seen a kitchen fitter holding a cabinet in mid-air and screwing it in place so all the weight is on the wall. Yes, there are wall units, but these have specially designed hanging brackets to take the weight, but base units don’t and their full weight, and that of any worktop and appliance and contents is on the feet.

Another common misunderstanding is to do with edge trims and door bars. The perimeter is where the movement of the flooring will be most apparent, so fixing edge trims such as beading down into the flooring will make the trim part of the flooring and so will prevent, or at least restrict, the movement. This is also true when you stick down or screw down cover plates or other trims in doorways. It’s essential to use trims and bars which allow for the movement of the flooring for the full size of the required expansion gaps.

If you push the edge of this magazine page with a finger at only one point, the whole page will ripple. This is the effect that just one ‘pinch point’ can have. A floating floor acts as a whole sheet once the panels are interlocked, so it does not take much to create a problem over the entire floor area.

Floating floors must be free to expand and contract and when they’re fitted underneath the feet of kitchen units, or held by trims which are fixed to the flooring rather than the building, they cannot do this.
Richard Renouf is an independent flooring consultant

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