Home » 10 Best underlayment for vinyl flooring [Must Read Extensive Guide]

10 Best underlayment for vinyl flooring [Must Read Extensive Guide]

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You are about to install your beautiful new luxury vinyl plank flooring and you need underlayment. Which is best choice for you? This can be a tough decision because there are a lot of factors to consider and there are also a lot of vinyl floor underlayment products out there. 

A word of warning, not all underlayment products are safe or intended for luxury vinyl floors. Some of the underlayments you'll find in similar high ranked articles will have high ratings and reviews that say people are using them on their vinyl floors, but if you look carefully at the manufacturer’s instructions you will find they aren't meant to be used for vinyl plank flooring. 

That stated, let’s dive in. I’ve put together a list of 10 underlayments for vinyl plank floors that are safe to use and come with a variety of attributes. After reviewing these products, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions and then to finish up, I’ll give you a general guide to underlayment installation.

Contents show

Underlayment Ratings Explained

Before we get into product reviews, it is necessary for you to understand what the ratings systems and correlating numbers found for underlayment products mean. This knowledge will help you better understand if the underlayment product you are considering will meet your needs.

STC

STC means Sound Transmission Lost Test. The higher the number you see next to this rating, the better the product is at muffling or dampening sound. The STC rating accounts for types of sounds in the air such as radios, TVs, and talking.

IIC

IIC means Impact Sound Transmission Test. As with the STC the same is true for this rating; the higher the number the better the product works to prevent sound transmission. The IIC differs from the STC in that this rating measures the noises made from an impact such as the sounds of someone walking, or an object falling to the floor.

R Value

The R Value is a thermal rating. It measures the product’s ability to transmit heat. The higher the number, then the less heat moves through it. R Values typically seen are between .2 and .4.

10 Best underlayment for vinyl flooring

1. First Step 630-Square Foot Roll Underlayment

This underlayment is by Roberts and is an economical quality choice for floating vinyl and laminate floors. It comes with a layer of polystyrene foam beads between the top and bottom layer for added cushioning and air flow. It serves to cushion the floor a bit and also reduce the hollow noise that can come with vinyl plank flooring.

Underlayment comes with very good rating on the STC and IIC tests. Its antimicrobial protection (Gold Guard) and the air flow between the layers additionally serve to provide protection your floor from mold growth. It can be used with radiant heat flooring as well.

This underlayment is appropriate for use on concrete or wood subflooring and should be used underneath a floating vinyl plank floor only.

About the brand: Roberts started out in 1938 and since then have grown their manufacturing and distributing of home and flooring products across the globe.

Rating:

STC (Sound Transmission Lost Test) Rating: 67

IIC (Impact Sound Transmission Test) Rating: 68 

R Value: .39

Thickness: 3mm

Cons: 

  • When cutting the pieces be prepared to clean up scattering polystyrene foam balls, so have a hand vacuum nearby.
  • This product can be a bit delicate. If you need to walk over the pad before installing your flooring over it, step cautiously or take off your shoes.
  • It can rise up along the edges so you’ll need to flatten it either by weighing it down for a time before installing or even stapling it down.
  • Foam underlayments can compress under high traffic areas.

Pros:

  • Much more affordable than its competitor product, Air Guard that is sold in major hardware 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.

2. QuietWalk Laminate Flooring Underlayment with Attached Vapor Barrier

This underlayment by MP Global Products is an all in one type of underlayment. It’s a sturdy felt that is made of safe recycled and compressed fibers that have been certified VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) free so there is no petrochemical smell or off-gassing. It provides cushion, a moisture barrier, sound dampening, and warmth.

This is a very durable underlayment and will cut easily with a basic utility knife. Intended for floating engineered vinyl plank, floating luxury vinyl plank, and glue down luxury vinyl tile or plank flooring systems. It can be used with radiant heating flooring systems. It can be installed over wood or concrete subflooring.

About the brand: MP Global Products is a manufacturing business that focuses on environmentally conscious products. They are headquartered in Nebraska, USA and have been in business for more than 20 years

Rating

STC Rating: 66

IIC Rating: 71

R Value: .58

Thickness: 3.2mm

Warranty: Yes, limited; check with manufacturer

Cons:

  • Higher cost than some of the other more basic underlayments on this list.
  • Adhesive strips are narrow, so you may find a need for duct tape.

Pros:

  • Easy to install, don’t have to worry about accidentally tearing it like you do some others.
  • Provides great cushion
  • Effective sound dampening
  • Has a vapor barrier
  • Lays flat for installation

3. FloorMuffler LVT/LVP Ultra Seal Underlayment 200 SF

This premium underlayment is produced by Floor Muffler and is patented. It is the thinnest underlayment on the list but has surprisingly high ratings for both STC and IIC. It has the option to come with a self-sealing overlap and tape system or not and includes a moisture barrier.

This underlayment can be used with radiant heat flooring, and is compression resistant. Additionally, it’s VOC rating surpasses California regulations and the product itself is recyclable. It can be used for both glue down luxury vinyl tile or plank flooring and floating vinyl tile or plank flooring. It is suitable for wood or concrete subflooring.

Rating

STC Rating: 66

IIC Rating: 72

R Value: .3

Thickness: 1mm

Warranty: Yes, limited; check with manufacturer for details

Cons:

  • Delicate and can be ripped if not careful during installation
  • Can have static problems during installation
  • Very thin so doesn’t provide much cushion
  • One of the more expensive products on this list

Pros:

  • Easy installation with adhesive tape and overlap system.
  • Has good R Value and can be used with radiant heating floors
  • High ratings for noise reduction and sound dampening
  • Moisture barrier
  • Lightweight

4. STEICO Wood Fiber Flooring Underlayment for Laminate Vinyl LVT LVP Hardwood Floor

This underlayment by STEICO is a German engineered natural wood fiber product. The wood fibers are held together by wood resin which is basically a natural glue. The wood fibers of this underlayment are pine and spruce only. This ecological and environmentally friendly choice comes in flat sheets as opposed to the rolls most other underlayments come as. 

The manufacturer recommends that it be allowed 24 hours to air out in the room you plan to install it in after removing its packaging. It should be stored horizontally, and is installed at a 45-degree angle so that the seams of the underlayment don’t line up with the seams of your flooring. 

It can be used for floating luxury vinyl plank and vinyl coverings flooring. This is suitable for installation over wood subflooring. If you are installing this underlayment over a concrete slab, a moisture barrier is recommended between the concrete slab and the underlayment.

Rating

STC Rating: 55

IIC Rating: 50

R Value: .5

Thickness: 6mm

Warranty: 5 year warranty

Cons:

  • When cutting the underlayment can release a green dust, I recommend using a mask when cutting and cut outside when possible. Also, a vacuum nearby to snatch up any dust during installation is a good idea.
  • Most expensive per square foot on this list

Pros:

  • Ideal for floors with radiant heating systems
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Safe for breathing
  • Durable
  • Very good R value rating
  • Warranty

5. 2in1 Silent Vapor Barrier Underlayment for Vinyl Flooring

This underlayment by Best Laminate is one of the thinnest on the list and sits comfortably in the economical range. It doesn’t provide the cushion to the level that other underlayments do, but it does have a vapor barrier and is dense. It also has surprisingly good ratings for sound dampening. Additionally, it’s environmentally friendly, 100% recyclable, and exceeds VOC emissions requirements. This can be used on all types of subfloors, and is designed for floating vinyl flooring.

Rating

STC Rating: 65

IIC Rating: 70

R Value: .15

Thickness: 1.5mm

Warranty: none

Cons:

  • Doesn’t add as much cushion to your hard floors as others may.
  • Lower sound ratings than others
  • No warranty

Pros:

  • Has a vapor barrier
  • Economical
  • Easy to install
  • Good sound dampening ratings
  • Suitable for concrete and wood subfloors

6. AMERIQUE 400SQFT 4TH Generation Luxury Platinum 3.5MM Thick Flooring Underlayment Padding 3-in-1

This underlayment by Amerique is heavy duty. It’s thicker than most and focuses on cushioning. It has a vapor barrier, and says it offers “extreme sound reduction” but doesn’t have any official ratings to back up that claim. The roll is equipped with an overlap and an adhesive for easy installation.

This one has only positive reviews, but I find myself wary that it has no official sound ratings. According to the manufacturer it is appropriate for floating vinyl flooring systems.

About the brand: Not really much is known about this brand or company. Several manufacturing products for homes are available for purchase online however no other information could be found.

Rating

STC Rating: none

IIC Rating: none

R Value: none

Thickness: 3.5mm

Warranty: none

Cons:

  • Information unavailable about the manufacturer
  • No sound test ratings to determine ability to dampen sound
  • R value is not tested
  • No warranty

Pros:

  • Provides cushion
  • Very affordable
  • Clean and easy installation

7. 2in1 Silent Vapor Barrier Underlayment for Vinyl Flooring, high density STC

This black no nonsense underlayment by Feather Lodge scores well on sound test ratings and is another very thin option. It’s a high-density polyurethane. Additionally, it exceeds the VOC emissions requirements, is 100% recyclable and has an anti-microbial treatment. It has an overlap to help with positioning rows side by side but no adhesive strip.

This one installs easily, and is appropriate for any type of subfloor. It is intended for floating vinyl flooring systems.

About the brand: Feather Lodge is a 15-year-old family owned business that works in sourcing and manufacturing laminate and vinyl flooring systems that are eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable.

Rating

STC Rating: 65

IIC Rating: 70

R Value: .15

Thickness: 1 mm

Warranty: none

Cons:

  • No adhesive strip, will need duct tape
  • No warranty

Pros:

  • Has overlap for lining up seams
  • Recyclable material
  • Exceeds VOC emissions requirements
  • Suitable for concrete and wood subfloors

8. 3in1 Provent Silent Vapor Barrier Flooring Underlayment

This underlayment by Kronoswiss is recyclable, and CFC free. The product itself is a closed cell foam. It has what they call a micropumping system to promote air circulation. Its ribbed shape allows air channels to form which serves to help eliminate water vapors, it also has a moisture barrier, and a built-in overlap to connect the rows. This underlayment focuses on sound dampening rather than cushioning or thermal insulation, although it naturally does provide some of each.

The manufacturer states that it is intended for use under any type of floating flooring but should not be used with any that needs to be glued down. It can be installed above concrete or wood subflooring. It’s manufactured in Switzerland.

Rating

STC Rating: 67

IIC Rating: 71

R Value: none

Thickness: 3 mm

Warranty: none

Cons:

  • Does not come with an adhesive for the overlaps, you will need duct tape
  • Has no R value rating
  • No warranty

Pros:

  • Easy to cut
  • Easy installation
  • Good ratings for sound dampening
  • Economical price

9. UNISON 1,500 sq. ft. roll underlayment

Yet another product by Roberts, this underlayment is primarily marketed for laminate and engineered wood flooring but can also be used on floating vinyl plank flooring. It can be used over radiant heat, and has a good R value rating, but the sound dampening ratings are lower than others. This is an economical underlayment that mainly provides cushion, insulation and basic moisture protection.

If installing over concrete slabs you’ll need to purchase a moisture barrier to be used in addition to this underlayment. Over wood subflooring, no additional moisture protection would be needed. It has an overlap and an adhesive strip to help with easy installation.

Rating

STC Rating: 54

IIC Rating: 61

R Value: .29

Thickness: 2.38 mm

Warranty: none

Cons:

  • Tears easily
  • Additional moisture protection required if installing over concrete subfloors
  • Lower rating for sound dampening

Pros:

  • Can repair tears easily with tape
  • Lowest price per square feet on this list
  • Provides cushioning
  • Provides insulation
  • Can be used in conjunction with radiant heat flooring system
  • Has overlap and adhesive strips for seams between rows

10. STEICO 3 mm 1/8 Inch Wood Fiber Flooring Underlayment

Another underlayment by STEICO, this one is the same product as the other, albeit a thinner version. If you’re looking for environmentally friendly, cushioning, safe for use with radiant floor heating, and less worried about acoustics, this is an exciting product.

It arrives in flat squares instead of rolls, and needs a 24-hour period after opening to acclimatize to the moisture level of the room in which it will be installed.

Rating:

STC: 55

IIC: 50

R Value: .25

Thickness: 3 mm

Warranty: 5 year warranty

Cons:

  • Lower sound dampening ratings both for air borne and impact sounds
  • Cutting can release a green dust or film, have a vacuum handy
  • One of the most expensive options on the list

Pros:

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Can be used with radiant heat flooring
  • Comes with a warranty
  • It is a flat material, never rolled, therefore there are no problems with curling or rippling

Do you need underlayment for vinyl flooring?

The short answer to this question actually is that it depends. The type of subfloor or existing floor you will install over is the key. So here, I’ve laid it out clearly.

You do not need underlayment for your new vinyl flooring if:

  • Your vinyl flooring has an underlayment installed (but you may still need a moisture barrier)
  • vinyl flooring will be installed over a below grade tile floor (but you may want to consider it anyway for cushioning)
  • the vinyl flooring will be installed on top of an existing cushion backed vinyl floor

You do need underlayment for your new vinyl flooring if:

  • Your vinyl flooring will be installed on top of existing hardwood floors
  • vinyl flooring will be installed on top of pre-existing vinyl flooring that is not cushioned
  • the vinyl flooring will be installed on top of concrete

Additionally, be sure to check your vinyl manufacturers guidelines, instructions and warranty regarding underlayments. Some are more restrictive than others, and the last thing you want to do is inadvertently void your warranty.

How thick should underlayment be for vinyl flooring? 

In general, underlayments for vinyl flooring will be between 2mm to 3mm in thickness although some can be as much as 6mm thick and the thinnest around 1mm.

You might be tempted to think, the thicker the better. However, with today’s technology in product manufacturing that just isn’t true. The industry ratings and tests help provide a guide, and you can see that some of the thinnest underlayments on the list, still perform very well on sound ratings.

More important is to look at the key quality features each underlayment possesses and compare that to what your subfloor and climate conditions require and make your decision from there.

If you don’t plan to have vinyl plank flooring in all of the house, you may need to consider thickness of your underlayment in correlation to how the floor will match up to the other types of flooring in your house. You don’t want a significant difference in the level of your vinyl plank flooring to the ceramic tile flooring in your bathroom for instance.

How Do I Know What Qualities My Underlayment Should Have?

If you live in a condominium, apartment building, or a community that has a home owners’ association (HOA) be sure to check your HOA for any flooring rules or acoustic guidelines. It is actually quite common for HOAs of buildings that have different residences all within one building to have regulations or rules about flooring because of their sound dampening qualities (or lack thereof).

Few other things to consider when thinking what quality of underlayment should you choose:

  • If your vinyl flooring will be installed on top of concrete slabs, you will want to focus on cushioning or shock absorption, thermal properties, and a moisture barrier.
  • When you are installing it on top of a wood or plywood subfloor, you should focus on sound dampening, and cushioning.
  • If you’re installing over a pre-existing flooring you should look for qualities of sound dampening.
  • When your flooring includes radiant heat, you need to look for an underlayment that is safe for radiant heating flooring systems.
  • Is the flooring for an upper floor in the house? If so you will want sound dampening for sure.
  • Is location of your flooring in the basement or ground floor of the house? Then perhaps you can put less of an emphasis on sound dampening and more emphasis on thermal properties and cushioning.

A General Guide to Installing the Underlayment for Your Vinyl Plank Floors

Be sure to follow manufacturer directions for whichever underlayment you purchase when installing.

1. Gather Your Tools

Some of these you will definitely need, others maybe not. It’s best to have them all handy so that if and when you need them you can reach for them.

  • Underlayment
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Broom and dust pan or vacuum
  • Hammer
  • Sharp scissors
  • Utility knife
  • Tape

2. Check Your Subfloor

You need to look for any protruding nails, debris, dust, or major imperfections that could snag the underlayment. Sweep or vacuum up all dust and debris, you want your subfloor as clean as humanly possible. Most underlayments provide a minimal measure of leveling out subfloor imperfections, but don’t start installation if you’ve got something major such as: 

  • Cracks
  • Holes
  • Moisture
  • Unevenness
  • Protrusions

Those types of subfloor imperfections need to be fixed before moving forward.

3. Unroll Underlayment

Once you’re satisfied 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 underlayment comes with an adhesive strip on one end and overlap on the other, you want the adhesive strip on the edge along the wall, leaving the overlap to meet with the next strip of underlayment.

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 your underlayment doesn’t have an adhesive strip; utility tape or duct tape can work to connect your rows of underlayment.

When putting down the rows of underlayment it is very important that your rows do not overlap. The seams of each edge should come exactly together side by side but with no overlapping! 

5. Install Vinyl Plank Flooring

Some manufacturers recommend that you lay two rows of underlayment and then pause to install the flooring on top of the first row of underlayment. Then when one row of underlayment is visible stop with the flooring and lay another underlayment row. 

Other manufacturers recommend putting down the entire floor of underlayment before installing the vinyl. Be sure to read your manufacturers recommendations and instructions for installation.

Why Isn’t Cork Underlayment appropriate for vinyl plank flooring ?

You may have been looking for a cork underlayment and are now wondering why isn’t there one on this list. Well the truth is, cork and vinyl plank flooring really aren’t a great match. Most manufacturers are restrictting this type of underlayment to be used with their flooring and using cork can cause your vinyl warranty to be voided. It’s sound dampening characteristics are also lower than most of the other materials available for this purpose.

Related topics:

How soon can you put furniture on vinyl plank floors?

Best Direction to Lay Wooden Flooring?

Does heavy furniture dent vinyl plank flooring?

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