Does Laminate Flooring Need Underlayment? (Explained!)

Before installing floating floors, it’s generally advised to put an underlayment on the subfloor. So, does laminate flooring need underlayment? Here is the answer to that.

Laminate floors need an underlayment before being installed especially if the subfloor is uneven. The underlayment provides a flat and sturdy base for the laminate planks to be installed on so the floor can be even and correctly locked in place.

An underlayment also helps to protect the laminate planks from leaks and moisture that can cause buckling and damage to the laminate floor.

This post reveals more about the need for an underlay before installing a laminate floor on a subfloor including the different types of underlay options to pick from. So, let’s dive in.

Why Does Underlayment Matter For Laminate Flooring?

The need for an underlayment before installing laminate floor matters because the underlayment determines the durability and finish of your laminate floor.

The underlayment helps to stop water from getting underneath the laminate floor. It also provides soundproofing and makes the laminate planks lock in place evenly without buckling or lifting.

Here are the top reasons underlayment matters before installing a laminate floor:

Moisture Protection

Some laminate floor underlayments are designed to be waterproof.  Such an underlayment beneath your laminate floor serves as a barrier to protect the laminate planks from water damage in case of a leak or flood.

If you don’t have an underlayment installed beneath the laminate planks, the planks will be prone to moisture damage. Water can easily get underneath the floor and cause the planks to warp, buckle, or separate.

Even Base

Laminate floor underlayment is usually designed to be even and smooth. This makes the underlayment provide a strong and even base for the laminate floor to sit on. Since the underlayment is even, the laminate planks when arranged on the floor will also have an even and smooth finish without lifting.

Soundproofing

Another reason laminate underlayment matters is because the foam padding or underlay helps to limit noise from the laminate floor. Laminate floors are usually made from wood and since laminate is a floating floor, the planks will make a lot of noise that will echo when you walk over it, especially with high heels or hard shoes.

The foam underlay underneath the floor helps to reduce the noise from the floor by eliminating the echo that is produced when you walk over the floor. An underlay also eliminates cracking and squeaking noises from the floor.

Underlayment Makes the Floor Easy on the Feet

A foam padding underlayment beneath your laminate floor will make the floor easy on your feet and knees. Without the underlayment, the laminate planks will feel hard.

Next, let’s check out the different types of laminate floor underlayment.

Types of Underlayment You Can Use Under Laminate Flooring

Here are common types of laminate flooring underlayment:

Foam Underlayment

Foam underlayment is one of the most common types of underlay used for laminate flooring. The foam underlayment is made from hard foam material which is compressed together to form a strong underlay. Foam underlayment usually come in wraps or rolls and there are different sizes to choose from.

You should know that foam underlayment measures about 1/8 inches thick which means that the underlayment is thin. Foam underlayment is also not waterproof. So, this underlayment shouldn’t be used on high moisture areas like bathroom floors.

Felt Underlayment

Felt underlayment is made from different types of recycled fabric and textile material that are woven together to create an even underlay. Felt underlayment is known for its impressive soundproofing and insulation features which makes it ideal for cold areas.

This underlayment is also known to make laminate floors more comfortable to walk on. It’s also eco-friendly since it doesn’t contain any foreign chemicals or additive. But, even though this underlayment provides insulation in cold areas, it should not be used in moist areas because it is not waterproof.

Cork Underlayment

Cork underlayment is commonly used for floating floors like laminate and vinyl. The underlayment is designed by using cork material which is very strong and dense meaning that this underlayment can handle weight and high traffic without giving way. If you’ll like to install laminate planks over a busy floor, cork is what you want as your underlayment.

You should know that cork underlayment is more expensive than other types of underlayment. Cork is also not 100% waterproof but the underlayment is very good at holding moisture due to its impressive moisture resistance.

Combination Underlayment

Combination underlayment is a very resistant underlay that is produced by combining different materials such as foam, cork, rubber, and felt.

The complex structure and makeup gives it better features than other types of underlayment. Combination underlayment even has plastic sheeting on the top layer of the underlay that makes it waterproof.

Combination underlayment is also able to withstand heavy furniture and high traffic perfectly without giving way. Insulation, comfort, and soundproofing are all features that a combination underlayment possesses.

Tile Underlayment

This underlayment is commonly used for vinyl tile floors. It can also be used for laminate flooring but it’s more common for vinyl. The underlayment is designed to mirror the features of tile as it comes in tile form.

The underlayment is also easy to install and it has impressive moisture resistance. Sometimes, this underlayment comes with a vinyl backing that improves its moisture resistance.

There are other types of laminate floor underlayment but each of them can be categorized under one of the types listed above. So, are there types of laminate floors that come with underlayment? Let’s find out.

Are There Types of Laminate That Come With Underlayment?

Some laminate floors come with underlayment. These laminates have underlayment designed underneath each plank meaning that you don’t have to purchase an extra one.

Instead, you are to install the laminate planks directly on the subfloor since each plank already has an underlay.

If you install an underlayment beneath a laminate floor that is already designed with one, then the whole flooring will be affected as the underlayment will be too thick. Also, installing underlayment for a laminate floor that already has one can increase the floor height by over 5 inches.

What is The Best Thickness For Laminate Flooring Underlay?

It is generally advised to go for a laminate floor underlayment that has a thickness between 3mm and 5mm. Any thickness measurement within this range is largely considered to be ideal for a laminate floor. Except if you want to increase your floor height or you have problems with the subfloor, you should stay away from laminate floor underlayment that is thicker than 5mm.

Laminate floor underlayment is usually measured in terms of thickness or height. The thickness of the underlayment determines how high the floor will be.

Also, the thickness of the underlayment determines how well the laminate locking mechanism will click and lock in place. If the underlayment is thin or not as thick as 3mm, then the underlayment will not provide enough support for the laminate floor.

Also, when a laminate floor underlayment is thicker than 5mm, you’ll experience issues with the locking mechanism of the laminate planks as the locks will not click properly due to the height and thickness of the underlayment. So, it’s better to stay within the 3mm and 5mm range.

Next, let’s find out what happens when you don’t put an underlayment beneath a laminate floor.

What Happens If You Don’t Put Underlayment Underneath a Laminate Floor?

If you don’t put an underlayment underneath a laminate floor, the floor will be uneven. Asides from being uneven, the laminate floor can become wrapped due to moisture on the subfloor. Over time, your laminate floor will begin to develop problems such as lifting, wrapped, and buckled planks.

The purpose of an underlayment is to add a protective barrier or layer between the subfloor and laminate planks in your home. If you don’t put an underlayment beneath the laminate floor, then there will be no protective layer between the laminate planks and the subfloor. This means that whatever factor affects the subfloor will also affect the laminate planks.

For instance, if the subfloor is wet or affected by a burst pipe in the underground plumbing, the laminate floor will also become waterlogged since there isn’t a waterproof underlay to shield it from the leak.

You should also know that without an underlay, the laminate floor will not be comfortable to walk on. The laminate planks will be harder on the feet and knees. Also, the laminate planks will be very noisy since there is no soundproofing layer underneath.

So how long does underlayment last under laminate flooring? Let’s find out.

How Long Does Underlayment Last Under Laminate?

Laminate floor underlayment usually last as long as the laminate floor itself. On average, laminate floor underlayment lasts about 20 years under a laminate floor and top-quality underlays can last well over 25 years.

You should know that how long the laminate floor underlayment lasts largely depends on the type and make of the underlayment. For instance, waterproof laminate underlay usually lasts longer than regular laminate underlay since the waterproof types are designed to withstand moisture better.

Also, cork and combination underlayment usually last longer than standard foam underlayment since they are stronger and designed to handle high traffic and weight.

Can You Put 2 Layers of Underlayment Under Laminate?

It’s not advised to put 2 layers of underlayment under a laminate floor. This is because the double layer of underlayment will be more than the recommended 3mm – 5mm thickness of underlay for the laminate floor meaning that the laminate locks will not click and lock properly.

Using two layers of underlay will also make the laminate floor unstable and weak meaning that the flooring will be incapable of supporting weight and traffic.

Many homeowners opt for a double layer of underlayment beneath their laminate floor with the mindset that more underlay means more durability and support for the laminate floor. This is not the case and you should not put 2 layers of underlay beneath your laminate floor.

If you put two layers of underlay beneath the laminate floor, the laminate floor will not get more support. Instead, the laminate floor will become unstable, bouncy, and soft. When this happens, there will be increased tension and pressure on the locks between the laminate planks every time the floor is used or walked on.

Eventually, the locks will dislodge causing the laminate planks to separate and cause gaps in your floor. You should also know that using two layers of underlay will increase your floor height.

Final Words

In summary, a laminate floor will be a great addition to your home. But, to make the laminate flooring even, strong, moisture-resistant, and durable, you need an underlayment.

The best type of laminate flooring depends on the condition and structure of your subfloor. For laminate flooring that will see high traffic and weight, use a cork underlay and for laminate floors that need moisture protection, use a combination underlayment.

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