The Most Common Types of Flooring Underlayment Explained

Learn about different types of flooring underlayment such as basic foam base layer, self-leveling subfloor & more! Get tips on how to properly install your floor.

The Most Common Types of Flooring Underlayment Explained

When it comes to flooring, the subfloor is an essential component. It provides a solid base for the floor covering, and also helps to absorb movement and any expansion or contraction that occurs with changes in temperature and humidity. There are several types of flooring underlayment available, each with its own unique qualities. The basic foam base layer is ideal for plywood subfloors.

It is usually made of polyethylene or polypropylene. Polypropylene does not have a vapor barrier, making it ideal for plywood subfloors. Tile floors are still a popular choice, especially for bathrooms, entryways, and other places where a water resistant surface is desired. The impressive variety of tile styles, shapes and colors allows you to customize your design.

The tile base must provide a solid support, so that the tile and grout do not crack when you step on them. For concrete subfloors in poor condition, a self-leveling subfloor is the solution. This concrete product mixes very finely and is easily poured. Like any liquid, its surface will be leveled.

This is an excellent platform for additional subfloors, such as carpet padding, DITRA or plywood. When installing floors on top of an existing wood or ceramic tile floor, a layer of foam or cork can work well as a subfloor. These materials should probably not be used as a substitute for a rigid subfloor that is applied directly to a subfloor, but they can be a good solution when installing a new floor covering directly on an old floor that is still in good condition. For hardwood floors and engineered wood floors, the subfloor can be beneficial even if it isn't always necessary.

A polyethylene membrane is an excellent barrier against moisture and vapor, and can be installed on wood or concrete, including floors with radiant heat. In cases where the subfloor is in very poor condition, it may even be necessary to remove the subfloor itself and install a new layer of subfloor before the subfloor and floor covering can be installed.Laminate flooring is another cost-effective flooring solution that is also durable and attractive. If your product does not have an attached bottom layer, you will need to select one of these products to cover the small imperfections of the subfloor and give the laminate greater stability.For your floor to look the best possible and work as it should, it must be properly installed. Stiffness is also a matter of concern for builders and homeowners, as laminate floors rely on stability for long-term support.

Thicker subfloors will start to pose problems, as they can create compensation problems between rooms with different floor materials.In a new construction, the subfloor can be so strong and smooth that the carpet can be placed directly on a carpet padding fixed directly to the subfloor, or wooden floors can be installed on a simple layer of rosin paper spread over the new subfloor.The moisture barrier of the subfloor is particularly beneficial when it comes to hardwood floors, as it will help prevent deformation and other costly damage.Next time we'll continue with this topic by discussing different floor subfloors for hardwood floors and engineered wood floors.

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