Types Of Subfloors For Your Wood Flooring

Before you dive into buying your wood flooring it’s important to know which wooden floor types can be fitted on your subfloor, what types of subfloors are available, and how each flooring type is installed. 

If you’re looking to upgrade your home and increase value, your flooring is possibly the best investment. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) surveyed some of the top real estate agents and industry professionals in interior design back in 2017.

Their interior remodeling survey shows that renovating your home with hardwood floors is a risk-free investment, as you’ll be able to recover 100 percent of the cost back from your property value.

You want to do thorough research into the proper wood flooring material to use, to make the most out of your investment. 

Common Types of Subfloors

There are four common types of subfloors, plywood, concrete, OSB (oriented strand board), and particle board. The different subfloors depend on the age of the house and the location.


Plywood is probably the most common subfloor found in residential homes and has been one of the main sources of subfloor since the 50’s. This is because it’s one of the more cost-effective engineered wood products available.

Plywood normally has a tongue and groove type system that makes them incredibly secure and unlikely to move. This is why plywood to this day, is the most popular sub-floor used in building.

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Installation Methods  

The first and most recommended way to install solid or engineered wood onto your plywood subfloor is secret nailing or stapling. Typically, either floor types should be at least 18mm thick to nail down and anything below 18mm is usually recommended to be installed with staples or cleats. If you’re going to nail or staple your wood flooring down, You need to use annular ring shank nails that are at least 50mm in length. This will be long enough to secure the flooring planks directly to the plywood. You should also make sure you’ve checked for service pipes before nailing or stapling.

Next, is to glue your flooring. Solid and engineered wood can both be glued directly onto a plywood subfloor using a floor adhesive. Be sure to use a flooring adhesive on this one, as wood glue and floor adhesive are not the same.

Lastly is floating. Floating is probably the easiest way to install your engineered wood flooring. It requires you to lay your floor planks loosely over the underlay and glue the planks together with their tongue and groove connection.


A concrete subfloor is normally found on the ground floor of a property and is the most robust and durable subfloor. Concrete is prone to moisture/sweating even with a moisture barrier, so some hardwood floors cannot be used.

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Installation Methods  

Before you start installing any wooden floor onto a concrete subfloor you need to test the moisture levels This will verify how much moisture is held in the subfloor and how much could come up to damage a wood floor.

If the test results read a substantial amount of moisture, then you’ll need to use a concrete sealer. You should also clean and fill in any cracks on your concrete subfloor before laying your floor panels.

Now that you’ve tested and cleaned your concrete subfloor, you’re ready to install the wooden flooring. The first installation method can be used with engineered wood and solid wood (if above grade). The glue method simply requires you to evenly spread a floor adhesive onto the concrete and place your panels into position.

The next installation method is for engineered wood only. With the float method, you’ll be able to loosely lay the wooden panels onto a padded underlayment added over the concrete. You’ll then connect the panels together with their tongue and groove system or alternatively glue them.

OSB (Oriented strand board)

OSB board, sometimes known as wafer board, is the newest invention of plywood and came into the market in the 60’s. Some people prefer using OSB over plywood as it always comes with a flat and smooth surface. Sometimes plywood will have small bumps on the surface of the sheet.

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Installation Methods  

Similar to having plywood as a subfloor, the most recommended way to install either engineered or solid wood onto an OSB subfloor is secret nailing or stapling. The same rules apply as if you were to do this on plywood.

The second option to installing your wood flooring onto an OSB subfloor is by gluing the panels down. Both wood types can be glued directly to the OSB board with a floor adhesive.

The last installation method is probably the easiest and works the same as with a plywood subfloor. With floating you will still want to add a padded underlayment to protect your wood flooring and to add a decent sound barrier between the sub floor and the flooring itself.

Particle board

Chipboard, or commonly known as particle board, is one of the older engineered wood products and is made from wood chips and resin that is compressed together. Particle board is normally found in older houses as most of the newer builds have moved onto plywood.

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Installation Methods  

As particle board doesn’t hold nails or staples very well, the only preferred method to installing your wood flooring is by floating it. Floating engineered wood onto particle board needs you to loosely lay the wooden floor panels on the underlay then connecting the wood together with the tongue and groove.

Always consider what type of subfloor you have before finalizing your wood flooring project. Not all constructions are considered the same and each one has a wealth of benefits if you find the right one for you needs.