FLOORS 101: BASIC STRUCTURE OF A FLOOR

OVERVIEW


One of the most important parts of any buildings structure is its floor system. The floor system carries the weight of interior walls, roof, furniture, appliances, finished flooring, etc. – not to mention the people and fur-babies who are inside! How well the floor structure is designed and built will determine how much weight the floor can carry. Most floors in residential homes consist of four layers. From the top down, they are:

  1. Floor Covering: This is the finished, visible floor that you see and walk on.
    • Also called a Finish Floor – includes hardwood, laminate or vinyl flooring, carpeting or ceramic tile.
    • When you remove the floor covering, you will see more flooring underneath—possibly underlayment, definitely subfloor.
    • Not required to provide structural support, but often provides a type of supplementary support.
  2. Underlayment: Just under the visible floor covering, this provides it with a smooth, flat surface – can also act as cushion, sound barrier, moisture barrier, etc.
  3. Subfloor: Holds up all of the above layers of flooring, as well as everything in your house.
  4. Joists: Lateral wooden framing members that provide the structural support for the entire framing system.
    • They are typically made from 2 X 10 or 2 X 12 lumber or engineered Microlam / LVL beams.
    • If you have a concrete slab floor, you will not have joists.
We know your primary concern is #1 on the list above – but Floors Etc. is concerned about all 4…because if #2-4 aren’t in excellent condition, then #1 will have problems sooner rather than later – and your investment will suffer. Our expert craftsmen have the experience and the knowledge to ensure that your finish floor is installed correctly and on a solid, properly prepared subfloor with the appropriate underlayment so that it will be a source of pride and beauty in your home for years to come.




SUBFLOORS


The subfloor is the thick flat surface on which all other layers rest. Usually made of plywood, plank, OSB (19/32” to 1 1/8” thick) or concrete, this is a structural layer that provides strength and rigidity to the floor system when attached to the floor joists. Even though it is not seen by anyone, it affects every aspect of the floor.

  • The Functions of a Subfloor:
    • Stabilizes the Foundation
    • Creates a Firm Base for Subsequent Flooring
    • Improves the Overall Lifespan of the Floor – creating a higher value for the investment
    • Improves Support to Overlying Furniture, Appliances and Other Occupants
The Importance of Subfloor Prep Having proper subfloors is crucial to the look and function of the floors that sit above them. When subfloors weaken, they can dip, sink, or become slanted, and the entire floor can be adversely affected. It is important that subfloors remain strong and level to retain their usefulness

It is critical to properly level and prepare the subfloor prior to installation of underlayment or floor covering – a well-prepared surface forms your flooring’s foundation. Your new floors are only as good as the subfloor that you are installing over. A level, well-prepared subfloor will lengthen the life of your floor, and prevent gaps and noisy planks.

Proper subfloor preparation and suitable underlayment installation are essential for a trouble-free job. Not prepping a floor correctly will undoubtedly lead to future and more costly problems. Floors Etc. always takes the time and effort up front to prep each floor surface in order to successfully avoid these kinds of preventable flooring failures.

5 words we always remember in subfloor prep:
  1. Clean
  2. Dry
  3. Level
  4. Structurally Sound
  5. Smooth

Most homes require some subfloor work before we can begin installation to ensure levelness and flatness and to ensure that your subfloor is within manufacturer specifications – so we always check to see if your subfloor is level before installation. Unfortunately, we cannot determine how level your subfloor is until the existing flooring is removed. If you know if any existing subfloor issues such as: creaks, bouncing, softness, or other damage, please let us know at the time of measure Here are some of our most common subfloor issues that we encounter:

  • High and Low Spots:
    • If you have a concrete subfloor, there is a good chance we will need to prep before we can install your new hard surface floor covering. Sometimes we can "spot level" certain areas, other times we need to level the entire area. We refer to this process as “floating” the floor.
      • Floors Etc. typically estimates 1 bag per 100 square feet at $55/bag of standard float. Keep in mind, Houston is a sea level city, so this can fluctuate greatly. We always adjust according to actual usage on our final invoice.
  • Squeaks and Creaks:
    • It is common in both older and newer homes to have creaks when walking over the floors. Most of the time the creaks are caused from the subfloor coming loose from the framing.
      • If we know about this ahead of time, we can screw down these areas to help minimize these.
        • DISCLAIMER: We are normally successful in this, but sometimes the creaks are caused by things that cannot be repaired; we will advise you if this is the case.
  • Uneven Plywood:
    • In Houston and Gulf Coast region, we all know it’s humid and it rains – and sometimes this can cause swelling and warping of the subfloor that needs to be remedied before your new floor can be installed.
      • If this is the case, Floor Etc. will discuss options and costs with you prior to moving forward.
  • Sinking Floors:
    • Sinking or spongy areas are typically due to water damage or improper subfloor installation.
    • If it is water damage, this can generally be spot repaired by a skilled carpenter or contractor (HYPERLINK TO TRUSTED SERVICE PARTNERS)
    • If it is due to the wrong type of subfloor, a skilled carpenter or contractor (HYPERLINK TO TRUSTED SERVICE PARTNERS) will need to be enlisted to replace it.
The Importance of Subfloor Care:
  • Maintains overall strength of floor
  • Keeps floor safe and level
  • Preserves beauty and aesthetics of floor covering
  • Assures longevity of finish floor

Subfloors are more important than most homeowners realize. Since they do their work below the surface, people do not always realize the true value of a subfloor until it starts to have issues. Don’t ignore your uneven or failing subfloor.




UNDDERLAYMENTS


Flooring underlayment is a thin material (usually only about ¼” or ½” thick) that rests between the floor covering above and the subfloor below. Unlike the subfloor, which is part of a home's framework and structure, the underlayment is less about structure than about providing a smooth, consistent surface to allow for an easy, attractive installation of the floor covering. Underlayment also improves adhesion, ensuring the floor covering will properly affix to subfloor (as required). And, firm underlayment can even improve structural stability.

  • Other Functions Of An Underlayment:
    • Moisture / Vapor Barrier
    • Helps Keep Your Flooring Warm
    • Reduces / Absorbs Noise – specifically in laminate floors
    • Sound Barrier
    • Cushion
  • Types Of Underlayment
    • Plywood (re: hardwood flooring)
    • 6 Mil Plastic Sheeting (re: installation over concrete subfloors)
    • 15lb Black Felt Paper (re: nailed or stapled hardwood flooring)
    • Standard Foam Underlayment (re: floating floor installations)
      • a simple and thin layer of foam material which is placed over a subfloor.
      • Often paired with a moisture barrier and/or sound barrier
    • Pre-Attached Underlayment (re: some Laminate and LVT flooring)
    • Cork (re: floating floor installations)
    • Epoxy – special moisture barrier adhesive (re: installation over concrete subfloors)
    • Upgraded Foam Underlayment (re: floating floor installations)
      • Advanced form of standard foam materials.
      • Also serves as a noise reducing agent.
      • Lasts longer than the standard foam.
    • QuietWalk® Accoustical Floating Floor Underlayment (re: floating floor installations)
      • https://floorsetc.info/QuietWalk
      • Designed for
        • Laminate
        • Engineered Hardwood
        • LVT
        • Bamboo
      • Sound Reduction
        • Absorbs sound and keep it from traveling to other rooms
        • Eliminates hollow / clicking sound made by footsteps
      • Moisture protection
        • DriWick™ technology
      • Compression Resistant
      • Insulation
        • Provides additional comfort during seasonal temperature changes.
      • Eco-Friendly
        • Made from Recycled Material
      • No VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) or Off-Gassing
        • Certified Clean and Safe Indoor Air Quality
      • Made in the USA
    • Combo Underlayment (re: installation over concrete or plywood)
      • Combination of foam and a film that blocks moisture
      • Also serves as cushion / comfort
    • Insulayment® Multi-Purpose Acoustical Underlayment (re: glue & nail down Hardwood floors + some floating installations)
      • https://floorsetc.info/Insulayment
      • Sound Reduction
        • Absorbs sound and keep it from traveling to other rooms
      • Insulation
        • Provides additional comfort during seasonal temperature changes.
      • Eco-Friendly
        • Made from Recycled Material
      • No VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) or Off-Gassing
        • Certified Clean and Safe Indoor Air Quality
      • Made in the USA
    • Cement Backer Board (re: tile and stone)
    • Carpet Pad
Floors Etc. will tell you if your flooring project needs an underlayment during your in-home assessment – however, if your project calls for installation on a cement slab or if it involves new carpet, laminate or LVT, you will most likely need some sort of underlayment.




UNDERLAYMENTS - CARPET PADS


Have you ever walked on a carpet and appreciated how soft and resilient it feels? That undoubtedly has as much to do with the quality of pad than the actual carpet. Good padding protects your carpet, makes it last longer, and feel better. Your carpet pad will be out of sight once everything is installed – don’t let it be out of mind when making your carpet selection.

The correct cushion is important for maintaining the life and look of your carpet. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, all residential carpets need a resilient, firm cushion of 7/16" and no less than 1/4" with 6 pounds cubic feet density. Polyurethane foams, including “rebond” fiber, or rubber are good options.

Floors Etc. uses a standard 8-pound 1/2" pad with all residential carpets.

Premium / upgraded pads (e.g.: antimicrobial, moisture barrier, luxe foam, etc.) are also available at an additional cost per square yard.

Floors Etc. Pro Tip

Check with the carpet manufacturer to see if a specific cushion / pad is required.

The right kind of carpet pad will:

  • Act like a cushion, absorbing the force your feet impress upon your floors
    • This prevents your carpet from matting and crushing underfoot
  • Offer its own level of soil and stain protection
  • Provide an added thermal insulation and sound barrier
  • Provide ventilation between the carpet and the floor (makes vacuuming easier, and more efficient)

The wrong kind of carpet pad will:

  • Possibly void your warranty
  • Potentially cause the carpet to wrinkle, induce buckling
  • Increase wear and tear on the carpet.
  • Will considerably shorten your carpet’s life.





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Floors Etcetera, Inc. | DBA: Floors Etc. | 713-880-8888 | MyFloors@floorsEtc.com