Should I Replace My Subfloor Before Installing Tile?

Subfloor
source: Flickr – brockzilla

A new tile floor is not only strong and long-lasting, but will also add beauty and value to your home. More reasons tile is a great choice for flooring: its water-resistant nature and range of available styles and colors. However, if you’re considering a tile floor installation, be aware that your home’s subfloor is an integral part of the process and needs to be in good shape.

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 them. 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.

Many homeowners choose to insert a floor covering in between the subfloor and the flooring itself 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 lower your heating costs. FRINGE BENEFIT: It also keep your floors warmer when you walk barefoot on them. Mmm!

Problems 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 over time. When you walk on a tile installed over a hole or bump, your weight won't be evenly distributed and the brittle tile will crack. Therefore, smooth down any raised areas and fill any gaps you find. If the problem areas are too severe to repair, you’ll need to hire a flooring contractor to replace the entire subfloor.

Another problem you might 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 of your subfloor isn’t sagging and bending.

With a concrete subfloor, 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 last.

Updated March 15, 2018.

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