Looking to install some luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring but confused about whether or not you need underlayment? Or maybe you’re wondering what type of underlayment to choose for your flooring project.
From enhancing comfort and durability to providing moisture resistance and sound isolation, we’ll take a deep dive into the benefits of using vinyl flooring underlayment. We’ll also cover factors to consider when choosing underlayment, common materials used, rating systems, and more, to help you make an informed decision for your flooring project.
There are many great flooring brands that offer LVP with an attached underlayment – Here are some of our favorites;
Visit their site | Find a retailer | Order samples
Visit their site | Find a retailer | Order samples
Visit their site | Find a retailer | Order samples
What is LVP Underlayment?
Vinyl plank flooring underlayment, is a crucial component for a high-quality and long-lasting vinyl flooring installation. The term “underlayment” refers to the layer that goes between the subfloor and the finished floor, providing stability, support, and protection. We’ll explore its importance in flooring and the various types of underlayment available, including foam, rubber, cork, and sound barrier underlayments.
Importance of Underlayment in Flooring
The vinyl flooring underlayment plays a vital role in ensuring the longevity and performance of your floor. By providing a cushioned layer between the subfloor and the finished luxury vinyl plank flooring, underlayment helps to:
- Even out minor imperfections in the subfloor
- Provide added insulation and sound absorption
- Offer increased comfort underfoot
- Protect the luxury vinyl flooring from moisture and humidity
By putting the appropriate underlayment in place, you’re not only investing in the durability and long-term performance of your vinyl flooring, but also improving the overall comfort and effectiveness of your living space.
Types of Vinyl Flooring Underlayment
It’s essential to choose the right underlayment based on your needs, budget, and desired features, such as sound absorption or moisture protection. Below are four common types of vinyl plank flooring underlayment:
Foam Backing Underlayment
Foam backing underlayment is a popular choice for luxury vinyl tile, offering a combination of cushioning, sound absorption, and insulation. Foam backing can be made from closed-cell polyethylene, polypropylene, or extruded polystyrene foam.
Foam pads are lightweight, easy to install, and typically come with an attached vapor barrier to protect against moisture. Foam backing uinderlayments are more affordable than other types, making them an ideal option for budget-conscious homeowners.
Rubber underlayment is a robust and durable option for luxury vinyl flooring, offering excellent sound absorption and insulation properties. Made from recycled rubber or synthetic rubber-like materials, rubber underlayments are resistant to moisture, mold, and mildew.
They provide a firm foundation for your flooring and can help reduce footfall sound transfer between floors. While rubber underlayments are more expensive than foam options, they can last longer and offer better support for heavy furniture and high-traffic areas.
Cork Backing Underlayment
Cork backing underlayment is an eco-friendly option for vinyl plank flooring installations, made from natural, renewable cork material. Cork backing provides outstanding sound absorption, thermal insulation, and comfort, making it a popular choice for homeowners concerned about noise and energy efficiency.
Cork backing also has natural antimicrobial properties, helping to prevent mold and mildew growth. However, cork underlayment can be more expensive than foam and may require an additional vapor barrier when used in moisture-prone areas.
Sound Barrier Underlayment
Sound barrier underlayments are specifically designed to reduce impact noise and airborne sound transmission in vinyl plank flooring installations. They are often thicker than standard underlayments and made from high-density materials, such as rubber or specialized foam, to provide maximum sound absorption.
Sound barrier underlayments are an ideal choice for multi-level homes, apartments, or commercial spaces where noise is a concern. These underlayments can be costlier than foam or rubber options, but they provide superior acoustic performance.
Benefits of Using LVP Underlayment
Let’s explore some of the most significant benefits of using luxury vinyl plank underlayment in your flooring project.
Luxury vinyl plank underlayment can dramatically improve the comfort of your floors. It adds a cushioning layer that creates a softer feel underfoot, helping to reduce foot and leg fatigue. This can be especially beneficial in high-traffic areas where prolonged standing or walking is common. In addition, a high-quality underlayment will help to level out minor subfloor imperfections.
Increased Durability of Flooring
By choosing the right underlayment, you can extend the lifespan of your floors. The underlayment provides a protective barrier against the subfloor, reducing the risk of wear, denting, and other damage caused by direct contact between the flooring planks and the subfloor underneath.
Sound Isolation and Acoustics
One of the major advantages of using an underlayment is its ability to reduce noise transmission between floors. A quality underlayment will help dampen impact noise, such as footsteps or dropped objects, providing a quieter living environment.
It can also reduce sound transmission through walls and ceilings, improving the acoustics of your home or business. Some underlayments are specifically designed to enhance sound isolation, making them the perfect choice for multi-level buildings or noise-sensitive areas.
Waterproof vinyl flooring can significantly improve the moisture resistance of your flooring. This is especially important if you’re installing LVP in areas prone to moisture, such as basements, bathrooms, or kitchens.
Waterproof vinyl floorings are designed to offer moisture protection and may feature vapor barriers or other moisture-resistant materials. By preventing moisture migration from the subfloor to the LVP planks, you can help minimize issues like mold growth, water damage, and unpleasant odors.
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Factors to Consider When Choosing LVP Underlayment
With so many underlayment options available on the market, it’s essential to consider a few factors to make the best choice for your particular LVP flooring project. Here are the main aspects to keep in mind:
One of the most critical aspects to consider when choosing an LVP underlayment is compatibility with your specific flooring product. Some LVP manufacturers may require specific underlayments or may not recommend using underlayment at all. Always check your flooring product’s specifications and instructions before making your choice, as failing to follow these guidelines could void your warranty or lead to installation problems.
Additional Features for Specific Needs
Depending on the unique requirements of your project, you may want to prioritize specific features in your LVP underlayment. For instance, if sound isolation is a major concern, opt for an underlayment with superior acoustic properties. Similarly, if moisture resistance is crucial, choose a product that offers a vapor barrier or other moisture-blocking features. Be sure to assess your project’s specific requirements before making your decision.
When you’re ready to install vinyl plank flooring, ensure you assess the specific installation requirements. Different LVP underlayment products may come with different installation requirements. Some underlays may be easier to install and thus more suitable for DIY projects, while others may necessitate professional installation. Consider your skill level and the available tools and resources before making your choice. Always consult the manufacturer’s installation guidelines to ensure proper installation and avoid any complications.
Price and Sustainability
Finally, it’s essential to consider the cost of the LVP underlayment, as well as its sustainability. While cheaper options may be tempting, they may not offer the same long-lasting benefits and performance as higher-quality products. Instead, look for a balance between affordability and quality craftsmanship. Additionally, consider underlayments made from eco-friendly or recycled materials to minimize your project’s environmental impact and contribute to a greener future.
In conclusion, investing in a high-quality LVP underlayment can significantly improve the comfort, durability, acoustics, and moisture resistance of your LVP floors. By considering factors like compatibility, additional features, installation requirements, and price, you can make an informed decision that delivers the best possible results for your unique flooring project.
How to Determine if you Need Underlayment
Here are some common reasons to consider using an underlayment for your vinyl flooring project:
1. Subfloor Irregularities
If your subfloor surface is uneven, damaged, or has visible imperfections, underlayment can help smooth out these issues.
Otherwise, these irregularities may cause visible bumps or
depressions in your vinyl flooring, affecting its aesthetic appeal and functionality.
2. Acoustics and Noise Reduction
Underlayment can significantly improve the acoustics of a room by absorbing and reducing impact noise, such as footsteps. This is especially useful in multi-story buildings and areas where noise transmission needs to be minimized.
If sound reduction is essential for your project, consider selecting an underlayment specifically designed for acoustic performance.
3. Insulation and Comfort
Underlayment adds an extra layer of insulation, helping maintain a comfortable temperature within your living space. This can lead to energy savings and reduced HVAC costs.
Some underlayment materials have a high resistance to thermal transmission which means that it provides a barrier that prevents heat transfer through the floor. As a result, it can be advantageous to use luxury vinyl plank flooring in cold climates as it helps retain heat within the house, thereby reducing heating expenses.
Additionally, underlayment for luxury vinyl flooring can be particularly effective in blocking radiant heat, which is a significant factor in heat loss in homes. Therefore, using luxury vinyl plank flooring can help you maintain a comfortable home temperature and lower your energy consumption.
Installing radiant floor heating can add a level of comfort to any room. First, vinyl underlayment is laid down before the vinyl planks to provide a smooth surface and cushioning. Next, a heat pad is installed on top of the underlayment. Finally, the vinyl planks are laid down on top of the heat pad, completing the installation process. The vinyl planks are a great choice for heated flooring because they are durable, water-resistant, and easy to clean.
Plus, they are available in a wide range of styles to fit any decor. By using vinyl planks and vinyl underlayments in conjunction with radiant floor heating, you can create a warm and cozy environment in your home that is both stylish and functional.
Underlayment can provide a softer and more comfortable feel underfoot, especially with the increasingly popular LVP and LVT options.
4. Manufacturer’s Recommendations
Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations before installing your vinyl flooring. Some manufacturers may require the use of specific underlay materials for warranty eligibility, which is crucial for maintaining your vinyl floor’s longevity and appearance.
5. Moisture Concerns
If your vinyl flooring will be installed in an area at risk for moisture exposure, such as basements or bathrooms, an underlayment with a built-in moisture barrier can help protect the flooring from potential water damage. This is essential for long-term performance and stability your vinyl flooring.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
When determining if underlayment is necessary for your vinyl flooring, avoid these common mistakes:
- Not Following Manufacturer Recommendations: Always consult the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure you follow the proper installation procedures and meet the warranty requirements.
- Using Incompatible Materials: Ensure the underlayment you choose is compatible with your specific vinyl flooring type. Some materials may not work well together, resulting in subpar performance or even damage to your floor.
- Overlooking Subfloor Issues: Address any concerns related to your subfloor, such as moisture, unevenness, or damage, before installing your vinyl flooring to ensure the best possible outcome.
- DIY Without Proper Knowledge: If you are unsure about the installation process or underlayment requirements, it is always best to consult with a professional to avoid costly mistakes.
The Best Underlayment for Vinyl Flooring Depends on a Lot of Factors
Choosing the right underlayment for your vinyl flooring is essential for a successful installation, comfort, and optimal performance. A suitable underlayment can help with sound reduction, insulation, and overall support.
However, the best underlayment for your specific situation will depend on several factors, like the type of vinyl flooring, your budget, and your installation environment.
Some factors to consider when choosing a vinyl flooring underlayment include subfloor conditions, the room’s purpose, and installation method.
For example, if you’re installing vinyl flooring in a high-moisture area like a bathroom, you’ll need a waterproof, vapor barrier underlayment. On the other hand, if you’re installing it in a living room or bedroom, you might prioritize sound reduction and comfort features.
What Are the Common Underlayments for Vinyl Flooring?
There are several popular underlayment options available for vinyl flooring installations. Let’s explore five common materials and their benefits:
Felt underlayment is a popular choice for many homeowners due to its eco-friendly nature and excellent sound absorption properties. It’s made from recycled fibers, and it provides a plush and comfortable feel under your feet.
This underlayment is perfect for use in areas where sound reduction is a priority, such as upstairs rooms or multi-family housing units. However, it is essential to note that felt is not waterproof, so it may not be suitable for moisture-prone spaces like kitchens or bathrooms.
Cork underlayment is another eco-friendly choice. Known for its excellent thermal and acoustic insulation, it helps maintain a comfortable room temperature and reduces noise transfer between floors.
Moreover, cork is naturally mold-resistant and antimicrobial, making it a great option for spaces with high humidity or experience moisture and upper floors. However, it can be more expensive than other options and may not provide the same level of support as other rigid underlayments.
Particleboard is a budget-friendly underlayment choice made from small wood chips and resin. It provides a smooth and even surface, ideal for glue-down or floating installations.
However, particleboard is not recommended for high-moisture areas as it tends to swell and lose its structural integrity when exposed to water. Additionally, it provides less insulation and sound reduction compared to cork, felt, or other underlayment options.
Plywood is a versatile and reliable underlayment material, composed of thin layers of wood glued together at alternating grain patterns. It’s commonly used for multiple flooring types, including vinyl. Plywood offers excellent structural support and can improve the overall strength and durability of your flooring.
However, like particleboard, it doesn’t provide the best thermal or acoustic insulation, so it may not be the ideal choice for rooms where noise reduction is a priority.
Oriented Strand Board (OSB)
Oriented Strand Board (OSB) is a popular alternative to plywood underlayment, engineered using strands of wood and adhesive. OSB delivers robust structural support, resulting in a stable and durable vinyl flooring installation.
It is more moisture-resistant than plywood, but it may still not be suitable for extremely moist areas like bathrooms. OSB also lacks insulation and sound-absorbing capabilities, which can be a disadvantage in multi-story homes or rooms with noise concerns.
The Importance of Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring Underlayment Selection in Flooring Projects
Whether you are embarking on a residential or commercial luxury vinyl planks project, the desired outcome will depend on careful consideration and understanding of these rating systems. Equipped with this knowledge, you are more likely to avoid common pitfalls and ensure a successful flooring project with optimal sound and thermal insulation.
What is LVP underlayment and why is it necessary?
LVP underlayment is a thin layer of foam, rubber, or other materials installed beneath the LVP flooring. It serves multiple purposes, including improving the overall comfort, protecting the subfloor, and enhancing the durability and performance of the floor. The underlayment can also help reduce noise, provide thermal insulation, and even out any minor imperfections in the subfloor.
Do I really need an underlayment if my LVP has a built-in underlay?
If your LVP already comes with a pre-attached underlayment, it is generally not necessary to install an additional underlay. However, it is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations in this regard. Installing an extra layer when not required may void the warranty of your LVP flooring. In certain cases, such as uneven subfloors or when additional sound insulation is needed, it might be advisable to add a separate underlayment following the product guidelines.
Which type of LVP underlayment is best?
There are various types of LVP underlayment materials available, each with its properties and benefits:
- Foam: The most common and budget-friendly option, foam underlayment, provides necessary cushioning and noise reduction. However, it may not be the best choice for heavy foot traffic areas or sound-sensitive environments.
- Rubber: This type of underlayment offers more superior sound insulation and increased durability compared to foam. Rubber underlayment is often recommended for multi-story buildings, commercial spaces, or rooms where drums or heavy furniture may be placed.
- Cork: A naturally derived material, cork underlayment provides excellent thermal and acoustic insulation, and it is environmentally friendly. It can, however, be more expensive than other underlayment choices and may not be waterproof.
It is essential to consider factors such as budget, location, and specific flooring requirements when selecting the best underlayment for your LVP installation.
What thickness should my LVP underlayment be?
The thickness of the underlayment usually varies between 1mm and 5mm. Thicker underlayments provide better cushioning and sound insulation, but they can also alter the overall height of your floor. In some cases, a thicker underlayment may cause transitional issues between rooms with different flooring types. Always refer to the LVP flooring manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the appropriate underlayment thickness for your specific situation.
Can I use the same underlayment for LVP and laminate flooring?
Underlayment designed for laminate flooring may not always be suitable for LVP installations, primarily because LVP is more sensitive to subfloor imperfections. Specifically, vapor barriers used with laminate flooring may not be required or advised for LVP. It is essential to check with the flooring manufacturer and choose underlayment explicitly designed for LVP flooring, ensuring the best performance and protecting your flooring warranty.
How do I install LVP underlayment?
Here’s a general guide on installing LVP underlayment:
- Prepare the subfloor by ensuring it is clean, dry, and level.
- Choose the right type and thickness of underlayment as per your LVP’s specifications.
- Begin in one corner of the room and roll out the first row of underlayment, maintaining a gap of 1/4 inch from the wall.
- Trim the underlayment to fit the room, using a utility knife.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for properly connecting the underlayment’s seams.
- Apply tape on the seams following the manufacturer’s guidelines to secure them in place.
- Repeat the process until the entire floor is covered with underlayment.
Remember always to follow the specific instructions provided by the LVP and underlayment manufacturers for the best results.
What mistakes should I avoid when installing LVP underlayment?
Avoid these common mistakes when installing LVP underlayment:
- Using the wrong type of underlayment for your specific LVP flooring.
- Not accurately measuring the room size and not purchasing enough underlayment material.
- Ignoring the manufacturer’s guidelines for underlayment thickness, installation methods, and seam connections.
- Not properly preparing the subfloor, leading to an uneven or unstable installation.
- Overlapping underlayment seams, which may cause visible bumps on your finished LVP flooring.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll ensure a successful and long-lasting LVP installation.
About The Author
Courtney is a freelance writer who wears many other hats: kindergarten teacher by day, Broadway diva in the shower. She is a transplant Hoosier who originated in New England. When she isn't writing in her spare time, you will find her reading history books, arguing with her latest knitting project, or being beaten by her kids at most games.