Underlayment is a flooring installation- such as plywood, OSB, or fiberboard- that serves as a buffer between the subfloor and the floor surface. Underlayment works to improve the floor’s compression resistance, provide moisture protection, amongst other functionalities. However, does vinyl flooring need an underlay?
The underlayment is placed between the subfloor and covering floor layers. Underlayment plays an important role to prevent buckling, cupping, and bouncy floors. As such, there are some instances where vinyl underlayment is beneficial before laying vinyl covering boards, while in others it may be an unnecessary expense.
Generally, one doesn’t need underlayment prior to installing vinyl flooring, as it’s designed to have maximum stability. However, there are instances in which you may find it more beneficial to install underlayment before laying down your vinyl floorboards. We discuss these and more below.
Do you need underlay for vinyl flooring
The main reasons you may need to install underlayment over your subfloor before installing vinyl flooring include boosting the floor’s acoustic capabilities, correcting an uneven subfloor, and providing enhanced moisture protection.
Other considerations may necessitate the underlayment depending on the type of vinyl flooring you’re planning to install in your house as discussed below.
Click and Lock Vinyl
Click and lock vinyl planks have an interlocking system designed to be installed directly onto the subfloor. However, if you want to enhance soundproofing and cushioning, it’s advisable to install underlayment before laying down your click and lock vinyl flooring.
In addition, concrete subfloors are porous and can cause moisture damage issues for your newly-laid vinyl flooring. By installing an underlay, you’ll be creating a vapor barrier for your vinyl surface, hence preventing moisture damage from compromising your floor structure.
Luxury Vinyl Planks
Luxury vinyl planks(LVP)are a relatively softer flooring option, which means that adding an underlay would result in excessive cushioning, causing dents and accelerating the rate of wear and tear. We- therefore- recommend that you avoid installing underlayment for this type of flooring.
What’s more, most of these high-end luxury vinyl planks usually come with an underlayment material already attached to the bottom side. Therefore making it unnecessary to install additional underlayment. However, if you still feel that an underlay would be great, go for a dense one.
Vinyl Sheet Flooring
Generally, you won’t need to underlay for vinyl sheet flooring, as you can simply glue down the sheets directly over most flooring surfaces, including concrete, linoleum, and old vinyl floors.
However, if your old floor is uneven, has bumps and dips, or is buckled. You require to install an underlayment layer before installing your vinyl sheets. This helps to prevent the new vinyl sheet floor from assuming the bumpy texture of the subfloor beneath it.
How do I install vinyl flooring underlayment?
To properly install vinyl flooring underlayment on your existing subfloor, follow the procedure detailed below:
- Allow the underlayment panels to acclimatize to the room in which they are to be installed. Put or keep them in that room for at least three days. This will lessen the chances of expansion/contraction problems down the line.
- Next, clean the subfloor by using a broom followed by a wet mop. Alternatively, you can use a vacuum cleaner.
- After prepping the subfloor, install the underlayment sheets and fasten them to the subfloor using staples, screws, or nails. In case you’re using staples, fasten the sheets at every two-inch intervals. Meanwhile, if you’re nailing or screwing them down, we recommend a six-inch interval. Also, if you have a plywood subfloor, make sure to align the underlayment sheets in the same direction as the subfloor.
- Finally, if there are narrow gaps between the underlayment panels, fill them in using a seam filler.
Things to consider before installing underlayment
The type of subfloor is one of the most important factors you should take into account when looking to install vinyl flooring underlayment, as detailed below:
1. Concrete Subfloor
Concrete subfloors typically feel very hard on the underfoot. Add vinyl flooring on top of it, and what you have is a rather hard, uncomfortable surface to walk on. By installing underlayment, you’ll be adding thickness to the thin vinyl profile, thereby providing more cushioning for a cozier underfoot feel.
In addition, concrete is a material with high porosity. This increases the risks of moisture seeping through the subfloor and being trapped within the installed vinyl planks- especially in light-deprived areas such as basements and crawlspaces. Installing an underlay first before the vinyl flooring creates a moisture barrier, keeping you vinyl flooring safe from moisture problems.
Finally, for homeowners in colder regions, installing a thermal-rated underlayment allows for a warmer underfoot feel. This is because concrete subfloors usually pick up cold temperatures, which you’re likely to feel as you walk barefoot on the thin vinyl planks. A good underlayment provides the extra thermal insulation required.
2. Plywood subfloor
If the subfloor is made of plywood, moisture won’t be an issue. However, you could still be looking for extra underfoot cushioning and sound proofing.
Underlayment dampens sounds and can be useful in dampening noise coming from above in multi-storied buildings. Proper sound-proofing using underlayment will also drive up your property’s market value.
3. Tile, Vinyl, or Hardwood subfloor
Subfloors made out of tile, hardwood, or glue-down vinyl already provide excellent moisture protection.
Still, you may need to install underlayment before laying down your new vinyl flooring to provide an extra layer of cushion. Make sure to prep your subfloor before installing underlayment by cleaning and leveling it.
Type of Vinyl Flooring
The type of vinyl flooring that you want to install can help you determine whether you need to install underlayment or not. For instance, if your vinyl planks have a thick profile, there’s no need for excessive cushioning by adding underlayment.
Conversely, if your vinyl floorboards are thinner, underlayment is a must to add a layer of cushioning. This will also prevent the floor from assuming the hard feel of the subfloor underneath it.
Finally, there is premium-quality vinyl flooring that comes with underlayment material pre-attached to the base. You don’t need underlayment for such luxury vinyl planks.