Yes, laminate floors do need underlayment for many reasons that are mentioned below. But what exactly is an underlayment? Simply put, a laminate underlayment is basically a thin, flexible, and soft layer of cushioning that is laid between the laminate and the subfloor in your home. Below are some of the reasons why underlayment is essential when installing laminate flooring over a subfloor. Here, you will also find tips on how to choose the best types of underlayment.
1. Soundproofing & Noise Reduction
Your house is the one place where you would want to finally relax after a hard day’s work. But how do you relax if different sounds and noises keep disturbing you? The sound of footsteps can also be quite loud, and this could be annoying and inconvenient. Also, the method of laying floor laminates, which is floating, also creates an additional layer for sound transmission. Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem, namely underlayment. By laying a suitable underlayment layer under the laminate floor, unnecessary sounds could be eliminated. Underlays absorb sound when you walk on the laminate and act as insulation, all making for a great underfoot feel. A good underlayment with good sound insulation properties can reduce sound magnificently.
Tip! Pay special attention to the specifications of the underlayment you are looking into purchasing. This could normally be found on the packaging, where the manufacturer states the characteristics of the underlayment.
2. Moisture Barrier
An underlayment performs a moisture-protective function, that is it protects from any moisture that might come through from the sub-floor, particularly from a concrete slab ensuring dryness for both the concrete floor and the underneath of the laminate. A good underlayment acts as a good moisture barrier and will also make the floor more comfortable. It is a well-known fact that laminate flooring cannot handle moisture very well.
Caring for your laminate flooring begins even before it is laid. Firstly, the concrete underlying the laminate floor should dry thoroughly before starting to lay the floor. Sometimes this could take up to one month. Do not rush and start laying the floor before the subfloor is completely dry, otherwise, moisture may become trapped between the subfloor and the laminate, which might damage the floor severely later.
Helpful Tip! To find out if your concrete subfloor has fully dried up or not, place a plastic bag on the floor in the evening. If the package remained completely dry by morning, then your subfloor has completely dried up. If not, you will have to wait a little longer.
3. Leveling the Subfloor
Underlayment helps with uneven floors. It has the ability to smooth minor floor imperfections. Another important function that the underlayment performs is to smooth out irregularities that are present on the concrete flooring. Unfortunately, no matter how you try to level the floor, there will always be some irregularities and bits of ups and downs. These small irregularities can negatively affect your laminate for a long time causing it to wear quickly.
Simply put, both laminate and underlayment sag in spots where the gaps are the biggest. And although it might seem that such insignificant irregularities are not a big problem, they might cause significant damage to your laminate floor in the long run.
The solution to this problem lies in the correct choice and installation of the underlayment. High-quality underlayment that is properly laid enables you to hide subfloor flaws and achieve an almost perfectly level flat surface. However, there are a few factors to watch out for. Do not assume that the thicker the material of the underlayment, the better it will level the surface. The optimum thickness of the underlayment for the laminate is 3 mm. If you choose a material with a greater thickness, this could lead to deflections in the joints of the floorboards.
Tip: Pay attention to the condition of the concrete subfloor. For a flat and high-quality surface, an underlayment of 2 mm will fit perfectly. And if the base is flawed, it is better to level it with a 3 mm thick underlayment.
4. Heat/Thermal Insulation
Underlay acts as a thermal insulator, keeping your house warmer for longer and at less cost. A modern underlay can make a big difference when it comes to improving your home’s insulation and therefore improving its energy efficiency. You can find underlayment that will keep your feet warm during wintertime. Underlayment retains heat and prevents it from being assimilated through concrete, and the laminate itself is a warm flooring material. Thus, a combination of high-quality laminate and the right underlayment provides a warm and cozy floor that does not need to be complemented with anything else. As such, you do not need to install any kind of underfloor heating.
With a good combination of laminate and underlayment, the installation of a heating system does not turn out to be effective. This is because being between two heat-insulating materials, it does not fully fulfill its capabilities. A heating system is much more appropriate to install with tiles and other “cold” flooring materials like marble.
5. Improving the Look of the Finished Laminate
Underlay improves the look and quality of the finished laminate. It acts as a barrier between the laminate and the flooring, creating a perfectly level surface and protecting the laminate from any damage.
Based on all the above, it becomes apparent that laying an underlayment layer under the laminate flooring is necessary.