Understanding Subflooring And The Options Available To You

If you have a damaged floor in your home that you want to replace, then hardwood flooring is a great option. However, if the floor is in poor shape, then the subfloor also may need to be removed. Subflooring materials absolutely should be replaced. Keep reading to understand what the subfloor is, what it does, and what kind of options you have.

What Is The Subfloor?

Simply put, the subfloor is the bottom layer of flooring that the pieces of the hardwood material will sit upon. The flooring sits just above the joists and often attaches directly to them. The flooring material must be flat, hard, and minimally flexible to absorb the shock and stress placed on the wooden floor. The subfloor is meant to function in a few different ways. It is supposed to provide security and strength. 

Also, in combination with the underlayment, the subfloor helps to create a moisture barrier. The barrier keeps moisture from working its way down into the subfloor from the hardwood material and it also stops moisture from the basement from moving up and underneath the wood floor. This basically keeps moisture from building up around the flooring materials and possibly causing a mold and mildew issue.

Subflooring also prevents hazardous situations in the event that one of the joists deteriorates underneath the floor or the new wood floor develops a hole. In other words, it provides an extra layer so there are no risks of you falling through the floor. The material also provides a much wider space where staples and nails can be secured when the wooden floor is installed. 

What Kinds Of Subfloor Are Available?

There are several different types of subfloor that are available, and oriented strand board (OSB) is the most common. This material is sometimes called flakeboard as well, and it has a characteristic look with large pieces of wood in strips or chunks that make up the board. These strips are compressed and saturated with resin. Heat solidifies and seals the boards so they can then be used for construction purposes. OSB is one of the least expensive materials you can purchase for a subfloor, but it does have some drawbacks. It is not always completely level and it also may creak once the wood floor is installed. 

If you want a more level surface that will not make as many sounds, then opt for a plywood subfloor. Plywood is very similar in construction to OSB, but the wood used to make the boards is much smaller. Plywood also comes in a tongue-and-groove option where the boards interlock with one another. This can create a stronger surface that is more resistant to shifting issues. If you decide that you want rectangular sections of plywood to make up the subfloor, then make sure they are glued or strongly nailed around the joints.

If moisture is an issue in your area, like if you have a wet basement most of the time, then you may want to look into plastic subflooring materials. Plastic is used most often underneath tiles made from either ceramic or stone. The plastic pieces typically snap together, or they can be nailed down into the joists. The material is often used as a sound barrier too, so consider this if sound traveling throughout your home is an issue for you. 

Concrete is another subfloor material, but this does require the pouring of a slab, and this is typically not optimal in a space above an open area like a basement. If you want to know more about flooring installation and the best material to place underneath a wood floor, then speak with your hardwood floor installer


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