If you have just bought a home and are thinking about what floor to install or have been meaning to change your flooring for years, there are so many options that are available in the market.
One of the flooring options that has become popular with homeowners is premium laminate flooring. Laminate is durable and can be installed in almost every room in the house.
Top 5 Laminate Underlayments (Summary)
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|Roberts Black Jack||
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For more detailed and complete product reviews on benefits and features, keep reading.
However, there is so much more that goes into laminate installation other than laying the planks. If you are thinking about installing laminate flooring, then you need an underlayment if your floor is to serve you for years without warping.
What Is a Laminate Underlayment
When you are installing any kind of floor, an underlayment is necessary if you are to get the best results and if that floor is laminate, then underlayment is a must-have.
Underlayment is a thin layer of wood that is meant to create a buffer between the floor and the subfloor to reduce wear and tear.
To reduce installation time, laminate floor manufacturers today create laminate that comes with an underlayment already attached.
Since this extra layer is already built into the laminate directly, you can install the flooring on a prepared floor of any building.
The reason why many homeowners are opting for laminate is that once installed, it gives the home that look and feel of hardwood without spending too much or worrying about the maintenance concerns that come with hardwood.
Benefits of a Laminate Underlayment
Just like a stick vacuum is great for cleaning hard-to-access areas or vacuums for stairs are usually easy to maneuver, when it comes to laminate flooring, an underlayment is a must-have. Here are a few benefits of using an underlayment on laminate flooring:
Corrects Minor Imperfections
Naturally, subfloors are not always flat and flawless. Once exposed, when an existing floor has been removed, subfloors are usually dotted with pits, nail holes, grooves, splinters as well as gaps.
The reason why an underlayment is necessary when you are installing laminate flooring is to hide some, if not all, of these imperfections to have a flat floor.
If there is no underlayment, laminate flooring tends to expose some of these imperfections which could lead to damage to the floor eventually.
When you are installing laminate flooring on top of hard surfaces like concrete, you need the extra padding that an underlayment provides so that the floor is soft to walk on.
Wood subflooring, on the other hand, has enough flexibility and, in such a case, an underlayment will only soften the surface slightly but the same can’t be said about brick, concrete and other hard surfaces.
Laminate flooring is very thin and you need an underlayment if you want it to feel like hardwood flooring. In such a case, you need to consider issues with sound transmission.
With hardwood flooring, the reason you don’t need an underlayment is that solid hardwood is dense, so the sound transmission is minimal and it can be installed upstairs.
Laminate flooring, on the other hand, has neither the density nor the thickness of hardwood and it is usually about 12mm thick and made of low-density fiberboard.
Because of that, an underlayment is necessary if you are to avoid any noise when the floor is stepped on.
One of the main concerns with any floor is moisture making its way upward to the surface floor and ruining it. This can happen with laminate, especially when installing it over a concrete slab, cement board or tile.
If moisture migrates upward, laminate tends to warp and you may need to replace the entire floor within a short time.
To prevent this, you need an underlayment when installing it. A foam underlayment will inhibit moisture but others require a separate polypropylene vapor barrier
How Does a Laminate Underlayment Work
When installing laminate flooring, an underlayment is important for several reasons.
Laminate is thin, usually 12mm and even though it is designed to mimic hardwood flooring without spending too much or worrying about maintenance, it still needs an underlayment.
Laminate underlayment works as a vapor barrier to prevent moisture from seeping from the subfloor and damaging your floor.
It also adds the thickness that is required to absorb sound and soften the fall. Additionally, the underlayment acts as a barrier to hide the imperfections of the subfloor that could end up damaging your laminate in the end.
Pros and Cons of a Laminate Underlayment
If you are thinking about installing laminate flooring, then you know just how important an underlayment is.
However, the underlayment has some advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider to decide whether to continue installing laminate or go with another flooring option like hardwood.
- Easiest to install as long as the subfloor is smooth.
- Trimming laminate with an underlayment is easy and doesn’t require a lot of tools.
- Easier to clean since all you require is a broom, the best mop for laminate floors or a specialized vacuum cleaner for laminate flooring.
- As long as there is an underlayment, laminate can be installed even in high moisture areas like the bathroom, kitchen, basement and garage without worrying about the floor warping after some time.
- Creates a floor that is strong, unlike wooden floors that tend to dent with impact.
- Can be installed on almost all types of surfaces including hard surfaces like concrete.
- While an underlayment makes laminate easy to install even in high moisture areas, it doesn’t give you waterproof protection and you may still need to worry about moisture damage.
- While it is made to look and feel like hardwood flooring, laminate requires you to correct damages and you may be forced to replace the entire floor whether there is an underlayment or not.
- Doesn’t improve the resale value of your home should you decide to sell one day unlike with hardwood flooring.
- You still need to install a moisture barrier especially in high moisture areas like the bathroom or basement.
Types of Underlayment for Laminate
There are different types of underlayment for laminate in the market that you need to choose from. Whatever you go with will depend on your personal preference and where you want to install the floor.
This underlayment consists of a thin foam layer that provides cushioning between your flooring and the subfloor and it is the most common option.
Normally, a foam underlayment is used when you are installing laminate over OSB subfloor or plywood.
Despite this, it is not suitable for use in high moisture areas since it doesn’t offer any vapor barrier properties and it is installed by rolling it over a subfloor.
This underlayment is installed where noise reduction is important like in upstairs rooms. It is one of the most expensive options that sometimes can add over 50 percent to the cost of the installation.
While cork underlayment doesn’t provide any added comfort or cushioning underneath the laminate, it comes in handy when you want to level out uneven surfaces between the rooms.
Additionally, it has antimicrobial properties and can be installed in homes with pets as well as little kids.
This is another commonly used underlayment. Rubber has the best sound absorption qualities.
It can be installed above almost every subfloor and in any room in the house. It is easy to install since it can be taped, glued, laid or stapled to the subfloor.
While it can be installed in almost every room in the house, you will still be forced to add a moisture barrier in high moisture areas like the basement or bathroom.
A rubber cork underlayment is made from recycled cork and rubber that offer low-cost underlay that helps in sound absorption once installed.
This combination of underlay is made specifically to crack suppression while still offering the desired comfort underfoot.
It can be installed under almost all flooring types but it works best when used underneath tile or hardwood flooring.
Premium felt underlayment is designed to offer good sound reduction properties while providing the much-needed comfort underfoot.
The 3mm underlayment comes with a vapor barrier such that your laminate floor is protected from moisture damage.
In such a case, it can be installed in all rooms in the house including basements, kitchens and bathrooms without worrying about moisture damaging your floor.
Just as the name suggests, this kind of underlayment combines standard foam with a vapor barrier layer that helps protect your floor from moisture.
More expensive than standard foam underlayment, this item can be installed on concrete, OSB and plywood subfloors.
Since it has a moisture barrier, it can be installed in high moisture areas like bathrooms and basements.
Laminate Underlayment Over Different Subfloors
Laminate flooring can be installed anywhere in the house but it requires an underlayment if the floor is to last long.
However, laminate underlayment performs differently when installed over different subfloors.
Laminate Underlayment Over a Concrete Subfloor
When you are installing laminate underlayment over a concrete subfloor, one of the main issues that you should be concerned with is the moisture.
Concrete is porous and allows water moisture to seep up into it and finally to the flooring.
This causes the adhesive to loosen mold and mildew to develop and, worse, the planks can warp forcing you to replace your entire floor.
If you have a concrete subfloor, you need to get an underlayment that has a vapor barrier or acts as a vapor barrier so that moisture doesn’t penetrate through to your floor.
The best option is a thick foam pad that is made of polyurethane that doesn’t take much time to dry or the kind that rolls out in sheets.
Laminate Underlayment Over a Plywood Subfloor
When you are installing laminate flooring over OSB or plywood subfloor, you need a breathable foam underlayment.
In most cases, when you are installing laminate over plywood, the last thing you want is a vapor barrier type since wood naturally needs to breathe.
Installing a vapor barrier over a plywood subfloor will cause moisture to be trapped within the material which causes mold and mildew growth and can lead to warping of the laminate.
The only exception is when you want to install laminate over high moisture areas like basements and bathrooms where a moisture barrier is needed.
What Makes the Best Laminate Underlayment
There are so many underlayment products in the market to choose from when you want to get one for your laminate flooring hence why you need to know the features to look for.
R-Value or Heat Conductivity
R-value refers to the heat conductivity of any material. The higher the R-value of a given underlayment, the less likely it will be for heat to move through it.
A lower R-value, on the other hand, means less insulation. An underlay that has a higher R-value will feel warmer underfoot especially during cold seasons.
Laminate flooring, when compared to hardwood, is usually very thin, with a thickness of about 12 mm which is the main reason why you need an underlayment.
An underlayment reduces noise underfoot which is very important when laminate has been installed in upstairs rooms.
There is underlayment that has antimicrobial properties which add to the health of your laminate flooring.
Such underlayment includes cork that has these properties naturally but with some other products, the properties have to be added.
Laminate flooring is not waterproof and for that reason, it is best not to install it in high moisture areas like the kitchen, bathroom or basement.
Underlayment helps with this and prevents water from seeping from the subfloor to the laminate flooring causing it to warp or develop mold and mildew growth.
Some underlayments, especially the ones that have vapor barriers are way better but then it depends on the kind of subfloor you will be installing your underlay on.
While hardwood floors look and feel good, they dent easily with impact. Laminate flooring, on the other hand, is not as strong but once an underlayment has been added, it offers that added floor support and makes the floor even stronger.
Added Floor Softness
Since laminate flooring is thin, when installed over concrete or other hard surfaces, the floor may feel hard underfoot.
An underlayment is added in between the laminate and the subfloor and adds cushioning that makes the floor soft to step on.
Increased Floor Longevity
The laminate floor, when installed without an underlayment, will not last as long since it is susceptible to moisture damage.
An underlayment, especially the ones that come with a vapor barrier, increase the life of your laminate and make it possible to install the floor even in kitchens and bathrooms.
Increased Floor Warmth
Since laminate is thin, if there is no underlay, the floor may feel cold to step on which can be very uncomfortable.
Since the underlayment goes between the floor and the subfloor, the floor feels warm to step on especially with rubber or felt.
Hidden Subfloor Imperfections
Subfloors, as mentioned, are never perfect and when a floor is installed, it may start warping due to these imperfections.
An underlayment helps hide such imperfections in such a way that the floor looks and feels flat underfoot.
11 Best Laminate Underlayments Reviewed
Floorlot Laminate Underlayment is a product that helps to protect your floors and increase their longevity. It can be used for various types of flooring including hardwood, bamboo and engineered wood as well.
It is outfitted with an extra thick PE plastic film and an overlap. These additions serve as a barrier against moisture and help to prevent water damage.
It is thick enough to absorb sounds from heavy foot traffic and also helps minimize sounds produced by hollow floors. The 3mm thick cushioned product smooths out minor irregularities in the subfloor.
Built-in adhesive strips can be used to seal the product to the floor. This provides a leak-proof seal and makes installation quick and easy.
- Has noise-reducing features
- Moisture barrier
- Inbuilt adhesive seals for easy installation
- Might be prone to rips and tears
Roberts 70-193A Underlayment is made to protect your original floors and keep them looking new. It can be used on engineered wood, laminate flooring and concrete subfloors.
This product is made from recycled fibers compressed together to form a thick underlayment. It absorbs noise instead of deflecting it, thereby helping to reduce noise transmission.
It protects the flooring from getting damaged and also prevents buildup of moisture. It reduces the risk of mold and mildew forming on the base floors.
Adhesive strips are attached to it, allowing you to install the underlayment without the need for extra tape. It also includes a small overlap for easy linking of multiple rolls.
- Absorbs noise
- Prevents buildup of moisture
- Easy to use
- Moisture barrier might tear up during installation
Roberts Black Jack is a premium product that will help your floors last for a long time. It is suitable for all types of subflooring, laminate and engineered wood floors.
It has a 2.5mm thick foam layer that provides optimum cushioning. The foam has a closed cell design that provides excellent breathability.
The cushioned layer provides optimal sound absorption, even in areas with high foot traffic. It also helps to level subtle subfloor imperfections.
The 4-inch adhesive strips help to seal moisture, hence preventing the formation of mold and mildew. One roll of the product is enough to cover up to 100 square feet.
- Has a foam layer for optimum cushioning
- Offers adequate sound reduction
- Keeps out moisture
- Foam layer might be prone to tears
Roberts First Step is designed to be used on engineered wood, concrete slabs, laminate and other subfloors. It is packed with a variety of features that provide optimum protection for your floors.
Styrofoam beads are placed between the top and bottom layers which are made of plastic. These beads allow for constant air circulation which helps to prevent the growth of mold.
It features a unique Gold Guard antimicrobial protection and helps to protect floors from damage by moisture. Its adhesive strips seal it to the subfloor, thereby keeping moisture out.
It absorbs all sounds and reduces noise and can correct minor imperfections on subfloors. It can be used on floors with radiant heating.
- Has antimicrobial protection and prevents the growth of mold
- Seals out moisture
- Has noise reduction properties
- Might require a lot of effort to cut and install
Roberts Serenity Underlayment is a premium option for protecting your floors. It is made mainly for use under wood subfloors, laminate and engineered wood flooring.
Designed with thick polyethylene foam for added cushioning, it helps to smooth out small irregularities on subfloors.
It helps to keep out vapor and moisture from subfloors and has features that allow it to absorb noise.
Adhesive strips are attached to the base for easy placement. It can be sealed to the floor firmly and used with radiant floor heating.
- Helps to smooth out minor irregularities on subfloors
- Keeps out vapor and moisture
- Can be used on floors with radiant heating
- Does not have inbuilt adhesive strips
MP Global Products Underlayment provides sturdy support for your laminate, engineered wood and vinyl plank floors. It does not give off any harmful emissions and is, therefore, safe for use in homes.
It is made with dense recycled fibers that provide adequate support and installed with a simple click-together mechanism that holds its position even under consistent traffic.
The fibers absorb sound and keep it from traveling to other rooms. It can manage the vapor given off from concrete, thereby preventing it from building up.
A vapor barrier prevents moisture from getting to the overlying floor. It is suitable for in-floor radiant heat systems as it allows heat to permeate evenly. It also helps to prevent thermal shock on the surface material.
- Can hold up to consistent heavy traffic
- Prevents moisture from getting to the overlying floor
- Allows heat to permeate evenly on radiant heat systems
- Might not be able to absorb all noises
Bestlaminate Underlayment is suitable for wood and cement slab subfloors. It can also be used for laminate and engineered floating floors.
The product is 2mm thick and includes a vapor barrier that keeps moisture out of surface flooring. It provides enough cushioning and moisture protection.
The inbuilt adhesive tapes allow for easy installation and also help to keep water out. It has an overlap that makes it easy to join rolls together.
It eliminates noise generated from foot traffic and provides a soft and smooth base for installation of overlying floors.
- Vapor barrier
- Inbuilt adhesive tapes for quick installation
- Has noise reduction features
- Vapor barrier layer might rip easily during installation
Roberts Unison Underlayment helps to reduce the amount of damage that might happen to floors. It can be used to cover laminate and floating wood floors.
It has a significant heat flow resistance and can be used over floors with radiant heating. With its thick top film, it provides protection from harmful vapor.
The foam layer adequately absorbs all noise and keeps its position under heavy impact. It also helps to level small subfloor imperfections.
Each roll has an overlapping edge that firmly grips onto adjoining rolls. It stays sealed up and aligned after it has been installed.
- Has adequate heat flow resistance
- Offers protection from moisture
- Joints remain sealed up and joined under heavy impac
- Might get wrinkled easily
FloorMuffler UltraSeal Underlayment is a thick product that has a moisture barrier layer. It provides protection for concrete and wood subfloors.
It can be used in residential and commercial spaces and has premium acoustic protection, thereby it reduces reflective noise and also stops sounds from being transmitted through floors.
Made with materials that prevent buildup of moisture, this product is also resistant to the growth of mildew and mold.
It has adhesive tapes running along the edges and a self-sealing overlap installation system for quick and effortless set up.
- Absorbs noise and reduces transmission of sound
- Resistant to buildup of mold and mildew
- Effortless to set up
- Foam layer might be prone to tears while it is being installed
QuietWalk Laminate Underlayment is ideal for use in the home as it does not give off any chemical smell. It can be used with more than 10 types of flooring including floating wood and vinyl tiles, glue down wood and laminate floors.
The roll can be easily laid down flat without forming ripples or waves. It can be easily cut with a utility knife and requires no expertise to install.
It can absorb a substantial amount of moisture preventing water damage. It prevents vapor from building up with its inbuilt vapor barrier.
The fibers of the product are treated with antimicrobial solutions to prevent the presence of mildew. It has optimal sound reduction features.
- Lays flat without forming ripples
- Absorbs moisture
- Has antimicrobial features that keep out mildew
- Inbuilt adhesive strips might not provide a firm seal
Floorlot Gold Underlayment is a premium product that will protect your floors for years. It can be applied in both residential and commercial spaces.
It has an inbuilt vapor barrier that provides excellent protection from moisture. The inlaid vapor ridges keep moisture away while the overlap and adhesive tapes form a strong seal.
This product helps to reduce noise in spaces with lots of activities. It also helps to minimize the hollow sound that is present in floating floors. It is thick enough to provide a smooth and cushioned surface on subfloors.
A grid pattern is printed on the surface for accuracy while cutting. It provides thermal insulation that makes floors comfortable to walk on.
- Has inbuilt vapor barrier
- Reduces noise significantly
- Easy to install
- Gold foil on the surface might rip off easily
How To Install a Laminate Underlayment
Step 1 – Unroll the underlayment
When you buy an underlayment, it has a plastic strip on one end that is meant to go against the wall such that it will be covered by the baseboard and the other end has adhesive tape strips.
Unroll each piece so that the clear plastic ends lie on top of the adhesive strip and two white pieces of foam are butted against each other.
Step 2 – Run the underlay
Run the first sheet next to the longest wall and the plastic strip 4 inches up the wall.
Step 3 – Cover the floor
Ensure that the next shit butts right up against the very first sheet with the plastic edge overlapping.
Peel back the adhesive tape covering and smooth the plastic edge of the second sheet onto the tape of the first.
Do this until the entire floor is covered with a small gap remaining between the underlayment and the walls.
Step 4 – Remove the excess and cut the boards
Using a razor knife, remove the excess underlayment around vents or corners and then proceed to cut the boards.
Every board has a tongue and groove side. Cut the tongue off the long sides as well as a short side when you are installing in the corners.
Step 5 – Install spacers
When you are installing board around the openings of doors, you need to put a spacer to see how much to cut off the boards. Start installing the board on the second row using a shorter piece so that the seams don’t meet.
Step 6 – Put the laminate planks in place
Using a pull bar, tap the last planks in place and stagger the joints for the perfect natural look. Finally, slide the planks in place after removing the spacers and then put them back to maintain that gap.
How to Maintain a Laminate Underlayment
While laminate flooring doesn’t need the same maintenance as hardwood flooring, you still need to take care of your floor, especially the underlayment.
Step 1 – Sweep dust and debris
A laminate floor is susceptible to scratching. This being said, to remove dust and debris, ensure that you use a soft bristle broom or a microfiber mop that’s lightweight and easy to use.
You could also use a vacuum cleaner that can remove all the pet hair from furniture and floor and ensure that the vacuum doesn’t have a beater or rotating brush that can scratch the floor.
Step 2 – Limit the water
With a laminate underlayment, you cannot afford to mop the floor as you would normally do or use a steam mop for all types of tiles since water tends to seep through the planks and can damage them in the end.
Step 3 – Avoid cleaning products
Just like a spray mop uses steam when cleaning, cleaning products will leave streaks and residue on the floor that can damage the protective sealant of your floor.
Step 4 – Protect the surface
To protect your floor from scratches and denting, add furniture pads after cleaning under the legs of chairs and tables. You could also use protective rags and mats.
Important Laminate Underlayment Terms
When you are buying laminate underlayment, here are a few terms that you should be familiar with:
STC & IIC
Impact Isolation Class (IIC) and Sound Transmission Class (STC) are tests for sound traveling through the floor assembly from an upper floor to a lower one.
IIC testing impacts noise from footfalls, moving furniture and anything dropping on the floor while STC is for airborne noises from music or voice.
Thermal ratings of a subfloor are measured in terms of the R-value where the higher the R-value the less likely it will be for heat to move through the subfloor and such an underlay will feel warmer underfoot especially during winter.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
When you are buying laminate underlay, more quality does mean more quality. Laminate flooring without an underlayment means the floor is susceptible to water damage, noise and may feel cold underfoot.
The last you want is to buy low-quality underlayment that will end up damaging your floor if water ends up seeping through, just because you want to spend as little as possible.
While you don’t need to break the bank for an underlayment, look for features such as sound absorption, STC & IIC ratings, moisture protection, higher R-value and floor support.
Do’s and Don’ts to Do With a Laminate Underlayment
- Do add a vapor barrier in high moisture areas like the bathroom and basement.
- Do go for an underlayment that has a higher R-value because this means that the floor will be warm underfoot during winter months.
- Don’t install an underlayment on a wet subfloor as the moisture will still seep through to the planks.
- Don’t use cleaning products on the laminate floor as they end up leaving streaks that can damage the protective sealant of the floor. Instead, use a durable Shark vacuum or a damp mop to remove dirt.
Frequently Asked Questions About Laminate Underlayment
What type of underlayment is best for laminate flooring?
The best underlayment for a laminate floor is a thin foam pad that is made of polypropylene or polyethylene or a breathable foam type underlayment when you’re installing it over plywood subfloors.
What side of the foam or cork needs to be on the bottom of the cement or wood to prevent moisture from affecting the top wood laminate layer?
When you are installing foam or cork underlayment, it doesn’t matter what side goes at the bottom since it is not indicated on the box.
Do I need underlayment for laminate flooring on plywood?
Yes, you do, but get a breathable foam type of underlayment for plywood since like hardwood flooring, plywood needs to breathe to prevent the growth of mold and mildew and warping of the planks.
Does laminate flooring with attached padding still need underlayment?
The answer is no. You can, however, add a vapor barrier if you are installing the laminate in high moisture areas.
What if my laminate has pre-attached underlayment?
If the laminate has a pre-attached underlayment, it makes installation easy, since all you need is to lay the planks directly on the subfloor.
What is the purpose of underlayment for laminate flooring?
An underlayment helps absorb sound underfoot, keep the floor warm and the most important purpose is to prevent moisture from seeping through to the laminate planks.
How thick should laminate underlayment be?
The standard underlayment or laminate floors is 3mm which is usually enough even for installation over wood subfloors.
Does underlayment have crack suppression?
It depends on the type of underlayment. Cork, rubber and rubber cork all offer crack suppression.
Laminate flooring continues to grow in popularity as an ideal flooring option that is cheaper than hardwood flooring. It is easy to install, clean and you never have to worry about the kind of maintenance that is required with hardwood flooring.
Installation of laminate floors, however, requires an underlayment since these floors are thin and may get damaged by water. The underlayment is meant to help in sound absorption, thermal insulation and prevent moisture from seeping through to the planks.
Photo from: welcomia / depositphotos.com.