Checking the Moisture of your Subfloor

Checking the Moisture of your Subfloor

When you are installing a new hardwood floor it is imperative that you fully check and prepare the subfloor.  One of the most important things that you must do is to check the moisture of your subfloor.  The subfloor is the existing floor in your property, for example, wooden floorboards, concrete, joists, chipboard, etc.


Why do I need to check the moisture levels?

Making sure that it is fully dry is really important because any excess moisture could rise up and start to cause damage to your new hardwood floor.  Wooden floors are a natural product, meaning that they react to water and humidity and will start to absorb any moisture.  This could result in your new floor warping or swelling and sometimes becoming discoloured. This damage is often irreparable and results in taking up your damaged floor and replacing it with a new one.


How do I check if my subfloor is dry?

This depends on what type of subfloor you have, wood or concrete.

  • For a wooden subfloor you will need to use a 2-pronged moisture meter. This should be stuck into your wooden subfloor. A dry reading will be 16% MC (Moisture Content) or below.
  • With a concrete subfloor you should use a digital hygrometer, which needs to be left in place for at least 24 hours. The reading should be no more than 65% RH (Relative Humidity).
  • Different parts of the room should be tested to ensure continuity throughout the area.
  • You should not install your new wooden floor if your subfloor is not fully dry. Allow sufficient drying time before retesting the moisture levels.
How to fit wood flooring onto chipboard - moisture meter 2 pronged moisture meter testing a wooden subfloor Moisture meter. Image:

Always remember to properly read the installation instructions before you start to fit your floor. These should have a section about checking the moisture of your subfloor so make sure you follow the guidance carefully.

You might also want to read: How do I prepare my subfloor before installing wooden flooring?

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