Most floors need underlay to improve their durability and limit noise. This is especially true for engineered and laminate wood floors. It’s also optional to use underlay for solid wood floors, depending on how much you want to insulate and sound-proof the room. The only floors which do not require underlay are those made from vinyl.
What is underlay?
Flooring underlay is a sturdy base which stops your floor from shifting around. It’s a thin barrier that goes in-between your subfloor and your chosen type of flooring and is a practical home solution.
While it sounds like it may not be essential and just an extra step in the tedious installation process, most flooring needs underlay. This layer adds thermal insulation to your home as well as blocking out excessive noise. It can also make your installation process easier than working directly from a subfloor.
However, it’s difficult to know which type of flooring needs underlay, and if so which type of underlay? To help you get the most out of your new flooring, here’s what flooring needs underlay and why.
Underlay For Laminate Flooring
It’s recommended that laminate floors are accompanied by a laminate flooring underlay. This is because this type of flooring is usually no thicker than 12mm which is fairly thin as floors go. Underlay helps pad a laminate floor out. It also helps absorb any sounds to keep loud noises at bay while keeping your home nicely warm and insulated.
Underlay for laminate is also helpful if your subfloor isn’t perfect, which is often the case. For example, if your subfloor is not completely flat, underlay can improve this. While solid or engineered wood can usually bridge the small gaps created by an uneven subfloor, laminate struggles. So, installing underlay for laminate flooring allows a smooth foundation to start with.
In terms of which type of laminate floor underlay to go for, it’s often best to opt for underlay with a moisture barrier. This type of flooring, however, allows for thermal underlay for underfloor heating. If money is tight, budget underlay is also suitable.
Underlay For Engineered Wood Flooring
Because engineered wood is usually installed using the floating floor method, it’s again easier if underlay is incorporated. This means that engineered wood is simply clicked together, without the use of nails or glue, so underlay creates that all-important padding which is easy to install on.
Like laminate, most types of underlay are suitable for an engineered wood floor. Our engineered wood underlay online should make the decision a little easier. We recommend that if you’ve got a concrete subfloor, a polyethylene film with a moisture barrier is best. If you have underfloor heating, choose heat them underlay.
Underlay For Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl flooring is a popular type of flooring because it’s so quick and easy to install. Unlike most of the other flooring types, vinyl doesn’t require underlay and can be installed directly onto the subfloor using either glue, double-sided tape or even nothing at all.
The reason why vinyl does not need underlay is due to the structure of the material. As it's already cushioned, additional padding is unnecessary. Also, there is no risk of vinyl flooring moving around because it already has friction without underlay. In fact, underlay actually adds to the risk of damaging your vinyl flooring, so avoid it in all vinyl cases.
Underlay for Solid Wood Flooring
Last but not least, solid wood is a tricky one. This type of flooring usually ranges between 12-18mm thick, this is noticeably thicker than laminate and therefore doesn’t have the same need for underlay as laminate does. Solid wood alone can limit the transmission of sound throughout the room.
As solid wood flooring is usually glued down, an option is to glue it directly to the subfloor, without underlay. However, an easier alternative is a pre-glued wooden flooring underlay which has an adhesive coating. This gives you all the benefits of underlay, such as extra warmth and durability, while making installation easier.
To sum up, underlay is recommended if you've got a laminate or an engineered wood floor. If you have solid wood, underlay is optional depending on how thick your floorboards are. Finally, if you have vinyl flooring, underlay isn't necessary.
Can I use carpet underlay for hard floors?
No, the common misconception is that carpet underlay can be used for hard flooring such as laminate and wood flooring, however this is certainly not the case. Carpet underlay is too soft and spongy and would cause flooring joints to collapse and break, so it is really important to use a proper underlay for your flooring.