Do I Need Underlay For My Floor? A Flooring Underlay Guide

When you’re buying wood, laminate flooring or vinyl flooring, you might wonder whether you need to buy underlay for your floors, and if so – what kind of underlay?

Generally, you should always use underlay when installing a floor but there are some exceptions. For example, you shouldn’t need underlay when fitting a vinyl floor that is cushioned and provides a soft surface. Most laminate and wood floors are what’s known as ‘floating’ floors which means that they aren’t permanently fixed down to the ground underneath it. These are the type of floors that will need underlay beneath them, to stop vapour getting into the flooring as well as for sound-proofing purposes.

Depending on what type of floor you’re looking to buy and where you’re planning to install it, there are different options for underlay available to suit your needs. Read on for further information on how to choose the right underlay.

An image of men working on a sub-floor

Sub-floor types

Firstly, the type of underlay you need will depend on the sub-floor that you’re fitting your new flooring on top of. Usually the sub-floor is either a concrete base or wooden floor base. If the sub-floor is concrete then usually you’ll need an underlay that has a moisture barrier, a built-in DPM (Damp Proof Membrane) or a separate barrier installed. This is to ensure your flooring is protected from and doesn’t get ruined by damp.

On the other hand, if the sub-floor is wooden, most underlays will do the job but the most suitable will depend on which type of flooring your laying, whether it be a laminate, solid wood or cork floor.

Laminate flooring underlay

Most underlay products will be suitable to use when installing a laminate floor, as laminate floors are generally fitted as a ‘floating floor’ – whereby the flooring is fitted into place by clicking together without the need to glue it down or glue the joints.

So as mentioned above, the underlay you should use for a laminate floor will depend on the type of sub-floor – if it’s concrete then you will likely need an underlay with a moisture barrier or will need to install a separate barrier. If the sub-floor is wooden then you have a choice of underlays to choose from and you may want to consider whether you’re looking for an underlay that’s suitable for under-floor heating or one that has better sound-proofing qualities.

Engineered flooring underlays

Like laminate floors, engineered flooring is generally installed as a floating floor which is joined together, not glued to the sub-floor. So as with laminate flooring, most underlay products will be fine to install with engineered flooring, but if the sub-floor is concrete then you will need one with a moisture barrier, otherwise you’ll need to fit a separate barrier in addition to the underlay.

Man installing floor over underlay

Solid wood flooring underlay

Installing solid, or real wood flooring is a little more complex to fitting a laminate or engineered floor as a wood flooring needs to be glued down to the floor beneath it. Taking this into consideration, you may want to ask a professional floor fitter to install your solid wood floor and if so they will know which underlay to use.

However, if you’re going to install the wood floor yourself, or need to buy the materials for someone else to do it, the underlay requirements are fairly straight-forward. Basically you need to ensure you use a pre-glued underlay, and if you install it onto a concrete sub-floor then a pre-glued underlay with built-in DPM is required.

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.

A Guide to Flooring Underlay

Use the grid below to find out what type of underlay you should be using with your new hard floor. Click on the image to see the full size grid.

Underlay Chart

Recommended Products

We supply a wide selection of underlay products so you should be able to find something suitable for your flooring. Read on for our recommendations for each type of flooring and sub-floor combination:

Laminate, engineered or cork floors on a wooden sub-floor
We recommend these products for your new flooring that should be installed as a floating floor above a wooden sub-floor:

Laminate, engineered or cork floors on a concrete sub-floor
If your sub-floor is concrete, make sure you use an underlay with a DPM or moisture barrier like the products below:

Solid wood floors on a wooden sub-floor
Make sure you buy a pre-glued underlay for installing your solid wood floor. We recommend the following product:

Solid wood floors on a concrete sub-floor

It’s important that you use a pre-glued underlay with a built-in DPM, like our recommended product below:

Further Questions?

If you have any further questions about underlay for your flooring, or help with buying the right underlay, please don’t hesitate to contact our helpful and knowledgeable team on 0330 100 00 15.

from £4.75 per m²

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