Finding the Best Underlayment for Vinyl Plank Flooring in 2023

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Are you considering installing vinyl plank flooring in your home but feeling overwhelmed by the variety of underlayment options? Fear not! In this blog post, I’ll guide you through the process of selecting the best underlayment for vinyl plank flooring. Not only will I explore the importance of underlayment, but I also discuss the various types, factors to consider, and top recommendations. So let’s step up and make your flooring project a success!

Key Takeaways

  • Underlayment is essential for installing vinyl plank flooring correctly, providing moisture protection, sound absorption, and comfort.
  • Different types of underlayment offer their own unique advantages—consider material type, compatibility, and needs when choosing the right one.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions to ensure a successful installation & optimal performance from your vinyl plank flooring with or without an attached pad.

Should Vinyl Plank Flooring Have Underlay?

The short answer is yes. Installing vinyl flooring without an attached pad over a wooden subfloor requires an underlayment. This extra step is essential for proper vinyl floor installation as it serves several crucial purposes: moisture protection, sound absorption, enhanced comfort, and increased flooring durability.

With the right underlayment, you’ll enjoy a more comfortable, quiet, and long-lasting floor.

Let’s explore these benefits in more detail.

The Importance of Underlayment for Vinyl Plank Flooring

Underlayment is an essential component of vinyl plank flooring as it offers cushioning, soundproofing, and insulation. A flooring underlayment can make all the difference in the performance and longevity of your vinyl plank floors.

Imagine walking on a floor that feels cozy underfoot, reduces noise, and stands up to daily wear and tear. Sounds perfect, right? To achieve this ideal flooring experience, let’s dive into the specific benefits of underlayment.

Moisture Protection

Moisture protection prevents warping and mold growth. Although vinyl flooring is inherently waterproof, the subfloor isn’t. Moisture barriers, like cork underlayment or vapor barrier underlayment, protect your flooring from moisture damage, especially in areas prone to wetness like basements, bathrooms, and kitchens.

By investing in proper moisture protection, you ensure the longevity and appearance of your beloved vinyl plank flooring.

Sound Absorption

Imagine the tranquility of your home without the sound of your pet or family stomping around upstairs. This is the result of sound-absorbing underlayment, which reduces noise from foot traffic. Sound barrier underlayment is designed to reduce impact noise and airborne sound transmission, making your home a more peaceful and enjoyable living space. To meet building codes, it’s recommended to use an underlayment with an Impact Insulation Class (IIC) rating of 50 or higher.

Enhanced Comfort

Underlayment adds a cozy, cushioned feel to your floor, reducing fatigue in your feet and legs. Also, underlayment has thermal properties that can boost the warmth of the floor, providing a more comfortable walking surface in colder months.

Your feet will thank you.

Increased Flooring Durability

A high-quality underlayment provides a solid base and support for your flooring, ensuring it’s installed properly and lasts for years to come. By investing in the right underlayment, you’ll enjoy a beautiful and long-lasting floor that withstands daily wear and tear.

Types of Underlayment for Vinyl Plank Flooring

Now that we understand the importance of underlayment, let’s explore the different types available for vinyl plank flooring. Common underlayment materials include: 

  • Foam
  • Cork
  • Felt
  • Rubber
  • Polyethylene

Each material offers unique advantages, depending on your specific needs and preferences. Let’s take a closer look at these underlayment types to help you make an informed decision.


Foam underlayment is a popular choice due to its lightweight and flexible nature. It provides cushioning, sound absorption, and insulation for vinyl plank floors, making it a versatile and budget-friendly option.

However, it’s important to note that foam underlayment isn’t a moisture barrier and can act as a water trap, which can lead to mold and mildew growth.


Cork underlayment is a natural, antimicrobial, and absorbent material that provides excellent cushioning and insulation for vinyl plank flooring. Cork is moisture-resistant, making it a suitable option for moisture-prone areas like basements and bathrooms.

Cork underlayment also offers excellent sound absorption properties, creating a more peaceful living environment. Keep in mind that cork can be more expensive than other underlayment options.


Felt underlayment, made from recycled fibers, is a popular choice for its sound absorption and insulation properties. It can provide better sound control and insulation quality than foam and cork, making it an ideal choice for upstairs rooms or multi-family housing units.

Felt underlayment is relatively affordable, but its thickness can vary, with thinner options providing less cushioning.


Rubber underlayment is a great option for providing a cushiony feel, reducing noise, and offering protection against moisture. However, it’s essential to avoid placing rubber mats or rugs directly on vinyl plank flooring, as they can cause staining and damage.

Rubber underlayment can be an excellent choice for areas where cushioning and noise reduction are a priority.


Polyethylene underlayment is a type of water-resistant thermoplastic that serves as a moisture barrier. While it provides cushioning, sound reduction, and moisture protection for vinyl plank flooring, it may not offer the best sound insulation compared to other materials like felt and cork.

Polyethylene underlayment can still be a cost-effective and easy-to-install option for many homeowners.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Underlayment

When selecting the perfect underlayment for your vinyl plank flooring, consider the following factors: 

  • Material type
  • Flooring compatibility
  • Specific needs
  • Installation
  • Moisture protection
  • Thickness
  • Sound insulation. 

Let’s dive deeper into each of these factors to help you make an informed decision.

Material Type

Different materials offer unique advantages when it comes to underlayment. For instance, foam provides moisture protection and sound absorption, whereas cork provides enhanced comfort and increased flooring durability.

It’s important to research and compare the various materials to determine which one best suits your specific needs and preferences.

Flooring Compatibility

Not all underlayment materials work with every type of flooring. Consult the flooring manufacturer and select an underlayment specifically designed for vinyl plank flooring.

Also, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and follow them to the letter. This will help ensure that the flooring is installed correctly and will perform as expected. 

Specific Needs

Consider your individual requirements when selecting an underlayment for vinyl plank flooring. For example, if sound insulation is a top priority, choose a material that excels in reducing noise levels.

By identifying your specific needs, you can select the most suitable underlayment for your flooring project.


Proper installation of underlayment is vital for the longevity and performance of your vinyl plank flooring. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure that the subfloor is clean, dry, and level. 

Proper overlaps and seams maintain moisture protection and create a tight, waterproof seal between the underlayment pieces.

Moisture Protection

Ensure that the underlayment you choose offers adequate moisture protection, especially in moisture-prone areas such as basements, bathrooms, and kitchens. Proper moisture protection will prevent warping and mold growth, ensuring the longevity of your vinyl plank flooring.


The thickness of the underlayment plays a significant role in the comfort and sound insulation of your vinyl plank flooring. Thicker underlayments typically provide better cushioning and sound insulation, but it’s essential to check with the flooring manufacturer for their recommended thickness.

Selecting the appropriate thickness will ensure optimal performance and comfort.

Sound Insulation

Select materials specifically designed to absorb sounds, such as foam or recycled fiber acoustic underlayment. A well-insulated floor will create a more peaceful and enjoyable living environment, reducing noise levels in your home.

Top Underlayment Recommendations for Vinyl Plank Flooring

Based on our research and experience, we’ve compiled a list of the top underlayment recommendations for vinyl plank flooring:

  • Floorlot Polyethylene Foam
  • Eco Cork Foam Premium Plus
  • Whisper Step
  • QuietWalk Plus QW100PLUS Underlayment
  • Bestlaminate 3 in 1 Flooring Underlayment. 

These options provide a combination of cushioning, moisture protection, sound absorption, and support for a variety of flooring types.

Floorlot Polyethylene Foam

Floorlot Polyethylene Foam underlayment is a lightweight, flexible, and moisture-resistant option for vinyl plank flooring. It offers cushioning and moisture resistance, and helps even out minor subfloor imperfections, ensuring a stable and well-supported floor.

In addition, its laminated moisture barrier prevents mold growth, making it a reliable choice for moisture protection.


Eco Cork Foam Premium Plus

Eco Cork Foam Premium Foam Plus underlayment is a unique blend of cork and foam, offering excellent moisture protection, sound absorption, and a solid base for vinyl plank flooring. Its Class 1 vapor barrier provides 360 degrees of protection, ensuring your flooring remains safe from moisture damage.

With its eco-friendly composition, it’s also an environmentally responsible choice for your flooring project.


Whisper Step

Whisper Step is a luxury, high-density underlayment designed to reduce impact noise, making it an ideal choice for multi-story homes or apartments. Its acoustic properties remain intact over time, ensuring consistent sound reduction throughout the life of the floor.

In addition, Whisper Step underlayment works great over most substrates, making it a versatile option for various flooring types.


QuietWalk Plus QW100PLUS Underlayment

QuietWalk Plus underlayment is made from recycled felt, providing sound insulation and firm support for your vinyl plank flooring. This underlayment is an eco-friendly choice that contributes to reducing waste while offering excellent performance.

With its combination of cushioning, moisture protection, and sound absorption, QuietWalk Plus is a top choice for various flooring types.


Bestlaminate Blue Vapor 3 in 1 Flooring Underlayment

Bestlaminate Blue Vapor 3 in 1 Flooring Underlayment is a budget-friendly option that offers great performance without breaking the bank. It provides cushioning, moisture protection, and sound absorption, ensuring that your vinyl plank flooring is well-supported and comfortable.

If you’re looking for an underlayment that delivers excellent value for money, Bestlaminate 3 in 1 Flooring Underlayment is a top contender.


Installation Tips and Best Practices

Proper installation means a longer-lasting floor and better performance. To ensure a successful installation, prepare the subfloor, ensure proper overlap and seams, adhere to manufacturer instructions, and consider if underlayment is needed for vinyl plank flooring with an attached pad.

Follow these tips and best practices to enjoy a beautiful and long-lasting floor that withstands daily wear and tear.

Preparing the Subfloor

Before installing your underlayment, clean, dry, and level your subfloor. Vacuum or sweep away any dirt, dust, and debris, and use a level to check for any high or low spots.

For wood or concrete subfloors, use a self-leveler for low spots and sandpaper for high spots. A well-prepared subfloor will ensure a smooth and successful installation.

Proper Overlap and Seams

Create a tight, waterproof seal between the underlayment pieces to maintain moisture protection. Properly aligned seams and overlaps will prevent moisture from seeping through.

Adhering to Manufacturer Instructions

Read and follow the guidelines closely, paying extra attention to safety warnings and using the correct tools and materials.

Should You Put Underlayment Under Vinyl Plank Flooring With an Attached Pad?

If your vinyl plank flooring comes with an attached pad, you may wonder if additional underlayment is necessary. In most cases, the attached pad already provides the cushioning and moisture protection needed.

However, it’s always best to follow the flooring manufacturer’s recommendations, as some may require or suggest adding a separate underlayment for added protection or specific performance characteristics.

Embark On Your Vinyl Plank Flooring With Confidence

Selecting the perfect underlayment for your vinyl plank flooring is important to having a comfortable, durable, and long-lasting floor. By considering material type, flooring compatibility, specific needs, installation, moisture protection, thickness, and sound insulation, you can make an informed decision that suits you and your family’s unique requirements at home. With our top underlayment recommendations and installation tips, you’re now equipped to go forth on your vinyl plank flooring journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Best Underlayment for Vinyl Plank Flooring?

For the best sound insulation under your vinyl plank flooring, felt and cork are your ideal choices. Both materials provide excellent cushioning and sound absorption capabilities, making them the perfect choice for your flooring project.

Felt is a great choice for sound insulation because it is lightweight and easy to install. It also provides a good amount of cushioning, which helps to reduce noise levels. Similarly, cork is a close second. 

Should I Put Anything Under My Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Yes, you should use an underlayment when installing vinyl plank flooring. An underlayment provides additional cushion and sound reduction and acts as a moisture barrier for concrete subfloors.

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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