How to level a wooden floor for laminate

If you plan to lay vinyl, sheet vinyl or laminate in your room, then any uneven floorboards will most likely show through.

It’s hugely important to have a good, level subfloor when adding a new decorative floor.

Covering old floorboards with new hardboard sheets will provide you with a much more even surface. In this article, we’re looking at step by step how to fit hardboard sheets so that your sub floor is ready for your laminate.

What condition is your existing floor in?

You might be at a good starting point where all the current floorboards are in good shape.

However, rotten floor boards need to be replaced.

Now is also the best time to fix and loose, squeaky or creaking floor boards. They need to be screwed down before laying the new floor.

Always use screws to fix the floor boards, don’t use nails. That way you will massively reduce creaking noises when the new flooring is in place.

Check for pipes and cables & make repairs

Before adding screws to the current boards, you need to make sure you’re not screwing into any pipes or cables. If you do, you risk the cost of the work increasing significantly.

Use a pipe or cable detector to make sure there’s nothing there as any pipes  could be the actual reason that the boards weren’t fixed when any previous work was carried out.

As a final touch, check for any nails or screw heads that are sticking up above the surface. Any you find, punch them with a hammer and nail punch so they go below the surface and stay there.

Smooth down uneven areas

If the old floorboards look like they can be smoothed out with a light sand, then it’s a good idea to use a belt sander or an orbital sander to do so.

Remember to wear gloves, goggles and a mask when sanding on the floorboards. As a final touch, maybe use a smoothing plane or powered planer before this double check for nail and screw heads so they don’t damage the blade

Choose your boards

If you have any moisture, you may wish to use WBP (weather boilproof) plywood instead of hardboard

use 3mm thick hardboard. If you can use larger sized sheets as they will give a benefit of less joins in the sheets but are bulkier to transport and work with.

Smaller sizes are easier to transport and work with even more so if you need to collect the materials from your local hardware store – but there will be more joints in the.

Make a note of the length and width of the boards so that you can work out exactly how many you need.

Calculate how much hardboard levelling you’ll need

Now it’s time to get your maths head on.

1. Measure the room

You need to work out the length, width and total square meterage of the room.  Use a tape measure to measure both the width and the length.

Then, multiply each of those together to give you the square meterage.

2. Identify the size of sheets you will use

Once you’ve decided which sheets you need, choose the size of boards that suits you best based on your size room, transportation needs (i.e. do you need to put them in your car and bring them home from the DIY Store, and ease of working with.

For example a 1.2m x 2.4m board will give you 2.88 m2 of board for each sheet to work with.

3. Divide the size of the room by the size of the hardboard sheets

Now you know the size of the room AND the size of the boards, it’s time to work out how many you need. Purchase an extra sheet or two so you don’t run out and need to make an extra trip to the store.

For example,

If your room measures 4m x 5m, that’s a total of 20m2.

If you divide 20m2 (room size) by 2.88m2 (board size), you get 6.94 or 7 boards in total.

If you add one or 2 boards as excess, you will need 8 or 9 boards in total.

Condition your hardboard sheets before laying

Now you’ve got hold of your boards, you’re going to want to condition them to the room before laying. Here’s how

Firstly, scrub water into the rough side of each sheet. Then lay the sheets flat, in the room which they will be laid, for a minimum of 24 hours. This helps them acclimatise to the new environment.

Wetting the sheets causes the boards to expand and then contract when they have dried again – it prevents uneven bumps and joints forming due to expansion after they have been put firmly into position on the floor.

Start laying the floorboards

Use 20mm length stainless steel nails to fix the sheeting in place.

Start in the centre of the room  at a right-angle to the existing floorboards. (because the walls may not be perfectly square).

Level Wood Floor Ply Board
Ply board is laying across the current floor boards

Measure the room to find the centre and start your first levelling board at this point.

Position the first sheet so that it’s long side is at a right angle to the existing floorboards. Lay  it across the floorboards

Starting in the centre-bottom of the sheet, nail the floorboards down with spaces of 150mm between each nail. Hammer nails in all directions (up, down, left and right) covering the whole board.

Leave approximately 1.5cm from the edge (15mm).

When fitting the next set of boards around the one in the centre of the room, stagger the joints of the other boards with the first board you fixed to the floor.

Try to make sure there’s an overlap of at least 1 quarter of the sheet

Fitting boards around objects

Sometimes there will be objects in the room that you just can’t move. In this instance, you’ll need to place the levelling boards around the outside of the object.

Start by making a template of the obstacle, then mark the board with a pencil so you know exactly where to cut the board.

As you reach the side of the room, you’ll need to make sure you fit any strips of levelling board into the gaps by the walls to make sure the whole floor is covered.

When you have your whole floor covered, you’re now ready to fit your new floor

Install your Laminate underlay

Now you have your floor levelled, it’s time to get your laminate underlay installed. This can help give the floor that completeness so you really get a level floor with the finished floor.

A final thought

Remember though, by adding a layer of board to your room, you have now made the floor that slightly bit higher.

So, you’ll either need to trim the old door at the entrance to the room or if you’re having a new door fitted, be sure to take this extra height into account when measuring the gap.

Especially if the door opens inwards to the room.