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Do I Need Underlayment For Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Yes. An underlayment is essential for a variety of surfaces. These include several vinyl flooring options (note that an underlayment is not compatible with thinner vinyl flooring styles). Underlayments also help absorb the sounds of people walking over it and increased comfort underfoot. Besides, it will also enhance the durability of the vinyl floor. 

When you install underlayment on your vinyl flooring, it will ensure that any subtle or little mistakes made within the subfloor layer will not develop into a problem. Underlayment is also instrumental in the acoustic performance of the vinyl floor. For anyone considering a do-it-yourself approach to laying vinyl flooring, this article provides all you need to know about flooring underlayments.

What Is Underlayment?

An underlayment is basically a layer made from foam, rubber or sponge which is placed beneath a flooring. At least a few layers, sometimes four, are needed to install the floors. Here is the breakdown of the four primary layers that make up most floors:

  • Joists: the joist is the first layer beneath the floor. This is also a wooden foundation.
  • Subfloor: are plywood, which is compact and serves as a support for everything.
  • Underlayment: Underlayment is fiberboards, rolls of plywood, or other rolls of material that can function as a buffer between the surface and the subfloor. This ensures stability.
  • Finish floor: These refer to the final product that’s seen, and also you can walk on it. An example is a tile.

The Pros Of Using Pre-Attached Underlayment

  • During installation, it will save you a lot of time and energy from rolling out underlayment.
  • It would help you save cash from not buying separate underlayment.
  • Pre-attached is budget-friendly. Also, many homeowners find it convenient and affordable.

Cons Of Using Pre-Attached Underlayment

  • It can absorb minimum sound from the foot.
  • Repurposed thin foam on the bottom won’t hold up in high traffic areas.
  • The click and lock System is susceptible to moisture seeping through the crack 

The Pros of Separate Underlayment

  • It has a compression resistance, which is ideal for high traffic areas.
  • Separate Underlayment absorbs sound better than the pre-attached underlayment.
  • It can protect an entire floor from moisture.

The Cons Of Separate Underlayment

  • It requires a long time to figure out what underlayment to select for your Vinyl floor.
  • It requires more money to buy underlayment.

Why People Use Underlayment

People use underlayments on the floor because of the comfort it provides under their feet. It also helps to reduce sound and prevent moisture. Comfort may seem like an unusual thing to worry about when it comes to flooring, but it can be tough to walk on concrete and hard surfaces.

Furthermore, underlayments can make a big difference in how it feels to be on your feet all day. Reducing the sound is also a significant factor in the use of underlayments. It’s not just about drowning out the sound of footsteps, but also about all the sounds. 

For example, if you are laying the floor in a child’s room or you have neighbors downstairs, then underlayments can lower the sounds that occur in this space. This means less transmission of sound from room to room and between floors and may be necessary for some apartments.

Some underlayments do not provide moisture barriers. Also, it is not required by all floor situations, but they are useful in several cases. However, when installing floors over concrete, it is essential because groundwater can rise through the concrete and cause mold or damage to the floor. 

Other situations find a moisture barrier beneficial, for example, when the floor is laid in a room by the pool or in a bathroom or kitchen where moisture is common. Having that layer of moisture barrier for spills and frequent moisture means protecting your subfloor in the long run while slowing down any flood damage.

Features to look for in an Underlayment 

Here are the best features of underlayment to consider before you buy one:

i. It should have Anti-microbial properties.

Some underlayments materials have antimicrobial properties that make them safe. For instance, materials like cork have these properties naturally. On the other hand, others, such as fibers, are specifically made to have these properties.

ii. Good Sound Absorption

Vinyl floors require an underlayment that stops the transmission of sound from one room to another. A quiet, peaceful, and silent setting is crucial to your living space, particularly your bedrooms and study rooms. Go for underlayments with a higher rating of sound transmission class (STC) and impact isolation class (IIC).

iii. Moisture and Vapor Protection

Underlayments need to absorb sound, but it should insulate the floor, leaving it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The cork pad is best suited for these applications.

iv. Minimizes subfloor imperfections

The surface of the subfloors is not consistent. Therefore, the best underlayments should help address the roughness of floor surfaces and other imperfections. This will also help reduce the extra preparation time for the subfloor and the additional costs that may be incurred.

v. A good heat insulator

Its heat conductivity determines the thermal rating of any given material. The higher the rating of the underlayment’s thermal value, the less heat can move, making it the best underlayments. It will equally make the floor feel underfoot in winter. 

vi. Certified clean and safe for indoor air quality

You do not want to install underlayments that stink and can trigger allergies. Underlayments should not be smelly or even give off strange odors. Always take time to investigate and see if there is a certification for indoor air quality testing done. This procedure is an excellent way to ensure your family and pets are protected from illnesses.

What Type Of Vinyl Floor Will You Install?

Vinyl is a unique material that can handle tough stains and dents that can cause damage to other floor styles in seconds. This material is ideal in areas where moisture can create issues. It is also available in a wide range of flooring.

Here are variation types of vinyl flooring you can install in your home:

i. Sheet Vinyl

This type of Vinyl has been available for ages. It’s something you’ve probably experienced in your former apartment, and you may have covered or removed during the renovation. The sheet vinyl metal is still in use today, and manufacturers have used several methods to make it much more modern.

However, that doesn’t mean an underlayment is not required for your vinyl flooring. Take, for instance, if there is damage to your vinyl floor, it may become visible over time. There are several types of underlayments for this type of flooring, and we have seen brands with a thin layer of foam attached in advance.

ii. Vinyl Tile

The vinyl type comes in three main styles. They are- with vinyl composition tiles (VCT), peel and stick tile, and luxury vinyl tile. If you decide to use the peel and stick tiles, ensure you stick to the directions so that the surface you are attaching the tiles to is clean and level. Besides, you don’t need underlayment.

iii. Vinyl Plank Flooring

The vinyl plank flooring that is manufactured nowadays can be grouped under the luxury vinyl plank category. This class of Vinyl flooring is entirely manufactured from vinyl and is equally waterproof. Furthermore, there are two variants of luxury vinyl flooring with SPC and WPC planks. Both are unique in their own right.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which type of vinyl should be used in my bathroom?

You should choose a vinyl rated as waterproof (not water-resistant). Although vinyl flooring will not swell like wood, water can get through to the subfloor and cause damage.

Can install a vapor barrier under my vinyl flooring cause any issues?

It will not cause an issue. This is because the vapor barriers are thin sheets of plastic that will not cause separation but retain moisture. Take note that hardwood floors need to breathe.

Is foam-backed vinyl better than cork?

Although it’s less expensive, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is better. The foam-backed vinyl is available in different options. With that in mind, most high-quality brands stick to a backing layer of cork.

Can I purchase LVP without padding attached?

Yes, you can. However, it’s becoming difficult to look for a reason as flooring with pre-attached underlayment is much more in vogue nowadays.

Can you install vinyl flooring with underlayment with a radiant heating system?

When it comes to this aspect, you should seek information from the brand manufacturer that varies from one brand to another.

How thick should underlayment be for vinyl flooring?

The thickness of most vinyl underlayments falls between the range of 1mm to 1.5mm. 

Final Wraps

Finally, an underlayment has several advantages. It can help smoothen subtle imperfections on the surface of your sub-floor. It will provide the vinyl flooring with extra cushion and create a softer feel underfoot. You must also ensure your underlayment is as thin as possible. 

Thicker underlayment will lead to more issues. Don’t forget to put into consideration your floor covering before buying the underlayments for your vinyl floor. Lastly, some floor covering can come with pre-attached underlayment.