Choosing the best underlayment for laminate flooring is a tricky task. There are several aspects to consider and choose among different commercial products manufactured specifically for underlayment purposes.
The choice depends on the subfloor material and the features of laminate flooring you want to enhance. For example, you might wonder if you can improve the soundproof properties of the laminate by choosing a good underlayment? Or what goes best over old wooden floors but under new laminate flooring?
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Keep reading to find everything about proper underlayment for laminate, the purpose, installation and recommendations!
What Is The Best Underlayment For Laminate Flooring?
The answer depends on the type of your subfloor. The best underlayment for laminate flooring over concrete is the one that helps control the moisture. In most cases, it has a vapor barrier that protects the moisture from damaging and rising laminate planks.
In the case of the wooden subfloors, breathable foam is the best choice for underlayment.
If you need a laminate underlayment over ceramic tiles, your best options are combination underlayment. It is specialized foam reinforced against moisture.
Foam is the most common underlayment for laminate that provides only basic soundproofing and insulating properties
What Is Laminate Underlayment?
Laminate floorings have many benefits and are easy to install. The maintenance is straightforward, and you can use a laminate floor polish occasionally to refresh the appearance. Unlike some other floorings, they require underlayment in most cases.
In simple words, laminate underlayment is thin and soft padding that you place directly on the subfloor before you install laminate planks. Users can install them before the planks, or the planks are already made with underlayment.
Essentially, laminate planks are thin and made from moderate-quality fiberboards. If the subfloor is less than perfect, the laminate planks cannot be installed smoothly. Underlayment always helps with that.
Benefits Of Laminate Underlayment
In a way, underlayment improves the features of laminate flooring. It can reduce the noise, soften footfall, make the installation smoother, level the floor and help with moisture control.
All of that makes underlayment a suitable choice for rooms in which you would never consider installing laminate, such as the bathroom and basement.
In most cases, subfloors aren’t perfect. If they were, who would need a nice floor on top of it? When you strip current flooring, it will leave nail holes, splinters, and uneven areas on the subfloor, all of which can affect the installation of your new laminate flooring.
Solid hardwood and even ceramic tiles can easily manage these imperfections, but not the laminate flooring. If you install laminate planks over the subfloor with mentioned imperfections, it can cause your planks to deteriorate soon.
A laminate floor is sturdy and can be uncomfortable to walk on, especially if you install it over another hard surface, such as concrete. Underlayment improves shock absorption and makes the laminate planks more flexible.
Also, walking on laminate flooring with underlayment resembles walking on hardwood floors.
If you have ever dropped an object on the laminate floor, you know how noisy it is. Underlayment absorbs sounds, which makes a laminate an excellent choice for buildings and houses with multiple floors.
Different underlayment types come with various sound absorption properties.
Installing new flooring over concrete, tile or cement is risky because these subfloors aren’t good at moisture control. If the moisture is trapped between the laminate flooring and the subfloor, it can cause the laminate planks to detach. Eventually, the moisture will cause your new floor to rise, so all the efforts are in vain.
Standard underlayment for laminate isn’t always good for moisture control. If you’re installing laminate in the basement or any other moisture-prone area, choose the underlayment with a vapor barrier.
Also, if you install underlayment separately from laminate planks, you have a better cohesive barrier. It controls the moisture better than planks with underlayment attached.
All laminate underlayment types are available in the roll form and easy to install
Types Of Underlayment For Laminate Flooring
As you can see, underlayment is very beneficial for your new laminate floorings. It affects the comfort and durability of your floor. Here is a short overview of the different types of underlayment for laminate flooring.
When you start researching the options for laminate underlayment, you will most likely come across the standard foam. It is also the type that most contractors recommend before installing laminate flooring.
Standard foam is usually only 1/8 inch thick and comes in rolls.
It provides basic sound absorption and has almost zero moisture control. You might improve it by installing it with a plastic sheet.
A combination underlayment is standard foam enhanced with a moisture barrier.
It is good for basements and kitchens. Similar to the foam, combination underlayment comes in rolls and has the same thickness.
You can find underlayment made from cork or felt, with or without a moisture barrier. These underlayments come within different price tags, and significantly improve the soundproofing and moisture control properties.
Vinyl-backed underlayment for laminate flooring is relatively easy to install, as it is available in tile form. However, if you are looking for something to help you with moisture, you should seal the seams. Overall, it has solid sound-absorbing properties but lays best on a perfectly even floor.
Laminate Underlayment Installation
Installing underlayment for the laminate floor is the simplest thing when it comes to flooring tasks. Here is a short step-by-step guide. The first thing to do when installing underlayment separately from laminate flooring is to clean the subfloor.
- Use a good vacuum for concrete to get rid of all dust and dirt before you start.
- Next, slowly unroll one section of the underlayment roll, and work from left to right.
- Tape the next rows as you unroll them with the previous ones. The tape will keep the rows in place.
- Also, don’t overlap the rows, one layer of underlayment is enough.
That is all!
- Once you cover the entire room, install the laminate floors on top.
One tip when installing underlayment is to use adhesive tape in color other than white to prevent accidental overlaps
How To Choose Underlay For Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is a type of floating floor, which means you don’t need nails or adhesive for installation. However, the ease and quality of installation depend on the subfloor. It is, therefore, one of the most important factors to consider when choosing an underlayment.
The additional factor that can help you choose the underlayment is the type of insulation you need. In simple words, which laminate flooring properties do you want to improve?
Let’s analyze the two factors, so you choose the underlayment accordingly.
The rule of thumb to follow when choosing an underlayment bothers you the most about your floors. Is it the coldness of concrete and wooden floors, or are those noises and comfort?
If you are looking for something to make your floors more comfortable to walk on, maybe cork underlayment will be a win. Cork might be the best underlayment for laminate flooring to reduce noise and make the floor bouncier.
There is some specialized underlayment with improved thermal insulation you should look for if you live in a cold climate. The R-value is something that can tell you more about the heat properties of materials. The higher the R-value is, the more insulation the material of underlayment provides and the warmer the underlayment makes your home.
What your subfloor is made of is the most important question to ask yourself when you are deciding on the underlayment for laminate flooring.
The best underlayment for laminate flooring over concrete is the one with exceptional moisture control properties. Concrete is a porous material that can collect water in holes and cracks, which leads to mold and mildew development. Therefore, underlayment is a must-have if your subfloor is concrete.
Pick the one with a vapor barrier. It will also work as the best underlayment for laminate flooring in the basement.
Look for underlayment with labels such as damp-proof, moisture-resistant, water-proof, etc. Polyethylene and polypropylene underlayment as thin foam paddings with damp-proof membranes are good choices.
The alternative is a standard foam underlay, but it has to be installed with additional barriers, such as plastic sheets or liquid resin for sealing the concrete. However, it seems like too much work, and you can achieve the same effect by choosing the mentioned underlayment with a built-in moisture barrier.
Wood or Plywood
Wood needs to breathe, so installing an underlayment with a vapor barrier isn’t an option. Therefore, the best underlayment for laminate flooring on wood is breathable foam. The Roberts foam underlayment makes a suitable choice and offers a good value for the money.
The exception is when plywood is a subfloor in the basement and you want to install laminate flooring on top of it. In that case, you’ll need something to control the moisture.
It isn’t frequent, but it is possible to install laminate flooring over tile floors. In that case, don’t assume that tiles will work as underlayment because they won’t. Moreover, if the tiles are damaged, you need a solid underlayment to make the laminate flooring smooth and durable.
Also, tiles are cold and don’t have any acoustic properties. They also don’t handle moisture that comes from the top well. If the moisture gets trapped between old ceramic tiles and new laminate flooring, it can ruin the planks and make the laminate flooring rise.
A combination type is the best underlayment for laminate flooring over tile. The Floorlot Shop Floors Delivered gold underlayment might be a good choice. It comes with a vapor barrier and makes the floor more silent. The underlayment is also 3mm thick, which will improve the heat insulation.
If you or any of your family members are prone to allergies, choose the underlayment with high antimicrobial properties. For example, cork is naturally microbe-resistant, but other materials have been treated to improve their antimicrobial properties.
Additionally, if you have underfloor heating, then you have to consider a few more things to find the best underlay for laminate flooring with underfloor heating.
Look for underlayment with a low tog rating, so the warmth can pass through your laminate floorings easily.
Why Is Carpet The Wrong Choice For Laminate Underlayment?
Some people believe installing cheap carpets from wall to wall will work as good underlayment for laminate. It might only improve the comfort of the floor, but it will actually damage the laminate flooring.
A carpet will provide flexibility underneath the planks. After some time, walking on the laminate floor on top of the carpet will cause the plank’s joints to loosen. The difference between carpets and specialized underlayment is in the underfoot movement. Underlayment is soundproofing and comfortable underneath the laminate planks, it doesn’t allow movement underneath and keeps the planks in place.
When Can You Skip Laminate Underlayment?
The only time when you don’t have to install laminate underlayment is when your new laminate flooring comes with the underlayment attached to the planks.
There are many manufactures on the market that make planks with attached laminate. You can also find the options for moisture control.
When choosing laminate floors, consider whether the attached underlayment is suitable for your subfloor. If you cannot find the options with proper underlayment properties attached to the planks, choose laminate without one. You can always install underlayment separately.
Laminate Underlayment – A Must-Have For Best Laminate Floor
Laminate underlayment is easy to install. It comes in and doesn’t cost too much. But, it can significantly improve the performance of your laminate floorings.
You can enhance noise reduction, thermal insulation and protect laminate planks against moisture.
If you buy laminate floorings without underlayment attached to the planks, choose the underlayment based on the subfloor. Concrete subfloors need a strong moisture barrier, while wooden subfloors require breathable foam.
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