6 February 2023
What is a subfloor and why is it important?
There are many different types of flooring on the market. Each designed for different needs and installation methods. It’s not always possible to rip up and start from scratch and you may only wish to have a quick fix to brighten up your home. One of the main deciding factors when choosing the right flooring, is the condition of your subfloor. Some types of flooring require a smooth subfloor, while others are specifically designed to be installed on uneven surfaces (within reason); but how do you know if your subfloor is adequate? And what do we mean by a ‘subfloor’ anyway? Let’s start with the basics…
What is the subfloor?
Your subfloor is the integral floor of your home. Depending on the age of your home, this may be floor boards, concrete or chip board. It is the structural base of your home and it is therefore important when choosing a new flooring. Not all flooring is suitable for every eventuality.
Glue Down LVT
Glue down LVT is usually between 2-3mm in thickness and has a mailable quality. It is therefore essential to have a smooth subfloor. Any imperfections will be visible once installed.
Rigid Core LVT, Laminate
These types of flooring are thicker and have a more rigid quality. Although it is always advised to check with the manufacturer, these types of flooring can be installed on some subfloors without the necessity to smooth the surface. However, each manufacturer will have a limitation as to how much the flooring can withstand. Failure to comply with the manufactures guidelines, could result in your flooring failing. These types of flooring either have a underlay attached (Rigid Core) or need to be installed onto an underlay. This can help provide additional insulation and cushion any minor subfloor imperfections.
Types of subfloor
If it becomes apparent that your subfloor needs to receive some tender loving care, there are essentially two forms of smoothing solutions. With a timber subfloor (floor boards, chipboard) a plywood overlay is installed. For a concrete floor, you will need a screed overlay.
In the event of a structurally unstable subfloor, we recommend contacting a joiner or builder to assess. A professional floor installer, is responsible for insuring your subfloor is adequate to install, but there is a limit to this.
Before considering installing your chosen flooring, it is advisable to uplift your existing floor coverings in advance before your installation date. This way you can avoid any hidden surprises which may result in delays or additional costs.
Unexpected and often overlooked; the gap between you subfloor and skirting boards, can be an annoying surprise. If your old flooring is deeper than your new choice, you can be left with a gap. Assessing the depth of your old and new flooring will help to avoid this issue. Of course there are options. It may be that once your subfloor has been prepared (ply or screed) the level of flooring is sufficient. Or it may be possible to have your skirting boards removed and refitted. Beware, if you choose to remove and refit your skirting boards, you may need redecorate where the skirting boards used to be. Depending on the age of your skirting boards, they may not survive and new ones may need to be installed.
Whether your house in brand new or 100 years old; damp in your home can cause no end of problems. Surprisingly, new homes can have high levels of moisture. This is dependant on whether your home has had time to dry out since construction. Which ever floor covering you choose, moisture is never a good thing. If you suspect your house has a damp issue, it is recommended to seek professional help to test and assess. A simple moisture reading will be able to determine if you require a Damp Proof Membrane (DPM). This will protect your flooring from being damaged and ensure it is installed correctly.
If in doubt, it is always best to seek professional advice. A flooring expert will be able to advise and ensure your subfloor is properly prepared, your underlay is fitted correctly, and your flooring is installed to a high standard. Ultimately, your floor will look better and last longer.