The main purpose of flooring underlayment is to allow your floating floor to shrink and expand as the room temperature and humidity changes. Floating floors are not permanently attached to your subfloor, and to help avoid damaging friction, you need underlayment, which will give your floor smooth surface to float on.
Standard Foam Underlayment is the most common type of flooring padding. It is suitable for laminate wood flooring, engineered wood hardwood floor and /or any other type of floating floor. This underlayment is simply a thin foam padding, about 1/8″ thick. Made out of polyethylene or polypropylene it usually comes in rolls. The size of the roll ranges anywhere from 100 to 1,500 square feet.
Standard underlayment provides very basic sound reduction, thermal R-value and sub-floor correction. It’s a small, but necessary step in your laminate flooring installation. Keep reading to learn how to install standard foam underlayment.
Can I Use Foam Underlayment on all Subfloors?
In general, flooring underlayment gets laid down over the subfloor before installing the floating floor. Standard foam underlayment is suitable for installation over wood, plywood, OSB subfloor, and other places where there is no possibility of moisture coming up from the subfloor, such as tile.
For concrete subfloors, you should use an underlayment with a vapor barrier to protect from moisture. Concrete is porous and can cause damage to your floating floor if the proper underlayment is not used. You can only use Standard Foam Underlayment on a concrete subfloor with a vapor barrier film. This just adds an extra step in your installation, so it’s easier to buy an underlayment specifically for concrete subfloor installation.
Are You Ready? Follow our Illustrated Step-By-Step Guide
In this illustrated guide, we will walk you step-by-step and show you how to install standard foam underlayment fearlessly. Before you start installation, prepare your supplies and all the tools. Good organization is key to success. Make sure to have everything ready beforehand in order to remain uninterrupted during installation.
- Standard Foam Underlayment
- Nails and screws
- Tape measure
- Sticky Tape
- Utility Knife
Step 1: Remove the Existing Floor
The very first step should be to remove your existing floor that is currently covering your room. This includes surfaces such as vinyl, laminate, and carpet. If you have linoleum, hardwood, tile, or commercial carpets, you can keep them as long as the manufacturer of your floor allows it, and they are even, flat and in good condition. If there are large gaps, damage, peeling corners or uneven spots, you may want to consider fixing or removing.
For carpet, you must remove the carpet and padding. Carpet padding is too thick and cannot be used as an underlayment for floating types of flooring.
You will also need to remove any existing quarter round and wall base moldings prior to the installation.
Step 2: Clean Your Subfloor
The surface of the subfloor must be clean. Using your broom or vacuum cleaner, clean your subfloor from all loose debris and dirt before moving forward with the foam underlayment installation.
Step 3: Inspect Your Sub-Floor
After your subfloor is nice and clean, it is time for an inspection. It is a very important task that’s very often neglected. Make sure to carefully inspect your subfloor and make sure it’s flat, in good repair, and dry.
Step 4: Fix Your Subfloor
If you noticed any issues with your subfloor, take time to address it before moving forward. Your subfloor MUST be FLAT. Period! To fix uneven subfloors, nail down all sticking out nails, repair or replace damaged wood subfloor and fill excessive gaps in the subfloor. Your subfloor plays a very important role in supporting your floor, so make sure to address all the issues now.
More tips before moving forward with the installation:
- Your subfloor must be flat
- Your subfloor must be dry – maximum acceptable moisture reading for wood subfloors is 14%
- Creaking areas must be repaired before installation
- If your subfloor sags, inspect the joints below for twists or weaknesses
- Capped or uneven areas on joints may be related to moisture damage
- Low areas must be replaced or filled with leveling formula
- Picked joints must be sanded
- Any sticking nails or screws must be removed or fixed
Step 5: Let’s Get Unrolling
Standard Foam Underlayment comes in rolls that range from 100 to 1,500 square feet. Don’t lay out all the underlayment at once. All you need to do is just unroll one row of the standard flooring underlayment at a time to keep your work area nice and clean.
Step 6: Work Left to Right
Work from left to right. Butt the foam roll against your wall. Lay your floor padding in the direction you will be installing flooring planks.
Step 7: Tape Rows
Secure rows by taping them together, this will keep your underlayment in place.
Step 8: Don’t Overlap
Be sure not to overlap the pieces of the underlayment when you add consecutive rows. All you have to do is butt rows together and secure them with a sticky tape.
Step 9: Work by Sections
Do not roll an entire roll of underlayment out at once. Work section by section, installing your underlayment and flooring together as you move forward.
Step 10: Add Flooring
To begin laying flooring start at the corner of the room and lay plank-by-plank on top of underlayment until you reach the opposite wall. Each row should have no gaps in joints. Once your first row is complete, start on the next row.
Please note: the joints in the flooring should not line up from one row to the next. This will help prevent the flooring from separating over time. Continue to lay rows of flooring until you are getting near the edge of underlayment. When this happens, lay your next row of underlayment. Be sure to acclimate your flooring 48 hours before the installation. You can find our full laminate installation tutorial here.
Step 11: Keep Going
Install your flooring plank by plank on top of the underlayment. Continue until your project is finished.
And that’s how to install standard foam underlayment! It is not complicated, right? Installing flooring yourself can save you 25-50% on your installation project, so on an average, a 500 square feet laminate flooring project can save you approximately $500-$750. Nice reward for your hard work, right?
If you have additional tips, please share them with us and our readers in the comments below!