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Floating floors have come a long way from the crappy picture of wood pasted to a pressboard substrate; now you can even install floating ceramic tile floors. Besides actually being real ceramic or porcelain tile, the floors promise to be much easier and less messy to install.

Two such floating floor systems are Cerama-lock and SnapStone.  Rather than using glue or other adhesive to stick the tile in place, both use trays which snap together and hold the tiles. These systems can be installed over most hard surfaces with less prep than traditional methods of laying tile.

SnapStone uses a porcelain tile that’s bonded to a rubber-based tray. Available in 8 colors and in either 12×12″ or 6×6″ tiles, the SnapStone tiles require special SnapStone flexible grout that only comes in three colors.

Made from high-strength, non-skid materials, Cerama-Lock trays adjust to fit the size of the tiles. The tiles stick to an adhesive on the tray. You can either buy their special grout strips that snap into a groove in the tray or use your own flexible mix. The biggest claimed advantage of this system is that you can replace single tiles.

Snapstone runs $4 to $5 a square foot, and seems to be available in more locations, while the only place I have run into Cerama-lock is Menards, where it was something like $8 for 8 tiles — of course you still have the price of the actual tiles on top of that.

So, are floating ceramic tile systems the next great thing in flooring, or are they a waste of tile — are they hot or not?

SnapStone [Corporate Site]
SnapStone [Flooring Market]
Cerama-Lock [Unika USA]

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48 Responses to Hot Or Not? Ceramic Tile Floating Floors

  1. shopmonger says:

    I think these are HOT but only in certain applications. I think in basements these could be great for damp floor situations.
    Another thing would be retrofits with maybe some radiant under them….

    Don Biery

  2. Matt says:

    Can they be used on a floor with some movement to it? (live a winter heave). I would be interested in putting these in my entrance, although I would put a waterproof membrane down first as there’s a lot of water there from melting snow (from people’s boots)

    • chris says:

      yes, they can be used with floors that move, thats what they are made for, the flexible grout allows over 1/4 inch of travel before it will even start to give, no sealing is nessicary, i just caution you to clean eat tile as you go as this stuff dries fast. ive used it in an entryway in and a bathroom, both in a high traffic home in the middle of upstate NY, so they see alot of snow and water and dirt, two years and they look brand new, no dirt in the grout, sealed tight, and the entry way flexes a little and no cracks, this product is awesome

  3. Michael says:

    How about some more info. Could these be installed over a hardwood floor, vinyl floor? (with a water barrier below) and be removed at some later date? easier to remove than using adhesive? How is the cost compared to regular tile? I saw the $5 a square foot but is that just for the base or does it include the tile?

    I have a wood floor entryway and a vinyl kitchen that I would like to do something more durable –and easier to clean. Is this a solution?

    • chris says:

      they can be put on anything, they have a 1/4 inch hard plastic base with rubber anti skid plates, water barrier is not needed as the plastic base will do the job just fine as its solid and the grout is 100% stain and water proof, there are 0 addhesives used to keep it in place so you could actually pick the tile up in just a few minutes and take it somewhere else ( you’d have to strip the group of course )this products is bar none the easiest tileing system ive ever used

  4. mr. man says:

    I shopped this product a few weeks ago. Wish I could remember the cost per square foot (I know it was up there). Advantages for my application are: easily removable and therefore easily upgradable (perfect in an ever changing decorator market) and maintains its integrity over a flexible substrate (grouting system has a latex base).

  5. Jerry says:

    By the time all is said and done, expect to be into your project for around 12 bucks a square foot, depending on the tile choice.
    I recall a number of years back that every new home being built had some grand promo thing about Pergo flooring. Most folks who ended up with the Pergo also ended up doing something different with it later.
    I would predict that this floating tile thing is going to be just another case of “I have to have this latest and greatest” thing. Far too many of these great ideas turn out to end up in an early grave. Hopefully, maybe, this one can stand the test of time. It would be nice if something could.

    • chris says:

      the tub of grout runs a out 26 bucks, and the tile is 40 a box, comes with five tiles, and that is littereally all you need as this stuff can be laid over anything. so that comes to a grand total of 13.20 a square foot, wich is pretty much comparible to normal tile once you consider the cost of all the backerboard, screws, mortor, grout, everything else, so this stuff is so worth the money.

  6. Jim says:

    NOT.

    Several things come to mind:

    - I consider the main reason for a floating floor is to isolate, in this case a crack, from transferring to the ceramic tile. With traditional tile installation, this can be achieved with either the application of a flexible membrane (roll on is easiest) and/or flexible thinset (~$25/bag vs. $7/bag – normal). This should isolate a crack up to ~1/8″. So this system is just an alternative.

    - Grout size. Can the grout size be varied. For larger tiles, or large terra cota pavers, where size is highly variable, you want a large grout line maybe 3/8″ – 1/2″. Smaller tiles require a smaller grout line, 1/8″ – 5/16″. Can this system accommodate this?

    - Grout color limitation. They claim only three grout colors. I am skeptical. Other manufacturers make flexible grout in a multitude of colors. How is there flexible grout different than theirs? I suspect it is not.

    - Design flexibility. Often you want to mix tiles sizes and patterns. I can assume this would not be easy with this systems. Can it accommodate smaller tiles (2×2) or inconsistently sizes tiles (terra cotta pavers), or support specialty tiles like bullnose or trim pieces.

    In the end, although traditional tile installation may take an extra step or two for a flexible base installation, once you lay the thinset and start laying the tile, it should be much faster.

  7. fred says:

    These products would seem to be aimed at the DIY market. The DIY’er once into a job with this product ay be confronted (or confounded) by out of square layouts, need to deal with angled or notched cutouts etc. As Jim Says – this would not be the only or best option for crack isolation. All that being said, it probably will fill some niche – and we’ll see how long it stays on the market.

  8. ArmchairDIY says:

    I did install a Snap Stone floor for a customer. I remodeled the bathroom and they had intended on installing the floor themselves. But decided to ask me to do it as long as I was there.

    I was just ok not hot but luke warm in my opinion. For the cost per square foot they could have had an almost infinite choice of tile instead of such a limited selection.

    It is aimed at the diy market and thats fine, but I thought it was a bit of a pain to install, and it is not a proven product over the long haul.

    I would suggest considering a traditional tile install before purchasing either of these.

  9. JW says:

    Cool idea, but 5/sqft??????? You can 18 inch porcelain for like a 1.20/sqft, if you can find you a good closeout deal. On a big project that will add up to a LOT!!!!!

    • K2 says:

      I vote: HOT! I installed in my powder room- my handyman quoted a higher price than the cost to do it myself with snapstone; added bonus… I got a new wet tile saw for myself. The floor has a little give, but no cracks or problems w/ tile. The compliments keep coming in (in a bathroom! No one ever comments bout a bathroom unless it is really nice.) Now I plan to do a couple more rooms, it’s easy and looks really nice.

  10. Kimber says:

    This looks like a god solution to roof decks over rubber or composite roofing, doesn’t seem too expensive for that application. There are some composites that do that too:
    http://www.shantex.ca/
    http://www.coverdeck.com/
    I haven’t used any yet, we usually use decking over furring in these applications,
    this seems better.
    Permanent Interior Floor??? Would make remodeling easier, or you could take your floor with you when you move.

  11. berettaguy says:

    Would something like this be a good solution for a garage in an area where epoxy coating the floor will not last due to humidity?

    • chris says:

      not if you intend to have a vehicle on them, but if its just going to be people and tables and benches then that would be fine

  12. Jim says:

    @berattaguy Says:

    I do not think this systems is made to take the compression that might be encountered in a garage. For this environment, I would use a high compression quarry tile, such as Daltile surtread. It is a commercial tile design for high compression applications, then install it as recommended.

  13. Megan says:

    $5/sq is expensive, but it’s great if you have a smaller area and don’t want the mess applying tiles w/ grout. My brother used the snap stone at $5/sq ft in a smaller bathroom. Was quick and easy. It looks great. I have two smaller bathrooms that I am in the middle of remodeling. I bought the tile trays. I got them on sale at Menards for less than $20 for a pkg of 12 (12 sq ft), but got to chose any tile. I chose one sale tiles and my cost is under $3/sq foot.
    – I got my on sale and used the Menards bag sale. I see they are in this week’s flyer for $22.68 for a pkg. If you’re not an experience DIY it’s great.

  14. Jamie says:

    I just purchased the Cerama Lock floor tile trays. The entryway to my home is subject to minor moisture and pets digging at the current linoleum. I had full intentions of laying the tile the traditional way but was concerned with any flexing of the subfloor as I am installing this into a mobile home and was not sure how much flexing there may be if any. I was walked through the steps for installation, type of grout to use, and informed there was no need for any type of underlayment. Feeling pretty confident that this was the way to go I bought enough to do a 24′x24′ area. Decided to double check the info from the friendly menards man, and what do ya know, can’t get any info from the manufacturer of these trays, much less anywhere else. So, I am planning to install this flooring the first week of April with the knowledge I have of traditional tile and the 10 minute how-to from the guy at menards so if anyone out there has any advice…please help me out! I sure would appreciate it!

  15. Kim says:

    My husband and I are in the process of installing the SnapStone in our kitchen and entrance hallway. The adjoining living room has an oak hardwood floor and our old kitchen and hallway was sheet vinyl flooring installed at the same level for a smooth transition.

    Installing a traditional ceramic/porcelain tile floor would have meant installing cementboard and using thinset which, with the thickness of the tile itself, would have been quite a buildup. This would not translate well between the rooms, let alone the issues with cabinetry, appliances and doors. We removed the vinyl flooring, though we could have installed over it, so the change in floor height is just half an inch using the SnapStone tiles.

    We didn’t want any fancy patterns, though, since I am cutting all the tiles, I am making him install on the diagonal, so being limited in tile size wasn’t an issue. We were able to find a color we liked and the three colors of grout they offer are all you really need to choose from for the tile colors they have.

    As far as expense goes, it’s equal to, if not cheaper than, a traditionally installed ceramic/porcelain floor in that you only buy the tile (we got ours on sale) and grout. There is no cementboard or thinset to purchase. Not using thinset means there is no waiting for thinset to dry before grouting so once the tile is laid, we can immediately grout.

    Of course, the durability issue remains to be tested, but with dogs and kids, it can’t be any worse than the vinyl we took out. If tiles break, we can replace them individually and, should we sell and the new homeowner want something else, they will be able to easily remove this floor and have a subfloor ready to go.

  16. Jill says:

    Today’s Menard’s ad has them on sale at $1.66 sq/ft. I was thinking of using this in my kitchen. I already have the tile, so the cost at this point would be minimal. Would these plastic trays support a refrigerator? I’m not terribly handy, but I can read and follow directions. My other concern would be, what do you do when the area to be tiled isn’t exactly x feet by x feet, in other words, you need to cut tiles to fit? What happens with these plastic trays?

  17. Heidi says:

    I found a more complete Cerama Lock website than the original posting has…

    It includes a video (small link at the bottom of the page) that answers many questions I had and that are asked here. The trays do appear to be able to hold a fidge and they can be cut to fit where their entire size cannot be used (edges, etc.)

    http://www.unikainternational.com/ceramalock.html

  18. Marilyn says:

    My husband and I are looking into the Cerama Lock tray system. Our basment recently flooded and we want something that will hold up if this happens again. Menards has these trays on sale and added with the cost of tile it would be about $3.00 a sq ft that is if we DIY. We have checked with carpet and tile companies and they have nothing in a reasonable price range that would work.

    Has anyone tried this in a large family room?

    This house has not had any water for 30 years and basement had been completely redone.

  19. JazzDad says:

    We put cerama-lock in our remodled kitchen. It went in easily but when we moved the refrigerator back in with an appliance cart (very carefully) we still split two tiles. After about 4 days of use the grout started to pop out. We got very conflicting opinions about which grout to use from the people at Menards. They actually got kind of upset with each other. Would NOT Use it again.

  20. Bummed out in WA says:

    We installed a similar product a few years ago.
    This product was also a ceramic tile, there were three tiles on one backer board that snapped together. The grout application was similar to spray cheese. Within two weeks we had several cracked tiles.
    To make it worse, the store fully reimbursed us for the cost of the materials…but DIY…we have to remove it and take it to the dump.
    I would be concerned about any system that doesn’t fully support the tile.
    Research! Research! Research!

  21. Directile says:

    These have their advantages and disadvantages of course. I think that obviously the convenience of installing tile without glue can be a great time and money saver because you don’t buy the thin-set anymore and the fact that a DIY’er could probably do the installation themselves. The few disadvantages that I see are 1. fear of tile coming loose off the panels, 2. most tiles are not exactly 12 x 12 many are 12.5″ and many are 13″ because they are made in Europe with metric measurements, 3. what happens near walls when cutting is involved? do the tiles still lock into these panels?

    I like the concept however I think there are many questions, but a not bad product for a quick, maybe even for a temporary floor surface.

  22. Maggie says:

    DON’T USE!

    I recently installed these in my bathroom over an existing linoleum floor, following the directions to a T. It was a complete disaster. It took the entire day to install. Then after the grout dried it cracked when we stepped on the tiles. Long story short- we’ll be redoing the entire floor.

    You’ve been warned!

  23. Linda says:

    We have been installing in a laundry room and 3/4 bath next to the laundry room. The company suggests using their grout system which we have found works quite nifty. They also suggest that if using grout it must be a flexible grout that also seals. We have also used some of this grout under the washer and dryer area without an issue. The original grout that we had purchased was not flexible when we read it so we did have to return it to the store to get a flexible grout. I imagine if we had not made sure that the grout was the proper one what kind of problems we may have had with cracking. So far this has been a great product.

  24. Kacy says:

    We did one bathroom Dec. 2010 ago and liked it so much we just did a second bathroom and are now looking forward to doing the kitchen/laundry room. We used their grout and did everything per the instructions and have had no issues. It was easy to do – just had to get handy with the wet saw which took a little time – and it looks great. Easy to clean and on a recent visit to Menard’s saw that they’re offering more colors now so I guess the demand is increasing. I think the key thing is really following the directions and using their grout. Our grout hasn’t cracked at all. In the bathrooms we laid it over the subfloor (we removed vinyl in one bathroom and carpet in the other). In the kitchen may be putting it over vinyl.

  25. Nearsighted says:

    We bought the Cerama-Lock carriers @ Menards for $5 / 12 carriers (after rebate). Bought the tile @ Home Depot for $1.88 / sft.

  26. Nearsighted says:

    Update: Just completed installation. Looks great. Make sure you use a pre-mixed flexible urethane grout. Sponge gently, or you will remove enough grout to expose the tile carrier wall.

    Will DEFINITELY use it again for a bathroom, but after reading JazzDad’s experience with tiles cracking under a refrigerator, I’ll think long and hard before trying it in the kitchen.

  27. Brad says:

    I just finished installing Cerama-lock tile system underneath my woodburning stove. It was easy to install once I got the hang of how the trays snap together. It looks great. My concerns about how it would handle the weight of the stove were totally unfounded. Not one cracked tile or separation between tiles. I definitely would use this product again.

  28. rich says:

    Menards had the trays for free after rebate 120 sqft limit. But they have rerun the same deal three times so far so I’m up to 360 sq ft. Time to start installing. Since the whole tile is not supported I did some testing by putting my whole weight (270 lb) on two legs of a chair with on leg on a tile. So over 135 psi and no signs of breakage. I think if you treat it like a wood floor and put some protection under a heavy load to distribute out the weight it should not have any problems. I start installing this weekend with tiles on sale for $0.79. I’ll by 20% extra in case any break and will still be at $1.00 per sqft – grout.

  29. rich says:

    Installed in a small bathroom as a test run. So fat so good. There were two tiles that were rocking a bit, I shimed them up with some thin strips of plastic. The idea that the trays will help keep everything square is a falacy. There is enough “stetch” that you can be out of alignment as much a 1/8 inch from one row to the next if you are not careful. They can also shift if you are not tight against the wall so I cut up a tray to make shims to hold the wall tiles in place if there were any gaps. Another problem is full pieces have enough support but you need to be carefull you don’t end up with and 1 or 2 inch strips. I suspect you migh get some cracking. Fortunately you normally would not step or put a load right next to the wall. The last issue is the door. haven’t decided how to deal withe the exposed edge. So it was OK I don’t think I really saved that much effort and I am uneasy about the durability or the grout joints. I suspect their plastic strips that can be used instead of grout would solve and grout problems but I would not use them in a bathroom because they would not be as water tight. Also they are pretty expensive.

    • Rich says:

      After a few years the tile is still fine, but have had a few issues with the flexible grout comming out in a couple of places. when those places are re grouted it tends to come out again at those spots a few months later. They do have plastic strips that you can use instead of grout. I will try that with some silicon sealent tp keep the water out. That is a worry with this system. if water does get under the tile there are a lot of voids where it will be trapped.

  30. Bummer says:

    NOT! NOT! NOT!

    It was beautiful just after installation….but soon the grout started falling out! So I replaced it…and it came out again…and again… Tiles crack easily too!

    Menard’s only solution is for me to rip it out and return it! Thanks a lot for selling me something that doesn’t work.

  31. Bogus System says:

    I would not recommend this. We placed Cerama lock in our kitchen 2 months ago and noticed grout cracking right away (we did get the flexible grout that the manufacturer recommended). It was very difficult to support tiles that we had to fit around our vent covers. The trays are only 12×12 so when you need to cut them, they don’t always have full support. We now have about 12 cracked tiles and are ripping everything up and going the traditional route.

  32. Jeff Toy says:

    There are two different products being discussed that are very different in this post. Cerama lock and Snapstone. My experience is with Snapstone in a kitchen. It was installed in two days and had appliances moved onto the new floor the following week. We did use the flexible recommended grout. The floor looks as good today as it did when I first installed it. No cracked tiles. No popping grout! This past winter I have installed about 1000 sq ft of traditional tile in my basement. Much cheaper and much more work! Concrete floor allowed for traditional tile installation. I have two upstairs bathrooms to remodel and have decided to go back to Snapstone. Traditional tile would require thinset, concrete board, more thinset and then tile. Snapstone makes for easier room transitions. It also will work under the toilets, since there is only about a 1/4 inch versus the 3/4″ to 1″ with traditional tile. Small rooms becomes more economical. Happy with both traditional and Snapstone. Hot!

  33. Frances says:

    We installed tile with Cerma Lok trays. More work than gluing but thought it was a great concept. We then used the snap in grout strips. They were horrible to install and looked even worse. A few days later, we removed the strips and used flexible grout. There is not enough space between the trays for the grout to take ahold. It looks bad and is coming up. We will be removing the entire system and putting our tile down the “old fashion” way with regular grout. Lots of time and money down the drain. Would not refcommend this system to anyone!!!

  34. nicole says:

    We installed snap-stone in our dining room to our kitchen, and also in both bathrooms. We used a the large and small tiles in a diagonal pattern. It looks great! and has been holding up to 7 dogs and 3 cats :) .. It did take longer to install than i thought it would but i assume it was because we did a diagonal multi size tile pattern. A lot of stopping and thinking what type of tile to connect next. It was probably the hardest pattern to choose for our first time, but it was well worth it. we love it! Id do my living room and office too if it wasn’t so expensive.

  35. Gail says:

    Just tried to install Cerama-lock in my kitchen and bath. I say tried. The trays were easy to install, but the flexible grout did not set. It felt like putty in some places and like playdoh in others. When we walked on it weeks later, it cracked and started to come out of the lines. Fortunately the kitchen cabinets are not in yet so I scraped it all up, went back to Menards and showed it to them and then they recommended the other grout, but low and behold, this was the wrong stuff. Needless to say the trays are a goo idea for dummies, but bad for others. Now I have to remove the entire kitchen floor. What a waste for DIY’ers on a budget. My advice is skip it.

  36. Len says:

    Don not use in the bathroom! The special grout is porous and water leaks through it! Needless to say the wood sub floor didn’t like it.

    • W Doerr says:

      Which product are you referring too? I’m getting ready to install about 1000′ sq of SnapStone: bedroom, office, bathroom, kitchen. Plus, I’m installing it over a hot-water radiant heat system (WarmBoard & PEX tubing). Any feedback is welcomed!

      • CMac says:

        I had planned to install SnapStone directly over Warmboard. Warmboard Wanted us to put something (hardi board or mortar bed) over the Warmboard first to protect it. Ended up with a mortar bed. Really good idea. We then installed the Snapstone over the entire first floor or everywhere the Warmboard was applied except the bathroom. I like it but if I want to change it in the future shouldn’t be that difficult to remove snapstone and not damage the Warmboard. (Mortar bed helps with heating as well).

  37. Sherrie says:

    We installed snap stone around 7 or 8 years ago in our kitchen. I have no complaints at all. I moved our bit side by side fridge over it many times to clean it. No cracks. It goes on quickly and pretty fool proof. You must use the right grout ( that’s Mage for it.
    Btw it now does come in 24″ but I only found one color. We just sold our home and now getting ready to put snap stone on the entire first floor. You bet I was happy with it.!

  38. joe says:

    This stuff is junk, tile cracks at the slightest divit in a floor. Chipped tile was found after the fact we grouped, and I’ve been tiling for 15+ yrs now.by far the worst grout ever used.it has an expiration date on it. And for the price ou pay and for the making that is on it. You would think it would hold up better than 3tiles cracked in 3 days on a flat and level floor. I would never recommend th i s product to anyone. I can tile a floor with regular 500sq ft floor using 12×12 tile faster and make it look 200% better than this snapstone crap. Thumbs down and a waste of $4,000 for me in just material.

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  40. Lesley says:

    We finished putting down almost 900 sq feet of Snapstone in a bath, kitchen, dining room and living room about 6 weeks ago. So far, I love it. I question whether some of the other commenters saying they have grout problems have NOT used the Snapstone grout. Yes, it is expensive, but we bought 900 sq feet of supplies (tile and grout) and it cost me a little over $5100, and we will have a couple of buckets of grout to return ($56/bucket from Menards). After pricing all of the supplies to put down conventional tile and deciding we were not going to remove/replace the kitchen cabinets (which technically should be removed and replaced to put down traditional tile) and everything else, it was going to be pretty close on price, but a much easier install with Snapstone. We have moved the refrigerator several times since the install, and haven’t had any problems.

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