Q: I've been thinking about putting in one of those "floating" floors I've heard about — it has interlocking pieces (maybe wood?). My husband has...

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Q: I’ve been thinking about putting in one of those “floating” floors I’ve heard about — it has interlocking pieces (maybe wood?). My husband has an office in the basement that just has a piece of carpet over the old linoleum. I’d love to roll it up and put in a lovely, lighter floor.

A: A floating floor is typically laminate, similar to what’s often seen on countertops. However, a few floating floors may have prefinished or engineered wood products. It is called “floating” because it is not attached physically to the floor.

Pergo is the best-known brand, but several flooring manufacturers have their own products. Prices range from very inexpensive to spendy, rivaling wood.

This type of flooring almost always rests on a very thin pad that helps soften and quiet the floor. A quarter-inch space around the perimeter gives the floor room to “float” or expand and contract.

Floating floors can be lain over most existing floor coverings with no problem. Carpet must be removed, and parquet or any other wood floor must be removed if it’s over concrete.

They are very simple to install — just cut to size and snap together. It is a fun do-it-yourself project if you feel comfortable handling a table saw.

Some products may use glue and/or sealants near dishwashers, sinks and entry doors, where water is encountered regularly. This prevents water seeping in at the seams.

Q: I’ve noticed a slight crack in an outside foundation wall. Is that necessarily bad? How can I check it further? Is this a do-it-yourself job? Will it get worse? Home age is about 11 years.

A: An 11-year-old foundation is going to have a substantial amount of reinforcing steel (rebar). This type of foundation can go unsupported for 8 feet or more with no damage.

Concrete is brittle and will crack. There’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Hairline vertical cracks are normal. If a crack is large enough to put your thumbnail into, then it is noteworthy.

Noteworthy does not always mean it is a major defect. If you have a very large crack, then you may want to have it looked at by a structural engineer.

With your foundation, the rebar will prevent the foundation from greatly bowing, separating, displacing or settling, which are the structural concerns.

Your focus should be on the foundation’s ability to keep water out of the basement or crawlspace.

Most small cracks do not go all the way through the foundation to the other side, so leakage will be nonexistent or very minimal. Epoxy fillers and cement-based patching compounds can be used on the inside, outside (or both) to seal these small cracks if necessary. Will it get worse? Quite likely, but probably not in our lifetimes.

One more thought: In homes built in the past 15 years, broken concrete can be seen near the top of the foundation near inside and outside corners of the building. These aren’t traditional cracks but are earthquake tie-down supports that are imbedded into the concrete.

The supports penetrate the upper outer edge of the foundation wall at a 45-degree angle and are bent upward and attached to the wood framing. This bending creates a small amount of breakage about 1/8-inch thick that can be disconcerting if you are not aware of the technique. This metal strap is hidden behind siding, usually in pairs, 4 feet apart. You may see corresponding bulges in the siding.

Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. Send home maintenance questions to dhay@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.