Here is all you need to know about flooring underlay and why it is important for a perfect flooring installation.Written by: Yarl Christie
Published on: January 15, 2018
Which Flooring Underlay Do You Need?
When it comes to installing your new floor, there is a lot you need to think about. How will the floor need to be installed? Will you need underlay? These are just a couple of questions you will need to answer.
Underlay can be an important part of the installation process, depending upon the type of floor you choose. Not sure what it is or if you need it? Here, we will reveal everything you need to know about flooring underlay, and why it is important for a good flooring installation.
What is Flooring Underlay?
To put it simply, flooring underlay is a thin layer of cushioning that is placed underneath the floor. Flooring underlay can be made of materials such as foam, sponge, rubber, and from recycled fibres.
These materials provide thermal insulation, which makes them the perfect choice for flooring underlays.
Types of Flooring Underlay Explained
Are you confused about choosing the right type of flooring underlay for your floor? The simple thing to do is to check the type of sub-floor you are dealing with.
If the sub-floor is wooden, any type of flooring underlay can be used. However, if the sub-floor is concrete, you will need an underlay that comes with a built-in Damp Proof Membrane (DPM).
You can also select underlay based upon the benefits it provides. The different types available include:
DPM Underlay - This type of underlay is useful for preventing any moisture from reaching and damaging the floor. It is required for use with concrete subfloors and in high moisture environments.
PU Foam – The most popular type of underlay on offer, PU foam offers excellent performance as well as comfort. It tends to be made up from cut-off pieces of Polyurethane foam and is available in a range of thicknesses and densities.
One of the best features of this type of underlay, is that it can often be reused again and again. This makes it one of the most sustainable types of underlays on the market – perfect for those conscious about their impact on the environment.
Soundproof underlay – If you are worried about the level of noise your new floor will produce then soundproof underlay is ideal. It is designed to minimise noise, providing a quieter and more comfortable feel underfoot.
Thermal underlay – Thermal underlay helps to keep heat inside the home. It comes with a tog rating which represents how much warmth and comfort it will add to the floor.
Crumb or sponge rubber – Crumb rubber underlay is a very dense and durable option. It is designed for high-traffic environments and can retain its shape even when heavy furniture and loads are placed on top of it. They are typically created from used granulated car tyres, making them another eco-friendly option. They boast excellent sound reduction and exceptional durability. However, they are slightly less comfortable than some of the other types available.
Sponge rubber is a more comfortable alternative. It can be found in both waffle and flat patterns and provides great durability.
Rubber waffle – An alternative to foam waffle underlays, rubber waffle products are the most traditional option. They have been used since the 1950’s and they offer the most comfortable design. They are versatile to use and come in a range of different thicknesses.
Felt – Created from recycled fibres, felt underlays are another traditional option. They provide great thermal insulation and offer great comfort underfoot.
Underfloor heating – If you plan on installing your new floor alongside underfloor heating, you will need a specialist type of underlay. This type of underlay is designed to allow for safe heat transfer.
As well as these feature-specific underlays, you can also choose an underlay to suit your specific type of flooring. For example, there are specialist underlays designed to be used with laminate floors only. Likewise, you can invest in LVT underlay. Always choose an underlay that is designed to be used with the type of flooring you are purchasing.
Benefits of Flooring Underlay
Instead of directly installing your flooring over a concrete or wooden sub-floor, it is better to have a layer of underlay beneath it. There are many benefits of installing flooring underlay including:
- Increased Comfort -Apart from providing thermal insulation, flooring underlay also increases the comfort of the floor when walked on.
- Reduction in Noise -Flooring underlay is extremely useful in reducing the noise that is transmitted through the floor. If your flooring is prone to a lot of foot traffic or movement of equipment, you must make sure you have flooring underlay for your office.
- Eliminate Uneven Subfloors- Uneven subfloors can cause a lot of problems when it comes to new floor installations. Fitting an underlay can eliminate this disadvantage completely. A flooring underlay creates a level base for your new floor. You can also choose one made from solid wood fibres to cover uneven subfloors in many homes and offices.
These are some of the main benefits the right underlay can deliver. However, it is important to note that not all floors will need to be installed with an underlay.
Will You Need Underlay?
There are certain times when underlay does not need to be used. The floor you purchase may already come with an underlay attached. Some LVT and SPC floors come complete with their own built-in underlay. So, always check if one comes included before buying an underlay for your floor.
LVT floors do not necessarily need an underlay at all. One should be used when the subfloor is uneven or damp. However, in most cases underlay is not required. If you are not sure whether your flooring type needs an underlay, you can get in touch with our friendly experts who will be happy to advise you. The majority of solid wood and engineered wood flooring is installed on top of underlay. This is because it reduces any uneven parts of the original floorboards. It also helps to minimise any risk of squeaking in the future. Not only that, but it can also reduce noise.
What Are Flooring Specific Underlays?
There are different types of underlays designed specifically for different types of flooring. Luxury vinyl underlays for example, tend to have a thinner design than those made for wood flooring. This is because the floors themselves are thinner than wood and a thicker underlay could impact the effectiveness of the locking system. However, the majority of luxury vinyl floors don’t actually need an underlay unless the manufacturer states otherwise.
Laminate underlay is thicker than luxury vinyl underlay. It is specifically designed to boost warmth, comfort and reduce noise. You’ll want an underlay that measures at least 3mm when installing it with laminate.
Solid and engineered wood underlay is designed to help to improve warmth and comfort, while also absorbing impact from high levels of foot traffic. This can increase the lifespan of the floor. It is worth noting that due to the thickness of solid and engineered wood flooring, an underlay isn’t strictly required. However, it can help you to enhance the comfort and protect against moisture and temperature changes.
It’s always best to choose an underlay designed specifically for the floor you’re investing in.
How To Determine Which Underlay To Use
So, now you’ve had a run down of the different types of underlay on offer, how do you know which is right for you? When selecting the best underlay, you need to consider the following factors:
- Where are you installing the floor?
- Which type of floor are you installing?
- Your main priorities
Where you’ll be installing the floor will make a difference to which underlay you should choose. For example, if you’ll be installing it in a moisture prone area, you’re likely going to need an underlay with a moisture barrier. If you’ll be installing in a high-traffic area or a room which isn’t very soundproof, you’ll want an underlay that reduces sound. So, factor in where you’re installing it to determine the best option.
The type of floor will also make a difference to the type of underlay you should use. Carpets tend to perform best with a PU foam underlay. We also discussed the specific types for laminate and luxury vinyl flooring underlay on offer earlier, so use this to determine which type is well suited to your floor.
Finally, think about your main priorities. Do you need an underlay that simply boosts comfort? Or would you prefer an underlay that offers a range of benefits such as underfloor heating capabilities and sound reduction?
When you are building or renovating your dream home or office, you want nothing but the best. Just like you choose a flooring product that suits your space, you should also choose the right underlay to boost the floor's durability and strength.
When selecting the best underlay to match your new floor, think about the type of flooring you have and the features you need. If you get stuck, you can call our friendly team for advice. Choosing the right underlay is important if you want your flooring to last.
Browse our range of underlay products here.