Leveling A Wood Subfloor For Laminate Flooring

A level subfloor is the unsung hero of any successful flooring project, especially when it comes to laminate flooring. Its significance lies in providing a stable foundation, ensuring that your laminate floor not only looks aesthetically pleasing but also stands the test of time without issues like creaks, gaps, or uneven surfaces.

The primary purpose of leveling a wood subfloor is to create a smooth, even surface that serves as the base for your laminate flooring. A level subfloor not only enhances the visual appeal of your floor but also ensures proper alignment and support for the laminate planks, preventing potential issues in the future.

Understanding the Subfloor

Plywood Subfloor Plywood is a popular choice for subflooring due to its strength and stability. It provides a solid base for various flooring materials, including laminate. OSB (Oriented Strand Board) Subfloor OSB, composed of compressed wood strands, is another common subfloor material. It offers strength and durability, making it suitable for laminate flooring installations.

Uneven Surfaces Uneven subfloors can result from various factors, such as settling, moisture damage, or poor installation. Squeaks and Movement Squeaks and movement in the subfloor indicate loose or poorly secured panels, which can negatively impact the stability of your laminate flooring. Moisture Concerns Moisture-related issues, like warping or buckling, can compromise the integrity of both the subfloor and the laminate flooring.

Tools and Materials

Essential Tools for Leveling

1. Level A reliable level is crucial for identifying high and low points in the subfloor, guiding your leveling efforts.

2. Straight Edge A straight edge assists in assessing the flatness of the subfloor, ensuring a consistently even surface.

3. Floor Patch Floor patching compound is used to fill gaps, cracks, and low spots, creating a smooth and level subfloor.

4. Screws Screws are essential for securing loose subfloor panels, eliminating squeaks and movement.

5. Drill A drill facilitates the process of driving screws into the subfloor and joists securely.

Materials Needed

1. Self-Leveling Compound Self-leveling compound is an excellent solution for addressing minor imperfections in the subfloor. It creates a smooth and level surface.

2. Plywood or OSB Sheets Additional sheets of plywood or OSB may be required to build up low spots in the subfloor, ensuring an even foundation.

3. Moisture Barrier A moisture barrier, typically a plastic or felt-like material, helps prevent moisture-related issues that can affect both the subfloor and the laminate flooring.

4. Adhesive High-quality adhesive is crucial for securing additional subflooring and the laminate planks in place, ensuring a stable and long-lasting installation.

Preparation Steps

1. Inspecting and Cleaning the Subfloor Before diving into the leveling process, conduct a thorough inspection of the subfloor. Look for signs of damage, loose panels, or other issues that may need addressing. Clean the surface to remove any debris, dust, or adhesive residue.

2. Addressing Squeaks and Loose Boards Identify any squeaks or loose boards in the subfloor and secure them using screws. This step is crucial for eliminating movement and ensuring a stable foundation.

3. Filling Gaps and Low Spots Use a floor patching compound to fill gaps, cracks, and low spots in the subfloor. This step is essential for achieving a smooth and level surface, preventing any imperfections from transferring to the laminate flooring.

4. Securing Loose Subfloor Panels Secure any loose subfloor panels by driving screws into the subfloor and the underlying joists. This step enhances the structural integrity of the subfloor, reducing the risk of future issues.

5. Applying Moisture Barrier Install a moisture barrier to protect the subfloor from potential moisture-related problems. Lay the barrier over the prepared subfloor, ensuring complete coverage.

Leveling Techniques

Achieving a perfectly level subfloor is a crucial step in preparing the foundation for laminate flooring. Depending on the extent of the unevenness in the existing subfloor, different leveling techniques can be employed to ensure a flawless finish.

Using Self-Leveling Compound

  1. Mixing and Application: Before you begin, carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the self-leveling compound. Typically, the compound comes in powdered form and needs to be mixed with water. Use a mixing bucket and drill with a mixing attachment to achieve a smooth, lump-free consistency. Once mixed, pour the self-leveling compound onto the subfloor. Start in one corner of the room and work your way toward the exit to avoid stepping on the freshly applied compound. Use a trowel or a smoothing tool to spread the compound evenly across the subfloor.
  2. Smoothing and Feathering: After applying the self-leveling compound, use a smoothing tool to level and feather the edges. This step is crucial for achieving a seamless transition between the leveled and non-leveled areas of the subfloor. Pay special attention to corners and edges to prevent any abrupt changes in height. The self-leveling compound is designed to flow and settle into a smooth, even layer. Take your time during this process to ensure that the compound distributes evenly, correcting any imperfections in the subfloor.
  3. Identifying High and Low Areas: Before adding additional subflooring, use a level to identify high and low areas in the existing subfloor. Mark these areas to guide your focus during the leveling process. High spots may need to be sanded down, while low spots will require additional material.
  4. Securing Additional Subflooring: For low spots, cut plywood or OSB sheets to fit the marked areas. Ensure that the sheets are securely fastened to the existing subfloor using screws. The goal is to build up the low spots to create a uniformly level surface. Pay attention to the edges of the new subflooring to avoid any protrusions or uneven transitions. In areas where the subfloor is particularly uneven, you may need to layer plywood or OSB to gradually raise the level. Use construction adhesive between layers to create a strong and stable bond.

Tips for a Successful Leveling Process

Precision is key to a successful leveling process. Take the time to carefully assess the subfloor, address any issues, and apply leveling materials meticulously.

Regularly check the level of the subfloor as you progress through the leveling process. This step helps catch and rectify any deviations promptly, ensuring a consistently even surface.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for drying time after applying leveling compounds or adhesives. Rushing this step can compromise the effectiveness of the materials and lead to issues during the laminate flooring installation.

Installation of Laminate Flooring

Select an appropriate underlayment for your laminate flooring. The underlayment provides additional support, insulation, and noise reduction, enhancing the overall performance of your floor. Allow the laminate planks to acclimate to the room’s temperature and humidity. This step helps prevent issues such as expansion or contraction after installation.

Follow the manufacturer’s installation guidelines for your specific laminate flooring product. Begin installing the planks on the leveled subfloor, ensuring a snug fit and proper alignment. Use adhesive as needed, following recommended application methods.

Mistakes To Avoid

A. Identifying Problems After Installation After the laminate flooring installation, inspect the entire floor for any imperfections, gaps, or issues. This step allows you to identify and address potential problems promptly.

B. How to Address Imperfections If imperfections are found, address them using appropriate methods. This may include filling gaps, adjusting uneven areas, or replacing damaged sections of the laminate flooring.

C. Avoiding Pitfalls in the Leveling Process Learn from common mistakes, such as inadequate preparation or rushing through the leveling process. Taking shortcuts can lead to subpar results and compromise the integrity of the entire flooring system.


Achieving a Successful Laminate Flooring Installation Reinforce the idea that meticulous preparation and leveling efforts are instrumental in achieving a successful laminate flooring installation. The time and effort invested in the initial stages significantly impact the outcome.

Armed with the right knowledge, tools, and attention to detail, anyone can achieve a professional-looking result. The process of leveling a wood subfloor may seem intricate, but with patience and precision, it becomes a rewarding step toward a beautiful and long-lasting laminate flooring installation. Happy flooring!