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Do I Need Underlayment For Laminate Flooring On Plywood?

Yes, underlayment is needed for laminate flooring. Because laminate is a floating floor and it should be distributed evenly on your sub-floor. The underlayment gives the floor some benefits like stability, support, allows it to float, noise reduction, and maintains the locking systems between the boards to ensure the strongest flooring design. 

Furthermore, there are several different underlayment options, and choosing the right one for your project can become a bit tricky. Nevertheless, the installation of laminate flooring comes are of two common types: glue and glueless. 

The glueless type is more common due to the ease of installation in the home. But the glue kind creates a seal between the boards; this makes it the right choice for parts of the house where spills usually occur.

Homeowners tend to prefer glueless laminate flooring because they can easily be installed without the help of professionals. Also, you can walk on it immediately after installation. 

This type of flooring is called a floating floor because it is not attached to a sub-floor. Instead, an underlayment is usually placed underneath the floor to serve as a sound barrier.

How to Choose Your Underlayment

First, take a look at the sub-floor before determining the kind of underlayment needed for your laminate flooring.

The two most popular subfloors are wood and cement. There are notable features to keep in mind when looking for the right underlayment.

i. Wood Subfloor

A premium underlayment is required to install laminate flooring on a wooden floor. However, if your wood subfloor is quite sturdy, a special underlayment may not be necessary. Also, if the subfloor is a little uneven or cracked, you may want a premium underlayment that has noise cushion and noise reduction features. 

Below are some options to consider:

  • Felt Underlayment
  • Standard Underlayment
  • Silent Underlayment
  • Cork Underlayment

ii. Cement SubFloor

Suppose laminate flooring is installed on a cement subfloor. A vapor underlayment is needed. This helps to protect your flooring from any moisture that may leak from the cement subfloor. One of this underlayment should be used if you are installing in a below ground level installation to help control moisture. Here are some options available:

  • Vapor 2-in-1 Underlayment
  • Vapor 3-in-1 Underlayment
  • Silent Underlayment
  • Cork Underlayment
  • Felt Underlayment

iii. Location

Location is a big concern, particularly if you are installing floors in an apartment or flat. Nothing could be much truer, mainly if your apartment is above ground level. Hence to ensure the reduction of noise pollution for neighbors below you, choose a 3-in-1 underlayment and look for the ratings of the sound transmission or impact insulation rating. Your HOA or lease agreement may also make you have a foam underlayment with a specific sound rating.

iv. Thermal ratings

Underlayment usually comes with a thermal rating. It is commonly referred to as the R-value. The R-value (thermal rating) determines how well the underlayment of the laminate floor will conduct heat. Less heat will pass through it if it has a higher value. It is also beneficial for homes with a radiant heating system.

vi. Budget

The underlayment is usually sold in rolls or square footage with a varying price tag. Regarding the project size, you can choose to buy either by rolls or per square foot. The type of features and model you select will ultimately affect how much you pay for the underlayment. You can find high-quality underlayments for less than $ .15 / sq ft.

Types of Laminate Underlayment

There is a wide range of underlayment products available in the market today. The basic ones include:

2 in 1 Vapor Underlayment: The 2 in 1 Vapor Underlayment is manufactured from 3mm polyethylene underlayment and is perfect for necessary installation. It combines a moisture barrier with a standard layer making it well suited for installing.

3 in 1 Vapor Underlayment: This type of underlayment is perfect for thin floors. It’s a thick 2mm underlayment that gives protection against sound, moisture, and minor subfloor leveling.

3 in 1 Silent Vapor Barrier Underlayment: The 3 in 1 Silent Vapor Barrier Underlayment is a silent collection with protective layers that neutralize the sound when walking on it. There are a variety of brands or models to select from in this category.

Vapor Block Film: This type of underlayments is used to block moisture. Also, it is well suited for flooring where the underlayment has been previously fixed, either under a vinyl or hardwood floor. Also, you can use this with another underlayment.

Cork Underlayment: This underlayment is not just natural, but it is equally hypoallergenic and is suitable for WPC vinyl, laminate, and engineered hardwood. It also prevents mold, mildew, moisture, offers thermal properties, and cushion. It is available in so many options. Hence you may not be sure which one is suitable for your new floors. 

Standard Foam Underlayment: Standard Foam Underlayment is suited for plywood or OSB subfloors where moisture is not a factor. It is also one of the basic underlayments available.

Benefits of Having Underlayment On Laminate Flooring

i. Sound absorption: This will reduce noise by transmitting sound through airwaves or even impacting the room below or above. This is an ideal fit for people who want to reduce noise to a minimum.

ii. Compression resistance: This provides a solid foundation for your laminate floor. If you decide not to install the underlayment, just imagine walking on a wooden surface. It will feel tough and can create sounds as a result of two hard surfaces hitting together.

iii. Insulation: This value allows for your desired temperature to be sustained in the room. When underlayment is absent, then the air cannot escape from the subfloor.

iv. Moisture protection: Moisture protection may not be required by laminate flooring because most plywood subfloor is usually placed on the primary or second level of the house. However, if the main level of the house is above the crawl space, it is recommended that you seal the space properly. Otherwise, the vapor barrier will block moisture from your floor, but not the plywood base, which allows it to rot.

Do You Require Underlayment For Laminate Flooring Over Vinyl?

As a result of the design of vinyl floors, it is usually not necessary for the underlayment. In most cases, there is a base coat when a vinyl floor is used. And it is sufficient to serve the purpose. So no extra pad is needed. Also, vinyl floors are very cheap. Besides, it does not require a special underlay; the total cost is even reduced. So, this is a great sought-after option for people who are not aware of the budget.

Do You Need Underlayment For Laminate Flooring With The Attached Pad?

The primary reason for attaching the pads is not to use an underlayment. Hence there is no need for underlayments when you already have pads attached. Keep in mind that if you still decide to use an underlay with attached pads, then you are likely to have overspent.

 Also, this will lead to damage during the installation of the laminate. Sometimes, however, there is no moisture barrier with the pads attached. In this case, just purchase one to get under the laminate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You use the carpet for my laminate flooring underlayment?

No. Ensure you remove these items before the installation process. There is no way to install these items.

What goes under laminate flooring on plywood?

The normal choice is a thin material made of polypropylene or polyethylene or pads rolled into sheets. 

Is there a quality distinction in laminate flooring underlayment?

Sure there is a difference. That’s why it’s highly recommended that you spend as much as you can afford on the underlayments. This is because performance generally corresponds with the price of the underlays. White underlayments are usually the cheapest and do not perform well.

Final Thoughts

In laminate flooring installations, the underlayments are a thin and flexible rack of elastic material placed on the subfloor to serve as a base for the laminate boards or tiles you lay down.

The subfloor provides primary support to the room. Meanwhile, it is the underlayments that support the flooring material itself, which is meant to enhance and protect the floor.

Besides, not all floors are entirely flat, so the underlayments can hide tiny imperfections, giving your room an almost perfect look.

It’s essential to select the right floor underlayments. You must note buying a cheaper “foam” carpet can wear out over time (air bubbles that emerge / run) and leave a very thin product (thin paper) behind. The impact of your walking can also be absorbed by underlay, thereby giving you a better walking experience.