Subfloor Repair

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Dear NH,
We recently found out that a portion of our kitchen subflooring is rotting due to a leaky sliding glass door. This floor is over a walkout basement. You can actually push your finger up through the rotten flooring (from the basement) and touch the kitchen floor vinyl. Can we possibly replace this subflooring from below or do we have to remove or pull back the vinyl, replace this subflooring, and then somehow replace the vinyl? Is there a way to pull back the vinyl to do a repair underneath? My husband is very handy, but this is a new one for us! Thank you!
RM from Lawrence, KS

Every homeowner will eventually run into something rotten! Every repair is unique and few have painless fixes. First, the pain. No, you cannot make a repair from underneath. Also, the vinyl cannot be reclaimed so a repair of the finished floor will have to be made.

If the rot is primarily in the subfloor and has not extended to the supporting floor beams or "joists", the repair is simply to cut out the rotten area and replace it with a plywood of similar thickness. You will most likely have to install additional framing or cleats to support the edges of the smaller piece. This of course varies job by job.

If the rot has extended into the joists, you will need to determine the correct repair, which is too extensive an issue for this forum. Simply, if the rot is very minor (you might need a pro to determine this for you), you might not have to do anything. Once the source of moisture is gone, the rot will likewise stop growing. Extensive rot could require anything from reinforcing the affected beam to some major structural carpentry.

Implicit in your question is the repair of the finished floor. If the rest of the vinyl floor is in good shape, you can save a little money by being creative. Instead of using vinyl in front of the slider, consider using slate or another durable flooring product in this area. If done properly, you can make it look like planning, not repair... a cool place to leave those dirty shoes and boots.

It's worth considering!

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