Should I Replace My Subfloor Before Installing Tile?

Subfloor
source: Flickr – brockzilla

A new tile floor is a strong, long-lasting flooring material that can add beauty and value to your home. Tile is also a great choice because of its water-resistant nature and range of available styles and colors. However, if you’re considering a tile installation, be aware that beyond the tile itself, your home’s subfloor is an integral part of the installation process and needs to be examined by a professional flooring contractor.

What is a Subfloor?

A subfloor is a layer of flooring that is built directly on the floor beams or joists. This is typically made of plywood, though concrete is also an option, as well as composite materials. The tile flooring is installed on top of the subfloor.

Why is a Subfloor Necessary?

The purpose of a subfloor is to provide extra support for your floor. You cannot install floor tiles or any other floor without a solid surface on which to place it. Additionally, it has become popular in the last few decades to install electrical wiring, plumbing and other special features in the subfloor in some homes.

Additionally, many people choose to insert a floor covering in between the subfloor and floor to provide extra insulation and water-proofing. This is a good idea if you live in a cold city like Saint Paul, Minnesota, as it will keep your floors warmer when you walk barefoot on them, as well as lower your heating costs.

What to Look For

Before you begin installing your tile floor, make sure the subfloor is completely flat and smooth. Any bumps or gaps could weaken the tile and or/cause cracking and other issues to develop over time. If you walk on a tile which was installed over a hole or cracked surface, the weight you place on it will not be evenly distributed and the brittle tile will crack. Therefore, if you find any gaps or bumps you’ll need to repair each area individually. Raised areas can be smoothed down and gaps can be filled. However, this should be done by a professional so that the floor becomes truly ready for the tile. If the cracking or bumping is too severe to repair, you’ll need to have a flooring contractor replace the entire subfloor.

Another problem you can find in the subfloor is nail heads. They can stick up and cause problems; so verify that they are all level with the subfloor. You should also make sure the plywood isn’t sagging and bending.

If your subfloor is concrete, make sure there are no cracks or gaps. While some small, hairline cracks can be ignored and gaps can be filled, they may be a sign of a greater, underlying weakness. Therefore, be sure to have a concrete contractor inspect your floor if you find inconsistencies.

While a new tile floor is a great addition to your home, it’s only as strong and reliable as the installation. Without a fitting, well-prepared subfloor, your tile will not be able to be to last.

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