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Underlayments for Laminate Floors

by Crystal Hosking - Hosking Hardwood Flooring, Inc. © 2014, Copyright Protected. All Rights Reserved

Any laminate floor you find these days is most likely going to feature some sort of click locking tongue and groove technology. These click locking laminate floors are perfect for quick and easy installation. There's no glue involved --- you literally just snap the boards together over an underlayment and you're done.

But what kind of underlayment should you be using underneath your new laminate floor?

All underlayments for laminate floating installations cover some basic essentials. Firstly, an underlayment is going to offer protection from the subfloor. Since laminate floor boards click together and once installed together will act as a whole unit rather than single boards, the entire floor will minimally shift back and forth as one singular entity. When this happens, it's important to have a smooth and even layer of something underneath the boards, so the underside of the laminate is not damaged. Underlayments help to smooth out subfloors, minimizing any small imperfections.

Secondly, laminate flooring needs some cushion. Underlayments create a softer subfloor under the laminate flooring which can definitely be felt when one is walking across the floor.

Thirdly, most underlayments for floating installations will feature an attached moisture barrier. Moisture barriers are especially important in installations below grade (basements), over concrete or over subfloors subject to moisture transfer. Although laminate flooring is less susceptible to damage from moisture exposure than a real hardwood floor would be, it's not totally water resistant and continued exposure to moisture could lead to damaged boards or cupping. Moisture barriers will help to retard moisture travelling up through the subfloor and will protect your new laminate flooring.

As mentioned, most underlayments available today come with an already attached moisture barrier. However, there are still some underlayments which don't. These underlayments can be used with laminate floating installations, but we always recommend using a separate moisture barrier (6mil plastic sheet) accompanied by the underlayment.

Different Types of Underlayments for Laminate Flooring

The most commonly used underlayment for laminate floating installations are simple foam pads with moisture barriers attached. These add adequate cushion, minimize subfloor imperfections and add moisture protection.

A step up from the common foam pad underlayment would be a filament underlayment. These are much denser than foam underlayments and have a more felt like feel to them. Our favorite felt-like underlayment is the Silent Stride. Silent Stride has a moisture barrier attached, so there's no need to use a separate one. Silent Stride also offers maximum sound absorption properties, reducing sound transfer and making floated laminate floors sound more like real hardwood floors when walked across. Because felt-like underlayments are more dense, they also offer a bit more cushion than the standard foam pad underlayment.

 

 

Natural options (cork underlayments) are also available for floating laminate floor installations. Cork has many advantages over standard underlayment pads. Cork is naturally environmentally friendly, as it is created from a rapidly renewable source. It also is incredibly durable, a natural insulator (sound & thermal), naturally moisture resistant, hypo-allergenic, anti-bacterial and adds a lot of cushion because of its natural density. Cork underlayments are also typically available in a variety of thicknesses. Whereas most standard underlayments offer only an 1/8 IN. thickness, cork offers both the 1/8 IN. and 1/4 IN. So, if there's a need to add a little bit extra height to your new laminate floor, cork might be worth looking at. Cork underlayments do not generally have moisture barriers pre-attached. Even with its natural moisture resistance, we always recommend using a separate moisture barrier in combination with a cork underlayment.

Laminate Flooring with Pre-Attached Underlayments

The photograph below show a laminate plank with a pre-attached underlayment.

There are certain manufacturers right now making laminate floor planks with simple foam pad underlayments already attached to the underside of the boards. This takes a step out of installation, making it even faster. However, we definitely recommend using a separate layer of 6mil plastic as a moisture barrier, as these pre-attached underlayments do not have one.

It's also important to remember that if your new laminate floor does have a pre-attached underlayment, you cannot use any additional foam/filament underlayment during installation --- only the 6mil plastic moisture barrier is allowed. Using an additional underlayment in conjunction with a pre-attached laminate underlayment will most likely void any warranty offered with the laminate floor.

Laminate brands currently featuring an attached underlayment include:

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Overall Rating: 4.4 stars - 20 reviews

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Date: August 27, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
As a true novice in deciding how to purchase laminate flooring and not understanding the inherent differences in underlayment, the site was most helpful
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Date: May 31, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
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Want to replace carpet; needed to decide between tile and laminate. Info. your site provides is very helpful.
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Date: April 16, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
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Very informative thank you
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Date: April 7, 2016
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learned something new again thankx
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Date: February 27, 2016
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
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Just the information I needed. Thanks!!!
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Date: January 18, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
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everything i ever needed (wanted) to know before i buy. thank you
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Date: January 17, 2016
Page Rating: (4.0/5)
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ok
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Date: December 19, 2015
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
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Well written, easy to understand and to the point. Covers all the questions I had and provided all the information I was looking for.
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Date: November 14, 2015
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
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Very informative but did not answer my question
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Date: November 8, 2015
Page Rating: (1.5/5)
Comments:
I was looking for info about sound absorption, from walking on the laminate floor to the floor below..noise from shoe heels etc..

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