Is it time to replace your subfloor? There are many problems a subfloor can encounter, from squeaky floorboards to unlevel surfaces. Before any flooring is fitted, subfloor problems must be addressed for a better-quality flooring installation.

Here are the most common subfloor problems to avoid for a quality flooring installation.

What is a subfloor?

Before covering the most common subfloor problems to avoid, let’s cover what a subfloor is. A subfloor is a structural surface and is the first layer of solid material after the joists. Subfloors act as a foundation for any flooring.

A properly maintained subfloor provides a solid basis to hold up any underlay and flooring. A solid subfloor is required for all flooring types, including carpet and luxury vinyl. Materials used for constructing subfloors include concrete, plywood, particle boards, and oriented strand boards (OSB).

There are many different types of subfloors. Some examples of subfloors include stump, suspended slab, beam and joist, concrete sheeting, and steel frame subflooring. Each type of subfloor may display different problems due to the varying materials used in subfloor construction.

Subfloor problems to avoid

Many telltale signs indicate that it’s time to replace or repair a subfloor. Not all of these are prominent and may go unnoticed until removing an existing flooring. The materials used and exposure to moisture will also affect the lifespan and quality of a subfloor.

If you spot any of these signs, it may be time to think about suitable subfloor solutions. Addressing subfloor issues is just one mistake you can avoid by hiring a professional flooring contractor. Discover how a commercial flooring contractor can help avoid these flooring mistakes.

Uneven or sunken subfloor

The most obvious sign that your subfloor may be uneven or sunken is by noticing a soft spot underneath your flooring. Sometimes, your flooring may become unlevel or sink with the subfloor. Eventually, this can lead to flooring damage and the potential of rot.

Depending on the extent of the problem will determine whether it’s necessary to replace the entire subfloor. A levelling compound is recommended for addressing uneven or sunken subflooring problems.

Creaking floorboards

Another subfloor problem most commonly experienced is creaking floorboards. Creaking floorboards are a result of loose floorboards. Any movement of the loose floorboards causes them to rub together or against a nail/joist, resulting in an unpleasant creaking sound.

The cause of creaking floorboards can result from the flooring joists or nails. If a gap is present between the top joist and the subfloor, there is sufficient space for the floorboards to move with pressure (such as walking across).

Similarly, incorrect nailing or fitting of the floorboards to the joists can also result in a creaking sound. As a result, the floorboards can freely move when walked across. A problem with supporting joists beneath the floorboards can also result in creaking floorboards.

If incorrect nailing is the cause, removing the nails and using the correct nail with adequate fitting should address the problem. If a gap exists between the joist and subfloor, fitting a suitable filling material, such as wood shim, should address the issue.

Musty or damp smell

Musty and damp smells are another common subfloor problem that can affect the quality of a flooring installation. A room with a lingering and unpleasant musty smell could be coming from the subfloor. The cause is water damage or moisture in the subfloor, which can show through a floor.

The material and extent of damage will depend on the solution for addressing musty-smelling subfloors. Strong, musty smells result from water damage caused by a leak. The leak will need addressing and the subfloor replaced due to the extent of the damage.

If the musty smell results from moisture in the subfloor, it is recommended to take moisture measurements. If no damage has resulted from the moisture, you may be able to dry out the moisture. Find the source of the moisture, clean up any excess water, and leave it to dry.

Floor movement or bounciness

If your flooring moves or bounces when walking over, it could signify subfloor instability. Any flooring that feels spongy, bouncy, or shifts when walked over is a key sign of subfloor problems that need addressing.

The cause could be a warped or loose subfloor, most witnessed with older subfloors. An incorrectly installed subfloor can cause such problems, resulting in a sinking floor. In both cases, the subfloor may need to be replaced to address the issues.

Loose fixtures or plumbing

Loose fixtures and plumbing that connect the floor, such as sinks and toilets, can be another telltale sign of subfloor problems. Fixtures and plumbing are anchored onto the floor for support. However, the support holding such fixtures can loosen over time.

This can lead to a leak in the floor, which can go unnoticed until it’s too late. The greater the moisture, the more serve the damage. Subfloors can decay and rot, causing further damage that worsens over time. In this case, the subfloor will need to be replaced.

It is also recommended to check whether any fixtures are loose occasionally. Even the slightest movement can result in a small leak that causes subfloor damage. Addressing the problem as soon as possible can minimise the damage to the subfloor.

Cracking, cupping, or bubbling

Cracking, cupping, and bubbling are three telltale signs from different flooring that indicate a subfloor problem. Tile flooring will display cracks, linoleum floors can bubble, while vinyl and luxury vinyl floors may cup if a subfloor problem exists.

Tile cracking results from a subfloor that is not firm enough to support the flooring. The subfloor will need replacing to address this issue. Vinyl and luxury vinyl flooring that is cupping can result from moisture or uneven subfloor levels. Drying or levelling the subfloor can solve such problems.

Linoleum flooring that displays bubbling can happen if there is excessive moisture. Tiny bubbles smaller than 1 inch are small air pockets and shouldn’t be a concern. Releasing the trapped air will solve the issue.

However, big or large quantities of bubbles can indicate excessive moisture in the subfloor. Any leak causing excessive moisture must be addressed. The subfloor must be adequately dried out to prevent further linoleum flooring bubbling.

Replacing a subfloor

Have you spotted any of these subfloor problems? If you have, it may be time to consider replacing your subfloor. The important thing to remember when replacing a subfloor is to find the source of the problem.

Failing to address any sources, such as water leaks, will only cause damage to new subfloors. The result will be another subfloor replacement. The quality of your flooring installation will also be affected. Any subfloor problems will show through your flooring sooner or later.

If you need help with subfloor solutions, our vast knowledge and experience at E&M Services mean we are well-prepared to overcome subflooring problems. Our subfloor solutions are just one of many commercial flooring installation services.

We undertake all aspects of subfloor preparation, repairs, and smoothing compounds to give your flooring installation a strong foundation. Get in touch today to learn more about our stunning range of flooring solutions.

You can also book to arrange a visit to our showroom in Coventry to browse our quality flooring options available. Whether for commercial or domestic premises, flooring choice is just as important as a quality subfloor. Get in touch today to arrange a visit to our Wyken showroom.