Does Vinyl Flooring Require An Underlay?
When it comes to picking out flooring, particularly carpets, you would usually also be adding an underlay to your basket too. But does vinyl flooring require underlay?
Underlay is a material that’s placed underneath flooring. It has several benefits and a higher quality underlay can make or, quite literally, break the actual flooring. Underlay can offer and enhance several properties, including thermal properties as well as prolonging the life of your new flooring.
Last Updated: 15/08/2023
Underlay comes in all sorts of thicknesses and materials, because the flooring itself does too. There’s different types of underlay for different types of flooring but we can typically split it with soft flooring underlay and hard flooring underlay.
Soft underlay is for flooring such as Carpets, whereas hard flooring underlay is for things like laminate and tiled floors.
Using hard underlay for soft floors will have little benefit, while using soft underlay for hard floors will be detrimental to the floor because of how it can be compressed easily. This can crack tiles and snap laminate.
An underlay is used to improve the flooring above it. It does this in a few different ways.
Soft Underlay beneath your carpet means your lovely new soft flooring becomes even softer. Your feet will sink further into the carpet and in the winter you’ll appreciate this even more as it’ll feel more snug. You could have the softest carpet in the world, but if you lay that directly on top of a solid floor such as concrete, it’ll feel harder.
The underlay gives it a soft cushioned effect and also helps cover any high spots or bumps in the hard floor underneath.
This is particularly important for winter months – underlay helps keep that surface warm by acting as an insulating barrier between the cold hard floor and your soft flooring layer.
One of the biggest downsides to laminate over carpet is on cold mornings you’ll really feel the freeze if you go barefoot on laminate flooring. Carpet itself creates a small insulating barrier but underlay really helps this along too.
In the same way that the air inside the underlay blocks the transfer of heat, it also softens sound. Sound travels in waves through the air the same way ripples move through a puddle if you drop a pebble in it. Your underlay acts kind of like grass would inside the puddle, and diffuses the waves.
In a real world scenario, if you’ve got a gaming teenager who loves shooting rockets at other players, you’re going to want to carpet their bedroom and fit a decent underlay too so that you can still watch tv in peace. If you fit something like laminate flooring in their room then you may as well be in the room with him.
You’ve got some options with underlay for hard flooring. While soft underlay’s main benefit is its insulating properties, you can still get this for hard flooring alternatives.
Wood Fibre underlay boards or a foam based alternative have insulating properties too, but are able to resist large amounts of compression which would keep laminate and tile flooring safe. It can handle deviations in the subfloor up to around 3mm or 4mm and will make laminate flooring a lot easier to walk on during winter.
The majority of underlay you’ll find for hard flooring however is very thin. It won’t be as thermally insulating as an underlay for carpet would but it fights other battles – namely it typically acts as a waterproof barrier which protects your flooring from underneath while also protecting the subfloor from spills which occur on the floor itself.
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Underlay’s main purpose is to flatten out the surface which you’ll add your flooring to. Carpets require an underlay because it extends the duration of its life. It helps even out any discrepancies in the structural flooring beneath the carpet which give it a completely level surface. This means you won’t have any lumps or bumps to trip on or catch on moving furniture.
Laminate requires an underlay for the same purpose because laminate is extremely flat and rigid. Any bumps in the surface beneath the laminate will mean the laminate could crack or snap when pressure is added from walking across it. The underlay can also acts as an insulation layer depending on the type you use, because laminate flooring against a cold floor will freeze toes during the winter.
Vinyl on the other hand comes with its own squishy layer underneath it. This spongy layer can help combat against an uneven set of floorboards or cracks and ridges in a concrete base. It also provides slight insulating properties in the same way underlay makes laminate flooring bearable during cold mornings.
Because of this foam layer that vinyl in particular has, it doesn’t specifically require underlay in the same way a carpet or laminate and tile flooring does. By design vinyl is exceptionally stable. It has the slight flex that means any uneven levels in a floor that would snap a laminate plank, vinyl just bends and adheres to.
The only time we’d think it mandatory to use an underlay below vinyl flooring is if you have a concrete subfloor. You’ll want to place a waterproofing layer to stop rising damp penetrating the floor during the cold and wet months. This should also be done for laminate flooring, underneath its underlay if you’re using something like foam or wood fibre underlay that doesn’t already have a waterproof layer.
So in conclusion, no, Vinyl flooring does not need underlay because of the way it’s constructed which means your flooring will fit to slightly uneven floors without underlay. But if you want to, you can use a wood fibre or a very firm foam underlay if you want a slightly warmer floor.
Easipay’s Pay Weekly Payment Plans let you get brand new flooring from £10 per week. We supply free underlay for both carpets and laminate, but not for vinyl. This is because both carpet and laminate flooring types usually require an underlay to protect them from faults in the subfloor beneath them, where vinyl does not.
We’re confident enough in our vinyl floor products that these floors will last without the underlay because they’ve essentially got one built in via the spongy layer on the underside. In fact we’ve got over 2500 excellent reviews on Trustpilot, many from customers with vinyl flooring who are doing just fine!
It’s also not just underlay that we give for free though, carpet grippers and under door trim is also included for free as standard, where appropriate!
We also don’t add any interest or hidden fees, and we don’t perform credit checks. Essentially the cost of the flooring and for the fitters time are all you pay, whether that’s paying it all off immediately or it’s paying it off in small, manageable chunks over several months, the overall amount stays the same.
To find out more and get started with splitting the cost of your new flooring, fill in the form below!
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