From residential to commercial, you'd be amazed at the unleveled surfaces we've seen. You could place a marble on the floor, watch it gain speed and take a quick curve in either direction. Now, imagine laying a floor on that surface. It might look decent off the rip, but after bearing the weight of average wear, the floor will quickly buckle and deteriorate. Granted, that's one of the more extreme scenarios.
A question we face on a daily basis is, "Can't you just lay the floor on top of our old floor?" 9.9999 times out of 10, the answer is no, not without floor prep. Flooring installation without floor prep is like eating soup with a fork -- it just doesn't work. Here's just one example.
A homeowner might look at their tile floor and think it's a solid surface you can simply lay a new floor over, it's not. Tile has grooves from the grout. One option is to skim over the tile to fill the grout sections, prep, then install the new floor. Another option is to remove the tile, prep the subfloor, and install the new floor. However, the variable comes down to the overall plan.
If a client is simply redoing a single room in their home, skimming, prepping, and installing may be the best option. Alternatively, if a client plans on installing the same floor throughout the entirety of a level, removing, building up the subfloor to bring the new install to the same level, prepping, and then installing is the best option. The best path forward varies depending on the project vision. However, at the end of the day, finding a local flooring installer who can provide floor prep services is the way to go.