What Lies Beneath

All About Subfloors
At some point while you are shopping for floors, you will be asked what your subfloor is. Hopefully early in the process, before you fall in a love with a floor that is impractical for your installation. Why? you may wonder. Why do we care? What has that got to do with the kind of floor you want?  Actually, your subfloor has a LOT to do with what kind of floor you get.

What Is A Subfloor?
The subfloor is the lowest structural layer beneath the finished flooring, the solid material under your floor covering. The subfloor holds up everything in your house - walls, cabinets, furniture, the piano, people - everything! All houses have subfloors.

There are two basic types of subfloor. The first is a cement (concrete) slab. A slab foundation is made of concrete that is typically 4"-6" thick. The concrete slab is often placed on a layer of sand for drainage or to act as a cushion. Houses built on a slab lack crawlspaces, and there is no space underneath the slab. Footings and other load-bearing elements are added to the slab. The unit works together to anchor the house, and the exterior walls and interior load-bearing walls rest on the slab. If you have a basement, the subfloor is almost certainly a slab. Slab subfloors can be below grade or on grade. Flooring is almost always installed directly on the slab.  

Fun Fact: Few Steps! Slab homes are built closer to the ground than homes with basements or crawl spaces, thus reducing the number of steps required to enter the home. Easy access is advantageous for those who are less physically able.

If your home does not have a slab foundation, the other option is over a crawl space. A crawl space is essentially a hollow area under the floors between the ground and the first floor. It's usually roughly 1 foot to 3 feet high - just high enough for someone to enter by crawling, as its name implies (low ceilings!)  If you have a crawl space, proper ventilation is essential to prevent moisture from moving from the ground up through cracks in the plywood into the home. Moisture in a crawl space is not good - for both the structural integrity of your house as well as your health.

Floor joists are installed over the crawl space and support the weight of the building, absorb impacts on the floor, and create structural support so that the floor will be stable and secure. Joists are used to frame the upper levels of the home and are made of engineered, laminated wood or dimensional lumber. All houses not on a slab have joists.

A wooden subfloor is attached to the joists to create a flat solid surface for the finished flooring to rest on. Typically, a subfloor is made of plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) panels.

Still with us? You need to know what your subfloor is before you start shopping for hardwood flooring in particular. Carpet, laminate, tile, and luxury vinyl can be installed over all types of subfloors. Solid wood floors can only be installed on a cement slab if special and expensive installation techniques are followed. Hardwood flooring should not be installed over particleboard, waferboard, pressed wood, or fiberboard. All wooden subfloors, especially OSB, must be of a certain thickness and in excellent condition in order to properly support the new wood floor. Your subfloor is the base, the very "foundation" of your flooring. If the subfloor isn't right, nothing that comes after it is going to be right.

Now Let's Talk About Floor Prep
Floor prep is the work that is required to make your subfloor flat, clean, dry, and structurally sound prior to the installation of your new floors. Besides being necessary to make the new floor look and feel good, floor prep is also required in order to meet the manufacturer's guidelines to issue a warranty.  

When we come to your home to measure, we must assess the potential floor prep and leveling that will be needed for your installation. Floor prep is the most difficult of all costs to estimate because your subflooring is typically covered by existing flooring that must be removed. Sometimes when your existing floor coverings are removed, your subflooring is found to be damaged (example, a section of plywood is water damaged) and must be repaired or replaced prior to the installation of the new flooring. This is a structural problem that must be corrected prior to the installation of your new floor.

For most hard surface floor coverings, the subfloor must be level to within 3/16" over a 10' span.   When the subfloor is covered with carpeting and padding, it is impossible to measure how level the subfloor is. Carpet and pad also hide if a subfloor is clean, smooth, and/or dry. 

Please be aware that many builders do not prepare the subfloor to meet these specifications.  Subfloors that the builder makes  "carpet ready" are rarely hard surface ready, particularly in basements (the basement slab is rarely in good shape.) In older homes, the house has almost certainly settled and sagged, which must be corrected.  

When you are having carpet installed, we do not have to be as concerned about how level the floor is, but we do need to replace any damaged subfloor before installing the new carpet. This is also the time to minimize any squeaks in the subfloor.

Floor prep is usually not included in your estimate for new flooring and can't be priced in the store. We can give you a guesstimate during your in-home measure, so you have an idea what to expect. Please know that floor prep is not a profit center for our company or our installers. At all times we strive to be fair with our clients and only seek to make sure that we and our installers are compensated for the time, materials, knowledge and expertise in knowing the best way to achieve the required results. We have been installing floors for over 35 years and every year install approximately 500,000 square feet of hard surface flooring and even more square feet of carpet. 

Hopefully this honest information will help you know what to expectas you shop for your new flooring purchase, and what will need to be done to give you the beautiful floor that will perform and look great for years and years!

Design Tip
Are your kids virtual learning? Designate a specific room for homeschooling. It allows you to have everything easily accessible in one place. Some ideas:
~~Add a blackboard the easy way -s tick it on with innovative chalkboard wall stickers or adhesive paper. Both can be easily repositioned or removed as necessary.
~~Give your students living things to tend to such as plants and/or fish for hands-on biology.

~~Create a cozy nook with bean bag chairs and a fun, colorful area rug. This is an awesome space to read books and complete assignments, to do work on a tablet or laptop, to study, or to brainstorm. 

~~Make your walls work for you - hang up helpful educational charts of math facts and parts of speech, laminated U.S. and world maps, an interactive clock, magnetic white boards with letters for spelling, numbers for calculating, and words for forming sentences and short poems.

~~Invest in bookshelves and equip them with baskets and/or bins to keep supplies contained. 
~~Use storage bins on wheels.
~~Hang up over-the-door plastic shoe hangers. The pockets are perfect for storing flashcards, stickers, pencils, pens, and highlighters, calculators, sticky notes, scissors, rulers, and more.

Don't Be Surprised
It's always exciting to begin a home improvement project, but here's a cautionary note. You may encounter product scarcity and back order situations. We are already hearing about an extreme shortage of pressure treated lumber, kitchen appliances, some flooring styles, the list goes on and on.

Products that are imported from China are facing delays as the supply chain totally shut down and is only now beginning to resume. Some shipping departments are short staffed, so it is taking longer to get product out for delivery, as well as manufacturing plants that are not working at full capacity. Sadly, you do need to be aware, and understanding, that some things may be very hard to get right now and may delay the start of your project or the completion.

How Much Does It Cost?
We just installed laminate in a home in Kennesaw - almost 1000 square feet, in the kitchen, living room, dining room, master bedroom, foyer, hall, master and guest bathrooms (yes, you can install "waterproof" laminates in bathrooms!) and utility room for $6800, including the required floor prep. And the best part - our client was replacing the floors prior to putting the house on the market, listed the home on July 10, and closed 30 days later with a sales price $10,000 over the asking price. We know it was the floors!

I Was FLOORED By Enhance
Susan in Canton writes:"We could not be happier about our experience with Enhance Floors & More. I can't say enough about the installers; courteous hard workers who left the house looking like they'd never been there!"Thank you, Susan. The new window treatments you ordered with your Decorating Dollars will be here next week. Please send us pics of your completed project!