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Can/Should You Put Hardwood on an Uneven Floor?

An uneven floor can be unattractive and uncomfortable to walk on. To cover up the damage with a new floor, including new hardwood floors, you must first determine whether you will be leveling the subfloor by installing directly on top of the uneven surface. 

Installing hardwood on an uneven floor can be challenging as it requires a level surface for proper installation. To address this, you can use self-leveling compound or plywood to create a smooth, even base before laying the hardwood. This ensures stability and longevity of the flooring.

Another method to tackle uneven floors before installing hardwood is by sanding down high spots and filling in low spots with a floor leveling compound. This process can be more labor-intensive but is essential for ensuring a stable and even surface, crucial for the successful installation of hardwood flooring.

Hardware floor installation

The rest of this article will discuss why you shouldn’t install hardwood on uneven floors. It will also look at how to level a floor to prepare it for hardwood installation and go over the causes of uneven floors. 

Should I Install Hardwood Over an Uneven Floor?

Installing hardwood on an uneven floor is generally not recommended. Uneven surfaces can lead to issues like creaking, buckling, and gaps in the flooring over time. Hardwood floors require a stable, level base to ensure durability and maintain aesthetic appeal. For best results, level the floor first.

Inflexibility

Hardwood, by nature, is an inflexible, rigid material, which is why it is a great flooring material. 

However, it also means that any damage to the subfloor will show up on your new hardwood floors, including dips, humps, and more. These increase the risk of tripping and can also ruin the aesthetic value of your floor. 

Installation

Installing hardwood is a relatively challenging process to begin with, especially if you do not have prior experience. Moreover, attempting to do so on an uneven surface can make this process even more difficult and time-consuming. 

Durability

If hardwood is laid over an uneven subfloor, it can cause major structural issues, including buckling, warped edges, cracking, and kicked-up ends. Additionally, you will also hear a fair amount of creaking and groaning when walking on the floor. 

Copyright protected content owner: ReadyToDIY.com and was initially posted on June 26, 2021.

Once the floors are installed, applying repairs will be expensive and challenging. Also, you will risk creating an uneven look if you cannot get the two sections to match up completely. The only other option in such a situation is to remove and re-lay the floor, a time-consuming and expensive proposition. 

How Should I Level My Uneven Floors?

Measuring hardwood floor plank with tools

As discussed, before installing new hardwood floors, you must first level your existing floors, which is a slightly time-consuming process, so you should be ready to spend at least a day or two on the project. Alternatively, you can always hire professionals to take care of the process.

If you plan on completing the floor leveling process yourself, here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

Step 1: Expose the subfloor. If you have not yet removed your old flooring, it is time to do so. Be careful when removing it, as some older floors may contain asbestos. 

Step 2: Check what kind of subfloor you have. The leveling process will be different depending on whether you have a wood or a concrete subfloor.

Step 3: Use a level. Some uneven sections of the floor may not be visible to the naked eye. To make sure you do not miss any area when leveling the floor, use a level to check for and mark small high and low spots. Move the level around the floor to ensure you catch all the damaged areas. 

Step 4: Repair the high spots (wood subfloor). If you have a wood subfloor, you will first have to screw down loose particleboard or plywood sheets, which could require securing them with screws. After that, replace any nails you see with screws to get a longer-lasting connection.

Step 5: Sand down the high spots using a sander. Use a level to make sure you aren’t grinding too much or too little. When finished, you will then need to thoroughly clean the floor using a wet/dry vacuum. Confirm there are no more high spots using a level.

Step 6: Repair the high spots (concrete subfloor). Use a concrete grinder to repair any high spots on a concrete subfloor, making sure to use a level as you go to check the height. Once done, vacuum the area and sweep with a broom. Double-check to make sure the floor is level.  

Step 7: Repair the low spots. To repair the low spots in any type of subfloor, you’ll have to use underlayment, a floor leveler, or a floor patch like Henry, W.W. Co. Pre-Mixed Floor Patch. 

If you choose to use underlayment, you have to use it as a layer between the subfloor and your new hardwood floors. Some underlayment, such as Floorlot Shop Underlayment, includes an attached vapor barrier to protect your floor from moisture damage. 

Floor levelers and floor patches are both pourable products that repair holes, dips, and other imperfections. Choose the product of your choice, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Once you’ve applied the product, smooth it out using a trowel. Remove any excess product and feather around the edges to blend it in with the rest of the floor. Let the product dry, and then sand down any high spots that may have formed. Clean up any debris using a vacuum, and check the height once again with a level then install the hardwood floors. 

What Tools Will I Need To Level My Uneven Floors?

  • Floor Grinder
  • Sheet Sander (also known as a Palm Sander)
  • Belt Sander
  • Angle Grinder. I would recommend using the Bosch 4½-Inch Angle Grinder from Amazon.com. This highly affordable tool is compact and lightweight, making it easy to use in a large room. Additionally, the handle is designed to ensure you’re as comfortable as possible when using it.
  • Disc Sander
  • Trowel
  • Level. I recommend using the Craftsman Torpedo Level from Amazon.com. Aside from being highly accurate, this level is also extremely durable, coming equipped with shock-absorbing end-caps that ensure you won’t have to worry about investing in a replacement anytime soon.
  • Broom
  • Sponge
  • Vacuum
  • Floor Patch / Floor Leveller / Underlayment
  • Wood Screws

Why Is My Floor Uneven?

There are several reasons why your floor may appear uneven. These include:

Moisture Damage

Moisture damage due to groundwater or leaky pipes can cause a warped subfloor and damage wooden beams. It can also damage your home foundation, particularly if you live in a place with cold winters.

Copyright article owner is ReadyToDiy.com for this article. This post was first published on June 26, 2021.

Soil Movement

While you may not guess it, soil can expand and contract over time—wet soil expands and then contracts when it dries. This movement affects the foundation of your home, which, in turn, can affect your floors. 

Damaged Foundation

Your foundation may have been laid poorly or have weakened over time. In such situations, the damage to your foundation can cause significant issues for both your home and your floors. 

These issues include cracked, warped, and uneven floors, as well as damage to the joists, walls, and more parts of your house. If your foundation is damaged, you should repair it as soon as possible. 

Poor Installation

Sometimes, there’s no major root cause for an uneven floor – you can simply chalk it up to improper installation. This is perhaps the simplest situation to remedy, as all you need to do is re-lay your flooring correctly.

Settling Foundation

Foundations naturally settle and shift over time. This movement is why most old houses have slightly sloped floors. Unfortunately, there’s no major fix in such cases; you simply need to re-lay the floors and level the uneven subfloors.  

If you suspect a major cause that has resulted in your floors appearing uneven, you will first need to get this root cause fixed. If you let the issue remain, you risk damage to your new floors. Furthermore, the root cause may also affect the stability of the rest of your house, not just your floors. 

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ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on June 26, 2021.

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