Here’s what underlayment worked best for our laminate floor
A lot of our guests compliment us on our laminate flooring. Some even think it’s real wood!
I act humble, but honestly – I really like how it turned out to be in the end. Here’s how it looks:
Me and Kate are more keen on white laminate flooring, as the usual darker woody tones are a bit too “heavy” for us. The laminate we picked infuses a cozier, brighter mood in all our rooms.
Here’s the catch: laminate can be beautiful on the outside, but can also quickly turn into a complete trainwreck beneath the surface.
That’s why you want to have some underlay for laminate floors. In our case, Floorlot’s 3-in-1 underlay did a great job – we wanted something moisture-resistant given the humid environment we live in.
Let’s first address a common question you’re probably wondering about too. That would be…
Do I have to use underlay for my laminate floor?
Nobody forces you to! But honestly, in standard cases, the best thing is to shoot for some proper laminate flooring underlayment.
Here are a few good reasons why:
Reducing noise. You’ve seen laminate – it’s obvious how thin this type of flooring is. If you put it on a subfloor, I can guarantee your steps will echo into eternity. Underlay tremendously helps with noise reduction.
Flattening surfaces. Subfloors aren’t flawless. In fact, there’s quite a bit of uneven spots on them. Laminate underlay flattens them, protecting your laminate from damage. In short, you get a peace of mind it’ll last longer.
Moisture-resistance. Some types of underlayment like our 3-in-1 foam one come with a vapor barrier. It allows for mold/moisture-resistance and believe me, you don’t want to have either under your laminate floor!
A note if you want to get some underlayment for laminate floors on concrete surfaces. As you can touch and feel, concrete is quite rough and hard.
In such cases, a proper thicker underlayment will make your flooring softer.
If you plan on living in a place made of concrete, definitely consider some laminate underlay. Stepping on a softer, cozier surface feels like heaven. Your feet feeling rough certainly doesn’t!
To minimize foot pain, remember to grab proper slippers for harder surfaces like hardwood floors, laminate or tiles.
Note: Always check whether your laminate floor actually comes with a built-in layer of underlayment! It doesn’t make sense to waste your money on additional underlay if you already have it!
What is the best type of underlayment for laminate flooring?
Ohhh…that’s a tricky question.
As with many other things, we’re dealing with a few variables. I’m not talking only talking about your budget, as some laminate floor underlays run significantly more expensive.
What I mean is that it depends on your living environment too.
For example, we’re in a more humid area. So for us, it made sense to go for the extra moisture-resistant feature. Underlay without proper vapor barrier would’ve compromised our laminate floor’s integrity.
Some people are more concerned with sound proofing. For them, a dedicated sound-reducing type of laminate floor underlay would be a better pick.
Roberts Super Felt is an affordable, yet high quality example of this type:
So the utility of the types of underlay usually boils down to this: focusing either on sound, or on moisture-resistance.
More premium options combine both, but expect to shell out a bit of cash!
I haven’t tried this, but it might also make sense to mix different underlayment. For example, for higher traffic areas like a living room, you can focus on the noise-reduction type.
For more “sweaty”/moist areas (maybe around the bathroom?), you can go with the vapor barrier type.
Materials underlay can be made of
There are not many types of laminate underlayments when it comes their actual construction.
Standard foam underlay is the cheapest option. It’s relatively thin and doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles (significant moisture-resistance or sound reduction.)
The fact that there’s no vapor barrier means you don’t really draw benefits from it if you’re in extra humid areas. That’s the reason we didn’t pick this type of laminate floor underlayment.
Combination foam underlayment is what we have. It’s a 3-in-1, 1/8” thick foam that comes with a layer that features a vapor barrier.
Sure, it’s a few bucks more. However, you can use these both over concrete or plywood, and a 3in1 combination foam will save your flooring in high moisture areas.
Cork or felt underlays are the premium treatment for your laminate floor – especially the cork. They are often similar in thickness (3mm or 1/8″.) The difference lies in their better sound absorbing capabilities.
In addition, similar to higher-end 3in1 foam underlays, they help with correcting some subfloor imperfections.
These are the best underlayment for laminate flooring on concrete, but work equally well on wooden surfaces.
3 best laminate underlayment options
1. Best value underlay:
Floorlot 3-in-1 with vapor barrier
As I pointed out before, this is what we used for our laminate flooring.
With one roll of this you cover around 200 sq.feet in a high quality, 1/8” (3mm) thick foam. The biggest benefit here is the vapor barrier that is a true savior for those extra humid areas.
I’m no DIY genius, but Floorlot’s underlayment was pretty straightforward to install.
It’s thicker than the budget options, but don’t expect ultra softness. If you have more delicate feet and live in a concrete building, try to shoot for a thicker cushioning.
As far as noise reduction goes, it does provide some. However, a felt/cork type of underlay will yield you better results. In our case, we didn’t need such a feature anyways.
All in all, this is an extremely good product considering its price tag. Definitely among the higher end of foam laminate underlays we were looking at.
2. Best sound reducing laminate underlay:
Roberts Super Felt
It’s not cork, but felt does a tremendous job for noise reduction anyways. If that’s your main concern for your laminate floors, Roberts is an affordable solution.
Instead of the foam-type, you’re getting a felt underlay that’s manufactured from recycled fibers. While as thick as the Floorlot one (1/8”), the different material makes quite the difference.
Don’t be fooled: it won’t completely soundproof your living space. And there’s no way it could, as it’s just underlay.
However, compared with foam underlayments, the level of noise reduction you’ll get are easily twofold or threefold.
To top it off, if you have some minor subfloor imperfections, the overall manufacture of this one will help with leveling them a bit. Spares you some time and efforts, if you ask me.
3. Best budget foam type:
A 3/32” thick roll of polyethylene foam, this Roberts underlay is for those who want something more affordable. Don’t worry, the quality is still there.
However, you’re not getting as high quality moisture-resistance or noise reduction.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s a moisture barrier here, but it’s not as good as the Floorlot we have.
Still, for general use, and not too humid areas, this is a reasonable pick if you want to add some cushioning under your laminate floors.
Installation is once again very easy, with the adhesive strip on the foam making sure protection is up to the needed quality while you unleash your DIY genius.
How should laminate underlayment be laid?
Generally, most manufacturers should provide you with some directions on how to lay their product.
My personal top tip would be to make sure the subfloor is as even as possible before even touching the underlayment.
Sure, some types will “smoothen” these imperfections. But we’re talking about minor irregularities! Sweep all the debris or particles for a clean start.
As far as the installation itself goes…
What really helps is that most foam underlayment comes in rolls. You just “unroll” them and start aligning them around your house by cutting with scissors, for example.
Remember to not overlap the edges of the underlay!
Another personal tip is to get a little bit more laminate floor underlayment than the actual area you want to cover. So for example, if you need to cover 100 square feet, don’t get a single 100 sq.feet roll.
Who knows, you might need to change some of the underlay during your DIY installation!
Also, make sure you get the job done in sections. If the underlayment shifts, its even surface will be ruined. (So much for evening out the subfloor before.)
Working piece by piece, section by section improves your overall accuracy and reduces the risk of getting a bumpy laminate floor after that.
Here’s a video you might find helpful on the topic of installing your laminate floor underlayment:
I’ll cover the topic of cleaning laminate flooring in the near future, as there are a few important things to remember here.
For now I can say that the cleaning products for laminate and hardwood floors do matter, so you need to pick carefully.
Kate and I use Method squirt, as we’re big fans of Method – something which she also mentions in her post on the fabric softeners we love.