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Why Floors Need to Be Leveled Before Installation

laminate floors

As the top flooring installers in Mississauga and the GTA, we cannot stress the importance of leveling subfloors before the installation of any type of new flooring surface. Without this crucial step, you could end up with subpar results, expensive fixes, and a frustrating renovation experience. However, with a little more effort in this initial phase of a project, you could save you a lot of time and money later on. Keep reading to find out what you need to know about leveling your flooring before installation.

1. Types of Flooring
Because laminate floors are connected together and essentially “floating” above the subfloor, it’s extra important that the surface be leveled before installation. Otherwise, laminate flooring could start to separate. With hardwood flooring, leveling is important because, over time, gaps can appear between the planks and the wood itself can bend and warp.
When it comes to installing tiles, floor leveling helps avoid “lippage” which is when the edge of a tile sits higher or lower than others. Lippage can be noticed almost immediately after installation because tiles won’t temporarily bend to accommodate the uneven subfloor like wood planks can.

hardwood flooring

2. Risks of Non-Level Floors
When floors aren’t leveled before installation, a few different things can happen. Firstly it can create a tripping hazard as the flooring starts to shift, bend, separate, and raise. It can also lead to unnecessary damage, such as tiles cracking because of uneven weight distribution over the surface. This means it could become incredibly expensive and time-consuming to fix after the flooring is already installed — no one should spend money on a beautiful reno and then soon after need flooring repair.

There’s no easy, quick fix when it comes to flooring installed over unlevel subfloors, so it will help you significantly in the long run if your pre-installation plan includes floor leveling.

hardwood flooring

3. How to Check Levelness of Floors
It’s very common for floors to slope slightly across a room, especially in older homes, and this doesn’t affect the installation as much as floors that aren’t flat. The best way to check for this is using a laser level to project a perfectly level line across the room, then measuring the distance between the laser line and the floor at locations all around the perimeter. Slopes are caused by potential structural imperfections, rather than improper preparation.

Ensuring floors are level means checking for any sags or raises in the floor that can affect the way your new flooring sits. A carpenter’s level can help you determine if your floors are flat and level. Place it on different areas of the floor and see if you can notice any gaps under the center of the level, which indicate a low spot that needs to be raised. An old trick of using marbles can work in a pinch too: simply drop a marble around the room and see if the marble ever rolls and stops before reaching the edge of the floor, which can indicate dips and heaves that need to be corrected.

Engineered Wood Flooring Installation

4. How Subfloors Are Levelled
The solution to preparing your subfloor depends on factors such as where it is uneven, by how much, what material it is made of (plywood vs. concrete) and what type of flooring will be laid on it. Most often, the unevenness will be corrected one of two ways: thick underlayment or self-levelling compound. The first means installing a new layer of plywood over the existing subfloor to span gaps and create a stiffer, flatter surface for flooring materials to lay on. Self-leveller is a pourable concrete that can be worked over a subfloor to fill in wider and deeper imperfections across the surface. In the worst cases, where subfloors are damaged, unsafe or where underlying structural issues make it impossible to level the old subfloor, you may need to replace your entire area with new tongue and groove plywood or concrete.

Over the many years we’ve spent working as flooring installers in Mississauga and all over the GTA, we’ve seen what happens when corners are cut. Take it from us: a little time, material and labour saved in the short-run will cost you more down the road. Proper leveling will correct heaves and dips that will affect the integrity of your floor. Ensure your flooring stands the test of time, so that your flooring investment is a sound one.

Contact us if you have any questions. We’re always happy to help.

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