Underlay is a key part of any new floor, affecting its comfort, feel and how it wears, so you should never overlook its importance. But before you buy, you need to be sure which product best suits your needs.
What is Flooring Underlay?
Essentially, underlay is the barrier which goes below your flooring. And, for some products, including luxury vinyl, engineered wood and vinyl flooring, it’s vital for successful fitting of your flooring. For each of these materials, you have a number of options including liquid, rubber or Polyurethane (PU) foam, while each underlay type will have its own attributes. The latter, for example, consists of recycled furniture foam so it’s highly sustainable, and it comes in varied thicknesses. It’s not advised to re-use old underlay; so be sure to replace it when you fit a new floor.
The Benefits of Flooring Underlay
The right choice in this department can boost your floor’s life by as much as 50%, and prevent premature wear. So it’s critical to longevity.
Every underlay for floors product provides some form of thermal insulation, although inevitably some offer this to a greater degree than others, and certain products are designed to maximise this benefit. Your house stays warmer in winter and cooler in summer, potentially saving on heating bills and, if you have it, air con, while you also enjoy enhanced comfort.
Floor underlayment helps with noise reduction, which is useful if you live in a busy household. Quality underlay lessens the impact of noise reaching the rooms underneath, making it ideal for flats – for that reason it’s popular in offices, too. Again, some underlays will be better at providing this property than others.
Underlay makes your new flooring feel a lot softer underfoot, so it’s far more comfortable to walk over.
Sometimes, underlay can even out small irregularities, making it easier to fit your flooring. So you get a better surface while reducing the risk of problems developing later on, including cracking, lifting or other unwanted movement.
Underlay offers protection from environmental factors including temperature and moisture. For wood floor underlay this is particularly important, since if these floors get too damp, they can buckle or expand, particularly if you fit them over concrete subfloors. But underlay with an integrated Damp-Proof Membrane (DPM) offers excellent protection.
If you want to have underfloor heating, underlay is vital. Choose a product which allows enough air to circulate to avoid the system overheating – there are many models which are suitable for use with underfloor heating.
Flooring Underlay FAQs
Do you need underlay for vinyl flooring?
The short answer is that vinyl floor underlay isn’t absolutely essential, because these floors come with a base layer making it already long-lasting and comfortable to walk over. That said, there are exceptions, so it’s worth checking with your manufacturer to be 100% sure.
Can you use carpet underlay for vinyl flooring?
Great question – and one we’re often asked. The thing about carpet underlays is that they tend to be quite thick, up to 10mm, and certainly thicker than needed. So fitting vinyl over carpet underlay probably wouldn’t be the best idea – indeed, it could make your vinyl flooring unstable.
Do you need underlay for laminate flooring?
Fibreboard is a great choice. It helps smooth out uneven floors and reduce noise and acts as an excellent thermal insulator, so it’s hardly surprising it’s a popular option. However, foam and thermal underlay products also work well.
What is the best underlay for laminate flooring?
Concrete subfloors always need an underlay incorporating an in-built moisture barrier. Because concrete is porous, moisture can transfer to your laminate, causing it to swell and bubble – so go for a damp-proof membrane underlay.