Laminate Floor Underlay - What type is best for you
Underlay is an essential component of laminate floor installation. Laid directly over the sub-floor, the underlay is the layer between the sub-floor and the laminate floor. Underlay for laminate flooring serves several useful functions. It covers flaws and levels uneven surfaces on the sub-floor. It acts as a protective layer against moisture, helps to muffle sounds travelling through the floor below, and aids in thermal insulation.
An important factor to consider in the choice of an underlay is the type of sub-floor on which the laminate floor will be installed. The sub-floor typically consists of a concrete, wooden or plywood base.
Noise blocking or reducing underlay is used with a laminate installation on an upper floor to reduce the sound of footsteps and other noises being transmitted to the room below. It is also useful in a bedroom or home office where a quiet environment is desirable. Acoustic types of underlay come in a variety of soft or hard components. They usually have a built-in moisture barrier; in its absence, an extra layer of moisture barrier over the sub-floor may be necessary in damp-prone areas.
Softer variations consist of cork, foam, felt, fibre or rubber. Cork provides a high quality of sound absorption and has anti microbial properties, but it’s a more costly option. So-called modified or upgraded underlay is made of thicker or more densely packed material than standard foam. Acoustic foam underlay is an effective sound blocker that minimises the sound carrying through to the lower floor. Rubber also possesses noise proofing characteristics and is typically made of recycled materials such as compacted and shredded car tires.
Harder versions for laminate floors are available in plywood or recycled wood. The typical AC grade plywood has a moderate noise blocking rating. An acoustic underlay made of recycled wood is a better sound inhibitor, although its thickness may present height issues.
A concrete sub-floor on ground level requires an underlay with an attached moisture barrier or a damp proof membrane (DPM) added as a separate layer. Due to the porous property of concrete, ground water may penetrate through the floor, causing damage from moulds, mildew and warping. A moisture barrier underlay will protect the laminate floor from moisture that may seep up from the concrete substrate.
Combination foam or film underlay comes with a built-in layer of vapour barrier that is suitable for concrete or plywood substrates. It is ideal for areas with high moisture levels like the basement and bathroom. Alternatively, a plastic sheet moisture barrier may be laid under a standard foam underlay. Check with the manufacturer or retailer first if this method works well with the laminate floor.
Some types of underlay have special thermal insulating properties. They may consist of foil or polystyrene materials that reflect the heat and prevent it from escaping through the floor.
Choose an underlay with a high R value rating. An underlay with a high R value level indicates its superior heat conduction property. A thermal insulation underlay of excellent quality helps maintain the temperature indoors, keeps people warm and toasty, and prevents feet from freezing. It also saves on energy costs.
Use with underfloor heating
Adequate heat resistance against an underfloor heating system is essential and also ensure that you do not restrict the heat flowing through. An essential factor to account for is the material’s tog rating, which refers to its capacity to insulate or transfer the heat. Compute the total tog rating of the flooring and underlay. A lower tog value means better overall performance. Follow the dealer’s instructions and seek expert advice to avoid over insulation and possible damage.