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Prepping the Subfloor for Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood floor installation instructions

Possibly the most important step in the process of installing a hardwood floor is preparing the subfloor for the new flooring material. If the subfloor is uniform and smooth, this will reflect on the finish surface of the new hardwood. If the subfloor is inconsistent and has pits or lumps, these will transfer to the new hardwood surface over time.

Removing the Old Floor

To prep the subfloor it’s first necessary to remove the old flooring, and as simple as this sounds, it can be difficult if the old flooring has been in place for some time. A good tip for removing the old flooring is, use the correct tools.

Pulling the old baseboards and trim moldings can be done using a wood chisel and hammer, and then removing any nails that are left behind with a pair of line pliers or wire cutters.

A long handle scraper is most often the best tool for removing the old flooring, whether it’s vinyl, glued down carpet with pad or hardwood. These scrapers have a stiff, steel blade and in many instances, once the blade is forced between the old flooring and the subfloor, it will lift easily. A long handle scraper can be purchased or rented at most home centers, and they are not expensive. Start at an open area of the room and work toward cabinets or walls, keeping the area free of debris as you go. Once the old flooring has been removed, the prep work can begin.

Prepping the Surface

Most likely, the subfloor will be plywood or concrete. In either case, make sure all the residual flooring adhesive and bits of old flooring are completely removed. This just requires some patience and a thorough examination of every square foot of the flooring area. A belt sander will work on concrete, as well as plywood and sanding will ensure a uniform surface. Be sure to wear a dust mask and seal off any areas where dust may damage furniture, plants, and even tropical fish.

Once the surface of the subfloor is smooth, check it for any pits or gouges that may have occurred during the removal of the old flooring. These can be filled using a wood bondo or other hard-finish filler. For concrete, use a fine grain filler such as dura-rock or the equivalent. A knowledgeable salesperson will be able to recommend the right filler for your sub floor.

Allow the filler to dry completely, then sand it to blend with the uniform finish of the subfloor and clean up any residual dust and debris. The room is now ready for installing the hardwood flooring.



“Hardwood Flooring Installation Guide.” Hardwood Flooring Co – Hard Wood Floors. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2010.

“Strip Flooring 4 – Prepping and Repairing |” DIY Home Improvement Information | N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2010.

“Uneven Floors – Floor Preparation. Flat Not Level. Hardwood Flooring.” Hardwood Flooring Guide – Reviews, Tips & How To. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2010.

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