What is the best underlay for laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring looks great in pretty much any room of your house, thanks to its versatile design and neat finish, but a great flooring is only as good as the underlay beneath it.

But does laminate need underlay? And can you use the same underlay as for carpets? This guide will answer your questions and explain the specific features to look out for in underlay for laminate flooring.

Flooring underlay helps to keep your floor level, provides comfort and warmth, reduces noise, and generally prolongs the life of your flooring. But not all underlay is the same. Laminate underlay is much thinner than carpet underlay – usually, only about 3mm while carpet underlay can be 10mm thick. Our laminate flooring underlay is easy to install, keeps your laminate dry and comes in a wide range of thicknesses and densities to suit your home and budget. 

Do you need underlay for laminate flooring?

Long story short – no, you don’t necessarily need any underlay to put down laminate flooring in your home, but we strongly recommend it! You can opt to place your laminate boards directly on top of your subfloor, but the costs of going without underlay for your laminate flooring can rapidly outweigh any short-term savings.

You’ll soon find that you’re missing out on a lot of the benefits that come up with including underlay into your flooring plans, especially when the colder months come around or there’s an accidental liquid spill or two.

The benefits of laminate flooring underlay

The benefits of having laminate underlay for your flooring far outweigh the costs. Here are some of the ways that laminate underlay can help your home:
 
  • Warmth and insulation
  • Moisture absorption
  • Sound reduction
  • Keeping your laminate in place
     
Underlay can provide many different benefits depending on both the type you buy and the room that you’ll be putting laminate flooring into. Bedrooms and living rooms tend to be rooms that you want to feel especially warm and comfortable, so a thicker, thermal underlay will help to keep the heat in, and provide a slightly softer feeling underfoot than a less cushioned option. You might also want sound-reducing underlay under your laminate flooring if it’s in a high traffic area – as explored further in our FAQs below. 
 
On the flip side, you’ll want flooring that is extra durable and can handle a little moisture for accidental spills in bathrooms and kitchens. You can purchase underlay that has a built-in damp-proof membrane or vapour barrier that will protect both your laminate boards and your subfloor from damage. You can find out more about the different problems that can cause your laminate to become damaged in our care guides on the Ideas Hub.  
 
Most importantly, underlay will help to keep your laminate in place, ensuring that your boards don’t bounce, separate, or lift, so that you can keep the amazing look of your freshly installed laminate flooring for as long as possible. Choosing the right type of underlay for your subfloor is important, as sometimes the wrong type of underlay can also cause problems. 

What is the best underlay for laminate flooring?

Your first consideration needs to be what subfloor type you’re working with. Three types of subfloors are most common in the UK: concrete, plyboard and wooden planks. Each of these subfloor types has different properties that will dictate the type of underlay that is best to lay on top of it. 

WHICH UNDERLAY IS BEST FOR LAMINATE FLOORING ON CONCRETE?

Concrete subfloors always require an underlay with a built-in moisture barrier. Concrete is a porous material, meaning it will soak up moisture and ultimately transfer it to your laminate flooring, which will begin to swell and bubble if moisture gets into the wooden core of the boards. To avoid this, the best laminate flooring underlay for concrete subfloors needs to include a damp proof membrane or vapour barrier.

WHICH UNDERLAY IS BEST FOR LAMINATE FLOORING ON CHIPBOARD AND FLOORBOARDS?

In contrast to concrete, wooden subfloors need to be able to breathe, therefore using a damp proof membrane will only trap moisture in the wooden floorboards and could cause damage to your subfloor. Wooden floorboards can often be the least smooth subfloor type and can sometimes shift as they age or as the temperature shifts, so it’s important to note that underlay should not be used to smooth out an uneven subfloor. You can find out more in our ‘4 signs of a good subfloor’ guide. 

FAQs

When you’re doing some digging into the best underlay for laminate flooring, you might come across some products or information that can be a little confusing. Our FAQs below answer some of the questions that our flooring experts hear most often in our Tapi stores! 

Can you use carpet underlay for laminate?

Avoid using carpet underlay for your laminate flooring at all costs! Even if you want to save money by keeping your old underlay, it won’t benefit your laminate flooring, and it definitely won’t benefit your pocket when you have to pay for new flooring! You can use our amazing fitting and removal services to ensure that your underlay is correctly fitted for your peace of mind.

Carpet underlay is too thick for use underneath laminate flooring – most laminate underlayment is 1mm to 3mm thick, compared to the much thicker average of 8mm to 10mm thick for carpet underlay. When you try to place laminate flooring on top of carpet underlay, you’ll find that the flooring may not even interlock properly, and you’ll see the boards separating. Even if you do get the flooring in place on top of the underlay, the same thickness and softness that helps the carpet lie smoothly will cause the floor will feel uncomfortably bouncy, and it may damage your boards in the long run. 

Stick with an underlay that’s specifically designed for laminate flooring, as this will be the right thickness to lie between your subfloor and the laminate floating floor. It will also have the right properties to ensure that your laminate and subfloor get the right levels of moisture and air. 

Can I buy soundproof underlay?

As we explain in our soundproof carpet guide, there’s no flooring out there that can soundproof your home. However, a lot of underlays and carpets can help to absorb some of the noise that you make – such as the sound of footsteps and movement, water pipes and electrical equipment.

Even though it’s not as thick as carpet underlay, laminate underlay is often designed with sound absorption in mind. Our Excel Laminate Underlay is 3mm thick and can absorb up to 20dB of noise, so it can keep up with all the pandemonium of everyday life. So, even though it’s not possible to buy a completely soundproofing underlay for your laminate flooring, you can get an underlay that will help a lot with sound absorption – but don’t be tempted to get a thicker installation than you need to absorb more sound!

Does thermal underlay work?

Cold concrete subfloors or draughty floorboards can be greatly improved with an underlay with a high tog rating. In addition to preventing warm air from escaping, they’ll also prevent cold air from getting in – helpful for keeping your heating bills down.

Thermal underlay is also incredibly helpful when you have underfloor heating, as it lets all of the hot air through from the heating elements and you never need to worry about the heat escaping under the subfloor. Plenty of laminate flooring underlay already comes with high tog ratings, but you can find specialised thermal underlays that work exceptionally well, even as well as carpet!

Make the trip down to your local Tapi store to find our amazing array of laminate options to find the perfect flooring to match up with the best underlay for laminate in your home. You can also speak to our Tapi flooring experts about any flooring questions you may have, like how to lay laminate underlay yourself. You can also find other guides on different issues around laminate, vinyl, and carpet in our Ideas Hub.

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