The Importance of Underlayment for Laminate Flooring
Sometimes, the things you can't see are as important as what you can see. Take laminate flooring underlayment.
We all admire the beauty, the faithful reproduction of natural wood or stone, the texture and the luster of a laminate floor because we can see and feel it. Equally important is the underlayment; it's underneath the laminate flooring and you can't see it once the floor has been installed.
So why is underlayment so important for laminate flooring? We recently recorded Brad Young, laminate flooring installation expert for Kronotex USA, as he discussed the importance of underlayment at the Kronotex USA Atlanta, GA warehouse. In this brief 2 min. video, Brad explains why underlayment matters so much to a successful laminate flooring installation.
What is laminate flooring underlayment?
Underlayment or "padding" (as it's often called) is the spongy soft, closed-cell plastic foam sheet that comes in rolls. Before installing a laminate floor, the underlayment is unrolled so as to lay underneath a floating floor such as laminate flooring. Flooring planks are installed on top of the underlayment. In other words, underlayment goes between the actual laminate flooring planks and the subfloor.
Very often, particularly where conditions warrant, such as a below grade installation (e.g., a basement concrete floor), a vapor barrier is recommended in addition to the underlayment. That vapor barrier would go between the subfloor and the underlayment.
"Combination underlayments" as described on learn.builddirect.com, include an attached vapor barrier. Some laminate flooring planks come with the underlayment attached to each plank. Underlayment is not optional. If your laminate planks don't have it already attached, you will need to purchase rolls of underlayment to install your laminate floor on.
Is laminate flooring underlayment important?
Its importance can't be overstated! INSTALLFloors.org says "Underlayment and subfloors are, arguably, the most important aspect of any flooring project in both residential and commercial settings. Proper selection and installation of underlayments and subfloors is crucial to the proper wear and stability of any flooring." (INSTALL stands for International Standards and Training Alliance.)
How does laminate flooring underlayment work?
As Brad points out, underlayment does two things that are critical to a successful laminate flooring installation:
1. Underlayment takes out any minor deviations in the subfloor
2. Underlayment delivers superior acoustical performance
Brad states that underlayment "is not optional". If your laminate flooring planks already have an underlayment pad attached "do not use additional underlayment because doing so will void your Kronotex USA warranty."
What sizes do laminate flooring underlayment come in?
According to homerenovations.about.com, "Laminate underlayment is foam that comes in rolls that are usually about 3 feet wide and between 30 and 100 feet long. Thicknesses range from 6 mil. to 8 mil."
Vapor barriers and laminate flooring underlayment
If your installation is over concrete, Brad recommends a 6 mil. poly vapor barrier – even if the underlayment you are installing already has a vapor barrier attached.
Why? Because unintended nicks or tears during the installation process can violate the integrity of the attached vapor barrier. Adding another vapor barrier is "an extra level of protection" according to Brad.
Will carpet or carpet padding work like a laminate flooring underlayment?
No, absolutely not! As we point out in our kronotexusa.com FAQs,
"Our product can not be installed over carpet or carpet pad so these items must be removed prior to installation. This is for the same reason adding additional pad is not recommended."
Is there a quality difference in laminate flooring underlayment?
Yes. Brad recommends spending as much on underlayment as you can afford, because performance generally follows price in underlayments. The white underlayments are usually the least expensive and don't perform as well.
Watch Brad's Video on laminate flooring underlayment
(Note: You'll find more helpful videos about laminate flooring installation on the Kronotex USA Technical Video Page or on the Kronotex USA YouTube Channel.)
Have any other questions about the importance of underlayment for laminate flooring? Let us know!
-- The Kronotex USA Blog Team