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Different Types of Sub-Floors & Flooring Options

As the name may denote, a sub-floor is simply a floor that is beneath the floor that you normally walk upon. If you begin tearing up carpet or another type of flooring material, you will see the sub-floor directly underneath. The reason that the sub-floor is important is that depending on the materials used, you will have various choices as to which type of flooring that you can install. The primary choices of finished flooring material tend to be laminate flooring, solid wood flooring, or engineered wood flooring. So, let us take a quick look at the main types of sub-floors. This will help us to understand which types of finished flooring can be safely used above each.

Concrete Sub-Floors sub floor

Concrete sub-floors are most often found in the basement of a home althouh office buildings may often use concrete as a flooring method. Obviously, any finished flooring cannot be nailed directly into the concrete. Instead, battens (long strips of wood or metal that are used as attachment points for the finished floor) can be first glued to the concrete with the use of a strong adhesive. This is the preferred method of choice when applying a solid floor above concrete. Thereafter, the floor can be fastened or glued directly onto the batten. Engineered wood floors can be floated or glued directly above the concrete while laminate floors can only be floated. 

Plywood and Tongue-and-Groove (T and G)

Plywood is a type of wood that contains numerous layers bonded together with a strong adhesive. Such sub-floors are usually found in sheets and are common in homes. Solid floors can be nailed into plywood or instead, they may be glued directly above. As with concrete sub-floors, engineered wood flooring options can either be floated or glued to the wood underneath. Laminate floors cannot be glued but rather, floating is the best method.

Tongue-and-groove sub-floors are floorboards that are made of softer woods and will appear much like a traditional hardwood floor. The same flooring application methods for plywood are applicable for tongue-and-groove sub-floors.


This type of material is a cost-effective alternative to plywood and tongue-and-groove sub-floors. It consists of particles of wood that have been compressed and bonded together under great pressure. Particleboard is increasingly common in newer homes, as it is quite strong, easy to install and offers a long lifespan. The main difference that needs to be considered with particleboard is that solid wood flooring cannot be nailed through this material; the glue-down method is preferred. Laminate flooring will need to be floated (much like in all of the previously mentioned types of sub-floors). Once again, engineered wood floors can either be floated or be glued directly onto the surface of the particleboard sub-floor.

What Are Not Good Sub-Floors?

There are some materials that should not be considered as suitable sub-floors in a home. These will include vinyl floors and carpets that may have been previously glued down. These floors will need to first be removed before any further installation can begin. For all flooring installations, the sub-floor needs to be clean, flat and dry. Should these steps not be taken first, the end result may be a poorly installed floor, an uneven surface or the chance that the finished flooring will otherwise warp and become damaged over time.