Although it may seem simple to tear out old flooring and replace it with a new one, installing new flooring can have several different components, depending on your home and the type of flooring you choose. When you’re selecting a new flooring, it’s important to know the components of the floor. Let’s take a look at the different layers of flooring and what purpose they serve.

The first layer of flooring is called the subfloor. It lays on top of the floor joists and provides a surface for walking on. Subfloors are commonly made from plywood. The further apart the floor joists are, the thicker the plywood should be to support the weight of furniture and people walking on it. Every floor requires a subfloor to hold up to people walking on it, otherwise, you would fall right through!

After the subfloor comes the optional underlayment flooring layer. This part of flooring is used to create a smoother, more consistent surface than plywood. Every floor does not need an underlayment, but it can provide cushioning and support to make your flooring last even longer. Hardwood and laminate floors benefit from a flexible underlayment that reduces squeaking and cracking, while also being mold and mildew resistant. For tiled floors, a cement backer board or other sturdy underlayment will reduce the amount of shifting and damage done to tiles over time.

The final layer of your floor is the floor covering or finish floor. This layer is the one that you will see all the time. Choices for floor covering include tile, laminate, hardwood, carpet (which usually only requires a subfloor), and much, much more.

If you want to be able to put out beautiful furniture and walk around on your floors, you absolutely must have a strong subfloor. It’s the only way you won’t fall through! After making sure that your floors are structurally sound, the decision of underlayment is determined by your choice of floor covering and the allowable height of your floors. Take stock of the height of your doors and cabinets or other existing features in your room to help you decide how thick your floors can be.