An uneven floor can cause lots of problems. It can trip you up as you walk and capture dirt particles that abrade the material. Moreover, uneven surfaces can make it difficult to install a new floor.
What Causes Uneven Floors?
Before replacing your flooring or covering up your floor with new material, you should make sure that the source of the unevenness is not problematic. For example, one cause of uneven floors is water damage. If that’s a concern, you need to remove any affected materials and treat the moisture problem before installing new floors.
Another cause of uneven floors is a compromised foundation. If you have cracks in your foundation or moisture around it, you might want to have it inspected for damage.
However, sometimes floors are old. Houses shift, and the surfaces move as they settle. You may have already replaced the flooring in some areas but not others, causing variations in the levels of your floors.
If you’re ready to create a uniform, even surface underfoot, you can install new floors. Continue reading to learn more about the best flooring for uneven floors.
Qualities of the Worst Best Flooring for Uneven Floors
The best flooring for uneven floors is flexible. If you don’t alter the subflooring or underlayment to create an even layer, you need a floor that’s going to adjust to the varying heights of the surface below it. Although you might notice the transition when walking in bare feet, flexible flooring often provides a gradual transition between the different levels of flooring, which is virtually unnoticeable to the naked eye. Furthermore, flexible flooring will eliminate sharp changes in the level of the floors, reducing tripping hazards.
The material that you use to hide uneven floors should also be strong. If it’s too thin or fragile, it could cave into depressions and break when exposed to variable pressure.
Conversely, the worst flooring for uneven floors is rigid tile or stone. These materials have no give. Therefore, they won’t adjust to your uneven floors. Instead, they’ll crack. The larger the tile is, the more likely it is to break. You might be able to get away with smaller tiles on uneven floors. However, they might be difficult to install if there are sharp edges and extreme disparity.
Exploring the Best Flooring for Uneven Floors
There are a few materials that you should consider when looking for the best flooring for uneven floors. Before we go any further, we should note that bamboo and hardwood flooring are not ideal options for uneven floors. Here are some descriptions of the best flooring for uneven floors, including their benefits and disadvantages.
Carpet is the most flexible flooring material. It’s relatively affordable and easy to install.
This is a comfortable and convenient choice for areas that are not exposed to moisture. Therefore, it’s perfect for bedrooms, living spaces, offices, playrooms and hallways.
You can strategically cut and install carpet padding to fill in some of the gaps in your uneven floors before installing the carpet. By doing this, you’ll establish a uniform surface beneath the carpet, and installing the final layer will be a breeze.
Another option is to lay area rugs to hide low spots in your flooring. A plush carpet with a thick pad can make you feel like you’re walking on level ground.
- Affordable and easy to install
- Disguises imperfections and unevenness
- Comfortable and warm underfoot
- Hard edges might feel uncomfortable under your feet
- Not ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms or mudrooms
- Carpet may bunch up in the hollow areas
- Wear and tear will develop unevenly
Self-leveling epoxy creates a seamless surface that covers imperfections. As the epoxy settles into cracks and irregularities on the floor beneath it, the top layer remains flawless. Thicker applications typically deliver better results. If the epoxy layer is too thin, it may reveal some of the blemishes in the underfloor.
Epoxy must be applied to a relatively rigid surface. You shouldn’t use it over soft, porous materials, such as cork. It will cause the cork to become brittle and crack over time. In addition, it won’t adhere uniformly to the surface, creating a patchy finish.
This type of flooring is best when the unevenness ranges from 3 to 5 millimeters. If the disparity is greater than that, epoxy is not your best bet.
- Creates a smooth, glassy surface that can mimic many types of flooring
- Very customizable
- Protects the surface beneath it
- Highly resilient and resistant to damage
- Long lifespan
- Thicker applications can get expensive
- Requires adequate preparation of the substrate
- Needs controlled humidity and temperature levels to set properly
- Vulnerable to blistering and peeling
- May be sensitive to UV exposure
- Can be slippery when wet or oily
Flooring that snaps together and doesn’t need to be fastened to the subfloor is often a good option for uneven surfaces. This type of flooring creates visual uniformity on the top surface and won’t reveal the irregularities beneath it.
Floating floors come in three different materials: luxury vinyl, laminate and engineered wood. Engineered wood is generally the most durable option for installing over uneven floors.
This type of floating floor contains a veneer of solid hardwood at the top surface. The layers that make up the core and base of the planks contain synthetic materials. Look for a high-quality engineered hardwood. A flexible or soft core material will absorb some of the imperfections in your uneven floors.
- Easy to install
- Requires little preparation of the substrate
- Doesn’t require adhesives or fasteners
- Stable and long-lasting
- Can move and squeak in areas where the subfloor dips
- Increased risk of planks moving or splitting
Vinyl Sheets or Tiles
Vinyl sheets and tiles are flexible and easy to install because they stick directly to the subflooring. To get the best results with this material, look for a thick, high-quality option. Thinner materials will reveal bumps beneath them.
- Best for small spaces
- Affordable and easy to install
- Come in many designs
- Intricately patterned vinyl camouflages imperfections
- Not ideal for large expanses of uneven floor
- Quickly develops wear when installed over sharp edges
- Reveals pits and bumps faster than other flooring options
Concerns With Installing Flooring Over Uneven Floors
Gradual changes in elevation are easier to deal with than sharp corners. If you install a flexible material over sharp edges, those areas are exposed to more load. Over time, you’ll see signs of wear and tear in those spots, whereas the rest of your flooring should hold up nicely.
The best way to install flooring over uneven floors is to prepare the subflooring with an underlayment that minimizes some of the variation. One option for doing this is to use luan, which is a thin plywood substrate.
Luan is not sturdy enough to support weight on its own. Therefore, you must install it over a structurally adequate subfloor.
You can also use self-leveling compounds beneath the top layer of flooring to create a better underlayment. These are ideal for large dips.
Different flooring materials require distinct preparations. Therefore, you might want to check with the manufacturer to determine the best way to prepare your subfloor. Working with a professional installer will likely produce the best results if you’re installing flooring on an uneven floor. You’ll get the ideal outcome when you do the prep work that’s necessary for leveling out the subfloor first.