Subfloor leveling is an important step in the process of installing new flooring, whether it be hardwood, tile, or carpet. A properly leveled subfloor will ensure that your new flooring is even and looks its best, while a poorly leveled subfloor can result in uneven, unsightly, and potentially even dangerous floors. In this blog post, we’ll go over the basics of subfloor leveling and why it’s important, as well as some tips for tackling this project yourself.
What is a Subfloor?
A subfloor is the layer of flooring that sits below the finished flooring material, such as hardwood or carpet. It’s typically made of plywood or concrete and serves as the foundation for your flooring. A subfloor that is level, or even, is essential for the proper installation of your new flooring.
If the subfloor is not level, it can cause problems with the installation of your new flooring, such as:
Unevenness: If the subfloor is not level, it can cause your new flooring to appear uneven or wavy. This is especially noticeable in large, open areas where the imperfections in the subfloor are more noticeable.
Weak spots: An uneven subfloor can cause weak spots in your new flooring, which can lead to sagging or even collapsing. This can be dangerous and is definitely something you want to avoid.
Difficulty installing: If the subfloor is not level, it can make it difficult to properly install your new flooring. For example, tiles may not lay properly or hardwood may not adhere properly to the subfloor.
Why is Subfloor Leveling Important?
In addition to the problems mentioned above, a poorly leveled subfloor can also lead to more long-term issues, such as:
Damage to your new flooring: If the subfloor is not level, it can cause damage to your new flooring over time. For example, tiles may crack or hardwood may become uneven due to the shifting of the subfloor.
Increased wear and tear: An uneven subfloor can also cause increased wear and tear on your new flooring, as it will be subjected to more stress due to the unevenness of the subfloor. This can lead to your new flooring needing to be replaced sooner than it otherwise would.
Decreased value of your home: A poorly leveled subfloor can also negatively impact the value of your home. Buyers may be turned off by uneven or damaged flooring, and it can be expensive to repair or replace.
If you’re planning on installing new flooring and have discovered that your subfloor is not level, don’t despair. There are a few different ways to level a subfloor, depending on the extent of the unevenness and the material of the subfloor. Here are a few options:
Self-leveling compound: If your subfloor is made of concrete and is only slightly uneven, you may be able to use a self-leveling compound to even it out. This is a liquid compound that is poured over the subfloor and then smoothed out to create a level surface. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and allow the compound to dry completely before installing your new flooring.
Plywood sheets: If your subfloor is made of plywood and is significantly uneven, you may need to add additional plywood sheets to level it out. This can be done by attaching the plywood sheets to the existing subfloor using screws or nails and then sanding the surface to create a smooth, even surface.
Grinding: If the subfloor is made of concrete and is significantly uneven, you may need to use a concrete grinder to remove excess material and create a level surface. This is a labor-intensive process and should be done with caution, as it generates a lot of dust and debris.
Patching: If the subfloor has small dips or bumps, you can use a patching compound to even it out. This is a similar process to using a self-leveling compound but is typically used for smaller areas.
Adding shims: If the subfloor is made of plywood and is only slightly uneven, you may be able to level it out by adding shims. Shims are thin wedges that are inserted between the subfloor and the joists to level out the surface. This is a relatively easy process and can be done with a hammer and a supply of shims.
It’s important to note that the most appropriate method for leveling a subfloor will depend on the material of the subfloor and the extent of the unevenness. Often the condition of the subfloor can’t be assessed properly until the flooring on top is completely removed. This creates a challenge in pricing accurately a flooring project at its initial stage. The flooring installers can determine the best course of action for your particular situation only when the subfloor is completely exposed.
How Much Does Subfloor Leveling or Repairs cost?
The uneven subfloor situation is unfortunately very common and can be quite costly, mainly because it is very much labor intense, but also the cost of materials has gone up significantly in the past few years.
The cost of subfloor leveling and repairs will depend on a number of factors, including the extent of the damage or unevenness, the material of the subfloor, and the method used to level or repair it. Here are some rough estimates of the cost of some common subfloor leveling and repair methods:
Self-leveling compound: Prices for self-leveling compound with labor can range from $80 to $120 per bag, depending on the brand and the size of the bag. A bag will typically cover between 50 and 100 square feet, depending on the thickness of the application.
Adding plywood sheets: The cost of plywood sheets will depend on the thickness and type of wood, as well as the size of the sheets. On average, you can expect to pay between $2 and $3 per square foot, labor included.
Grinding: The cost of grinding a concrete subfloor will depend on the extent of the unevenness and the size of the area. At Simple Flooring, we charge between $0.90 to $1.60 per square foot for this service.
Patching: The cost of patching a subfloor will depend on the size of the area and the type of patching compound used. You can expect to pay between $80 and $120 per bag of patching compound (with labor), which will typically cover between 50 and 100 square feet.
Adding shims: The cost of shims will depend on the size and thickness of the shims, as well as the quantity needed. On average, you can expect to pay between $0.90 and $1.50 per shim.
It’s worth noting that these are just rough estimates and the actual cost of subfloor leveling and repairs will depend on your specific situation.