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Under the floor you walk on is the subfloor. This lies across the top of the floor joists and offers lateral stability to the floor framing, as well as a solid, flat floor surface.
Correct selection, installation, and fastening of the subfloor is important to the structural integrity of the whole building.
Badly or incorrectly installed subflooring can be bouncy and is prone to squeak. This is very unpleasant for the user, as there is no proper base to the room.
Before wall-to-wall carpeting structural subfloors were installed by laying individual planks across the top of the joists. The planks were nailed in place without no glue. Their diagonal installation helped brace the floor structure.
A layer of felt or Kraft paper was installed on top to block air from the under areas getting through the gaps between the boards After this the finished floor was installed.
This was usually tongue and groove wooden planks in the living areas, with ceramic tile, linoleum or tile squares over a plywood layer in kitchen and bathroom areas.
A popular subfloor was 2x6 or 2x8 tongue and groove boards, which could be installed over floor beams spaced up to 48 inches apart. This requires an air/moisture barrier and an underlayment material over the top to smooth out the subfloor prior to installation of the finished flooring.
You will find these subfloors on older properties if you are relaying a floor. This is usually a professional job but floors can be tackled by home DIY enthusiasts as most of the equipment required is easy to operate and readily available for hire.
Plywood or other composite materials are used for subfloors today. 4-foot by 8-foot plywood sheets can be fitted much faster than planks and they offer excellent lateral bracing for the floor joists. They provide both a moisture and an air barrier between the subfloor and the under floor space. They provide a smooth surface for the installation of most types of finished flooring.
Subfloor sheets are usually one of three basic materials:
Plywood - made of wood veneers laid up in layers, with each layer perpendicular to the ones above and below it.
Composite plywood - a veneer layer on the top and bottom and a core of reconstituted wood.
OSB - the most common choice nowadays - Orientated Strand Board - thin layers of wood chips glued up under heat and pressure.
OSB is usually the choice, it is also partly a recycled material, even if it is a high tech substance. We also use engineered floors such as bamboo which are made using the same combination of cheap raw materials and high specification resins and bonding materials, along with factory treatment.
This is the bit you walk on. We have fitted all sorts of floors for clients, including leather, on request only!
There are many natural flooring products such as linoleum, cork, wood, rubber, recycled paper, and even recycled glass.
Wet areas like bathrooms or en suites, or kitchens, require a waterproof surface. We use Dalsouple rubber flooring or natural stone tiles. Ceramic tiles are also available in non-slip versions.
We have also used Karndean flooring, which is a durable form of customised vinyl which is virtually indistinguishable from natural materials.
This is a popular choice for people with dogs as it doesn't scratch, but it is not eco as it is a vinyl (petroleum) product.
Our floor of choice for living areas is engineered bamboo. This is an eco material and has a refreshing modern appearance. Bamboo flooring has the advantage of being made from a very sustainable source.
Bamboo is a grass and one of the fastest growing plants. The stalks are compressed and made into a plank, in a wide variety of colours, textures and strengths. The knots of the bamboo can still be seen in the plank, which gives it a very attractive appearance. It is also very smooth and easy to clean.
Since it is a natural material each plank in a box can sometimes have a slightly different colour, which adds to the finished appearance of a room. The colour is impregnated all the way through the plank. Staining is not recommended.
Bamboo flooring can be floated (laid without glueing), glued or nailed to a subfloor, glued directly to a dry concrete slab.
It can be applied over underfloor heating systems, on top of a screed.
Bamboo flooring is very stable as it has very low expansion and contraction. For a long run typical of large modern rooms it is floated with a small expansion gap under a room edging strip. All the usual bits and pieces for flooring such as strips, radiator rings etc., are also available in bamboo.
We also use rubber flooring as this is a sustainable material. Rubber is produced from sap of rubber plants, which are farmed.
Our floor of choice for bathrooms and wet areas is Dalsouple rubber flooring. This is used in hospitals and industrial areas.
It is available in many colours and patterns - see images - a huge range is available, these are random samples.
Some of the more complexand raised textures are not suitable for domestic use because they need an industrial cleaning machine.
However some stud textures have a slightly lower profile and are easier to clean, so discuss it with your stockist.
Rubber flooring has a range of excellent properties including
Dalsouple won the Sustainable Building Solution Award 2007 at the 100% Design Show.
See also underfloor heating >