By Savannah Sher | Published Jun 30, 2022 5:36 AM
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Vinyl plank flooring is becoming increasingly popular for its ability to recreate the look of solid wood while being inexpensive, durable, and water-resistant. However, many don’t realize that the underlayment is nearly as important as the flooring itself. Shopping for the best underlayment for vinyl flooring online, however, can quickly become overwhelming since there are so many options available at a wide range of prices. This article breaks down what to look for when shopping for the best underlayment for vinyl plank flooring and discusses the key considerations to keep in mind as you shop.
Keep reading for tips on choosing the best option and explore our curated picks for some of the best vinyl plank flooring underlayment.
While it’s easy to assume that all vinyl flooring underlayment offers similar performance, a number of factors affect its functionality. Features like operating frequency, ground balance, search modes, and item discrimination can make one better for a user’s needs than another option. Keep reading to learn about these important features to consider when choosing the best underlayment for vinyl plank flooring.
There are several different types of underlayments for vinyl plank flooring, all of which have unique advantages. Here are some of the most popular:
The best type of underlayment to choose depends largely on the subfloor type.
Vinyl plank flooring has several subvarieties, each of which has different requirements when it comes to an underlayment. Vinyl plank flooring is typically categorized as either rigid or flexible.
The most durable option available is rigid vinyl plank flooring. Engineered vinyl plank (EVP) flooring (also known as rigid core luxury vinyl flooring) can be made with three different cores: stone-plastic composite (SPC), wood-plastic composite (WPC), and pure vinyl. SPC floors aren’t as comfortable, so they pair best with soft underlayments made from foam, felt, and cork. WPC floors are thicker, so they often necessitate a thinner underlayment. Pure vinyl floors lack durability and comfort, so they need the highest-grade underlayment available.
Flexible vinyl plank flooring is often used as a budget or temporary solution since it comes in a peel-and-stick format and doesn’t offer the same level of quality or durability as rigid vinyl flooring.
Vinyl plank flooring is designed to be waterproof but can still warp if exposed to moisture that comes from the subfloor. Using a vapor barrier alongside a standard underlayment may be necessary in damp areas like basements. Some underlayments are designed with antimicrobial properties so that they can prevent the development of mold spores in damp or humid areas.
Generally speaking, underlayments for vinyl flooring are between 2 and 3 millimeters thick, though they may be as thin as 1 millimeter or as thick as 6 millimeters. It would be easy to assume that a thicker underlayment would indicate a higher level of performance, but innovations in manufacturing have made it possible for thin underlayments to offer top-notch comfort and insulation. Underlayment thickness is primarily a consideration when using different types of flooring throughout a house. If the kitchen has tile floors, for example, it’s important to ensure that they are at the same height as the vinyl plank flooring when considering the thickness of the underlayment.
Using an underlayment helps to prevent cold floors in winter by providing an extra layer of thermal insulation. This results in lower heating costs, saving money in the long run. Some types of underlayment will be rated with an R-value, which indicates how much thermal insulation it provides. A higher R-value indicates better insulation. Look for an R-value between 0.2 and 0.4.
One of the key benefits of a vinyl flooring underlayment is sound insulation. This is particularly important if the vinyl planks are installed on the upper floor of a home or apartment. The level of sound insulation that an underlayment provides may be measured in negative decibels (-dB), or rated by Impact Insulation Class (IIC) or Sound Transmission Class (STC). Felt and cork are the two best underlayment materials for providing sound insulation.
Now that you’ve learned more about flooring underlayments, it’s time to start shopping. The following are our top picks for some of the best underlayments for vinyl plank flooring. These recommendations were selected because of their quality construction, excellent performance, and ease of installation.
This underlayment from Floorlot is made from polyethylene foam and includes a laminated moisture barrier that prevents the development of mold, making it especially suitable for concrete subfloors. This underlayment is a good choice for slightly uneven subfloors since it smooths out any minor imperfections. It also provides sound absorption and thermal insulation. It’s incredibly versatile and is suitable for use with hardwood and laminate flooring along with vinyl.
The roll measures 3.58 feet by 56 feet, covering a total area of 200 square feet. Installation is a breeze because each roll comes with self-sealing tape. One important thing to note is that this underlayment won’t pair well with flexible vinyl plank flooring or rigid plank flooring that’s under 7 millimeters thick.
Get the Floorlot underlayment for vinyl plank flooring at Amazon, Wayfair, or The Home Depot.
Made from recycled felt, this underlayment is ideal for sound insulation with its 3-millimeter thickness. It holds an STC rating of 66 and an IIC rating of 71, guaranteeing that it will significantly reduce noise. It’s Greenguard-Gold certified, ensuring a low quantity of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in the material.
This underlayment works well with laminate flooring, engineered wood, and bamboo. It’s even compatible with radiant in-floor heating systems. There are, however, some limitations with the type of flooring with which it’s compatible. This underlayment can only be used with floating floors and won’t work with flooring that needs to be glued or nailed down. It’s also only suitable for vinyl flooring that’s at least 5 millimeters thick.
Get the QuietWalk Plus underlayment for vinyl plank flooring on Amazon.
Those looking for a budget option will appreciate the low price and high quality of this underlayment from Bestlaminate. It’s designed with dual functionality, providing cushioning while protecting against moisture. It’s universally compatible, pairing well with any type of subfloor, and is suitable for use with bamboo, solid wood, engineered wood, laminate, and vinyl flooring.
It’s easy to install because it has a self-adhesive design and a built-in tape edge. A plastic overlap and self-sealing adhesive are included with the roll, ensuring that this underlayment is completely waterproof. Each roll covers 100 square feet of flooring and is 2 millimeters thick.
Get the Bestlaminate underlayment for vinyl plank flooring on Amazon.
This 3-millimeter underlayment from Roberts is designed to increase comfort and absorb sound simultaneously. It features an STC rating of 66 and an IIC rating of 67, both of which indicate very effective sound insulation properties. It’s made from recycled felt fibers, making it an eco-friendly option, and features a vapor barrier that helps combat moisture and humidity.
In terms of subfloor compatibility, it pairs well with any flooring type, and because of its cushioning effect, it’s perfect for using above concrete subfloors. An adhesive strip and 3-inch overlap help when linking multiple rolls during the installation process, making this underlayment easy to install in large spaces.
Get the Roberts Super Felt underlayment for vinyl plank flooring on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
This underlayment is made from an insulating wood fiber material that’s free of VOCs, making it safe for households with children and pets. The material is ultra-absorbent, making it ideal for areas that may experience moisture damage. There are no glue additives, making this an entirely natural product. It’s also recyclable, further reducing its environmental impact. It has a rating of -25 dB, meaning it reduces decibels by 25, providing excellent sound insulation. Its high compression strength ensures that flooring doesn’t feel bouncy and is comfortable to walk on.
It’s important to note that this underlayment only covers 90 square feet. It’s sold in sheets rather than rolls, making it easier to lay flat.
Get the Steico underlayment for vinyl plank flooring at Amazon or Lowe’s.
Cork underlayments offer a number of advantages: They’re naturally hypoallergenic and offer excellent moisture and sound absorption. This type of underlayment also reduces thermal transmission, making it the ideal choice for those with radiant heated floors. Cork is a renewable resource, so underlayments made of cork are an eco-friendly choice. This particular model offers 200 square feet of coverage and works well for uneven subfloors since it’s firmer than underlayments made from other materials.
At 6 millimeters, this underlayment is much thicker than those made from other materials, so it’s important to ensure that all flooring will remain level even with the 6 millimeter elevation.
Get the QEP underlayment for vinyl plank flooring on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
This underlayment from Roberts features Gold Guard antimicrobial protection and offers advanced air circulation, which inhibits mold growth. Additionally, it helps with sound reduction (with an IIC rating of 68 and STC rating of 67), moisture protection, comfort, and even helps to level imperfections in the subfloor. It’s only compatible with floating flooring and can’t be used with vinyl flooring that needs to be nailed or glued down. It is, however, compatible with all types of subfloor.
This underlayment is available in a much larger roll than many of its competitors, offering 630 square feet of coverage. Because of this, it offers great value when flooring large spaces.
Get the Roberts First Step underlayment for vinyl plank flooring on Amazon.
This underlayment from Roberts has two layers: 2.38 millimeters of polyethylene foam, which provides comfort, and 2 millimeters of film, which acts as a moisture and vapor barrier. It offers an R-Value of 0.29, ensuring solid thermal insulation. In terms of sound insulation, it holds an IIC rating of 61 and an STC rating of 54, which is on the slightly lower end, making this underlayment less than ideal for reducing noise.
It can be used over radiant-heated floors and is suitable to pair with several types of flooring, including engineered hardwood and laminate. A plastic overlap and adhesive strip make it easy to join multiple rolls during installation.
Get the Roberts Unison underlayment for vinyl plank flooring on Amazon.
After reviewing this guide, you now know more about shopping for underlayments for vinyl plank flooring. We recommend the Floorlot underlayment for its top-notch sound absorption and thermal insulation. Those on a budget may appreciate the Bestlaminate underlayment, which offers great performance at a lower price point.
Years of experience covering home improvement as well as extensive product research went into creating this guide. We explored more than 25 underlayment options and weighed a number of practical considerations before making our recommendations.
Now that you’ve chosen the perfect underlayment to pair with your vinyl plank floors, it’s time to consider installation. Most products will come with clear manufacturer instructions, and it’s essential to follow these as closely as possible to ensure the product is installed correctly. Here’s how to install underlayment for vinyl plank flooring:
While you now know more about choosing the best underlayments for vinyl plank flooring, you might still be looking for more information about how they work. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about vinyl flooring underlayments.
An underlayment places a barrier between the subfloor and the flooring itself. This layer acts as a moisture barrier, reduces noise, and potentially makes the floors more comfortable to walk on.
Before choosing an underlayment for vinyl plank flooring, it’s important to check with the manufacturer to establish whether an underlayment is necessary. Some companies will clearly specify the type of underlayment that needs to be used. Some will even void the flooring’s warranty if the wrong type of underlayment is used.
A vapor barrier underlayment or moisture barrier underlayment can be used as an alternative to or in conjunction with a standard underlayment in areas that experience moisture to prevent the development of mold.
Underlayments designed for vinyl plank flooring are typically between 1 and 3 millimeters thick.
A concrete subfloor benefits from a cushioned underlayment to provide added comfort.
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