Flooring Underlayment – Four Questions to Help Identify the Best Solution for You
There are a number of floor underlayment products available on the market today and each product is designed for a specific purpose. So how do you know what underlayment is right for you? Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to help you best identify what underlayment product would be the right fit for you.
1. What is your purpose for the underlayment?
-Underlayment is used for a variety of reasons. Foam Underlay can be used to add cushion under carpet. Polyvinyl and plastic underlay can be used to provide a moisture barrier under hardwood flooring systems. Cork and rubber underlayment offer the best solution for dampening sound transmission between floor levels and cork simultaneously acts as an excellent insulator against temperature transmission. Recycled cotton and fiber underlayment products help to decrease sound transmission a little bit but also do an excellent job insulating against temperature transmission.
2. What kind of flooring are you going to install your underlayment under?
- For carpet, you will almost always use a foam carpet pad of which there are many different grades. For Ceramic tile flooring where a thinset is used to adhere down the tiles, the best solution is a cork underlay or a combination rubber/cork product. You can also install ceramic tiles directly over plywood or a cement board. The reason for this is that thinset mortar sticks well to cork, wood, and cement but not much else. When installing hardwood, laminate, or engineered wood flooring, the best underlayments are rubber, cork, and fibrous underlayment. These underlays do not have as much give as foam and therefore do not flex underneath adjacent planks of flooring. There are some extra dense grades of foam that can work under wood floors but they are usually not as durable as cork, rubber, or fibrous underlays. For vinyl flooring, cork, rubber, a cork rubber blend, and plywood can all be used as an underlayment.
3. What kind of sub-floor are you installing your flooring on?
-If you are installing over concrete at ground or sub ground levels where moisture can be present, a moisture barrier would be needed to make sure any wood flooring did not absorb the moisture, expand, and buckle upwards. Some cork underlayments have moisture barriers built into them and of course a plastic or poly vinyl underlay would also work in this situation. If you are installing on concrete or wood at above ground levels where moisture is not a threat, then a moisture barrier would not be needed.
4. Is price a factor?
-The average price of underlayment by material from cheapest to most expensive generally goes: Foam, plastic or polyvinyl, rubber, plywood or OSB board, fibrous, cork, and cement board. However, there can be some fluctuations based on the features the underlayment has (i.e. a built in moisture barrier), the thickness of the underlayment, and the way the underlayment is constructed (rolled underlayment is usually less expensive than sheet underlayment as an example).
As you can see, there are a wide variety of options when looking for an underlayment to put under your flooring. Before making any decision, we recommend that you identify exactly what features you desire out of your underlayment and how the underlay will be used. If sound proofing your floor or insulating your floor from cold sub floors is important to you, we recommend one of our own cork or rubber products. However, if you are looking for something different, we hope this quick guide has helped point you in the right direction. Also, if you have any other comments or advice that would be helpful to our readers, please comment below. Thanks for reading.