Why do I need underlayment for laminate flooring installation?

Underlayment for laminate flooring is a must. Since laminate is a floating floor, it must be evenly distributed across your subfloor. Underlayment is what allows the floor to float, gives it stability, support, noise reduction, and supports the locking systems in between planks to assure the sturdiest flooring project. There are a number of different underlayment options and selecting the right one for your project can get somewhat complicated.

How to Choose Your Underlayment

The best way to determine which underlayment you need is by looking at your subfloor. The two most common subfloors are wood and cement and there are special differences you must pay attention to when looking for the proper underlayment.

Wood Subfloor

If you are installing laminate flooring on a wood subfloor, you should use a standard to the premium underlayment. If you wood subfloor is pretty sturdy, you won’t need any special underlayment. If your subfloor is a little uneven or creaky, you may want to get a premium underlayment that has noise reduction and cushion capabilities. Here are a few options:

Cement Subfloor

If you are installing laminate flooring on a cement subfloor, you should use a vapor underlayment. Vapor underlayments protect your flooring from any moisture that could seep up from the cement subfloor. You should also use one of these underlayments if you are installing in a below-ground level installation to help with moisture control. Here are a few options:

Some Exceptions

Pre Attached Underlayment

Pay close attention to the back of your laminate flooring. If you have purchased a laminate flooring that has underlayment already attached, then you should not use extra underlayment. Having too much cushion can destroy the integrity of the locking system and cause the floor to become unstable. There are some exceptions to pay attention to, however.

Wood Subfloor

If you are installing laminate flooring with pre-attached underlayment on a wood subfloor, you do not need any additional underlayment. The attached underlayment will allow your flooring to float just as standard underlayment would. Be sure to prepare your subfloor before installation to assure a seamless and smooth surface.

Cement Subfloor

If you are installing laminate flooring with pre-attached underlayment on a cement subfloor, you need to install a vapor barrier to prevent moisture from seeping up through the subfloor. Do not install a vapor barrier that has extra cushioning. Here are your options:

If you have any questions about underlayments, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment in the section below and we will answer it! If you’re ready to make a purchase, but still have a few questions, you can call us at 1-800-520-0961 and our sales representative will be able to assist you!

 

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*This post was updated from 2014 to give you a better reading experience!

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26 comments

  1. Alana Kane

    Hi Wendy, thanks for the question. First, you will need to make sure the tile is level. You’ll need to fill in the grout lines if they are deep. If you are installing laminate, you will need a standard underlayment – no need for a vapor barrier. A vinyl can be installed directly over the tile once it is level.

  2. Avatar

    How would you put a floating floor over tiles? Need underlay?

  3. Alana Kane

    Hi Tyrone, thanks for the question. Is the Kilz a sealant? We never recommend adding sealant or polish to a laminate, as the top layer is not natural wood. You may have problems with expansion if the polish adhered within the locking systems.

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    I have already laid a high-grade locking laminate flooring but I put Kilz on the wood the wood was dry and no moisture found it is already installed will I have a problem with this high grade flooring in the future and the flooring is waterproof

  5. Alana Kane

    Hi Tim, thanks for the question. Since you already have flooring down, you will not need a vapor barrier here.

  6. Avatar

    i plan to install laminate flooring with underlayent on it. i will be going over concrete with glue down wood vineered flooring and tile that has been down 20 years. the existing floor is in good shape, no loose areas. do i need a vapor barrier?

  7. Alana Kane

    Hi Awan, thanks for your question. In this case, I would remove the carpet. This way, you can check the subfloor and make sure it is in good condition with no moisture issues before you lay laminate. Also, most residential carpets will not work for under the laminate. You will want to look for an underlayment with a vapor barrier for over the concrete. Any laminate with 8mm or more thickness and AC3+ should work for your basement. You can shop options here and see how the floor would look in your room with our room visualizer: http://www.bestlamminate.com

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    I want to replace the carpet in the basement concrete flooring. Carpet is thin, hard and is quite old too. Can I put laminate on the top of the carpet? What type of laminate I need to buy in both situations, on the carpet or without carpet. Similarly, what type of underlayment if needed. Thanks

  9. Alana Kane

    Hi Nick, thanks for your question. With most laminate being 7mm or more, you won’t have to worry about floors feeling squishy. Laminate is very sturdy and doesn’t have the flex like a vinyl may. I would recommend a 2mm – 3mm underlayment for you. If you’re installing over concrete, you’ll need one with a vapor barrier. You can shop our underlayments here: https://www.bestlaminate.com/accessories/underlayment/

  10. Avatar

    Great write up on underlayment. I am getting ready to install wood laminate, and was looking for the correct underlayment.
    My biggest concern, is, I don’t want the floor feeling squishy when I walk on it. I want it to feel like a solid floor. I want to make sure the joints don’t move or bend as I walk across them. Should I go for a very thin underlayment?

  11. Alana Kane

    Hi Brendan, thanks for the question. You can look into an underlayment with thermal properties to help reduce the cold feeling under foot. Also, a thicker wood floor will help to keep a stable temperature as well. This is the underlayment I would recommend: https://www.bestlaminate.com/bestlaminate-felt-cushion-premium-underlayment-with-vapor-barrier-100sf-roll/;

  12. Avatar

    I have a carpet laid on top of marine ply nailed to joists. This lies over a 1 metre gap to a concrete basement. I would like to lay either a laminate or wood floor but I am concerned that in Winter the floor as it is even at the moment is cold through the vents around the wall surrounding the concrete base. This may be fine in Summer but too cool in Winter. What sort of underlay would you recommend to provide a decent insulation from the cold air in the gap below?

  13. Alana Kane

    Hi Nancy, thanks for your question. I would recommend sanding the subfloor, so you have an even, smooth surface to start with.

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    We have exterior grade plywood as our sub floor. This plywood is rough, would it be a good idea to use rosin paper down before the u underlayment. To avoid the Underlayment to get torn or ripped?

  15. Alana Kane

    Hi Kali, yes you will need to use an underlayment. This will help to decrease noise and also add comfort under foot. A standard underlayment is all you will need: https://www.bestlaminate.com/accessories/underlayment/standard-flooring-underlayment/

  16. Avatar

    We are having laminate laid on top of our original wood (they’re completely destroyed animal residue, water damage paint you name it) floors and was wondering if we need underlayment installed under the planks?

  17. Alana Kane

    Hi Scott, yes you can use the visqueen under your laminate. Just make sure you also have a cushioned underlayment beneath your laminate. If you go with a vapor barrier underlayment, you do not need the visqueen! Let us know if you have any other questions. You can browse our underlayments here: https://www.bestlaminate.com/accessories/underlayment/

  18. Avatar

    Can I use Visqueen 6Mil PE Vapor Barrier for laminated flooring installed on cement that does not have does not have pre-attached underlayment?

  19. Avatar

    Hey John, I do apologize, but a question like that should go to the manufacturer of the tiles you are attempting to put down.

  20. Avatar

    Hi. I have existing laminate over what appears to be a thin ply layer both of which are on top of a standard ply subfloor. This is in a kitchen. The floor in the adjoining family room was carpet over subfloor. I’m looking to tile the entire area. In lieu of scraping up the laminate and removing the ply layer, is it possible to add a thin ply layer over the non laminated subfloor to get as level as possible. Following that, add cement board over everything?

    Apologies if this question shouldn’t be asked here since I’m looking to remove or cover up laminate.

  21. Avatar

    Hi Shawn, thanks for reaching out. Is your existing vinyl flooring a floating floor or glue down? If it is floating, we recommend removing the vinyl and installing the new laminate directly on your subfloor. Installing a floating floor on top of an existing floating floor could lead to issues down the road and your warranty may be voided. If the existing vinyl is glued down, you can go ahead and install the new laminate on top, and use a standard underlayment. This underlayment will provide cushion for your flooring and allow it to float on top of the vinyl. Here is an underlayment we recommend: https://www.bestlaminate.com/standard-3mm-underlayment/

  22. Avatar

    I plan to lay laminate flooring over old vinyl flooring. Is there any need for additional underlayment?

  23. Alana Kane

    Hi Sharon, thanks for the question. Yes, if you have a concrete subfloor, you can lay laminate over top with a vapor barrier underlayment. You will need to test the concrete for moisture before installation. If I am mis-understanding what a poured floor means, please let me know!

  24. Avatar

    I have a “poured floor” and I want to lay a laminate floor on it. Do I need underlayment?

  25. Alana Kane

    Hi Braden! Underlayment is pretty easy to install. You just need some tape and scissors to lay it!

  26. Avatar

    I want to install laminate floors. I didn’t realize that they need to have underlayment! I think I’m going to rely on a professional to handle this stuff for me. I feel like I’ll make a mistake and mess it all up.