Laminate flooring gives your home a costly and polished appearance of a solid hardwood floor at a low price.
It must be installed correctly to the subfloor with high-quality Underlayment for Laminate Flooring to get professional results. But, do you know how to choose underlayment for laminate flooring?
Laminate is a wooden product that expands and contracts with climate change. When the subfloor is slightly out of level, and you install laminate, it will have an uneven finish.
These issues can be fixed by installing underlayment over the subfloor, which protects the laminate from moisture damage and can level a laminate.
Here’s a guide that will teach you how to choose the ideal underlayments for laminate flooring.
At a Glance – Choosing Underlayment for Laminate Flooring
- The thickness of the underlayment should be 2mm – 3mm.
- For a concrete subfloor, select an underlayment with a vapor barrier.
- Upper floors of a building must be installed with sound-absorption underlayments.
- Select underlayments with a higher R-value(Ability to insulate) in cold areas.
- Buy rolls of underlayment for larger projects; it will cost you less.
- Select cork underlayment if you are looking for disinfectant properties.
What is Flooring Underlayment?
Laminate floors are thin flooring material, and their thickness is 12mm. Its appearance is similar to a polished hardwood floor at a reasonable cost.
Laminate flooring with attached underlayment is available, but if they don’t have one, you must purchase it separately.
It is safe to use in humid areas like the basement, bathroom, and kitchen. Laminate underlayment works as a defensive fence between the subfloor and laminate floor.
The thickness of a first-class underlayment is nearly 2mm – 3mm.
Floor Underlayment of a thickness of 3mm provides softening and protection, but the joints between the boards are not included. They are made of cork, rubber, rubber cork, or foam and consist of two layers.
One layer of underlayment provides comfort and the other works as a protection layer against moisture and mold growth. Underlayments also have a bonding agent to stick them to the subfloor with no gaps.
Unlike tile and wood flooring, laminate requires underlayment because it is not glued down to the subfloor. It is a floating floor and requires a pad over the subfloor to float easily.
Laminate underlayment has the following responsibilities:
- Works as a moisture barrier to protect the subfloor from moisture.
- During temperature rise and fall, keep the floor together.
- The foot traffic sounds are absorbed by it and do not make peeping and tiptoe sounds.
- Provide comfort and warmth.
- If the locks of the planks are well supported, more stability is given to the floor.
- By laying the laminate floor correctly on it, imperfections of the subfloor will not be visible.
Choosing Right Underlayment for Laminate Floors
All the laminate underlayments do not possess the same properties. Every laminate underlayment is not created equal because different brands provide great unique features.
Different brands manufacture underlayments with different traits, which improve the working and vibe of your laminate. Always buy good-quality underlayment to keep it for a long time.
Some more details about underlayments are given here to help you find which one will be best for your floor:
While buying underlayment, many customers look for thickness. However, it is not necessary to consider.
A thick underlayment is best if you want to level your subfloor or you have to install carpeted flooring.
Thick underlayment will bend your laminate; as a result, its locking system may break. Only 2 -3 mm thick underlay should be purchased.
Some sellers may claim that the thicker laminate flooring underlay is, the more sound-absorbent it will be. This is a false statement.
Don’t install another underlayment if your laminate already has one. If you install it over a concrete floor, a moisture barrier is required.
Already attached underlayments don’t come with a moisture barrier.
Type of Subfloor
If the subfloor is made of concrete, it is necessary to install underlayment over it because concrete is a porous material and it absorbs moisture.
A moisture barrier should also be installed to prevent moisture damage. A vapor barrier comes in a thin plastic sheet made from Visqeen Paper Block.
It does not allow moisture to enter a laminate. Many underlayments for flooring provide 3-in-1 or 2-in-1 features, including padding and moisture barrier.
It does not need a vapor barrier to laminate floor underlay if you have to install laminate flooring over a plywood subfloor. Look for noise reduction and thermal options.
An attached underlayment is much better than a separate one to help you save your money and time.
On the other hand, a wood subfloor or existing subfloor does not require a vapor barrier. But, if you want other features, underlayment should be picked accordingly.
For example, if you need sound absorption, you might need Standard Foam Underlayment.
Every type of underlayment is given an R-value, which is its ability to insulate. Low R-value means less heat will transfer through the underlayment, while a higher R-value means a higher value will pass.
If you have installed a radiant heating system in your flooring, installing underlayment with a higher R-value will be good to achieve more heat in winter.
A good R-value underlayment keeps hot air out of your room in summer. They mostly come with 2 or 3 R-values.
Laminate is a soundless material, but it makes a sound when it hits the subfloor. If there is no underlayment, it will make noise.
The best underlayment for laminate flooring is the one that works as a sound-absorption buffer.
Sound-absorption features are important if you live in a multi-story building and people live in your lower portion.
Multi-portion houses or apartments should lay underlayments before laminate installation. There are two ratings for sound absorption.
- The material’s ability to block airborne noises is measured by Sound Transmission Class (STC).
- The material’s ability to block impact noises such as furniture movement, footsteps, or drops is measured by Impact Insulation Class (IIC).
They rate by numbers between 15 to 80. Materials with higher numbers can reduce sounds. A normal wood floor has STC number 40, while its IIC number is 45.
It would be best to look for an underlayment with STC and IIC above 60 for better sound absorption.
Underlayments are available in the market in square footage or rolls, and there is a difference in their prices. For larger projects, rolls are cost-effective.
However, buying it in square footage is recommended to avoid excess underlayments.
To make a decision, you must compare your budget with underlayment features, cost, and brand. In some areas, you can buy an underlayment for less than $15 per square foot.
There are many materials for underlayments that possess anti-microbial properties. Cork is one of them. You must select an underlayment that is good for your health.
Second Floor Installation
The second floor of your home, a condo, or an apartment requires an underlayment with a sound-absorption feature. Underlayments with low ratings are best for multi-story houses or apartments.
The laminate itself doesn’t produce any sound while someone is walking over it. But, it produces sound when it touches the subfloor without any underlayment.
So, proper underlayment should be installed to fix this issue. Floor Muffler and Roberts Super Felt are the best underlayments for sound absorption.
Types of Laminate Flooring Underlayment
After understanding the underlayment’s qualities, it will still be difficult to choose types of underlayment. The following are the most common types of underlayment.
Foam is the most basic type of underlayment. It is a thin layer of foam material, and its thickness is 1/8 inches. They are the easiest to install, affordable, and versatile types of underlayment.
It is a cost-effective option and a cushion between the subfloor and laminate. Foam underlayment does not have a moisture barrier, so different brands manufacture them with attached vapor barriers.
These underlayments can be costly, but they are best for concrete, basements, plywood, kitchen, or bathrooms.
If you want an environmentally friendly option, then go for felt underlayment. They are thicker than foam and are made from recycled materials.
These are best for home insulation improvement, sound absorption, and comfort. Many manufacturers produce a built-in moisture barrier for the protection of the floor.
Rubber underlayment is extremely versatile and easy to install, used for floor padding. It is sound-absorbing, insulating, and protects your floor from mold and mildew.
Rubber underlayments are made from recycled materials, which are best for the environment.
Manufacturers have developed a combination of rubber and cork to make a strong underlayment that prevents tiles from cracking due to furniture movement and house settings.
Cork underlayment is the best option if you are looking for soundproof material. It is an organic material with bouncy and higher density features. It does not lose its shape while holding weight.
The cork underlayment provides good insulation and antibacterial properties.
There will be no mold and mildew growth between the subfloor and laminate by laying underlayment. You can increase the vapor barrier property by placing a plastic sheet under it.
Cork might not be an ideal choice to walk on, but it’s the best option for imperfections of subfloors.
It is a costly underlayment, and you can increase the total cost of floor installation by 5%, including cork underlayment.
Reasons to Install Laminate Underlayment
There are many reasons to lay properly chosen underlayment for laminate flooring. Firstly, it protects the laminate by delivering proper support.
It also helps level the floor and create a solid base for laminate flooring.
Underlayment also affects the sound transmission, which is very important if you live in an upper portion of a multi-story building. Your chosen underlayment also affects the R-value of the flooring installation.
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use Any Underlayment for Laminate Flooring?
Underlayment for laminate should be picked according to the subfloor. If the subfloor is made of concrete, you must choose the underlayment with a vapor barrier.
But, a wooden or any existing subfloor does not have any special requirement. In multi-portion buildings, you must pick a sound-reducing underlayment for upper floors installation.
Which Thickness is Best for Underlay Laminate Flooring?
The thickness of underlayment should be in the range of 3 – 5 mm. It should not be thin than 3mm, and the thickness should not exceed 5mm.
More than this thickness will create problems in the locking system of laminate.
What Will Happen if There is No Underlayment Under Laminate Flooring?
Without underlayment, laminate will be distorted, decay, and become wet soon. Humidity will damage the adhesive, and laminate will be destroyed.
What Should I Lay Down Before Laminate Flooring?
Foam underlayment is enough for installing a laminate floor. If the subfloor has imperfections, you can use rigid plywood underlayment.
Is it Required to Cut the Tongue Off the First Row of Laminate?
Cutting the tongue off the first row is recommended because laminate needs space for expansion.
When Should You Walk on Laminate Flooring?
If the laminate flooring is installed using glue, you should not use it until completely dry. But, if you have installed it by putting the planks together, there is no need to wait.
In this article, you have learned about choosing underlayment for laminate flooring. Pick the one that suits your subfloor, environment, and other personal needs.
Don’t forget to install a vapor barrier if you have a concrete subfloor. It will protect the laminate from ruining due to moisture.
Using a high-quality underlayment will give you laminate flooring that will last for years.