What's in a Floor?

How Do You Pick The Right Underlayment For Laminate Flooring?

Most laminate flooring is installed as a free-floating floor, which means that it's not attached to the ground using glue or nails. This makes it very easy and simple to install. However, a free-floating floor needs an underlayment underneath it to act as a cushion and to prevent the boards from clattering when you step on them. When installing laminate flooring, you'll have your choice of underlayment to put underneath the planks. To learn how to pick the right one for your installation, read on.

Do You Need a Vapor Barrier?

Laminate boards are manufactured with a plywood core that will start to warp if it becomes too damp, and this warping is permanent. When you're installing laminate flooring over a concrete floor, you'll need to put down a vapor barrier first. This is a plastic covering that prevents water vapor in the soil from rising through the concrete and saturating the boards with water.

If you're installing your flooring on concrete, you'll either need to purchase an underlayment that has a built-in vapor barrier or purchase a separate vapor barrier and lay it on the floor before you put the underlayment down. This will keep your laminate flooring protected from moisture rising up through the concrete.

Do You Need Sound Absorption?

When choosing an underlayment for your laminate flooring, the most important consideration is how much sound absorption you need. Denser underlayments will muffle sounds better when people and pets walk on the floor. The densest underlayment is cork, and it's also the most expensive. Felt is less expensive, but it's less dense than cork. Polyurethane foam is the least expensive underlayment of all, but it's also the least dense and will not muffle much noise. If you want your laminate floor to be extremely quiet, then cork is the best choice.

Do Your Boards Have Attached Underlayment?

Premium laminate flooring often comes with built-in underlayment, which eliminates the need for you to lay down a separate underlayment before installing the boards. You'll still need a vapor barrier when installing it over concrete, however, and the only choice you have for attached underlayment is foam. If you'd like the sound-muffling properties of cork for your floor, you'll need to purchase laminate boards that don't have a strip of underlayment attached to the board.

Overall, the most important thing you need to keep in mind about the underlayment for laminate flooring is that you'll need a vapor barrier when installing the boards over concrete, whether it's a separate one or included as part of the underlayment. After that, you simply need to decide between price and how much you want the underlayment to muffle noise — the best sound-absorbing underlayments are more expensive. Once you've chosen the right underlayment for your needs, you'll be ready to install your new laminate floor.

For more information about laminate flooring, contact a local company.