What Flooring Needs Underlay And Why?

Most floors need underlay to improve their durability and limit noise. This is especially true for engineered and laminate wood floors. It’s also recommended to use underlay for solid wood floors. The only floors which rarely require underlay are those made from vinyl.

What is underlay?

As a thin barrier that goes in-between your subfloor and your chosen type of flooring, underlay is a pretty 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 an abundance of 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. Flooring underlay is a sturdy base which stops your future floor from shifting around.

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.

Related: Do You have to Do Any Preparation For Underlay?


An image showing someone installing a laminate floor

It’s always recommended that laminate flooring is accompanied with underlay beforehand. This is because laminate flooring is usually no thicker than 12mm, which is fairly thin when it comes to flooring. 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 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 help.  While solid or engineered wood can usually bridge the small gaps created by an uneven subfloor, laminate struggles. So, installing underlay allows a smooth foundation to start with.

In terms of which type of 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. Browse our laminate flooring underlay here.

Engineered Wood

An image of an engineered wood floor

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 Section 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 therm underlay.

Related: How to Install Engineered Wood Flooring


An image of several samples of 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.

This reason vinyl does not need underlay is due to the structure of this material. As it's already cushioned, additional padding is unnecessary. Also, there is no risk of a 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 here.

Solid Wood


Last but not least, solid wood is a tricky one. While it is noticeably thicker than laminate, usually ranging between 12mm-18mm, it 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 underlay for wood flooring, which has an adhesive coating. This gives you all the benefits of underlay, such as extra warmth and durability, while making installation easier. See our range of Solid Wood Underlay here.

We hope this helps! If you need any more advice please call us on 0330 100 00 15.

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