When to Replace Your Subfloor

Subfloors are extremely important, but they can also be easily damaged under the wrong circumstances. Not only can this cause major durability problems, but it might require an entire subfloor replacement – which can be a costly and time-consuming process.

While it is easy to get your subfloor repaired or replaced by a professional company, it helps to know when you should get it repaired and what kinds of damage are the most serious. Here are some signs that your subfloor might be wearing out or breaking faster than expected.

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One of the most obvious signs of a worn-down subfloor is spaces where the floor feels sunken or uneven. Since most subfloors are installed as a completely flat surface, and deviation usually means that there has been damage, wear, and tear in those particular areas.

Rotting wooden boards tend to soften easily, which can be a very common problem with subfloors. If one board is rotting, it is a good idea to replace it and all of the boards around it. This stops the rot from taking hold of other parts of the floor.

Bad Smells

A musty, humid smell usually means that your flooring is being worn down by water damage. However, the smell itself will not usually direct you to the damaged area – it is a good idea to try and look for softened or loose areas around where the smell is strongest.

Remember that bad smells are not always related to the flooring. There are times when it might be something else entirely.


A squeaking floorboard means that the nails holding the boards in place have come loose. This is not too hard to fix, and there are multiple measures you can take to minimize the squeaking, but it is often better to just replace or repair the damaged parts of the subfloor.

If the entire room has a squeaky floor, then it is likely that the entire subfloor has started to warp. In this instance, it is best just to replace everything.


If the floor seems to be bouncing every time you step on it, then it is probably because the boards have worn down and become a bit softer and looser. In this instance, you should just replace it all as soon as you can since it could lead to even more damage later on.

The more your floor is flexing or distending in odd ways, the worse the damage is. Be careful you do not leave it in that state too long, or something could snap apart while you are walking on it, causing possible injury and an even higher amount of repair work.


Hardwood cupping – an issue where the boards start to expand and buckle against each other or form one bug mound – usually happens if water has started to warp the subfloor materials. This can often mean that there is a leak or some way for water to get into the house.

Repairing this damage is possible since you can dry out the wood with the right tools, but it is often easier to just replace the whole area of flooring. If the wood is too damaged or warped to re-use, even when dried out, then you should just toss it into one of our excellent dumpster rental options instead.

Leaking Ceilings

While a leaking ceiling does not actually result from subfloor damage, it can often mean that the subfloor beneath that ceiling is going to suffer problems anyway. Cupping is just one of the many examples since outside leaks can do a lot of damage to different parts of your floor.

Remember that the ceiling of a first-floor room will also be the floor of a second-floor room. If something is leaking into the first-floor ceiling, then it is likely coming from the room above, which could mean that the subfloor or supports there are starting to warp or break down too.

Cracking Tiles

If a tiled floor starts to crack, then it is because the subfloor underneath it is starting to wear out too quickly and is not strong enough to hold it steady. Given that tiles are solid items without any real ability to bend or flex, they will simply break if they are placed under that kind of stress.

This can often require immediate replacement since broken tiles can be dangerous and incredibly hard to repair in any effective or convenient way. You also do not want them to shatter while you are walking on them, especially not if you have pets or children around the house as well.

When should you replace the subfloor?

A subfloor tends to survive between 20 and 30 years of consistent exposure to moisture and other forms of potential damage, although they can last a lot longer if they are kept safe and dry. However, it is important to remember that a subfloor is not always going to hold up to modern standards.

Some homes have subfloors that are decades old, and they may not be up to the same level that you want your home to match. There is nothing wrong with pre-emptively replacing an entire subfloor to make sure that you are not leaving any potentially vulnerable points in your flooring design.

There is no need to rush into replacing your subfloor, but it can help to be aware of how long your current one has been installed. If you have the spare time and funds, then arranging a replacement can help you avoid furniture problems or even just keep your home up-to-date and squeaky-floorboard-free.

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