Does Vinyl Flooring Need an Underlayment? (Explained!)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Vinyl floors must sit on an even (flat) and rigid surface for the locking mechanism to work properly. So, does the vinyl floor need an underlayment?

Vinyl planks need an underlayment under them as it will create a flat and sturdy base for them to sit on. Also, it will protect them from moisture, mold, and water leaks.

However, if the subfloor already has one installed, you don’t need a new one. Also, some vinyl planks, such as luxury vinyl, come with pre-attached underlayment, so you don’t need to install a new one.

Why Do You Need It?

An underlayment offers vinyl planks support and stability so it can handle more weight and use. If you don’t use one, the planks will start to make squeaking noises and might crack.

Here are some more reasons why you need it:

1. Even Floors

Vinyl flooring is formed by attaching several vinyl planks side by side using the tongue and groove locking mechanism. To make the floor smooth, the planks must be arranged and locked on an even surface.

However, if the subfloor is uneven or bumpy, the vinyl planks’ surface won’t be smooth. But, if you put a flat underlayment on the subfloor, the floor will be smooth and even.

2. Moisture Protection

Long-term exposure to water will damage your vinyl boards. However, if you install a waterproof underlayment it will protect the planks from moisture.

3. Allows Locks to Click in Place

Vinyl floors are formed by connecting several boards using a tongue and groove locking mechanism. Without an underlayment, the planks won’t lock in place as they should. Although the locks will click, some will be under more pressure which will cause the boards to separate and cause gaps.

4. Soundproofing

The underlayment is made from foam, rubber, felt, or cork padding. All of these materials are good at soundproofing. So, if you use one, it will remove the “click sound” from the boards when you walk over them.

5. Insulation

Vinyl boards are cold during the winter months. However, an underlayment will provide insulation and warmth for the planks. So, they will feel warmer during the cold winter months.

You Need an Underlayment If:

To know if you need underlayment for your vinyl boards, inspect the existing subfloor condition. You need one if:

1. There’s No Existing Underlayment

If your vinyl boards are designed with foam-like padding, you don’t need an underlayment. That’s because they already have all the support they need. Luxury vinyl planks are known to have foam-like padding.

However, if the boards don’t have a pre-attached underlayment, you must install one.

2. Bad Subfloor

Inspect the subfloor. If it is rough, bumpy, patchy, or uneven, you must install foam padding. However, if the subfloor is smooth, flat, and strong enough to support the planks, you don’t need to install extra support padding.

3. No Previous Floor

If there’s an existing floor, such as a laminate floor, there’s a chance there will be an existing underlayment under it. That’s because laminate floors are installed over an underlayment.

In this case, you don’t need another one since there is an existing one on the subfloor. If you want to use a new underlayment, you must remove the existing one first. That’s because too many underlays can make the floor too high and prevent locks from working properly.

Also, if there is an existing cushioned floor, you don’t need to install an underlay. This is because cushioned tiles are always smooth and strong, making them an ideal base for vinyl boards.

4. For Bathroom Floors

If you install vinyl planks in a bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room, you need moisture protection beneath them to prevent water from damaging them.

That’s because the bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry room floor are filled with water. Also, there are several water pipes under the ground of these floors. So, if any of these pipes get damaged, it will cause a water leak on the subfloor. The water leak will damage the vinyl boards if you don’t have waterproof sheeting underneath.

Types of Underlayment You Can Use:

1. Standard or Foam Underlayment

A standard underlayment is gotten from a foam material and is the most common type of underlay. To make it, the hard foam material is compressed together and filled with air. It comes in wraps or rolls of different sizes and thicknesses.

Its biggest advantage is that it’s affordable, and its biggest disadvantage is that it’s not waterproof and absorbs water over time.

2. Cork Underlayment

Cork underlayment is designed from cork material and is soundproof. In addition, cork is a durable material that can handle traffic and weight, and is moisture resistant.

3. Particleboard Underlayment

Particle underlayment is gotten from foam and wood materials. This underlay is strong and sturdy, but it’s not waterproof. Foam and wood absorb water, so don’t use this underlay in bathrooms.

4. Wood Underlay

Wood underlayment is made of wood materials, such as plywood. It is strong and provides good support, but doesn’t offer soundproofing.

5. Combination Underlayment

Combination underlayment is gotten by combining several materials, including felt, rubber, cork, and foam. This is a hybrid type and can be used for any subfloor.

How To Install Underlayment Under Vinyl Flooring?

Here are the tools you need:

  • A pair of scissors
  • A broom
  • Floor brush
  • A rubber mallet
  • A chisel
  • A pair of gloves

Here is a guide on how to do it:

  1. Remove all objects on the floor, including furniture and electronics.
  2. Remove the carpet or rug.
  3. Use a chisel to separate and remove the baseboard trims.
  4. Check the condition of the subfloor and repair any damages or dents.
  5. Sweep and clean it to remove dust.
  6. Measure the subfloor and use a pair of scissors to cut and adjust the underlay to size.
  7. Unwrap and put the underlayment directly on the subfloor.


Use an underlayment with a thickness of 2-4mm for your vinyl planks.The thickness level ranges from 1mm to 6mm, with 6mm being the thickness. However, having a thick underlayment isn’t always good since it makes the floor too high and prevents the planks from locking properly.

More Things To Know:

You should know that the type of underlayment you use depends on:

Floor Types

For instance, if you have luxury vinyl planks, you must use a thick underlayment. That’s because they are heavier than regular planks.

Installation Method

If you use a floating installation method, you must use an underlayment that allows you to lay planks directly over it.

For the glue-down installation method, use a textured underlay so the vinyl glue can stick. Also, if you want to nail the vinyl planks to the subfloor, you’ll need an underlay that allows the nail to go through.

The Need for Moisture Resistance or Not

If you are installing vinyl planks on a bathroom, you need a waterproof underlayment. However, if you are installing them in a bedroom or living room, you don’t need one.

The Material of the Subfloor

The subfloor material matters. For instance, for a concrete subfloor, you don’t need a thick underlayment because the concrete is strong enough to provide support. However, for a wood subfloor, you need a thick one to provide more support.

The Rating

Vinyl plank flooring underlayment is rated based on soundproofing, insulation, and thickness. You should consider these ratings based on the requirements that you need.

Final Words

Picking an underlayment is as important as deciding what flooring to get.

Remember that if the vinyl planks already have pre-attached underlayment, you don’t need an extra one. Also, if a cushion is already on the subfloor, you don’t need another one.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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