A floating floor, by definition, does not attach to the subfloor, and it can creak and crackle underfoot for a few reasons, including inexperienced installation or poor-quality flooring materials. Most floating floors feature laminated planks with tongue-and-groove edges that fit together. Installation options include simple snap-and-lock assembly or glued-seam application. Glued-seam installation typically produces a quieter floor -- if surface creaking is the problem -- but even glued-seam flooring can squeak and creak in some situations.
Why Floating Floors Creak
Floor noise is the result of wood-on-wood contact. Even a child can weigh enough to make tongue-and-groove flooring seams rub together imperceptibly, producing annoyingly loud noises. The noise factor increases with low-quality flooring planks that are typically thinner and have shallower tongue-and-groove edges, making the floor flimsier and more likely to move underfoot.
Glued-seam installation, which is suitable only for flooring planks labeled as glue-type, requires the installer to run a very thin bead of glue on the tongue of each plank before fitting the planks together. Both snap-and-lock and glued-seam flooring are available in floating floor styles, and both types are do-it-yourself friendly. Installing glued-seam flooring takes longer than installing snap-and-lock flooring, but the result is a quieter floor.
The Underlayment Factor
Without a sound-deadening barrier between the flooring and the subfloor, even good-quality flooring planks can rub against the subfloor and emit loud creaks. To prevent flooring-to-subfloor creaking, underlayment is essential, and the thicker the underlayment, the better. Thin, 1/4-inch cork underlayment is a good sound-deadening choice, and it can be installed beneath any vapor barrier films required by the flooring manufacturer.
Faulty Installation Leading to Floor Noise
Floating floors, both glued-seam and snap-and-lock, need expansion gaps between the perimeter of the flooring and the wall. A standard expansion gap is about 1/2 inch but could be more or less, depending on the manufacturer’s specs. Without a gap, when the flooring expands, typically due to humidity, it can press against the wall, stressing the seams between the planks. The result can be slight floor lift or broken glued-seam bonds, both of which increase the risk of squeaks.
Other Noise Creaks
It won’t matter whether you choose snap-and-lock or glued-seam flooring if the creaks are coming from beneath the subfloor. Typical floating floor noise is crackly and constant with every step, but if your floor creaks loudly in certain areas, the culprit could be subflooring that was not sufficiently glued and screwed to the floor joists, wood or metal bridging between the floor joists that moves, or joists that cross a load-bearing wall floor. These noisemakers require the services of a knowledgeable framer who can fix the problem by securing the floor from beneath.