Preparing a Subfloor for New Flooring
The subfloor is the foundation surface which supports your flooring planks. It can be made of different materials, which sometimes determines the type of installation you’re able to perform. However, for all subfloors, the name of the game is clean, flat, and dry.
(clear of any dirt or debris)
(smooth and level)
(free of moisture)
Not all flooring types require acclimation. Some, like rigid core Cali Vinyl plank can be installed right out of the box. But even with very DIY-friendly flooring, it’s always important to ensure your subfloor is prepped and ready to support those beautiful new planks.
Do I need to remove my existing flooring?
You should, but you don’t have to. Before most flooring installations you’ll want to remove existing flooring in order to get a clean, flat, dry subfloor. This is crucial for nail-down and glue-down installations, and may involve pulling up old carpeting, tile, or existing floor boards. If you’re floating new flooring (without any nails or glue) you may do so over existing floors as long as your foundation is clean, flat, and dry. A hard surface is also necessary, meaning carpeting will always have to be removed. You’ll also want to make sure all of your doors have proper clearance and can freely open and close over the new planks. You can test this using a flooring sample.
What type of subfloor do I have?
Each subfloor type has slightly different requirements, that’s why you’ll want to first identify what’s down there.
Plywood is the most common type of subfloor material in the typical home. It’s sturdy, moisture resistant, and can support any type of installation technique, whether glue-down, nail-down, or floating. Make sure your plywood subfloor is free of raised nail heads and staples.
Oriented strand board (OSB) is another type of wood subfloor material which performs similarly to plywood but can be more moisture resistant. An OSB subfloor must also be free of raised nail heads and staples.
Concrete subfloors are common in many homes and can support glue-down and floating installations. Note that fresh concrete takes a long time to fully dry and must be cured for at least 60 days. Regardless of when it was poured, concrete will need to be tested for moisture levels before new flooring can be installed. An underlayment that provides an added moisture barrier is required over a concrete subfloor.
Leveling Uneven Subfloors
You can level an uneven floor using cement or epoxy-based self-levelers. Always allow at least 24 hours for self-levelers to cure before installing new flooring.
Remove Baseboards and Trim
If removed carefully, existing baseboards and trim can be reused over your new flooring. Pieces can even be sanded and repainted to better match new planks. Note that corresponding accessories are made for each Cali floor if new pieces are needed. This is also a good time to repaint walls and ceilings because you won’t have to be as careful with paint drips.