Subfloor Preparation Certification: What Installers Need to Know

Written by INSTALL / January 14, 2024

*This article by INSTALL executive director David Gross was originally featured in the latest edition of Floor Covering News.

INSTALLments: A Series on the Challenges & Opportunities in the Floorcovering Trade

Many floor covering installers get their start with on-the-job training using a specific set of tools and materials, only to quickly realize the limitations of their training once they step outside of their comfort zones. With so many flooring products, materials, and manufacturers on the market — and so many installation specifications and techniques at play — it’s easy for novice installers without specialized training to find themselves out of their depth, particularly in the area of subfloor prep.

The subfloor is where every project starts, but without proper assessment and preparation, the subfloor can also be where a project ends. Poor adhesion, cracking and popping, gaps, buckling, and mold are all symptoms of subfloor mistakes that can lead to voided warranties, costly repairs, and unhappy customers.

Because the appearance and performance of flooring depend so heavily on getting the subfloor right, training and certification in subfloor preparation is often a first choice for installers and contractors who want to deliver high-quality work that will help them stand out among their competitors.

What Subfloor Certification Will Teach You

Regardless of where you decide to seek subfloor training and certification, the instructional materials and curriculum you receive should represent a collaboration between experienced contractors and industry manufacturers. This cooperative relationship helps ensure you get the best of both worlds: professionals who use floor covering installation tools and materials and manufacturers who understand the behaviors and performance of their products. Hands-on practice should also be part of the mix, as should a final assessment of the skills you’ve practiced.

Skills you can expect as part of subfloor certification training include:

  • Subfloor assessment – an evaluation of the existing subfloor, including structural issues, moisture conditions, and irregularities
  • Moisture testing and mitigation – determining moisture levels for subfloor materials and addressing moisture issues that impact floor appearance and performance
  • Surface prep – cleaning the subfloor surface to ensure proper adhesion, and smoothing the surface to correct imperfections
  • Subfloor repair – identifying and fixing cracks, holes, or other damage
    Adhesive selection – selecting the appropriate adhesive for specific flooring materials and subfloor conditions, proper mixing, and application
  • Tools and equipment – practice using tools and equipment for subfloor preparation, including power tools, hand tools, and moisture meters
  • Environmental factors – how temperature, humidity, and climate conditions affect subfloor preparation and adhesive performance
  • Industry standards – floor covering industry standards, manufacturers’ guidelines, and building codes relevant to subfloor preparation and flooring installation
  • Safety protocols – best practices that minimize risks associated with subfloor preparation

For installers who are ready to get their first certification, subfloor preparation is a beneficial place to start. These foundational skills can be immediately set to work, and they have application in all three types of material installations: resilient, carpet, and wood.

Committing to Your Craft

Subfloor preparation certification makes you a more versatile installer and opens doors in the floor covering field. It’s also a great way to advance along the path to other certifications. Committing to your craft in this way keeps you actively engaged in your profession, and it also builds a valuable portfolio of experience that you can take anywhere.

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