If you are putting down new laminate floors in your home and you’ve decided to do a bit of DIY, you might be wondering what you must do to prepare the area and how this works. It’s important to get this right, because if you don’t, there’s a high risk that your floors will not look good or last well.
Understanding how to lay laminate flooring and what must be done first is critical to making sure the floor works well. If you fail to do this, your floor may be uneven, and it will soon crack and split.
Do all laminate floors need underlayment? You need to use underlayment for your laminate floors unless they come with underlayment already installed. Some floors have the underlayment built into them, so you must check whether this is the case or not before you put the laminate down. If the underlayment is built in, do not add any more underneath.
What is Underlayment?
Underlayment serves several important purposes. Laminate floors float, and underlayment gives them the ability to float. It also provides noise reduction, support, and stability. Without it, the locking system between the planks will not work properly, and your floor may be weak and unstable.
This material is designed to help the laminate flooring stay in place. It’s a spongy padded sheet that goes between the subfloor and the laminate planks, and it evens out the subfloor, ensuring that the laminate will lie smooth and flat.
Furthermore, underlayment can help with moisture control and insulation. It prevents dampness from rising from your subfloor, and reduces the amount of heat that can escape through the floor.
It also makes the floor more comfortable to walk on, especially if you have something hard like brick or concrete underneath. Although the laminate itself is hard, it will feel softer if it is on a spongy surface, and this makes the floor feel better. With the addition of significant noise reduction, it’s clear why underlayment is so often used.
Underlayment is a crucial part of laying a laminate floor and you must make sure you have this in place before you lay the laminate, unless your laminate has the underlayment built into it. If it does, you will need to lay it directly on the subfloor, and not add an extra layer of underlayment, or you could cause issues.
Underlayment is a somewhat complicated part of laying laminate flooring, but it is arguably the most important part to get right, because it is what gives your floor stability. If you get this wrong, the floor will not last.
What Kinds of Underlayment Are There?
There are quite a few kinds of underlayment, and which you need depends on what kind of subfloor you have. You might choose a cork underlayment, a silent underlayment, a felt underlayment, a standard underlayment, a vapor underlayment, or something else.
If your subfloor is cement, you will need a vapor underlayment, as this prevents moisture from seeping up into your laminate. If your subfloor is wooden, you may be able to use a standard underlayment.
Other factors will also help you to determine what sort of underlayment you need. For example, if you have a wooden subfloor but it is creaky and not very even, you may need to invest more in a premium underlayment that can cushion the laminate and reduce the noise. Cork will also do this to some degree.
If you aren’t sure about what sort of underlayment is needed, you might wish to get advice from an expert about what they would lay. Getting this right will make a big difference to the overall feel, appearance, and longevity of your laminate flooring, so it’s worth doing.
Do You Really Need Underlayment?
Some people are tempted to skip this part because it is not visible once the floor is in and they don’t realize its importance. However, it is extremely difficult to lay laminate flooring on an imperfect surface, and your subfloor often will be imperfect. Without the underlayment, you will not be able to produce a flat, even surface with your laminate.
If you don’t use underlayment, you may not immediately see any problems with your laminate flooring. It might look perfectly good to begin with. However, it will begin to sink, cave in, rise up, and split where the lower surface is not flat. This will destroy the floor eventually.
Laminate flooring does not have the structural integrity to deal with imperfections beneath its surface. Where hardwood, tiles, and other strong surfaces can cope with small gaps underneath them, laminate must have the underlayment to keep it structurally sound.
Some people choose not to use underlayment in rooms that have low foot traffic and are unimportant. Because underlayment can be expensive, this is one way to keep the costs down. If your subfloor is very smooth and flat, this could work.
However, be aware that the floor’s lifespan may be significantly reduced because it will be under a lot more stress every time it is walked on. With no cushioning beneath it, even small imperfections in the subfloor will put stress on the laminate, and it will start to degrade.
How Do You Know If Your Laminate Already Has Underlayment Installed?
As some laminate flooring comes with underlayment attached, you must check this before you start installing it. Putting underlayment against a secondary layer of underlayment is not a good idea. Fortunately, the laminate should say if it has underlayment attached.
Always check the packaging before purchasing your laminate to see whether or not it needs underlayment, and then plan your DIY project accordingly. Don’t use a separate layer of underlayment if the laminate you have purchased already has some in place.
All laminate floors need underlayment, whether this is pre-installed or something that you lay before you put the laminate down. The underlayment serves a wide variety of purposes and without it, your laminate flooring will not lie flat and will quickly start to wear. Always purchase high quality underlayment before you install the laminate.