The subfloors play a very important role in your home and issues with them can indicate a myriad of different problems. If you suspect you have problems with yours, it’s important that you get the help of subfloor repair companies near you as fast as possible in order to rectify the situation.
We have made this process extremely easy for you, you simply have to fill out the form at the top of the page, and we’ll match you with the 4 most relevant contractors in your area that will then reach out to you to better understand your problem and provide you with free estimates or quotes, at no obligation to you.’
What is a Subfloor?
Let’s take a closer look at the function of a subfloor.
Look down and you should see the finished flooring. It’s the beautiful layer that you see. What you don’t see is rough flooring that plays the role of a base for the finished floor.
Think of your floor as some sort of a sandwich. The finished part is the upper bread and the joists form the lower bread. Between them is the subfloor made of different materials.
What is it for? It provides stability to the whole floor. The finished flooring provides the aesthetics but without the subfloor, it would be unstable. Durability will suffer and it won’t last long.
Types of Materials
Most floor installers use plywood but there are other types of subfloor materials. Here are the most popular ones:
It’s the most popular choice of material and for good reason. It’s been the most popular choice for decades and plywood siding is even a viable and cheap option to go with too. In fact before the 80s rolled in, you can say that it’s the only choice for single family homes.
It’s a good choice because of its resistance to issues caused by heat and cold that lead to it expanding and contracting. It’s also very strong and secure. In installed by a competent professional, it won’t move around and squeak.
- OSB or Oriented Strand Board
It’s named as such because strands of wood (around 3 to 4 inches each) are layered. Glued together in a crossing pattern, you get a board that has more density than plywood. More importantly, it’s more water-resistant.
A common mistake of inexperienced subfloor installers is they simply pour concrete, thinking that it’s the solution to moisture woes. Remember that water is an important ingredient and it can take the slab months because it’s fully dried.
This is why you need to hire an experienced professional. He will test it first before installing the finished flooring.
- High performance panels
It’s a good choice if you’re looking for something that has the benefits offered by OSB and plywood. In addition, it has benefits not offered by the latter. These engineered panels resist moisture. This adds to its durability that’s considered to be higher than the two.
Subfloor vs Underlayment
Subfloor vs underlayment is a valid conversation since one is often mistaken for the other. The underlayment is actually the first layer right below the finished flooring. It’s the material that is placed so that the bare flooring will be protected against harsh elements.
Here are the reasons why it should be used in the flooring system:
- Noise reduction
Noise is a common complaint. It may seem insignificant, but can end up very annoying. The underlayment provides a way to reduce the noise by absorbing the impact and vibration.
- Moisture resistance
The popular underlayment materials are resistant to water. This prevents water from below from penetrating onto the surface above.
- Additional cushion
Since it can absorb impact, it can also serve as an additional cushion. This adds comfort that you’ll feel whenever you’re walking on the floor.
- Additional support
It also improves the integrity of the whole structure by offering additional support. They help prevent excessive compression and warping that can really affect the durability of the structure.
- Added warmth
These materials can also stop heat from escaping.
- Evens out minor imperfections
No flooring is perfect. There will be uneven areas and minor imperfections. The underlayment helps out by evening out these imperfections.
Here are the popular materials used as an underlayment:
- Standard foam
It’s your basic foam. It’s spread across the subfloor. Complemented by a barrier, it can help prevent moisture from reaching the flooring surface.
- Upgraded foam
This is obviously a better choice if you have the budget for it. It has a noise reduction feature which makes the additional investment worth it.
- Foam and film combination
It’s basically foam that has a thin coating of film attached to it. The film serves as a barrier against moisture.
It’s not really a matter of subfloor vs underlayment as you don’t need to choose one over the other. Both are needed and play an important role in ensuring the comfort, integrity and longevity of the flooring structure.
Obviously, the bathroom subfloor and the whole flooring would have to deal with a high amount of moisture. Choose the wrong material and it can lead to early water damage which will of course lead to a premature need for repairs. This is why you have to really think about your choice, and your bathroom remodel should start with considering the need for moisture-resistant materials.
Here are your options:
It’s no surprise that plywood remains to be a popular choice because of its moisture-resistant properties. Just make sure that it’s exterior grade. A popular choice by experienced contractors is ¾ inch CDX plywood. This is because it’s considered to be resistant to humidity and moisture.
However, you have to consider that plywood is still wood and thus, can experience ill effects of excessive moisture. A good subflooring expert will install a backerboard that’s based in cement to improve its water-resistance properties.
- Enhanced plywood
This type of plywood is enhanced to make it more resistant to moisture. This is done by coating it with a layer of moisture-resistant coating.
Compared to plywood, OSB is more moisture-resistant. It does pose a risk of swelling if it comes in contact with water, so that’s an important consideration especially if you’re using tiles.
- Enhanced OSB
To combat swelling, enhanced OSB is manufactured by a resin that resists moisture.
Actually, any of these bathroom subfloor materials can work well provided that it’s installed by a competent professional. It’s a matter of choosing one that fits your needs and budget, so make sure to discuss them with the companies that you’re considering to hire.
Obviously, subfloor thickness is an important consideration. It has to be just right.
The right thickness is dependent on the material that the contractor will use:
A good professional can make do with plywood that’s 5/8 inch. However, do note that it has to be thicker as the space in between joints increases as well. For example if the space in between joints in the center is anywhere from 16 inches and 19.2 inches, the minimum subfloor thickness should be ¾ inch. If the space is higher than that, the minimum should be 7/8 inch.
The minimum thickness for OSB is 23/32 inch. Also, keep in mind that OSB is not as good as plywood when it comes to holding fasteners. This means that in order to get the same holding power as plywood, you need a ticker OSB material.
Just like plywood, its thickness requirement increases as the space in between joints increases as well. If the space in between joints in the center is anywhere from 16 inches and 19.2 inches, the same ¾ thickness requirement as plywood applies. If the space is wider than that, the OSB thickness should be an inch.
It also depends on the flooring material:
This type is usually 3/8 inch to ¾ inch thick. In this case, plywood that is half an inch to ¾ inch is the recommended subflooring thickness.
Tiles are usually quarter inch to ¾ inch thick. It’s recommended that the plywood subflooring is half an inch to ¾ inch thick.
This is thinner than hardwood that is generally quarter inch to 1/3 inch thick. Plywood that’s 5/8 inch to ¾ inch is recommended.
Potential Problems That Require Subfloor Repairs
The main reason why subfloor repair companies exist is because there are subfloor problems. These problems are not only annoying. They can be very dangerous as well. Naturally, they can be expensive to fix.
This is why it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these problems. This way, you can watch out for them and take care of them before they get worse. Armed with these knowledge, you can also test the knowledge of the installer and ask them what measures they’ll have in place to help avoid these issues.
The thing is a lot of homeowners think that flooring problems are problems with the floor that they see. When in fact, a lot of these problems are with the subfloor.
Here are the most common subfloor problems:
This is when you see something that resembles a cup. This is when the floorboards’ edges raise. This is usually caused when different humidity levels are absorbed by the different levels. When the bottom receives a higher moisture level than the top, then it results in cupping.
- Water damage
This is a fairly common issue with bathroom subfloors. If water gets to it, then it can cause water-related issues like rotting and growth of fungus and mold.
This is actually a result of something more serious – issues with settling of the foundation or the house itself. We’re including it here because in most cases, subfloor repair companies will recommend to have the subfloor replaced with a new one and to level the joists in the process.
This may seem like a minor issue at first, but it can be a major annoyance. While common with older homes, you have to have it checked for the underlying cause of the creaking. It could be because of these two things:
- The subfloor isn’t secured well to the joists.
- The installer used an incorrect thickness.
- Uneven flooring
The problem with uneven flooring is there are several possible causes. It could be because of settling foundation. The support walls could have settled as well. An inspector may find splitting and/or warping joists. In a lot of cases, he may also find loose and/or warped subfloor.
Do you feel as if you’re on sponge when walking on the floor? It could be subfloor-related. It could either mean that it needs to be replaced because it’s old or it was installed incorrectly in the first place.
What Causes Them?
These problems are often caused by the following issues:
This is actually the usual cause of most of these subfloor problems. Rotting, squeaking, mold, fungus and more are caused by moisture.
This is another main suspect if the floor is creaking. This is because damaged joists loosen up the nails that secure the sheeting in place.
- Not leveled joists
The sub-flooring can be unevenly sucked down when the installer nail them in place but the tops of the joists are not leveled. This is because there’s no full support on the subflooring. This will also lead to creaking.
As mentioned, the foundation of your home or the home itself may settle. This can lead to problems to your sub-flooring.
- Old age
Things are supposed to deteriorate as they grow older. It’s just how it is. Sub-flooring of old homes will run into some problems. You can, however, do preventive maintenance to prolong this.
- Poor workmanship
Subflooring repair contractors are often called in simply because the carpenter that did work before them did a poor job of installing or repairing the subflooring.
- Poor ventilation
There should be an opening of 100 by 35 mm to allow the recommended 5 air changes for every hour. If this opening gets block, then the ventilation will suffer.
Seasons change the whole flooring structure, including the subflooring, will shrink and expand as the season changes. The flooring may pull away, pulling the nails along with it.
Subfloors for Tile
Here are some of the most common concerns:
- What subfloor is best for tile?
Tiles are strong but without a good flooring foundation, it can be delicate. This is why you should choose the right subfloor for tile. Here are some of the choices:
It’s obviously a popular choice, but can only be a good choice if installed by a competent installer. This is because thickness has to be considered here. Thinner plywood will work for carpet, linoleum and vinyl. However, it has to be thicker when installing tile.
This is a better choice than plywood simply because it’s more moisture-resistant. It also packs in more density.
- High performance panels
Combine the benefits of plywood and OSB together, add more durability, and you have high performance panels. This makes it the best subfloor material for tile.
- Can you lay tile on plywood subfloor?
It shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’re tiling over concrete. The problem is if the subflooring material is plywood. This is because plywood naturally expands and contracts, so does the tile, but at different rates. This will lead to cracking.
What a competent contractor will do is to add a layer of underlayment membrane or cement backer board. This is where the thin-set adhesive will be applied for the tile to bond well.
- How thick should subfloor be under tile?
A good rule of thumb to follow is the overall thickness should be at least 1 and 1/8 inches. Using plywood or OSB that is either 5/8 inch or ¾ inch is a good start. That will be complemented by a cementious backer unit that’s half an inch thick to achieve the 1 and 1/8 inch thickness.
How a Pro Will Repair Your Subfloor
Should you learn how to repair subfloors? If you don’t plan on making a career out of it, it’s better to just leave it to the professionals. If ever you’re still thinking that you can do it, here’s how the professionals do:
- Gather the tools and materials needed.
For the tools, you need a hammer, pry bar, circular saw, drill, grout remover, chalk, vacuum and tape measure. For the materials, you need 5/8 inch plywood (exterior grade), galvanized nails and 2 by 6 lumber.
- Inspect your flooring.
Only the trained eyes of a professional can do a proper and efficient inspection. A subfloor repair contractor can spot problems by identifying boards or tiles that became loose, sunken areas in carpeted flooring and the likes.
This is a very important step because you wouldn’t want to do step number 3 below without identifying the damaged parts correctly. If you end up removing a part of a floor that doesn’t have a damaged subfloor, then you messed up that part for nothing. On the other hand, miss a part that has the damaged subfloor underneath and then you’re not really solving the problem at all.
- Remove the parts of the floor covering the subflooring that is damaged.
If removing tiles, use a grout remover first. You can then lift the tiles using a small pry bar or even a putty knife. Use a hammer to pry the tiles.
If removing backer board or cement, remove the mortar first so you can access and remove the screws. Insert the pry bar underneath the board to pry it.
If removing carpeting, insert the pry bar between the baseboard and the wall behind or beside the nails. Pull the pry bar gently towards you to remove the baseboard and then set it aside. Insert the pry bar underneath the tack strip that secures the carpeting in place near the edge of the wall and then pry the carpeting up. Fold it back so you can get to the subfloor.
If removing hardwood, begin at the part of the wall that is closest to the area that is damaged. Remove it by following the steps similar to removing carpeting.
- Inspect the subfloor.
This is necessary for the contractor to determine the best course of action. If they see that the damage is across quite a few joists, they’ll recommend to just replace the whole thing because it’s easier and cheaper that way. Sheets that have been damaged by water or rot should also be replaced.
Use chalk to mark the areas that need repair. You can also use the chalk to mark the pattern of the fasteners.
Also, use the drill to drill a hole in the middle part of the area that has been damaged so you can measure just how deep the subfloor is.
- Take out the damaged materials in the flooring.
You need to do this before doing anything because leaving damaged materials in there could affect the replacement subflooring. Saw the subfloor past the damaged parts until you reach the solid frame of the structure using the circular saw (1 inch depth). Consider the depth as determined using the drill to avoid hitting joists that serve as support.
If you see any protruding nails, use the pry bar to remove them. Clear the space of any debris using the vacuum cleaner.
Make sure to check if the remaining wood material is dry or wet before doing anything else. If it’s wet, ensure proper ventilation and leave it to dry.
- Provide the frame for support.
The 2 by 6 lumber will be used to provide support framing to the existing framing. Double the old framing by installing the new framing on top of it.
- Do the measurements and cut plywood as needed.
Measure the space that you need to fil and then cut the plywood to fill this space. Make sure that you leave a gap of 1/8 inch because the plywood will expand naturally.
- Fasten the replacement plywood.
Fasten the replacement plywood using the galvanized nails. Alternatively, you can also use deck screws. An experienced contractor will have a rapid load screw gun to make this process faster.
Do You Need to Replace your Subfloor – What are the Signs it’s Time?
Trained subfloor repair professionals can best tell you if you need to replace your subfloor. But just to give you an idea, here are signs that should tell you to at least contact a professional for further inspection as they could indicate that a replacement is needed:
- The flooring feels like a spring when you walk on it.
While a springy feeling makes for comfortable walking, it could indicate that there’s something wrong with the subflooring. The floor shouldn’t shift when you walk on it.
- You can see spots that sag or droop.
This is a sign that there’s something wrong underneath the flooring material.
- There is visible water damage.
It could be coming from the ceiling. If there’s visible water damage, then there could be damage done already to the subflooring.
- The floor squeaks when you walk on it.
It’s not only annoying. It’s also a sign that there’s something wrong with the structure.
- There’s a strange smell that you quite can’t place.
You’ll smell mold first before you see it.
- There are cracks on the tiles.
One of the roles of subflooring is to provide a rigid platform for the tiles to prevent them from cracking since they’re not flexible. If there are cracks in the tiles, then it means that there’s something wrong with the supposedly rigid platform underneath it.
- There are bubbles in the linoleum.
This could indicate a moisture build-up.
- There’s cupping in your hardwood floor.
It’s either your home is too humid or the materials below are warping because of the water build-up.
- Your toilet is loose.
This is a clear indication that you need to replace your subfloor. It shows intense decay in the subflooring.
One of the main reasons why floor repair contractors are contacted is because of these common mistakes made during the installation:
- Natural expansion wasn’t considered in the spacing.
There’s a good reason why there should be a 1/8 inch gap across all ends and edges. This is because the panels will naturally expand.
- Now allowing it to dry completely.
It’s highly-recommended that the panels are stored safe and away from the elements. If they’ve been exposed, they should be left to completely dry.
- Not gluing it properly.
The glue should complement the nails for best results. The glue should be solvent-based and should match or exceed ASTM D3498 performance standards. Also, inexperienced and careless contractors apply glue improperly. There’s no excuse for this because all they need to do is to follow manufacturer’s instructions. Last but not the least, don’t let the glue dry. If it develops a skin, then it has already lost some of its strength or may fail to provide a strong bond.
- Careless hammering.
Some contractors hammer the edges with a sledgehammer so hard that the wood fibers end up crushed. This act damages the panel being hammered and its surrounding panels. This can also lead to improper spacing.
- Using the wrong joists.
Using the wrong joists could lead to nails popping and the floor squeaking. Green joists are generally not recommended. Just use joists that have been tested to perform well.
- Not nailing it properly.
The right size of nail should be used. They should also be hammered all the way through. If not, it could lead to the nails popping out.
- Not checking the final result.
Once everything is done, the final step is to check everything. Walk across the floor several times in order to check if everything is in place. This simple act can help the contractor spot signs like squeaking that will show that something needs to be re-done.
Getting Free Estimates or Quotes
First of all, it’s a good idea to just limit your search to local subfloor repair or replacement contractors. This can help lower the price because you’ll be in an area that they serve.
It’s also a good idea to limit your search to licensed contractors. This way, you can be sure that they have the right experience and qualifications.
What’s the easiest and most effective way to find the right contractor to hire? You can use the service on our site by filling out the form at the top of the page so you can get free quotes from the most relevant local flooring contractors. Using this free service, you can save time and money. You can also ensure that you’ll get the best available quotes that you can choose from.
Once you receive the quotes, make sure that you compare them. You should get itemized quotes which will allow you to check and compare so you can find the best contractor for the job, and it all comes at no obligation to you and is free – that’s the easiest way to lower your subfloor repair cost.