Do You Need Underlayment for Laminate Flooring: Expert Speaks Out

In case you want absolute protection for your flooring material, either in your shop, home or workplace, underlayment is the key. But is it necessary?

The vinyl flooring design is usually not necessary for an underlay. There is a base layer in most cases when using the vinyl floor. Moreover, it is enough to serve the purpose of an underlay.

Do you need underlayment for laminate flooring? Underlayment is essential for laminate flooring installation. Underlayment allows the floor to float, provides stability, reduces noise, and supports the locking systems between planks to ensure the sturdiest flooring project.

According to Clayton Bennett, a flooring expert, and author, underlayment is essential. Ensure the underlayment is structurally sound before installing a new floor

Here is a video that explains how to install underlayment for laminate and hardwood flooring:

 To understand why you require underlayment for laminate flooring, let us examine what makes the underlayment.

What Is Flooring Underlayment?

The floor is not just what you see on the surface of a visible floor covering. It is a structure of layers essential to its function and stability.

Underlayment is a thin layer of rubber, fiber, or foam between the floor covering above and the subfloor below. The thin layer helps in sound absorption, insulation and reduces wear with your flooring.

It would be best if you laid the underlayment first to give the laminate a smooth surface on which to float to avoid any damage due to friction between the laminate and your sub-floor

Proper selection and installation of underlayment and subfloors are crucial to fair wear and stability.

Purpose of the Underlayment

  • Underlayment smooths subfloor imperfections, as not all subfloors are consistent in levelness.
  • A rigid underlayment can provide the entire floor with better structural stability.
  • Underlayment offers a good surface for ceramic tile to bond to in the cement board.
  • Underlayment prevents sound from transferring from room to room.
  • Some underlayment comes with a built-in vapor barrier that blocks moisture from getting to your floor.
  • Constant traffic can lead to dented areas of your flooring.
  • Provide insulating value to the entire home during seasonal temperature changes.
  • Underlayment is reasonably priced.

What happens if you do not Put Underlayment Under Laminate Flooring?

Floor underlayment is among other efficient products in giving protection and support to new surfaces.

Here is what happens if you don’t put underlayment under laminate flooring.

Excess Groove Wear: Planks of laminate flooring depending on various technology. An example includes tongue-and-groove edges. This gives support that interlocks in between pieces.

Any imperfection that may appear on the subfloor leaves a gap for continuous wear. What happens when a point of weakness is created on the floor system?

The groove connections may start wearing as the years go by due to footsteps and furniture movements. The underlayment comes in to give uncompromising support.

Rough Surfaces: most unsmooth surfaces do not require laminate, which is the top material in the market.

The perfect material for rough surfaces is plywood. It gives a smooth and long service when applied on the floor.

Failure to invest in the subfloor layer could lead to several cosmetic issues associated with it.

Excess Noise: Most people tend to underestimate the laminate underlayment. When they set foot on a new flooring with a subfloor that is bare, and that’s when they see it’s essential.

The privacy and comfort of hotels, apartment complexes, office buildings, condominiums, among others, is essential since many people coexist in one area.

Floors lacking underlayment minimize the acoustical sound effect on dragged items or those dropped across the floor. Random impacts and daily noises also affect the situation.

Cold Floors: You would not like the idea of rising early in the mornings only to set foot on a floor that saps all the warmth from your body.

Most of these subfloors get damp in the cold months. They draw all the warmth from your feet, leaving you as cold as ice.

An example of such floors is concrete which is unforgiving and overly complex. It makes you uncomfortable to step on it all the time.

Moisture Concerns: In basement applications, subfloors are said to wreak damage on various flooring materials because of vapor and moisture

It would be best if you took precautions when installing a vapor barrier. Always use protection while installing a laminate floor.

The measures could be expensive but very efficient since damage caused by moisture can warp, ruining materials.

Sadly, most homeowners choose to budget their money instead of getting a laminate underlayment installed.

How Do I Know If I Need Underlayment for Laminate Flooring?

Underlayment is essential for laminate flooring or engineered natural wood flooring.

Which Period Should the Underlayment Be Installed?

  • If the flooring made of laminate will be sailing above the subfloor
  • When the subfloor has some imperfections
  • In case sound absorption is needed
  • When the installation over a cement sub-floor is being done, and you require moisture protection

Do I require underlayment for laminate flooring over vinyl?

Numerous people ask if laminate flooring can be installed over vinyl flooring. The short answer is yes. It is possible to install laminate flooring over vinyl flooring. However, things should be considered.

  • Check whether the vinyl is level.
  • Assess the Condition of the Vinyl for Hills & Bumps
  • Check whether the vinyl is clear of all fragments
  • Check How Old the Vinyl Is (Asbestos)
  • Measure Humidity Levels with an Electronic Tester
  • Select a Bouncy and Thin Underlayment
  • Examine the Subfloor (Hardwood vs Concrete)

Do You Need Underlayment for Laminate Flooring with Padding?

The main aim of getting an attached pad is not for underlayment used. Therefore, there is no need for an underlayment when pads are attached already.

Is padding the same as underlayment?

Underpading is like underlay positioned right above subfloors. They both function as layers in the middle of new carpeting and subfloors, too. 

Laminate flooring with attached pad needs no separate underlayment. Most underlayment provides extra padding on the floor.

Combining additional padding with an already installed padding on your laminate flooring exposes danger.

Adding unnecessary padding could cause more damage to your floor than good. It could be the reason for the underlayment to wear down quickly and make the surface less stable over time.

You will want to use a vapor barrier to install your laminate flooring underlayment attachment over a cement subfloor.

It does not have any additional padding; hence, it will not pose any danger to your laminate flooring.

Here is a table that analyzes the choices that actual homeowners have made with respect to the underlay for laminate flooring:

Type of Underlayment that Homeowners Used with Laminate FlooringPercentage of Responses
Quiet walk was used by many underneath the laminate. Sound quality is best so that the laminate does not creak when walked on. (click to see the current pricing on Amazon)56
Thick Formica was used with laminate flooring (at least 10mm). Do not use the skinny type that is like photocopy paper. 18
Comfortboost underlayment product is used by some homeowners to add to the softness factor for laminate flooring. It gets great reviews online I noticed. It is a premium product that is 2 mm in thickness. 23
Roberts Underlayment (click for pricing on Amazon) for laminate is for both laminate floorings and for underneath hardwood flooring. It is felt like in texture. 3
data derived from various online forums covering household flooring products

Do I Need Underlayment for Laminate Flooring on Plywood?

When installing laminates on a standard plywood subfloor, do not use a vapor-barrier-type underlayment since the natural wood requires breathing.

Installing a vapor barrier over plywood can trap moisture within the material, leading to mold growth.

Types of Laminate Underlayment

Regular foam underlayment: Comprises a thin layer that acts as a pad between the subfloor and the flooring made of laminate. Often used when installing laminate flooring over a plywood subfloor.

However, please do not use this underlay in high-moisture areas, as it does not offer any vapor barrier characteristics.

Combined foam underlayment: This type combines standard foam with a vapor barrier layer to guard this installation from moisture.

This underlayment is a little more expensive than traditional foam and is appropriate for plywood and concrete subfloors. It is suitable to use in moist locations, such as basements and bathrooms.

Cork underlayment: used in flooring installations where noise reduction is vital regardless of its price.

Do I Need Underlayment for Laminate Flooring Over Hardwood?

You can install laminate flooring directly over hardwood with no necessary preparation. If your laminate has an already built-in underlay, you may install it right on top of the hardwood.

If the new flooring does not have the built-in underlayer, roll out and tape your underlayment to the wood floor and have the laminate installed.

If your hardwood flooring has warps or has waves in it, you will need to flatten it out before you install the laminate.

Do I need underlayment for engineered hardwood flooring?

You require underlayment if you are installing laminate over engineered flooring floats over the subfloor without nails. 

As mentioned earlier, underlayment provides support to a floating floor. You may still find that the flooring still requires a vapor barrier.

Hardwood floor makes an excellent subfloor for laminate if the foundation is firm enough and no serious issues are identified. Such issues could be loose edges or elevation changes.

Mostly a hardwood floor is nailed down and provides a solid surface, so there would be no problem installing the laminate.

Sometimes, the backing for the laminate is attached, making the process even easier.

If your house contains floors of solid hardwood, it would not be a problem to bridge tiny gaps. There is usually no point for underlayment since the imperfections are run over directly.

Tiles made of porcelain and ceramic also get small gaps and holes fast.

According to Northern Life magazine, for the engineered wood floors, you can stain it any color, and it will last many years with the authentic feel and look of solid wood floors.

Still, it offers many similar benefits when compared to laminate flooring, like its use for installing heating under flooring.

It can handle heat and moisture changes better than solid wood, is pet-friendly, and is easier to install.

How to Install Underlayment for Laminate Flooring on Concrete

The procedure of installation differs depending on the several types of tiles and planks made of laminate.

Below are some of the things required for installation:

  • Floorboards are essential in ensuring you have adequate storage in case some are wasted.
  • Choose an Underlayment, depending on the method of installation and the room’s subfloor.
  • Select the tools and accessories required in this process and hire professionals for an efficient job.
  • Select either adhesives or nails, depending on the method of installation that favors you.

Get The Subfloor Ready and Carefully Place the Underlayment.

Getting The Subfloor Ready

Before installation, you need to contemplate getting the subfloor ready first.

  • In case the concrete slab is still fresh, allow it to cure for 30 days prior to the flooring installation.
  •  If there is an already installed concrete slab, check out three things as processes of the method of pre-installation: level, dryness, and cleanliness.
  • Ensure there are no fragments, dust, among other elements that are unwanted on the subfloor.

Make sure the surface is leveled and smooth. In case the subfloor is rough, an issue could arise during installation.

Coming up with the Right Laminate Underlay

Choose an underlay per the subfloor type. If it is concrete, consider the following:

  • Foam barrier: Appropriate if you use an additional vapor barrier. These underlays are amongst the most inexpensive, adaptable, and easy-to-install types of underlayment. Regardless of the savings, they provide excellent cushioning.
  • Vinyl backed: Offers noise cancellation. It also proves moisture provided you have thoroughly closed seams.
  • Felt: in case you are looking for something eco-friendly, felt is a broad selection. The felt underlayment is thicker than foam made from recycled fibers. They are suitable for refining home insulation, sound absorption, and making the floor more comfortable underfoot.
  • Cork: Cork may create a feel that is not super comfortable because of its lack of cushioning but is does eliminate most of the sounds of hard shoes or the moving around of furniture. Also, it is easy to cut even the difference in height between subfloors that are slightly different between rooms.

Placing the Moisture Barrier

The subfloor must be completely dry to avoid causing damage to the laminate planks.

Most people think that moisture cannot penetrate the concrete, but moisture vapor is known to readily penetrate through the slab made of concrete and lead to the flooring made of laminate warping.

Start the installation process by placing a plastic vapor barrier or a barrier suggested by a manufacturer on the subfloor made of concrete.

This process is to keep moisture from entering the flooring made of laminate. You can utilize tape made of vinyl to guard the wall and prevent it from scraping out.

Concrete is harsh and can feel uncomfortable walking on the surface if it lacks padding. In case you need to install floors that are easy to step on, you need to put another layer of padding made of laminate above the vapor barrier.

Final Thoughts

Flooring is essential both on the laminate you install and the underlayment underneath the surface.

Let a professional flooring installer handle it in case you are unsure of installing laminate flooring perfectly.

Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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