The Best Underlayment for Every Type of Flooring
We’re adventuring below the surface of flooring to understand underlayment. Every floor needs a solid foundation, and we’re here to help you install a floor that will last as long as your home.
What is Underlayment?
Underlayment is the protective layer between the subfloor and floor covering. Adding underlayment is a crucial step in preserving the longevity of laminate, vinyl, and hardwood flooring. Floor underlayment serves six main purposes.
1. Sound reduction
If you’re looking to quiet noisy foot traffic, look for an acoustical underlayment made from cork or felt. Our top choice is the [Eco-Ultra Quiet Underlayment](https://www.flooranddecor.com/underlayment-installation-materials/eco-ultra-quiet-premium-acoustical-underlayment-954200254.html). This underlayment is made with 100% post-consumer recycled granulated rubber tires and high-density polyurethane foam that lasts a lifetime while dampening sound. The best part is that it also has a moisture barrier for added protection.
2. Moisture and mold protection
An underlayment that offers a vapor barrier is essential to protect any flooring installed over a subfloor that emits moisture, like concrete. A thin foam underlayment made of polyethylene or polypropylene usually works best. If you have an attached pad laminate or vinyl floor, our recommendation is the [Sentinel Protect Plus Underlayment](https://www.flooranddecor.com/underlayment-installation-materials/sentinel-protect-plus-600sqft-100987189.html). This premium underlayment can be used on, below, and above grade. As an added benefit, it provides noise reduction and increases floor warmth by 15 %. If you don’t have an attached pad floor, the [Sentinel Moisture Barrier Polyethylene Film](https://www.flooranddecor.com/underlayment-installation-materials/sentinel-moisture-barrier-polyethylene-film-100586841.html) or the [Silicone Vapor Shield Underlayment](https://www.flooranddecor.com/underlayment-installation-materials/silicone-vapor-shield-underlayment-100654631.html) works best.
3. Thermal barrier
Choose an underlayment with a thermal barrier if you need to insulate your floor. Our brand of [Sentinel Underlayment](https://www.flooranddecor.com/underlayment-installation-materials?prefn1=brand&prefv1=Sentinel) helps insulate your flooring among other added benefits.
4. Floor cushioning
Another benefit of underlayment is the extra cushion it adds to your floors. All our premium brands of underlayment provide extra cushion, but if the main goal of your underlayment is a cushion, go with [EZ Foam Underlayment](https://www.flooranddecor.com/underlayment-installation-materials/ez-foam-underlayment-100106806.html).
5. Crush-proof technology
Underlayment acts as a covering for the subfloor, a structural piece of your home. It smooths and evens out imperfections, which helps prevent caving.
Do You Need Flooring Underlayment?
Whether you need underlayment depends on the type of flooring and where your flooring is installed. Some laminate and luxury vinyl options have attached pads, making underlayment only necessary when the flooring is installed on cement subfloors. Laminate and vinyl floors without an attached pad must have an underlayment to allow the floor to “float.” Hardwood flooring does not require underlayment; however, it increases the life span of your flooring.
Make note, underlayment installation is unique to the type of flooring used in your project. It is best to consult the flooring installation guide and cross reference the underlayment installation guide to ensure you are following the standards of both and get the best project results.
Underlayment for Laminate Flooring
Depending on the product you choose, laminate flooring may require underlayment. At Floor and Decor, we offer styles of laminate flooring with an attached pad. These special boards are designed with an underlayment attached to the plank. An underlayment probably isn't necessary if you’re installing these planks on or above ground over a wooden subfloor. If you’re installing laminate flooring over a subfloor, like concrete, you may want to install an underlay with a vapor barrier for added protection against moisture. Make sure you choose an underlay that works with an attached pad. Our top choice is [Sentinel Protect Plus Underlayment](https://www.flooranddecor.com/underlayment-installation-materials/sentinel-protect-plus-underlayment-100593631.html).
If your laminate flooring doesn’t have an attached pad, underlayment should be installed. Protect your floors from moisture with a [polyethylene or silicone underlayment](https://www.flooranddecor.com/underlayment-installation-materials?prefn1=productSubtype&prefv1=Vapor%20Barrier). If you're looking to reduce sound, use an [acoustical or cork underlayment](https://www.flooranddecor.com/underlayment-installation-materials?prefn1=productSubtype&prefv1=Underlayment%20-%20For%20Non-Attached%20Pad). Use the list above to find an underlayment that achieves a combination of benefits.
Underlayment for Vinyl Flooring
When it comes to underlayment, vinyl and laminate flooring are similar. At Floor and Decor, we offer premium quality vinyl flooring with an attached pad. This type of flooring doesn’t always require extra underlayment unless you’re installing it on a concrete subfloor and need protection against moisture. If you’re installing vinyl flooring without an attached pad over concrete, choose an underlayment that provides a moisture barrier and insulates your floor. You don't need underlayment if you’re installing vinyl with an attached pad over a wood subfloor. Vinyl without an attached pad installed over a wooden subfloor needs an underlayment. Wooden subfloors naturally control moisture and insulation, but you may want to dampen sound and smooth the surface with a fibrous or cork underlayment.
Underlayment for Hardwood Flooring
Underlayment isn’t always necessary for hardwood, but it will increase the longevity and durability of your wood. An underlayment made of cork or fibrous material works well for sound dampening, while a rubber or felt underlayment provides a moisture barrier.
If you’re still unsure about which underlayment is the right choice for your home, [head to your nearest store](https://www.flooranddecor.com/stores) for a chance to shop Floor and Decor [installation materials](https://www.flooranddecor.com/installation-materials) in person. Each store features a simple interactive station where you can feel, hear and compare underlayment options side-by-side. Don’t tread lightly when it comes to your flooring questions. You’re building the foundation of your home. Make sure the prep materials are quality and installed with time and attention to detail.