Underlayment is an essential layer of protection for your vinyl plank floors. It helps to keep moisture from seeping into the flooring, which can cause warping and other damage. In addition, it also provides a cushioning layer that can make your floors more comfortable to walk on.
You’re about to lay down your new luxury vinyl plank flooring and realized you’ll need underlayment. Which option is the best for you? With so many factors to consider and multiple vinyl floor underlayment options available, this can be a bit tricky.
A word of caution: not all underlayments are suitable for luxury vinyl flooring. Some of the underlayments you'll find in similar highly ranked articles will have high ratings and reviews saying that people are using them on their vinyl floors, but reading the manufacturer's instructions carefully you'll realize that they aren't actually meant for use with vinyl plank flooring.
That being said, let’s get started. I’ve compiled a list of 10 vinyl plank floor underlayments that are both safe and include several benefits.
Quick Overview: These are my top three recommendations for those of you on the run:
Underlayment Ratings Explained
Before we go into product reviews, you should know what the various rating systems and associated numbers for underlayment items mean. This information will assist you in determining whether the underlayment product you are considering will meet your requirements or not.
The Sound Transmission Class (STC) is a measure of how much sound an underlayment can block. The higher the number next to this rating, the better at muffling or dampening the sound of the product. The STC rating takes into account sounds in the air such as radios, televisions, and people conversing.
The acronym IIC stands for Impact Insulation Class and measures how much noise an underlayment can absorb. This rating is similar to the STC in that the higher the number, the better the product is at preventing sound transmission. On the contrary, the IIC is different from the STC in that it measures the noises produced by an impact, such as footsteps or an object falling to the floor.
The R-Value is a measure of how much heat an underlayment can insulate. The higher the number, the better the product will be at keeping your floors warm in winter and cool in summer. Generally, R-values between 0.2 and 0.4 are common.
You might also find a similar post informative to read: Does wooden flooring need Underlay?
10 Best Underlayment for Vinyl Flooring
1. MP Global QueitWalk Laminate Flooring Underlayment
- Coverage: 360 sqft
- Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty
- STC: 66
- IIC: 71
- Thickness: 5mm
This vinyl flooring underlayment is an all-in-one solution i.e it has ease of installation, sound deadening capabilities and an inbuilt vapor barrier.
Unlike other underlayments, it is composed of a durable felt and has a closed-cell foam core. It has a smooth surface, which makes it ideal for luxury vinyl floors. Moreover, it also has a self-sealing lip and tape system that makes installation a breeze.
Because this felt is comprised of safe recycled and compressed fibres that are certified VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) free, there is no petrochemical odor or off-gassing.
This is a durable underlayment that cuts readily with a standard utility knife or scissors. It works best with floating engineered vinyl plank, floating luxury vinyl plank, and glue down luxury vinyl tile or plank flooring systems.
It also has a click-together mechanism and is compatible with radiant heating systems. It can be installed over a concrete or wood subfloor.
- Excellent sound dampening
- In-built moisture barrier
- VOCs and odor Free
- Super easy to install especially for DIYers
- Provides great cushioning
- Lays flat for installation
- Self-sealing adhesive
- Adhesive strips are a bit narrow and you might need a duct tape
- The felt is hard and you might need heavy-duty scissors to cut it
2. First Step 630-Square Foot Roll Underlayment
- STC: 67
- IIC: 68
- R-value: 0.39
- Thickness: 2mm
Roberts began in 1938 and has expanded its manufacturing and distribution of homeand flooring products all over the world since then. The First Step underlayment, is a 2mm roll of cushioning that is designed to minimize noise and impact while protecting your floor.
This underlayment is an affordable, high-quality option for floating vinyl and laminate floors. It consists of a layer of polystyrene foam beads for increased cushioning and airflow. In addition, it helps to soften the floor and reduces the hollow noise that vinyl plank flooring can produce.
If you want your floating floors to look like the hardwood ones, then this underlayment is the right choice. It gives the feel of solid wood floors without the expensive price tag.
It is easy to install with its peel-and-stick installation method. Moreover, it is appropriate for use on concrete or wood subflooring and should be used underneath a floating vinyl plank floor only
- Excellent quality with the unbeatable price compared to big box stores
- Very lightweight which makes for easy maneuvering and storage
- Easy to cut or trim
- Can level out minor subfloor imperfections
- Comes with an adhesive strip and a 4-inch film that overlaps to link one roll to another
- Made in the USA
- Prepare to pick up scattered polystyrene foam balls when cutting the pieces, thus keep a hand vacuum handy
- This item is a little delicate. If you must walk over the pad before laying your flooring on top of it, do it carefully or remove your shoes
- It may rise at the sides, so you’ll need to flatten it before putting it, either by weighting it down or stapling it down
- Under high traffic regions, foam underlayments might compress
3. QuietWalk QW360LV Luxury Vinyl Underlayment
- Coverage: 360 sqft
- STC: 62
- IIC: 72
- Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty
This is another product by MP Global. With 20 years of manufacturing experience and headquarters in Nebraska, USA, this is one of the most trusted underlayment brands with a focus on creating environmentally conscious products.
It is an acoustical underlayment that is designed for luxury vinyl plank and tile flooring. Furthermore, it has a sound-reducing foam core that minimizes noise transmission.
Another notable feature of this underlayment is that it has employed dri-wick technology that helps to reduce the impact of moisture – making it mold and mildew resistant.
The closed-cell foam core of this underlayment provides a perfect cushioning effect, making it comfortable to walk on. Moreover, it is also flexible and can be installed in multiple ways such as floating, single and double glue down.
- Double vapor barrier – Mildew resistant
- Superior sound reduction
- Thermal insulation – keeps your floor warm in winter and cool in summer
- No off-gassing
- Supports multi-layer flooring including pad-attached flooring
- Antimicrobial properties
- Certified clean and environmentally friendly
- A bit pricey
4. FloorMuffler LVT/LVP Ultra Seal Underlayment 200 SF
- Thickness: 1mm
- STC: 66
- IIC: 72
- R-Value: 0.3
Floor Muffler manufactures and patents this premium vinyl flooring underlayment. It is the thinnest on the list, yet it has unexpectedly high STC and IIC ratings. It also comes with an already attached moisture barrier.
In addition, this is a sound-reducing foam underlayment that may be used for both luxury vinyl plank and tiling. The main benefit of using this underlayment is that it doesn’t require any glue or nails for installation, which makes the process much simpler.
This compression-resistant foam underlayment can be used with radiant heat flooring. Furthermore, its VOC level exceeds California standards, and the product itself is recyclable. It can be used for both glue-down and floating luxury vinyl tile or plank flooring. Similarly, it can also be used on a wood or concrete subfloor.
- Easy installation with adhesive tape and overlap system.
- Has a good R-Value and can be used with radiant heating floors
- High ratings for noise reduction and sound dampening
- Moisture barrier
- Delicate and can be ripped if not careful during installation
- Can have static problems during installation
- Very thin so doesn’t provide much cushion
5. 3 in 1 Vapor Barrier Flooring Underlayment – Bundle 1,000 sqft
- Thickness: 2mm
- STC: N/A
- IIC: N/A
- R-Value: N/A
This Bestlaminate’s 3-in-1 underlayment can be used for both laminate and engineered hardwood flooring. It has a vapor barrier that protects against moisture, mold, and mildew.
Just like other underlayments, it also comes with pre-attached tape for easy installation. It can be used on any subfloor type including concrete, wood, and tile. Additionally, the bundle comes with 10 rolls which is enough to cover 1000 square feet.
This underlayment has good acoustic properties and can help reduce noise transmission to a great extent. Plus, it is lightweight and easy to carry which makes it very user-friendly.
- Provides great cushioning
- Sound reduction
- Moisture barrier
- Economical as compared to other underlayments
- Clean and easy installation
- Not much information available regarding ratings
- Not suitable to level out floor imperfections
6. Roberts Black Jack Premium 2-in-1 Underlayment 100 sq. ft
- Thickness: 2.5mm
- STC: 65
- IIC: 68
- R-Value: N/A
Roberts Black Jack is a 2-in-1 underlayment that features a 2.5 mm thick foam layer for excellent cushioning and sound absorption. It is made of closed-cell foam for superior moisture resistance and may be installed beneath any type of wood floor. Plus, it also comes with adhesive strips for easy installation.
If you’re looking for a cheap alternative to the more expensive underlayments, then this product is worth checking out. Despite the fact that it isn’t as thick as some of the other options on this list, it does a great job.
- Has a vapor barrier
- Noise reduction
- Easy to install
- Suitable for most flooring including concrete and wood subfloors
- Reasonable price point
- Be careful not to roll the underlayment all at once or it may rip
- No warranty
7. STEICO Wood Fiber Underlayment for Laminate Vinyl LVT LVP Hardwood Floor
- Thickness: 6mm
- STC: 50
- IIC: 52
- Warranty: 5 Years
STEICO’s natural wood fibre underlayment is a German-engineered product. It is completely made of pine and spruce wood fibres. In addition, the fibres are held together with wood resin which is a natural glue – making this product super environmentally friendly. Plus, unlike other underlayments, this one comes in flat sheets rather than rolls.
According to the manufacturer’s recommendations, after removing the package, make sure to air it out in the room where it will be installed for at least 24 hours. In addition, It should also be positioned horizontally and at a 45-degree angle to avoid the seams matching up with the seams in your flooring.
It is perfect for floating premium vinyl planks and vinyl coverings. This underlayment can also be used on top of a wood subfloor. When putting on a concrete slab, however, a moisture barrier should be installed before the underlayment.
- Ideal for floors with radiant heating systems
- Environmentally friendly
- Safe for breathing – VOCs free
- Durable – high compression and can withstand pressure
- Reduces both airborne and impact sound
- Can be installed in multiple layers – 1 or 2 as needed
- When cutting the underlayment can release green dust. Keep a dust mask and a vacuum handy
- Most expensive per square foot on this list
8. Floorlot Laminate Flooring Underlayment
- Thickness: 3mm
- Coverage: 200 sqft
This underlayment is made from polyethylene foam with a closed-cell structure. It provides excellent resistance to moisture and mold, making it an ideal choice for bathrooms, kitchens, and other high humidity areas.
In addition, this underlayment is thinner than most, making it easier to install and less likely to add too much height to your flooring.
Although there are now sound ratings mentioned by the manufacturer still the quality is impressive. Furthermore, it provides great cushioning and shock absorption.
This underlayment supports laminate and engineered floating floors. Also, it can be used with all types of subfloors including concrete, plywood, and OSB. If you’re a DIYer and looking for an easy-to-install underlayment, this is a great choice to get the job done.
- Great value for the price
- Easy to install – peel and stick adhesive
- Moisture resistant
- Not as thick as some of the other options on this list
9. Unison Underlayment, 48 in W X 25 Ft L, Polyethylene
- Coverage: 100 sqft per roll
- Thickness: 2 mm
- STC: 54
- IIC: 61
- R-Value: 0.29
This underlayment, another Roberts product, is designed for laminate and engineered wood flooring but can also be used on floating vinyl plank flooring.
It has a decent R-value and may be used over radiant heating systems, although the sound dampening ratings are lower than others. This is a low-cost underlayment that primarily serves as a cushion, insulation, and moisture barrier.
If you’re placing this underlayment over concrete slabs, you’ll also need to buy a moisture barrier. However, there would be no need for further moisture protection over wood subflooring. Plus, it has overlap and an adhesive strip to make installation a breeze.
- Small tears can be easily repaired with tape
- Lowest price per square foot on this list
- Provides cushioning
- Allows proper insulation
- Can be used in conjunction with a radiant heat flooring system
- Has overlap and adhesive strips for seams in between rows
- Additional moisture protection is required if installing over concrete subfloors
- Lower rating for sound dampening
10. STEICO 3 mm 1/8 Inch Wood Fiber Flooring Underlayment
- STC: 55
- IIC: 50
- R-Value: 0.25
- Thickness: 3 mm
- Warranty: 5 years
Another STEICO vinyl flooring underlayment. This is the same product as the previous one, except it is thinner. This is an exciting product if you’re seeking environmentally friendly, excellent cushioning, safe for use with radiant floor heating, and fewer concerns about acoustics.
This product is made entirely of wood fibres and is 100% recyclable. The company also offers a 5-year warranty, so you can feel confident in your purchase.
This underlayment comes in the form of flat squares rather than rolls. In addition, it requires a 24-hour acclimatization period after opening to adjust to the room’s moisture level where it will be installed.
- Environmentally friendly
- Compatible with radiant heat floors.
- Comes with a warranty
- Because it is a flat material that has never been rolled, there are no curling or rippling issues.
- Lower sound dampening ratings both for airborne and impact sounds
- Cutting can release green dust or film, keep a vacuum handy
Can You Use 2 Layers of Underlay Under Vinyl Flooring?
If you’re concerned about noise levels, you may be wondering if you can install two layers of vinyl flooring underlayment. The answer is yes, but there are a few things to consider before doing so.
The first is the type of underlayment you’re using. If it’s foam, for example, two layers may not be necessary. The second is the thickness of the underlayment. Most are between 1 and 5mm thick, so doubling up may not make much of a difference.
And secondly, you’ll need to consider the weight of the vinyl flooring. Adding an extra layer of underlayment will increase the overall thickness of the floor, which may make it more difficult to install.
Do You Need Underlayment for Vinyl Flooring?
The short answer is that it depends. The type of subfloor or existing floor you’ll be working with is crucial. To be precise:
You DO NOT Need Underlayment for Your New Vinyl Flooring If:
- Your vinyl flooring already has an underlayment installed (however, you may still need a moisture barrier)
- When installing vinyl flooring over a tile floor that is below grade (but you may want to consider it anyway for cushioning)
It will be laid over an already cushioned vinyl floor.
You DO Need Underlayment for Your New Vinyl Flooring If:
- It is being laid on top of concrete.
- It’s being installed on top of existing hardwood floors.
- If your existing vinyl flooring isn’t padded,
NOTE: Make sure to check your vinyl manufacturer's recommendations, instructions, and guarantee on underlayments. Some brands are more restrictive than others, and the last thing you want to do is to void your warranty accidentally.
Check out my other post on vinyl flooring buying guide for some interesting information.
How Thick Should Underlayment Be for Vinyl Flooring?
Underlayment for vinyl plank flooring is typically 2mm to 3mm thick, while some can be as thick as 6mm and the thinnest can be as thin as 1mm.
It’s tempting to think that the thicker the material, the better. However, that is no longer the case with today’s product manufacturing technology. Industry ratings and tests serve as a reference, and you can see that even the thinnest underlayments on the list perform well in sound tests.
More importantly, consider the key quality characteristics of each underlayment and compare them to what your subfloor and climate conditions require, then make your pick.
If you don’t plan to utilize vinyl plank flooring throughout your home, you’ll need to think about the thickness of your underlayment and how it will interact with the other types of flooring. In your bathroom, for example, you don’t want a considerable variation in the level of your vinyl plank flooring and the ceramic tile flooring.
How Do I Know What Qualities My Underlayment Should Have?
Check your homeowners’ association (HOA) for any flooring standards or acoustic guidelines if you live in a condominium, apartment complex, or neighbourhood with one.
Because of their sound-dampening capabilities, HOAs of buildings with diverse households all within one structure frequently have regulations or guidelines about flooring (or lack thereof)
Few other things to consider when thinking about what quality of underlayment should you choose:
- Look for cushioning or shock absorption, as well as thermal properties and a moisture barrier, if your vinyl flooring will be installed on concrete slabs.
- When placing it over a wood or plywood subfloor, pay special attention to sound dampening and cushioning.
- If you’re installing over a pre-existing flooring you should look for qualities of sound dampening.
- If your flooring includes radiant heat, you’ll need to find an underlayment that’s suitable for radiant heating systems.
- Is the flooring suitable for a higher floor? If that’s the case, soundproofing is a must.
- Is the flooring you’re working on, in the basement or on the first floor of your home? Then you might be able to focus less on sound dampening and more on thermal properties and cushioning.
A General Guide to Installing the Underlayment for Vinyl Plank Floors
When installing vinyl floor underlayment, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 1: Gather Your Tools
Some of these tools will be required, while others may not. It’s ideal to keep them all close at hand so you can access them quickly if and when you need them:
- Vinyl flooring
- Broom and dustpan or vacuum
- Sharp scissors
- Utility knife
Step 2: Inspect Your Subfloor
Any protruding nails, debris, dust, or severe defects that could snag the underlayment should be looked for. Take a vacuum and clean the area so that it’s as dust-free as possible. Most underlayments will level off minor subfloor flaws, however, do not begin installation if you have a major problem, such as:
Any of such subfloor imperfections need to be fixed before moving forward.
Step 3: Unroll Underlayment
Once you’re confident that the subfloor is in good condition and very clean, take your underlayment and begin to roll out the first strip along a wall. (Do not unroll the entire roll).
If your vinyl flooring underlayment has an adhesive strip on one end and an overlap on the other, you should place the adhesive strip along the wall’s edge, with the overlapping side meeting the next strip of underlayment.
Step 4: Measure, Cut and Adhere
Measure the length of your first row and then cut the underlayment strip. Unfold the overlap and remove the strip that covers the adhesive. If the underlayment doesn’t include an adhesive strip, you can use utility tape or duct tape to join the rows.
Remember, the rows of underlayment mustn't overlap when being installed. Each edge's seams should meet exactly side by side, yet without overlapping!
Step 5: Install Vinyl Plank Flooring
Some manufacturers suggest laying two layers of underlayment first, then pausing to place the flooring on top of the first row. Then, when one row of underlayment is visible, stop and lay another row of underlayment.
On the contrary, other manufacturers advise laying down underlayment over the entire floor before placing the vinyl. Read the manufacturer’s installation guidelines and instructions carefully.
Why Isn’t Cork Underlayment Appropriate for Vinyl Plank Flooring?
You might have been looking for cork underlayment and are now wondering why it’s not on our list. This is due to the fact that cork and vinyl plank flooring do not match together. Most flooring manufacturers prohibit the use of this type of underlayment with their products, and using cork on such underlayments may void your vinyl warranty. In addition, cork also has poorer sound dampening properties than most other materials available for this purpose.
How Thick Should Underlayment Be for Vinyl Flooring?
In a perfect world, the maximum thickness of an underlayment layer would be 1/16′′. The majority of underlayments, however, are only available in 3/32″ or 12″ thicknesses. The thicker the underlayment is, the more difficult it is to work with and install without bubbles and ripples appearing in it.
This means that you will have less carpet padding beneath your vinyl flooring which could result in loose seams and unfinished edges. In addition, thicker layers also make it easier for the flooring to shrink or expand which could cause buckling or curling.
How to Level Subfloor for Vinyl Plank?
If you have an uneven subfloor, there are a few ways that you can level it out before installing your vinyl plank flooring. The first is to use a self-levelling compound. This is a pourable mixture that will smooth out imperfections on the surface.
Secondly, use thin sheets of plywood or OSB to create a level surface. You can screw or nail these down to the subfloor and then install your vinyl plank flooring on top.
Finally, you could also use shims to level out the subfloor. This is a more time-consuming option, but it will get the job done. Place shims under the low spots and then tap them into place with a hammer.
What to Put Underneath Vinyl Flooring?
There are a few different options that you can use underneath your vinyl flooring. The first is to use an underlayment. This is a thin layer of material that sits between the vinyl and the subfloor. It provides extra cushioning and support.
Another option is to use a vapor barrier. This helps to prevent moisture from damaging the flooring. Most of the underlayments mentioned in the above list have in-built vapor barriers.
Does Waterproof Vinyl Flooring Need Underlayment?
An underlayment provides extra cushioning and support, which helps to prolong the life of the flooring. Additionally, it helps to prevent damage from water, mold, and mildew.
If you are installing waterproof vinyl flooring, you may be wondering if you need to use an underlayment. The answer is yes! Although the flooring is waterproof, it still needs an underlayment to protect it from damage.
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