How to Level Subfloor for Wood Flooring

Cleaning and leveling a subfloor before installing any type of flooring sometimes takes more work than the install. The reason being is that subfloors are often dirty and not completely level due to age and environmental factors.

Laying down a hardwood floor is going to make preparing your subfloor all the more challenging. If the subfloor isn’t level, the wood could buckle over time, leading to major repair jobs before you know it.

Take a look at some things you can do on your own to level your subfloor. It all comes down to scoping out low spots and high spots.

Cleaning Before You Check the Levelness of the Subfloor

Before doing anything else, make sure your subfloor is as clean as you can get it. Clearing it of all debris is an imperative to ensure your hardwood floor has no obstacles.

You can clean simply by using your vacuum cleaner, plus a broom. Any kind of thinset residue on the subfloor may need some extra work to pick up. In that scenario, wear a mask and gloves to protect from debris particles.

Once the subfloor is clean, buy or find a level to place across the floor. You may have a carpenter’s level in your garage or workshop area. They’re plentiful to buy on Amazon.

A quality level tells you exactly whether your subfloor is level or not. While using, you’ll have to get down on all fours to check for any hints of daylight under the level. A gap of no more than 1/8 of an inch means a leveling problem exists. Determine whether these spots are too high or too low.

How Do You Deal With High Spots?

Having to grind down a high spot on a subfloor may be new territory for you if you never thought this was possible. You may find more high spots on your subfloor than you thought would be there.

It may require a little of your time because it involves having to sand down those spots to avoid flooring glitches.

Before working with this tool, be sure to cover everything within the room with plastic to avoid inevitable debris from getting on things. This includes covering your heating/cooling vents.

If the high spot is just a small area, you could put medium-grit sandpaper on a manual hand sander to complete the job. Using a hardwood sander edger may be necessary if the floor space is overly large.

Once done, a lot of dust is going to be spread around the floor. Vacuum that up thoroughly before laying down your hardwood floor.

Dealing With Dreaded Low Spots

The work won’t maybe be quite as intense for low spots as the work put in for high spots. Having to sand a floor can be a tad strenuous if you’re not physically able or haven’t done it prior. You might have to hire a professional in said scenario.

Low spots, however, are often fixable on your own. This is thanks to having pre-mixed leveling compound products available on the market. With these, you can just squeeze the amount of compound you need into the area and let it dry.

Some good products to have on hand include:

  • LevelQuick is one of the most popular with an easy-to-use formula. This helps solve many low spot problems in less than 15 minutes.
  • Henry 555 is another good brand anyone can find through stores like Home Depot. It dries in two hours, enabling you to walk on it after drying time completes.
  • Fix-a-Floor is an even simpler floor leveler product since it comes in a squeeze bottle.

In the chance you can’t acquire these products, using a shingle can suffice on a low spot if stapled to the floor securely.


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