A rotting subfloor is a construction problem that you should try to fix before it becomes a serious issue. While you can do it yourself, you may also need to call a professional. So, do plumbers replace subfloor?
Yes, plumbers may be able to replace the subfloor. But more suitable professionals are handymen, carpenters, or contractors. Of course, you can do it yourself. Subfloor damage is mostly due to rot, and signs include a musty smell, squeaky floors, cracked tiles, loose fixtures, and sunken floors.
If it’s a small-scale job, you can easily handle it yourself as long as you have the skills and the time. Here, we discuss the best professionals to replace your subfloor and when you might need to replace it.
What Is a Subfloor
The subfloor is the material beneath the floor covering in your home. It is the base for the finished flooring and is attached to the floor joists. It’s usually oriented strand board (OSB) or plywood panels, and your flooring is above it and can last for decades with adequate protection from moisture. But constant exposure to moisture will make it last only 20 – 30 years at best. It’s not every home that has a subfloor. The concrete foundation alone can serve as the subfloor for below-grade areas such as the basement. Thus, you can install floor covering such as tiles, carpet, engineered hardwood, and floating laminate directly if there’s a proper moisture barrier. But when it’s an above-grade area, there’s a need for an OSB or plywood panel subfloor as you can’t install floor coverings directly on the floor joists.
Why Causes Subfloor Damage
The major reason for replacing it due to rot damage. This is due to exposure to moisture which gets into the wood and leads to damage. The source of the moisture is either a plumbing leak or crack in the house exterior leading to water entering the area. Flooding can also lead to this.
Signs That Your Subfloor Needs Replacement
You may not immediately notice that something is wrong with your subfloors, but there are certain signs you should for. These include:
1. Squeaking or Bouncy Floorboards
The subfloor will squeak if the nail that connects them to the joist is loose. If you notice that the floor is squeaking as you walk, this is a sign of the loose nails in the joists. You may have to fix only the squeaky part. But if the sound is coming from the whole room, the wood might have warped. If you also notice that your floor is bouncy or shifting as you walk on it, it’s a sign that it’s rotting, and it could be time to replace the subfloor.
2. Sunken or Uneven Floors
Do you notice a deeper part in your wood or carpet flooring, or there’s a soft spot? This might be a sign of weak panels due to the rot of the wood flooring. You don’t necessarily have to replace the whole subfloor. You have to replace the damaged parts so that the rot won’t spread. If you have a wooden floor and notice its cupping, this might signify moisture warping the material. You can reverse cupping, but you’ll need to first fix the source of the moisture.
3. Rocking or Loose Bathroom Fixtures
If your toilet or vanity is rocking or loose, it’s a sign of significant decay in the subfloor. This means the anchor that fastens the fixture to the floor is loose. It’s likely due to the leak of the pipes below the bathroom floor. So, you have to do something as soon as possible. This applies to any fixture attached to the bathroom floor.
4. Crack in Tiles
If your tile flooring should crack, this could signify a damaged subfloor. Tiles are hard and require a strong and inflexible surface to prevent cracking. The tiles will crack if the subfloor isn’t strong enough to hold them. There should be a cement backer board between the panels and tiles when installing tiles over an OSB or plywood subfloor.
5. Musty Smell
If your house is smelly musty, like there’s rot or mildew, this is likely a sign of water damage. Of course, you’ll have to identify where the leak is coming from. You can ascertain that it’s from the subfloor by checking if the smell is from your wood floor or carpet.
Who can Fix Your Subfloor?
Replacing a subfloor is something you can do yourself if you have the skills. You’ll need carpentry skills to repair or remove the joints and replace the flooring. If the moisture is due to a leak in the pipe, you might need some plumbing skills to fix that. You can always call a qualified plumber to handle your subfloor issues like this. But plumbers aren’t the best professionals to fix this problem unless it’s due to a problem with your pipes. A skilled handyman, carpenter, or general contractor can do a much better job. If you ever need to get the job done and don’t want to do it yourself, you can get an estimate from all these professionals and compare to determine which would be most suitable for you.
How To Replace the Subfloor?
If you have the skills and time to replace your subfloor, here are the steps for doing it:
- Shut off the house water supply let the water drain before you disconnect the pipes
- Remove any fixture or obstruction so you can have better access to the floor
- Find the soft or rotten spot using a screwdriver and remove tiles so you can see how far the damage goes
- Cut through the surface to get to the subfloor and cut out all the rotten sections
- After removing all the rotten wood, nails, and rotted joists in some cases, let the area dry out and apply a wood preservative to the discolored and damaged areas.
- Insert a new joist if need be and screw it to the old one
- Add the new subfloor and screw all its edges to the joist.
- Restore the underlayment, and you can add the old flooring to it.
It’s important to identify the source of the moisture on time so you can deal with it before the rot causes too much damage. I discovered on time that it’s possible to reverse any moisture damage to the subfloor. This is why it’s best to consult a professional first, as they’ll be able to guide you on what you need to do.