Vinyl Underlayment Guide

When it comes to vinyl flooring, underlayment is not always necessary. Vinyl underlayment is generally an option if you’re looking for extra cushion, sound absorption or thermal properties. There are several factors to consider when it comes to vinyl flooring underlayment.

If you’re unsure if you should or should not buy vinyl flooring underlayment, keep reading! We will go through everything you need to know about vinyl flooring underlayment.

Why is Vinyl Underlayment Needed?

Vinyl underlayment is an optional add on to click lock vinyls that are 4mm or thicker. Vinyl floors that are glue down or loose lay will not need a vinyl underlayment, as these floors will be installed directly over the subfloor.

A vinyl flooring underlayment will not be as thick as a laminate or hardwood underlayment. Since vinyl planks are generally thinner than a laminate, the underlayment is also thinner. If too much cushion is beneath the vinyl planks, the locking system and joint integrity will be compromised. Most vinyl underlayments are 1mm to 1.5mm thick.

When dealing with a click lock vinyl of 4mm or thicker, an underlayment has several benefits:

  • It can help smooth over minor subfloor imperfections.
  • It will add extra cushion to the floor, creating a softer feel under foot.
  • It can help with sound absorption.
  • It can help lock in thermal properties to help keep the floor warmer in cold months.
  • It will prevent moisture from being trapped beneath the planks.

How to Choose Vinyl Underlayment

There are a variety of brands and features available for vinyl flooring underlayment, so it can be hard to figure out which one you need. Below is a list of factors to consider when buying a vinyl underlayment.

Type of Subfloor

The type of subfloor is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to underlayment. There are three types of subfloors that you may be installing over: concrete, plywood and an existing floor.

Concrete Subfloor: If you’re installing over a concrete subfloor, you will want to look for an underlayment that will give you added cushion, moisture protection and possibly thermal ratings. A concrete subfloor will have a very hard feel underfoot, especially with a thinner vinyl. Adding underlayment will help give a softer feel underfoot.

A concrete subfloor is porous, so moisture tends to be a concern in areas, such as basements. Opt for a moisture barrier to prevent any moisture from getting trapped between the subfloor and your vinyl flooring.

Lastly, if you live in a colder climate, a concrete subfloor tends to take on the cold temperature. By adding a thermal rated underlayment, you can help add some warmth underfoot.

Plywood Subfloor: If you’re installing over a plywood subfloor, you do not need a vapor barrier, but you may want to look for cushion and sound dampening. On multi-floor constructions, such as a two story house or condo, you may want to get an underlayment that absorbs the sound from above. Not only will the sound be lessened, but it will add comfort underfoot, which can be a big re-sale point.

Existing Subfloor: You may be installing your vinyl over tile, glue down vinyl or hardwood. In this case, you will not need to worry about a moisture barrier. Cushion may be your only concern with this type of subfloor.

With any installation, you will want to make sure your subfloor is clean, level and in good shape. Your subfloor is the foundation of your installation, and when improperly prepared, can cause issues with your vinyl flooring down the road.

Type of Vinyl

The type of floating vinyl you choose will impact the feel of your flooring as well. If you opt for a thicker vinyl, you will have more material to cushion your step underfoot. A thinner vinyl will have less material to cushion your step and take on the feel of the subfloor. With a rigid core vinyl, you will have a more stable feel underfoot, but less cushioned feel.

If your vinyl already has an underlayment attached, you will not need any additional padding. In this case, you may just look into a Visqueen Vapor Barrier to prevent moisture from a concrete subfloor.

Budget

Your budget may be the biggest decision factor when it comes to choosing your vinyl underlayment. There are a variety of brands and options on the market from low to higher prices. Your underlayment will add to your cost per square foot, but it can make a huge difference in how the floor performs everyday.

Location

Location is a factor when it comes to multi-story construction, such as a condo or apartment. Most condo and apartment associations will specify certain Sound Transmission Class (STC) and Impact Isolation Class (IIC) ratings when it comes to installing underlayment and flooring. The higher the rating, the more effective at limiting sound.

STC ratings determine airborne noises and IIC ratings measure the impactful sounds, such as footsteps and drops. Consider these sound ratings in your vinyl underlayment for commercial or apartment buildings.

Thermal ratings

If you live in a colder climate or have periods of colder months, you may want to look into an underlayment with a thermal R value. The R-value or thermal rating determines how well underlayment can conduct heat and keep warmth underfoot. This is a great option for concrete subfloors and basement installations.

Radiant Heat

Most underlayments can be installed over radiant heating systems, but it is important to search for ones specified for this usage for the best results. Be sure to check with the manufacturer before installing an underlayment over a radiant heating system.

Types of Vinyl Underlayment

There are a variety of underlayment options and brands to choose from. Below are the vinyl underlayments we offer at Bestlaminate.

shop vinyl underlayment

Installation Guides

NOTE: The tips provided here are only intended to guide your installation. You should ALWAYS follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Depending on which underlayment you purchased, there will be slightly different installation instructions per manufacturer. By properly installing underlayment, you will protect your floors  for years to come. Save money and install it yourself!

    Need help selecting the right underlayment for your flooring project? Contact one of our flooring experts to guide you through the types.