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How To Prepare Wood Subfloor For Vinyl Flooring

When you are installing vinyl flooring, there is more to it than simply putting the floor down. You also need to consider what is under the floor because it can make a big difference in the success of your project.

The proper way to prepare a wood subfloor for vinyl flooring is to make any repairs that are necessary and ensure that it is flat and smooth. In many types of vinyl floors, such as peel-and-stick tile or sheet vinyl, any imperfection in the subfloor is going to easily show through.

Man removing vinyl

Most people are surprised by how small of an imperfection can show through vinyl flooring. Even some very small particles will cause a bump that could eventually ruin the floor in many cases. Far too many floors have been permanently damaged as a result and some parts have even needed to be replaced.

That being said, there are many different types of subfloors and many different types of vinyl floors. These include different forms of installation, such as a floating vinyl floor or a glue-down tile or sheet installation.

How To Prepare Wood Subfloor For Vinyl Flooring

In this article, we will consider the specific steps necessary for preparing the subfloor for vinyl flooring. We will cover more than simply cleaning the floor, which is an important step. It would also require that you repair the floor in advance of the installation.

When most people think about subfloor, their thoughts automatically go to plywood. Although that is a popular option, you can install vinyl flooring over many different types of subfloors, including particleboard or even concrete.

Obviously, there are going to be variations when it comes to preparing the concrete floor in contrast to preparing plywood or another type of wood subfloor. In either case, however, the basic principles are the same.

The subfloor has to be tested in advance to ensure that it doesn’t contain too much moisture. This is not typically something that needs to be of concern when you have a wood subfloor but if it is concrete, then specific tests need to be taken.

Repairs are also necessary in many cases. Any damage to a wood subfloor, such as plywood or OBS should also be fixed ahead of time. Those imperfections can show up quickly and will ruin the floor after it is installed.

In this article, we will focus on a wood subfloor because that is the most popular choice for vinyl. You will find that these steps are similar from one type of vinyl floor to another but there are also specific differences, especially when it comes to glue-down versus floating floors.

What Tools Are Needed to Prepare a Wood Subfloor for Vinyl Flooring?

Man installing wood subfloor

Have the following tools available before you begin working on the wood subfloor:

Broom and Dust Pan

Shop Vac

5 Gallon Buckets



Belt Sander

Hand Sander

Bucket and Mop

Patching Compound



Safety Glasses

How To Prepare Wood Subfloor For Vinyl Plank

Woman installing wood subfloor

Vinyl plank is a very specific and popular type of vinyl flooring. When installing it over a wood subfloor, what are some of the considerations to make the job go smoothly?

Steps for Preparing a Wood Subfloor for Vinyl Plank

confused woman standing

There are 4 basic steps associated with getting a wood subfloor ready for vinyl plank. They include the following:

1. Moisture – There may be times when moisture is a problem. If the wood subfloor is directly over concrete or if it is prone to moisture, you may need to put down a vapor barrier before you install the vinyl flooring. Make sure you test the moisture ahead of time.

2. Inspect – Check the floor for any damage or imperfections. This would include looking for obvious cracks and gaps in the wood subfloor. You should also use a wide blade to run over the subfloor and check for any staples or nails that may be protruding. Any type of issue with the subfloor is going to show through the vinyl plank flooring, even if it is floating.

3. Repair – Use some patching compound to repair any imperfections in the subfloor. If some of the subfloor is damaged extensively, you may need to rip it up and put down a new subfloor in its place. You truly can’t underestimate the need to repair a wood subfloor before you install vinyl plank.

4. Clean – If you don’t clean the wood subfloor before you install the vinyl plank, you’re going to end up with some serious problems. Don’t settle for simply sweeping the subfloor, use a shop vac and then go over the floor a second time. You want to remove all of the little pieces of debris before installing the floor.

What Types of Wood Subfloor Can Be Used for Vinyl Plank?

installing wood subfloor

Plywood – This is the most commonly used type of subfloor for vinyl plank. It works well and will provide a suitable base for the vinyl plank to be installed.

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OSB – Oriented strand board is engineered with smaller pieces of wood to provide a very strong finished piece. It can be installed instead of plywood.

Particleboard – This is another type of board that is engineered with small pieces of wood to be stronger after they are glued together. They tend to be flat and in good condition but if you notice any damage, it should be repaired before the vinyl floor is laid.

Hardwood Floors – Even a hardwood floor can be used for installing vinyl plank. As long as it is free of defects and clean, there is no reason to avoid using it or to install another subfloor over it.

How To Prepare Wood Subfloor For Vinyl Tile

confused woman standing

Vinyl tile can either be glued down or it may be floating. How do you prepare a wood subfloor for vinyl tile?

Cleanliness is the most important factor for preparing a wood subfloor for vinyl tile. Any dirt or debris that is under the title, regardless of how small, will show through and look much larger on the surface.

Copyright article owner is for this article. This post was first published on November 8, 2022.

Steps For Preparing the Wood Subfloor for Vinyl Tile

installing wood subfloor

Since vinyl tile is often glued to the wood subfloor, what steps are necessary to prepare the wood subfloor in advance?

Inspect and Clean – Vinyl tile is very unforgiving. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about peel-and-stick vinyl tile or if it is a higher quality commercial vinyl tile, you need to have everything perfectly clean underneath it.

Even a small piece of debris, such as the tiniest stone is going to show up when you put the vinyl tile over it. The problem is, it’s not going to be just a tiny isolated bump but rather, it is going to ruin the entire piece.

Run a scraper over the floor to check for any protrusions. Fill any gaps in the subfloor and send out many high points. You should then clean the floor thoroughly, paying careful attention to get everything off of it.

How To Prepare Wood Subfloor For Sheet Vinyl

confused woman standing

Sheet vinyl flooring is different than other types of vinyl flooring. What preparation is needed for this type of installation?

Steps to Prepare a Wood Subfloor for Sheet Vinyl

Sheet vinyl is similar to other types of vinyl flooring in the fact that any imperfections are going to show through easily. Additional care needs to be considered because damage due to subfloor imperfections could ruin the entire installation.

Step 1: Testing – The wood subfloor should be tested for moisture before you install the sheet vinyl. If it is installed over concrete or if it is prone to moisture, you may need to use some type of vapor barrier. If the sheet vinyl is glued down, this may not be possible.

Step 2: Repair – If there are any cracks or holes in the wood subfloor, they should be repaired in advance. Use a suitable type of filler so that it doesn’t expand or contract due to moisture and temperature variations. If a piece of the wood subfloor is damaged extensively, it should be replaced.

Step 3: Sand – If there are any high points or extreme bumps in the floor, they should be sanded down in advance. This should be done before the cleaning process for obvious reasons. A belt sander may be used to make the project easier.

Step 4: Clean – Make sure that the floor is perfectly clean before you install the sheet vinyl. You should also check for any protruding nails or staples at this point. Clean the floor several times before mopping it to remove any grease that could stop the sheet vinyl from adhering properly.

When preparing the wood subfloor for any type of vinyl flooring, cleanliness is of primary concern. Any small pieces of debris will show through the floor and could ruin the installation.

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ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on November 8, 2022.

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