What Exactly is Underlayment?
Your flooring is composed of a variety of important elements that contribute to its overall function. Structurally, you have joists that are laid at the beginning of the construction process and support the weight of the flooring. On top of the joists rests the subfloor, which can be made of a variety of materials, but most commonly plywood.
Underlay sits on top of the subfloor and rests beneath the finish floor (hardwood, plank flooring, carpeting, etc). Underlay is not structural, however, it serves a variety of important functions.
In some cases underlayment is optional, and this decision depends on various factors that we’ll address further down in this article. For now, we’ll discuss the advantages that underlayment provides.
Source: The Spruce
Benefits of Installing Underlay in Your Flooring Project
While underlay doesn’t help support the weight of the flooring, or serve any structural purpose, it’s still quite useful, and can affordably be purchased by the square foot. There are numerous benefits that underlayment provides, including:
- Floor Softening: Unless you’re installing carpeting, the flooring you put into your home is likely quite hard. When hardwood and luxury vinyl planks are installed directly on the subfloor, there’s zero cushion between the materials. Adding underlay allows your flooring to “bounce” a little as you walk across it, softening how it feels beneath your feet.
- Sound Reduction: When your flooring is installed directly on the subfloor, friction is created every time you step on it. When these two materials rub together, it can cause squeaking. Underlayment creates a barrier between them, promoting noise reduction in your home.
- Moisture Protection: Many underlayments creates a moisture barrier between your home and the subfloor. This is crucial as water can damage the integrity of plywood.
- Insulation: A thick underlay provides insulation properties that can help keep your floors warmer in the winter. Your subfloor can become quite cold during the colder months, and having an underlay adds insulation that keeps the cold out. Underlay mitigates this.
- Better Installation: Underlayment provides a smooth surface that has less friction than the plywood or concrete subfloor, making it easier to slide and position the flooring when using a click-together installation.