Substrate prep is a crucial component of a successful installation and for length of life in flooring.
This applies particularly to any hard surface flooring. Let's start with hardwood and laminate.
As professionals, we are responsible for the quality of your install, we follow NWFA ( National Wood Flooring Association ) guidelines
which state that leveling of substrate variances be no more than 1/8 of an inch over 10 feet. Anything greater than this will cause stress on your floor, which can result in squeeks, movement, and gapping. If you have ever noticed gaps between boards of laminate or engineered hardwood, this is a pretty clear sign that proper leveling did not occur. Of course any hard surface can be installed in most applications without leveling, but chances are it will begin to fail within a few years. Not to mention the awkward feeling of walking on an unlevel surface. Be careful of cutting corners, most cheap installs will last just long enough for the labor warranty to expire. While you will probably still have a manufacturer's warranty, their inspectors will see the improper install and place blame solely on the installation shop/crew. If it is past the often 1 year install warranty, you are out of luck. Your entire warranty will be void. Be careful of warranties, there are many reasons why the manufacturer's can get out of honoring them, even though their products may be the best around. In my opinion, Installation is the most important factor in flooring. If done properly, you are protected! Buying based on a good quality level is always safer than warranties. Remember, you will always get what you pay for.
Most leveling is done with self leveling compounds that are mixed on site and applied by our installers. This is priced as a per bag product and our pricing includes the labor to apply it. Most installs will need at least some leveling, for budget purposes it is best to prepare for anywhere between $1.00 per square foot on the light side to $5.00 per square foot in extreme cases. I have seen sites which are above the $5.00 range, but while rare, we would not recommend a hard surface install in these situations. Some floors are just made to have carpet only.
Floor prep for a glue down vinyl or vinyl plank is a bit different in that self leveling compounds are often not necessary. In these cases we would apply a patching compound, such as 'feather finish'. This is mixed and applied on site by us, with a thinner layer than leveling compounds. This is done to ensure that dips and divots in the substrate or existing hard surface floor are filled and their impressions will not be noticeable, for the most part, in your new glue down floor. The skill of the install crew is vital here. If not done properly, any imperfections in the subfloor or patching compound will be visible in your vinyl. Leveling is not required in these types of installations, but it does make for a better end result.
Carpet is the easiest product to prep for. After removing the existing carpet we must pull out all of the staples and/or scrape the subfloor to make it smooth again. A good quality high density underpad will alleviate a lot of leveling concerns. Try not to be enticed by a cheap pad, the pricing is really not that much different, often nickels or dimes per square foot. Besides improving the longevity of life and feel of your carpet, high density pads are most often warranty exceeding. Pads under a rating of 5 or 6 pounds may void your warranties. We start our pads at 3/8 8 pound high density quality. It is just not worth it to save on pad. Remember, good quality pad and carpet make for a quieter and warmer experience, just don't use a staple yarn or air quality can be come a concern. See our blog on carpet fibers
Never, ever, ever, skimp on the prep. It will cost you in the end. Let us help you get the most out of your new floors and make your renovation experience an easy and enjoyable one!