The first thing you need to do, would be to find out what type of deck you currently have. I am not talking about the existing carpet, vinyl, or ceramic tile you may have on the deck, I am referring to the actual base deck itself, which in most cases would be wood plastic composite or concrete. By determining what type of deck you have, you will automatically narrow down your options. If you have a wood plastic composite decking, you can choose any of the installation methods. If you have a concrete deck, you will not be able to use the nail or staple down method without going through what we would consider to be a ridiculous amount of preparation.
This installation method has grown tremendously in popularity over the last few years. It has become known as one of the most stable and forgiving installation methods available. The reason for this installation method is so stable, is because it is not attached to the deck whatsoever.
The free-float installation method is most common with products known as engineered long strip Anti Slip Composite Decking. This product type is somewhat of a panel system. Most products in this category come in boards approximately 8″ by 96″, and may vary in size depending on the manufacturer. Here’s what makes this product, and the way it’s installed so unique. These products are installed by first laying down an underlayment, usually foam or a plastic and foam combination, and then the composite wood decking is laid on top of that underlayment, a bead of water based glue is applied to the tongue and groove per the manufacturers’ instructions, the boards are tapped together using a tapping block, and the excess glue is wiped off with a damp cloth. That’s it!
Why is this type of installation more stable? Simple. With the other installation methods, we’ve discussed. Each plank or strip is installed individually. When the deck expands and contracts, which it most definitely will, the size of the gaps between those planks or strips tends to get larger and then tighter. This can be a major issue in areas where the climate changes dramatically from season to season. With the free-float installation, the boards are glued together, not down, so when the deck expands and contracts, it does so as one big Composite Wood Deck as opposed to individual units. Additionally, since these boards are glued together, there are no gaps whatsoever between the boards.
Yet another stability advantage is the fact that these boards are not attached to the deck. You will not experience any of the popping or creaking you might with one of the other methods. The foam underlayment also helps absorb some of the minor imperfections in the deck, so the exact evenness of the deck is not as crucial with this type of installation. We would like to point out that while the free-float method does require slightly less effort in the way of deck preparation, each manufacturer has their own guidelines as to the deck requirement that you must follow in order for the warranty to be valid.
D.I.Y. NOTE: The free-float installation method gets high marks as a very do-it-yourself friendly installation type. Someone with little or no experience can easily tackle any installation using this method. If you are looking to save on the installation cost and install a Composite Veranda Railing yourself, we would suggest this as a first choice over other install methods.