This is a topic we’re asked frequently, and the precise answer is yes if you are getting carpet or hardwood flooring, but no for laying vinyl. There are a number of kinds of underlay possible. The correct choice will depend on what sort of sub-floor you have and the kind of room that’s being outfitted. Underlay has many advantages besides making carpets appear softer and more comfortable. It’s a step that shouldn’t be jumped or scrimped on.
The Types Of Sub Floors
As with almost everything, beginning with a good foundation will give you a start to better outcomes in the long term. Obtaining the right underlay for your sub-floor will guard and preserve your new flooring, as well as making certain the groundwork is flat and smooth before installing the new floor. Most sub-floors will be both wood or concrete. Concrete foundations need an underlay with a dampness barrier, a damp proof membrane (DPM) or a separate barrier to preserve the floor from damp. If the sub-floor is wooden flooring, the choice of underlay will depend on whatever is being laid on top.
For carpeted floors, a lower layer of underlay has numerous benefits: not least that it will increase the life of a new carpet. Underlay acts as a shock-absorber on wear and tear and will stop the carpet pile from crushing, which can extend the life of your carpet by up to 50%. Underlay also dramatically enhances sound and heat insulation. Underlay can decrease your energy bills by up to 15% and decrease noise by up to 30%!
Engineered Wood Underlay
As with carpet underlay, having a layer separating the wood and sub-floor produces thermal and audio insulation. The acoustics of a room are enhanced when underlay is used with engineered wood, particularly important for rooms and spaces in which you play music or cinema rooms. Underlay doesn’t soundproof a floor, but it can decrease noise considerably, so it is a must for rooms higher than the ground floor.
What’s the best underlay for carpet tiles?
Carpet tiles do not need to have underlay as they ordinarily have a lining that does the same job. Using underlay with carpet tiles may really stop them from staying in place as tiles need to be laid on a flat, even covering.
The soft surface of the underlay could make the tiles lift up at the edges, making the flooring look deformed and forming a potential trip hazard.
Does vinyl flooring need underlay?
Vinyl flooring doesn’t need underlay as it now comes with a cushioned backing that can be fitted straight onto the floor. Vinyl is sometimes described as cushion flooring for this very reason.
CarpetAce does not recommend underlay with vinyl, as this can create a weak point in the vinyl. If you are applying the vinyl onto concrete, we recommend you have a screening operation on the sub-floor first to act as a moisture barrier. Screed is applied to level out a concrete sub-base and gives a smooth and even finish that is more suitable for laying flooring.
What does carpet underlay do?
Underlay boosts comfort and saves you money by:
- Protect the carpet from unnecessary wear
- Serving as a cushioning layer that gives ‘spring’ when you walk
- Reducing friction amidst the carpet backing and the floor
- Helping flooring look better for a more sustained period by decreasing marks on the carpet left by furniture
- Dampening sound
- Preventing heat from leaving
How long does carpet underlay last?
Underlay is great for all the above reasons, but its effectiveness does start to decline from the moment it’s used as with any product you buy. Hence, unless you have had a shift of heart and replaced your carpet only after several months of fitting it, you should lay new underlay every time you get new flooring installed.