Carpentry and Flooring Contracting Services
Laminate flooring manufacturers will always recommend that you install underlayment before laying laminate flooring. Yet is it necessary? While underlayment is the safe, default choice, in some instances it is not necessary.
Begin with the manufacturers’ recommendations and reasoning before moving onto the opposite view.
Reasons for Underlayment
- Sound: Laminate flooring is so thin that it needs underlayment’s extra help to feel and act like real wood. Consider sound transmission. You do not need foam padding under solid hardwood for many reasons, and one reason is that hardwood alone limits the transmission of sound, both within the room and to floors below. Laminate flooring is thin–usually no more than 12mm–and is made of a type of fiberboard. So underlayment boosts laminate’s sound absorbing qualities.
- Subfloor Imperfections: This is the biggest issue of all, what the flooring manufacturer might call “subfloor imperfections.” This means that your subfloor is not perfectly flat and featureless, which describes many subfloors. Solid or engineered wood can bridge small gaps. Ceramic and porcelain tile can bridge those gaps, plus mortar works to fill them in. Underlayment helps to prevent laminate damage.
- Moisture: You will need moisture-proof underlayment when there is a chance of moisture migrating upward: concrete slab, tile, cement board, and even wood sub-floor or flooring over a crawlspace or other non-climate-controlled space. Underlayment and vapor barrier are not the same thing. Common foam underlayment will inhibit moisture. But there are types of underlayment that require a separate 6 mil. polypropylene vapor barrier.
- On Concrete: When you are installing on top of concrete, you may want the extra padding that underlayment provides to make it softer to walk on. Take note that underlayment is not considered a vapor barrier. Manufacturers typically recommend that you add a vapor barrier in addition to the underlayment.
- Margin of Safety For The Company: Product liability; providing a wide margin of safety; and appealing to a majority of installations: these are some reasons why flooring manufacturers make this blanket recommendation. It is a case of laminate makers wanting to ensure few problems with the greatest number of installations.