Proper Subfloor Preparation for a Variety of Flooring Options
The Perfect Floor Starts with the Perfect Sub-Floor
No matter which flooring options you choose for your home, nothing will make their installation and durability more problematic than a poorly prepared subfloor. Subflooring should be clean, dry and free of imperfections which may pose an issue during application or use. There are only a few simple, hard and fast rules to preparing your subfloor for any flooring application. These include vacuuming the entire area, cleaning debris, filling in cracks and crevices, sealing and leveling.
The Kind of Floor Matters
All flooring materials come with their own needs and special requirements for application to their subfloors. While some options, such as carpeting, can be applied over rough or slightly uneven surfaces, other materials, like stone tile, vinyl sheeting, hardwoods and laminates all require a smooth and level subfloor. However, a level and clean subfloor is only the beginning. If you plan to use certain flooring materials in an area where water intrusion may pose an issue, a waterproof subfloor will be needed. Bathroom floors and laundry rooms should have a cement board subfloor applied prior to laying any preferred flooring options.
Preparing the Sub-Floor
Hard stone or ceramic tile, vinyl sheeting and laminate or wood planking require smooth and completely even subfloor surfaces prior to their application.If you choose to apply any of these options over an existing plywood subfloor, ensure that it is clean by vacuuming. Pay close attention to all edges and corners of the room. Use a large or industrial style vacuum to remove large particles. Change to a smaller brush attachment to concentrate on any corners and edges where dirt and dust may be hiding.
If your existing plywood subfloor has cracks and crevices, or if there are nail heads visibly protruding from the surface, these must be removed prior to laying your flooring options. If countersinking nail heads, be sure you use a wood putty to fill in any depressed areas. Cracks must be filled in with a waterproof sealant or wood putty. If removal and replacement of small areas of your plywood is required, duct taping the crevices is acceptable in order to prevent seepage of the leveling compound.
Even if your subfloor seems level, it’s still a good idea to be safe and apply a good coat of leveling compound. Leveling compound offers you a strong and smooth surface for any flooring selections on the market. Used to ensure a level application throughout the flooring area, leveling compound should be applied to the lowest area of the room first, allowed to set and then can be applied again as needed. Most leveling compounds are self-leveling meaning they will follow the path of least resistance; providing thicker layers where needed and thinner ones where your floor is not as low. However, due to variations in the individual products, it’s best to follow the directions for mixing and use according to manufacturer’s guidelines.
If you choose vinyl sheeting, ceramic or stone tiles, or hardwood or laminate flooring, these pose special needs which can be overcome by following the above suggestions. However laying carpet provides less of a subfloor issue. Since proper carpeting requires a padded underlay, a rough or blemished subfloor, or a subfloor with a slightly uneven nature will not pose much of a problem during installation or in the future. However, cracks and crevices should be filled in, in order to prevent moisture from entering, while nail heads and other protrusions must be removed prior to your carpet installation in order to avoid tears and damage later on.
Concrete subfloors can require special preparation as well. Seal cracks and crevices using a latex-based compound and ensure that your concrete is fully dry prior to applying any flooring options. Clean it thoroughly, making sure to remove any residue or stains and check that it is even using as long a level as possible over the broadest areas of the room. Coat the surface with a sealant to act as a moisture barrier and allow for adequate drying time before applying your flooring materials. A properly prepared subfloor will ensure long lasting beauty and overall durability of any flooring options you may choose.
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