How to Level Floor for Hardwood Installation: Complete Guide

Leveling a floor for hardwood is an important part of the installation process. If you don’t level your floor correctly, it can lead to problems with the stability and durability of your new wood floors. This is a step-by-step guide on How to Level the Floor for Hardwood Installation. In this guide, we will cover the basics of leveling the floor, including the materials, tools, and techniques you need to get started. We’ll also go over some frequently asked questions related to this project so that you can make an informed decision when considering your next home improvement project.

The first step is to check for any structural damage or rot on the floor. Once it has been determined that the floor is safe to work on, the next step is to use an electric sander to even out the surface of the floor. After the floor has been sanded, a leveling compound can be applied to fill in any low spots. It’s important to apply at least three coats of polyurethane or another type of sealant to protect the floor from moisture damage.

The good news is that leveling a floor is not as difficult as you might think. With the right tools and materials, you can easily level your floor

Reasons Why It Is Important To Level Floor for Hardwood

  • It ensures the floor will be stable and durable.
  • It creates a flat surface for the installation of wood floors.
  • Without leveling, your new hardwood can warp under pressure causing it to buckle or bend in some areas. This is because not all parts of the subfloor are at an even level which can cause stress on the wood.
  • If your floor isn’t level, it may lead to gaps in the joints of the planks which will be seen when you walk on them and can cause premature wear over time. Gaps between boards are also prone to dirt buildup or water damage so they need to be filled properly after installation.

What Tools Will I Need To Level Floor For Hardwood?

Remove Vinyl Flooring Glue From Plywood

  • Floor leveling compound
  • Tape measure
  • Plunge saw or circular saw with a long, rigid blade. If you have a table saw that will work as well. Keep reading for more specific instructions if using a hand saw instead of a power tool! You’ll also need safety glasses and gloves.
  • Hardwood flooring material (if you plan to install it after leveling the subfloor)

What Materials Will I Need To Level Floor For Hardwood?

1. Polyurethane Floor Leveler

This is a fast-drying, two-component compound that creates a level floor for your hardwood. It will dry to the touch in minutes and reach full strength within 24 hours so it can be walked on soon after installation.

When using this material you may need a helper to avoid lumps from forming when pouring out equal amounts of both parts.

2. Sand

You can use any type of sand for this project, but play box or sandbox sand is the best option because it has small grains that are easier to spread out evenly on your subfloor. It will also be easier to vacuum up after you’re finished leveling if there is still some leftovers in some areas. If using play box sand, you will only need to buy enough for one application.

If using sandbox or play box sand, it is best to use a hand saw rather than the plunge saw mentioned earlier in this guide because of the smaller size and tighter spaces involved with leveling your subfloor. A circular saw can also be used but may take more time due to the larger blade size.

How To Level Floor For Hardwood in 13 Easy Steps

Step one:

Measure the width of your room and divide it by two. This will give you an accurate estimate of how many boxes of polyurethane floor leveler you need to purchase for this project, but be sure to buy a little extra just in case.

Step two:

Once you have selected a location where all materials can be easily accessed and you have your measuring tape, floor leveler compound, sand, safety gear, etc., it’s time to get started.

Do not measure the subfloor yourself because any high or low spots can be fixed with wood shims or other materials before applying the polyurethane. This will save a lot of time and ensure the floor is level for your hardwood.

Step three:

Make a mark on each wall where it meets with the baseboard using a pencil so you know what height to set your saw blade before cutting any boards or plywood sheets that make up part of your subfloor. The marks should be at least one foot from the wall and at least one foot from each other to ensure there is enough room for sanding.

Step four:

Measure between these marks on the walls with your ruler or measuring tape and write down this number as well. This will help make sure you have a level line before cutting any boards, plywood sheets, etc.

Step five:

Once you have cut and removed any boards or sheets that were not at the correct height, make sure to use a pencil and ruler to mark which pieces need cutting. If there are areas of wood flooring left in place during leveling, it is best to remove them before continuing this process because they can skew your measurements if put back in at the end.

Step six:

Using your measuring tape, mark which pieces need to be cut and removed from this area of flooring using a pencil. If you have an uneven number of boards between both rooms, always take out the extra one closest to the neighboring room because it will skew measurements for leveling if put back in at the end.

Step seven:

Using your saw, cut and remove all boards or sheets that need to be removed from this area of flooring. If you have plywood or OSB (oriental strand board) underlayment in place during leveling, it is best to use a circular saw with a blade sharp enough for cutting through this material or a hand saw in tight spaces. Try to avoid using a power drill unless necessary because it can create too much heat and damage the flooring underneath.

Step eight:

Once all boards have been cut, sand down any sharp edges from where they were removed using your sandpaper along with an electric sander if available.

Step nine:

It’s time to apply the polyurethane floor leveling compound. Apply only half of what you think will be enough for this area using a trowel or putty knife. Spread it out evenly across your subfloor and let dry completely, which should take about 30 minutes depending on room temperature/humidity, material thickness, etc.

Step ten:

Apply another layer of polyurethane compound to your subfloor using the same method as before and let it dry completely again for 30 minutes. It’s important not to rush this process because if both layers are applied at once or are still wet when applying the second one, they will run together and create an uneven surface.

Step eleven:

Mix the rest of your polyurethane compound with water as recommended by manufacturer instructions for this size/type of product, but be sure to follow those carefully. Apply this last layer using a trowel or putty knife in the same method you used before so it doesn’t run or create spots that are too thick. Let dry completely again for about 30 minutes depending on room temperature/humidity, material thickness, etc.

Step twelve:

Once your floor is level and the polyurethane compound has dried enough to walk over it without sinking in at all (which should only take a few minutes), use your sandpaper along with an electric sander to remove the excess compound from your subflooring. Make sure there are no high or low spots left behind, which can be spotted easily by looking for dark/light areas of wood flooring underneath after this process is done.

Step thirteen:

Once you have finished removing all of the excess compounds using your sandpaper and electric sander, it’s time to apply the polyurethane finish coats. Apply a thin coat of clear sealant over this area in long even strokes with your paintbrush. Let dry for at least an hour before applying another layer in the same way you did during leveling.

Step fourteen:

Continue this process until you have applied a minimum of three coats, letting each layer dry for at least an hour before adding the next. After applying your last coat(s), let it sit overnight to completely cure and set it into place before installing any new hardwood or laminate flooring over top.

5 Things to Know Before Leveling A Floor

How to Install a Plywood Subfloor

1. Know the underlying problem:

The first thing you need to know before leveling a floor is the underlying problem that caused it to become uneven. Understanding this will help you determine what type of product can be used for leveling and which tools are needed during installation.

2. Don’t use a power drill unless necessary:

Using a high-speed power drill can create too much heat and damage the flooring underneath because of friction between the spinning bit and wood. This is NOT an ideal option for leveling, so try to avoid using this method if possible!

3. Use a trowel or putty knife to apply leveling compound:

Both of these are ideal for applying the polyurethane floor-leveling compound, so you must have both on hand before starting your project. A paintbrush is also necessary if you want to create sharp edges around cabinets, corners, etc., but using this for the entire project will make things take much longer.

4. Use a putty knife to remove excess compound:

After you mix and apply the leveling compound, it’s important to use a trowel or putty knife (or both) for removing excess material from your subfloor. This will even out any uneven areas that remain after applying all of your layers of polyurethane floor-leveling compound.

5. Use sandpaper for finishing touches:

Once you have finished applying all of your coats with the trowel or putty knife, it’s time to remove any excess material using an electric sander and sandpaper. Be careful not to over-sand the area by only removing what is necessary because this can create low spots if removed too much.

Benefits of Levelling Floors For Hardwood Installation

1. Improved Aesthetics

One of the primary benefits of leveling your floors before installing hardwood is improved aesthetics. Hardwood floors that are installed on level surfaces tend to have a neater, more polished appearance. In addition, leveling your floors can help to eliminate any gaps or unevenness in the surface, providing you with a smooth and level surface to install your hardwood floors.

2. Enhanced Durability

When your floors are level, the risk of your hardwood floors becoming damaged or warped over time is greatly reduced. In addition, a level surface will also help to prevent any creaking or squeaking that can occur as a result of unevenness in the floor.

3. Improved Safety

Uneven floors can pose a tripping hazard, particularly if they are not level with the rest of the room. By leveling your floors, you can help to prevent any accidents from occurring in your home.

4. Enhanced Energy Efficiency

When your floors are not level, heat and cold can escape through gaps and cracks in the surface. This can lead to an increase in your energy bills as you will need to use more heating and cooling to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. Leveling your floors can help to seal these gaps and prevent heat loss, resulting in improved energy efficiency.

4. Cost Savings

Hardwood floors that are installed on uneven surfaces are more likely to become damaged or warped over time, which can be costly to repair. In addition, leveling your floors can help to increase the lifespan of your hardwood floors


Can Hardwood be installed on an uneven floor?

Yes, it is possible to install hardwood flooring on an uneven or unlevel subfloor as long as there are no structural issues present and the ground underneath isn’t soft.

What Causes Uneven Floors?

In most cases, a room’s floor becomes uneven due to swelling/shrinkage from moisture damage or because of settling on an old foundation. Although other issues can cause uneven floors, the two most common reasons are usually related to moisture and/or settling.

What can I use if my floor is not level?

There are several options when leveling a floor that isn’t level like using wood shims or putting down plywood before installing new flooring. As long as there are no structural or rot issues, leveling any subfloor is possible.

What is the easiest way to level a floor?

The easiest way to level a floor is by using an electric sander and leveling compound. This method will allow you to even out your floor in the least amount of time possible.

How many coats of finish do I need?

There are no set rules for how many layers of polyurethane or another type of sealant should be used for leveling a floor, but in most cases, three layers will be enough. If you still notice any low spots after applying the first two coats, apply one more coat to fix this issue completely.

Can you use a self-leveling compound on wood floors?

Self-leveling compounds can be used on wood floors, however, it’s not recommended because they are typically more expensive than using a normal leveling compound. This is another reason why it’s important to do some research before starting this project.

Conclusion On How To Level Floor for Hardwood Installation

At this point in the article, you should have a solid understanding of how to level the floor for hardwood installation. Knowing which tools are needed and what type of product can be used is important before starting this project. We hope that these tips and suggestions help you complete your project successfully.

Related: How to Remove Heat Stains on Wood Table: Helpful Tips

1 thought on “How to Level Floor for Hardwood Installation: Complete Guide”

Comments are closed.