Best Underlayment For Laminate Flooring

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best underlayment for laminate flooring

Are you thinking about installing new laminate flooring in your home instead of opting for the traditional choice of carpeting?

Well, if you are, then you know you have probably already looked at your available options for underlayment. This will be laid before the laminate flooring to help add a barrier against damage over time and make the floor more comfortable to walk on. 

Many materials are said to work as an underlayment for flooring, but you don’t just want an option that will offer only slight protection against damage from water or moisture.

So, we have gathered the best choices for underlayment for laminate flooring to give you the greatest options to choose from.

What is the Best Underlayment for Laminate Flooring? 

When installing laminate flooring, the best underlayment is either cork or foam. Both options are easy to install, are cheap choices, and offer noise reduction as well as moisture protection. Some foams also have an extra layer for moisture protection, which is ideal for wet weather conditions or areas prone to flooding. 

You want your underlayment to keep your laminate flooring in place, dry, and allow the planks to contract or expand slightly. This expansion and contraction happen in small amounts and is due to the temperature variations throughout the different seasons of the year. 

This will allow the laminate flooring to avoid being pushed upward from not having enough room to expand in the summer. It will also keep the floors even and looking polished. The layering will keep the laminate flooring off the cement ground and also keep the floors a bit warmer so that you can walk on them without your feet getting too cold. 

You also want to keep your laminate floors safe from moisture damage that occurs from rainy and moist weather. If you have the proper type of underlay for your flooring, then your laminate floors will last as long as possible. 

It is important to get the best underlayment for laminate floors, even as important as getting the right type of flooring because having the incorrect type will keep the laminate from lasting as long as it should.

So, let’s take a closer look at these two top choices: 

Cork 

cork underlayment

Cork underlayment for flooring is a great choice because of many benefits that come with it. We have already mentioned that these two underlay choices are good for water and moisture damage prevention, but cork is an even  better choice for noise reduction 

Not only can this material help keep your laminate flooring intact, but it also helps to dampen the noise level of the home so that you don’t hear an echo. This might not seem like much of an issue, but you don’t want an empty feeling in your home due to an echo, which will also make guests feel like they need to speak quietly. 

This makes it a  good choice to place in areas where there will be more noise, like the living room and kitchen, to help soak up the loud noise when you have lots of company over 

This doesn’t make people feel as comfortable in the home, and it doesn’t make the house feel inviting. If you want to have nice floors to entertain, then not providing proper sound reduction will defeat the purpose. 

Cork is also  great for having a more comfortable floor, even though you are installing hard flooring . This is because there is a difference between walking on plain laminate floors, and walking on them with an underlayment, which gives it more bounce and cushion. 

You can think of this as the difference between walking on wood floors, versus walking on a rug on top of that wood floor. One will give you more padding and bounce than the other, therefore making it more comfortable to stand on. 

Cork has a lot of bounce, which you can see when you look at a wine cork, which makes it able to handle a lot of weight and pressure without flattening out. This gives your floors a boost that won’t wear out. 

This material is also a dense one, which is why it is so good at maintaining its original shape. This means that you will still have the same bounce in the cork over a long period of time. 

Durable materials make the best options for underlayment for laminate floors, and because cork material is highly durable, it is one of the best choices to go with. 

Foam 

foam underlay

A foam underlay is one of  the most common choices of materials because it is widely available and is especially popular for placing under laminate flooring . This is a simple option that is a thin layer of foam that is used as a barrier between the subfloor and the laminate flooring.

Laminate flooring is thin and is not soft, so adding a foam layer will not only help keep the flooring in place, but it also helps make it more comfortable. However, unlike the cork material, foam is not as dense. 

This makes it more comfortable and easier to install, but it also means that you don’t have the same bounce as the cork either. This isn’t necessarily a negative, but it does make a difference in the sound-proofing of the space and the comfort of the floor. 

When it comes to sound reduction, foam is not as good at reducing the volume because it is not as dense as cork. However, this is not an issue in many rooms in the house. Besides the main rooms like the kitchen and living room, which is where guests will typically gather the most, this will not make much of a difference in other areas.

This is especially true for dining rooms and bedrooms, which often have large pieces of furniture and rugs that help absorb the sound anyway. So, as an inexpensive and widely available option, it will work for many places in the home even if sound reduction is important to you. 

Although foam is thin and doesn’t offer much moisture protection alone, you can find options that come with a plastic layer underneath the foam that will help this issue.  The plastic piece will help act as a moisture barrier to keep damage from building up under the surface of the laminate flooring and causing any problems.  

This does not come on every foam underlayment, so you might have to search for a foam material that comes with this added layer. However, if you do, this will help strengthen the foam and give it better moisture protection. 

Which Option is the Best Overall? 

When taking a look at both cork and foam materials, is one better than the other? Well, each has different uses and are better at certain things, so there is really no definitive answer. However, there are certain instances where one might be the best option for the situation.

If you have a large house that happens to have an echo, then noise reduction will likely be one of the most important things to look at. In this case, you will want to get the cork material because it is much better at reducing the echo and loud noises. 

If you want to have an option that is easy to install, and comes at a cheaper price, then the foam will be a better option for your budget. Foam with an added layer for moisture protection can also be a great way to increase the durability of your laminate flooring. 

Depending on what type of laminate flooring you choose to purchase, and what you want the material to help with, your best choice will change. So, though there is no one answer that will work in every scenario, it will still be narrowed down to either cork or foam as the best overall.

What About Attached Underlayment? 

Some types of laminate flooring come with attached underlayment. This is a simple option because you will get the best option of material without having to look for it yourself. However, these are often sold at a higher price because of the added work put into them. 

These are ideal for homeowners who intend to install the laminate flooring themselves because this flooring is the easiest to attach yourself. You do not have the lay down the foam or cork underlayment before adding the laminate flooring, which takes off an entire step. This cuts down on the time you will spend putting the flooring in. 

If you are liking the idea of getting an attached underlayment, then you won’t have to choose the material at all. The best material will come attached. 

What Material is the Cheapest? 

cheapest material

The  foam material is by far the cheapest option because it is the lightest and thinnest of the two choices . Foam is more porous and is easier to produce, but it is also easier to find, which means that it is produced in larger quantities.

Because of this, the price of larger amounts can be sold for a lower price than the cork material. Cork is denser, a bit thicker, and isn’t as widely available. This makes it a higher-priced option because it is an extremely durable option that not all customers will be able to afford. Because of this, it is considered a premium option. 

If you want to have a more durable option, then the cork material is your best bet. However, if you can’t afford to put that underneath the laminate flooring after purchasing the flooring itself, then you can opt for the foam material because it is cheaper. 

However, if you are hoping to purchase the attached underlayment flooring options, this will be a higher price than anything else. So, if you want to go with this option, prepare to save up a bit more to afford the total cost. 

Do You Need to Have Underlayment for Laminate Flooring? 

common questions

This is a common question among homeowners who are doing the work themselves and want to keep the cost of the project as low as possible. However, though you might be able to go without if you aren’t expecting to keep the floors the same for very long, you will still want to use it. 

The reason that this material is so important is that it keeps your floors long-lasting. If you attempt to install laminate flooring without anything underneath, you will find that the flooring will not last long and will start to come up or become uneven. It could even get damaged easily enough to cause you to have to redo the floors, again.

Laminate flooring is thin and only comes with a thickness of 12mm. This is thin and makes it a fragile material that is prone to being damaged with heavy use. Also, because it can be damaged easily, you could end up spending more in the long run.

With the foam or cork material underlay, you won’t have to worry as much about the floors being damaged. Plus, you will also get the added benefits of the floors being more comfortable to walk on, having noise reduction, and allowing the floors to have a longer life. 

Final Words 

Finding the right underlay for your laminate flooring will help make it look better, last longer, and comes with many other benefits. So, although you could choose to get without it, there are so many more reasons to have underlay than not to. The benefits far outweigh the con, which is that it is an added cost. With the protection and comfort it brings, there is no reason not to add underlay to your laminate flooring. 

However, you want to ensure that the material you choose for the underlay is the right choice for your home and your flooring. Take another look at the cork and foam options above to remind yourself of the benefits of each option before deciding on which one to use and you will have found a great underlayment for laminate flooring for your home.

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AUTHOR

Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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