While a lot of people thought that flooring is just simply about the surface layer of flooring material, it is in fact a structure of layered components. If you are planning to install a new floor, the process won’t stop right after you have chosen the floor material for your home. Beneath that stunning surface layer of your floor covering is a layer of underlayment. Some flooring materials have underlayment attached underneath. However, in most cases, a floor underlayment is not pre-installed, so you need to talk to your installer to determine which one works best for your flooring.
There are several things to consider when you are deciding which floor underlayment is right for your home. In this blog, we are going to cover a lot of questions you might have including types of floor underlayment, which type is best for particular flooring material, and when it is needed to install the underlayment.
What Is Floor Underlayment?
Floor underlayment is a layer between your new floor above and the subfloor below. It is the first layer underneath your floor covering that serves typically to create a smooth, consistent base for your surface floor. It also increases the lifespan of the entire floor as it provides additional support and stability. While it is true that floor underlayment is an optional layer, your local flooring contractor will still recommend installing it because it can usually hide the bare floor against any harsh elements from the external environment.
What Are The Benefits Of Floor Underlayment?
Although floor underlayment is not required, it is not just something installed under your hardwood, vinyl, or carpet flooring. It offers incredible purposes that you need to consider.
Smooths Subfloor Imperfections. In general, floors are inconsistent and uneven, so you need a floor underlayment that can form around the roughness of your subfloor. It smooths the surface and adds stability to the entire floor structure.
Reduces Impact Noise. If you want to dampen unwanted noise, particularly in some flooring materials like tile or laminate flooring, installing floor underlayment is the answer. This is because floor underlayment blocks noise from one room to the other. It absorbs excess vibrations and sounds to make your room and the entire home much quieter.
Adds Cushion And Softness. No one wants a flooring material that is uncomfortable underfoot and will cause leg fatigue. With floor underlayment, it is much more convenient to walk barefooted even on a hard surface floor. This is because floor underlayment acts as a cushioning agent to absorb impact and stress on your surface floor. It can make your floor comfortable and soft underfoot.
Provides Moisture Protection. In most cases, floor underlayment is very impervious to moisture or water damage. It has a built-in barrier to block moisture from penetrating the floor. This is particularly advantageous if you have a flooring material that is prone to moisture damage such as carpet, hardwood, and concrete subfloor.
Improves Adhesion. Some flooring materials don’t adhere well when directly installed to your subfloor. This normally happens in the case of ceramic tile. Without proper adhesion, the floor will tend to expand and contract when exposed to humidity or moisture. A floor underlayment provides a good surface, so the tile floor can bond or adhere to it.
What Are The Types Of Floor Underlayment?
There are several types of floor underlayment, and each one of them has different purposes. Let’s run down each underlayment type.
Foam is the most basic type of floor underlayment. It is available in a variety of thicknesses, from 3mm to 6mm. You can also find great options of foam underlayment including the basic foam type to the 2-in-1 foam version with a built-in vapor barrier. For just a fraction of a price, foam underlayment offers good choices of sound reduction.
Aside from varieties, foam underlayment is so versatile that you can install it under almost any floor covering such as vinyl, wood, carpet, and laminate. It is relatively easy to install. Some types of foam underlayment are available with adhesive strips, making it an ideal choice for DIYers.
Cork is a natural, eco-friendly type of floor underlayment. The material is so durable that it can last for decades. It comes from the bark of cork trees and has natural antimicrobial properties that help prevent the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria. This makes cork underlayment a great choice for anyone who suffers from asthma or allergies. The thickness of cork underlayment comes in 3mm or 6mm.
One of the incredible benefits of cork underlayment is that it is capable of absorbing sounds. It is exceptionally effective to control sound, making your home much quieter and soundproof. Also, this type of underlayment is good at home insulation, maintaining a great balance of heat and cold inside your home. Plus, it has a barrier that keeps heat and cold from escaping.
Although cork underlayment is durable, it is not intended for all situations and environments. Cork is very much susceptible to water damage, so it is a bad choice for a bathroom, basement, and other moisture-prone areas at home. You may want to talk to your local flooring contractor to install cork flooring with a vapor barrier instead.
Considered as the most traditional choice, felt is typically made from recycled fibers. It is much denser and heavier than cork or foam underlayment. Normally, this type of floor underlayment has a 3mm thickness. Because felt underlayment is heavy and dense, it is incredibly good at absorbing sounds.
Felt underlayment is an exceptional insulator, keeping the right amount of heat and cold inside your home. Also, it is a good cushioning agent that provides convenience and comfortability when you walk on it. This is particularly beneficial when you spend long hours standing or walking due to household chores.
Since felt underlayment comes from natural and recyclable materials, it creates a healthier home. It does not emit any harmful or chemical substances inside your home. And for extra strength and durability, some types of felt underlayment have a built-in vapor barrier.
Due to its versatility, rubber is among the best floor underlayment choices. It comes from recyclable rubber products and is an ideal choice over concrete or wood subfloors. The great thing about rubber underlayment is that it can be attached to almost any floor covering and is relatively easy to install.
Because rubber underlayment comes from recyclable materials, it won’t harm the environment and your home. It also protects your floor against mold and mildew. In addition to this, rubber underlayment is an excellent insulator and sound absorber, making your home comfortable and quiet all the time.
Getting the best of both worlds, this type of underlayment is a combination of rubber and cork. It has the benefits of both cork and rubber. The rubber cork underlayment has resistance to mold and mildew, although a vapor barrier is still recommended to install.
How Thick Should The Floor Underlayment Be?
In most cases, the thickness of a floor underlayment is 2-3mm, but it can be thicker if it needs to smooth out an inconsistent or uneven subfloor, especially in the case of carpet flooring. However, the thickness is not just the most important factor you need to consider in choosing the best floor underlayment. You also need to factor in density, sound ratings, type, and quality. We highly recommend checking with your local flooring contractor or manufacturer to find out what options they will provide.
Where Do You Need To Install Floor Underlayment?
Unless your floor covering has an attached underlayment, you can assume that you need to install it. A floor underlayment can be attached anywhere inside your home. For kitchen, basement, and bathroom floors, you may also need to install a vapor barrier, which protects your floor from water or moisture damage.
How Can You Install Floor Underlayment?
Installing underlayment has never been so easy. If you’re a seasoned DIYer, you can save labor expenses by installing floor underlayment yourself. However, if DIY is not really your cup of tea, you can always ask a professional flooring contractor near you. Here are the steps to install floor underlayment in your home.
Roll Out The Floor Underlayment. Make sure that the subfloor is level and clean first. Then roll out the floor underlayment of your choice one row at a time. The underlayment should be attached perpendicular to the direction where the floor covering will be installed.
Secure The Underlayment. Once the underlayment is laid out, you need to tape rows at the connecting seams. If the underlayment you purchase comes with an adhesive strip, just simply follow the manufacturer’s label on how to use it. When installing floor underlayment, keep in mind that you should not overlap unless it is recommended by the manufacturer.
That’s how simple it is. Just always make sure that you check the manufacturer’s label, so you won’t have any problems installing underlayment yourself.
What Type Of Underlayment Works Best For Your Floor?
Not all types of floor underlayment can be attached to any floor covering. Choosing the right underlayment is necessary to create a sleek and stunning finish.
Before you purchase and install floor underlayment beneath a vinyl floor, make sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions and warranty. Some manufacturer’s warranty can be voided if you install the underlayment. It is important to ask your local flooring contractor about this as well. If the warranty allows you to attach underlayment in your vinyl flooring, we highly suggest installing cork underlayment. This type of underlayment won’t damage or stain your vinyl flooring. There are several varieties of vinyl flooring with cork underlayment already attached to it. On the other hand, if it won’t allow you to attach an underlayment, you may still need to install a vapor barrier beneath your vinyl flooring.
If you don’t like cork underlayment, your next options should be foam and felt as they are safe to use for vinyl floors. Refrain from using rubber or rubber cork underlayment as staining may occur, which is unsafe for vinyl floors.
The top choice for laminate flooring is foam underlayment. You can have two options: foam underlayment with no barrier and underlayment with a moisture barrier. For any moisture-prone areas such as a bathroom, basement, kitchen, or laundry room, a foam underlayment with a moisture barrier is required.
If your concern is about unwanted noise or sound transmission, then you can choose cork underlayment. This type of underlayment is an excellent sound absorber, so it can prevent any unnecessary sounds or vibrations from traveling to other areas of the house.
If you plan to have hardwood or engineered wood floors in your home, your top choices are cork and foam underlayment. Since hardwood flooring is very susceptible to moisture and mold growth, foam underlayment can resist mold and moisture, making your hardwood more durable and long-lasting. This type of underlayment is ideal for humid areas and has effective sound absorption.
Cork underlayment, on the other hand, has a less tendency to flex underneath wood planks or boards. With or without a moisture barrier, a pliable cork underlayment can be easily trimmed to create a good fit. If you don’t like cork or foam underlayment, you can also choose felt underlayment to provide moisture resistance, density, and strength to your hardwood flooring.
For carpet flooring, the right underlayment can either be rubber or foam carpet pads. These types of carpet pad are available in varying thicknesses and prices. Typically, thicker carpet pads are much softer and more comfortable underfoot. If you have a broadloom carpet, consider using a foam carpet pad. On the other hand, use a rubber carpet pad for carpet tile flooring. Make sure to check with your local flooring contractor the best options and prices for carpet pads before you install one.
If you decide to install tile flooring, the best choice is rubber-cork underlayment. This type of floor underlayment is created for crack suppression. You may also install tiles over a cement board or plywood.
Cement boards have fibers that increase flexibility, so your tile flooring won’t crack under pressure.
Which Type Of Floor Underlayment Is Your Choice?
Before you decide and purchase any floor underlayment, we recommend that you should determine first how you will use the underlayment and what features you are exactly looking for. Are you looking to dampen unwanted noise inside your home? Will it be installed in moisture-prone areas? Do you like to make your floor covering much softer and more comfortable to walk on? These are some questions you might consider, so you can identify the right underlayment for your floor. Don’t forget to always check the manufacturer’s label, or better yet ask a professional flooring contractor near you. However, if you are still in doubt and you need further help, don’t hesitate to call us today. We offer a free in-home consultation, so we can assist you on your next flooring makeover.