Underlayment is one of the more important parts of a flooring installation, even if it’s something most homeowners never even see. It’s something you will find beneath almost every major type of flooring style as well. With laminate flooring, choosing the right style of underlayment is critical, especially if you have concerns about moisture in your home.
The best underlayment for laminate flooring mainly depends on two factors. Where it will be installed, and the current conditions in your home. In our guide, we’re going to discuss the top options and touch on a few areas you will want to keep in mind when shopping for the best underlayment.
Types of Underlayment for Laminate Flooring
Before we talk about the types of underlayment available today, you should know a bit more about the material itself. Underlayment, in general, refers to a layer placed between your flooring and the subfloor in your home.
It can act as a vapor barrier, but depending on the type of underlayment, it can provide other advantages as well. Here are the most common types of underlayment used during the installation of laminate flooring.
Polyethylene foam is one of the cheapest forms of underlayment. It can be highly effective with the right type of floor, and it is easy to find online or locally. Foam underlayment can have a layer of plastic attached as well, which acts as a vapor barrier. With laminate flooring, that’s extremely important.
Foam is easy to install and sold by the roll. You can cut it with a pair of scissors or a razor knife, and the best foam underlayment will have a strip of adhesive attached so you won’t have to tape the seams. It’s not uncommon to find thinner foam combined with other materials like cork as well.
All foam underlayment for laminate flooring is not created equal, however, and you will want foam with a vapor barrier for any wet area. While thinner styles are significantly cheaper, they won’t help with sound reduction as much as thicker foam. On average, you can find foam underlayment anywhere from 0.80mm to around 3.5mm. That’s a wide range, but suitable for a variety of budgets and needs.
While not quite as popular as foam, felt underlayment is an interesting choice to install under laminate flooring. It can be quite thick and is better at providing insulation and deadening sound. The best styles excel at absorbing noise, and it gives you a bit more cushion underfoot compared to other styles.
It’s common to find recycled materials being used in felt underlayment as well, which makes it a greener choice. Felt is also sold by the roll, but a little more expensive than midgrade foam underlay, and a little harder to work with if you plan to do it yourself.
Do you want to reduce noise from your flooring and add something a bit more substantial than foam or felt beneath your floorboards? If so, cork may be the best option for you. It’s commonly found pre-attached to luxury vinyl flooring but has made its way into the laminate world as well in recent years.
Cork has antimicrobial properties, which makes it ideal for people that suffer from allergies, although it’s not impervious to moisture. While you can install cork underlayment in any room, you’ll still want to consider a vapor barrier in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements.
Rubber is an overlooked underlayment in the flooring world and usually not on a homeowner’s radars when they are considering installing laminate flooring. It’s actually the best type of underlayment for noise, and solid rubber underlay can even surpass cork or fiber-based materials in that regard.
This type of underlayment can be quite expensive, however, and you’ll want to stick to high-quality products geared towards laminate with little to no odor. Rubber also doesn’t breathe, something to keep in mind if you have plywood subflooring.
Laminate Underlayment Features
Underlayment isn’t a technical product, so there’s not a lot to look for when it comes to features. It can’t connect to your home network through Wi-Fi, although certain products have unique properties built-in that can make your life easier and your home more comfortable.
As mentioned, cork is an excellent material for underlayment and one with natural antimicrobial properties. Well, it’s not the only material with those features as several companies have found a way to bake that into their product. That means you can find mold resistant foam with similar properties that may be cheaper than cork.
Underlayment that can reduce sound or block moisture are the two most common features, but you can also find underlayment that will keep your feet warm in the wintertime. Several companies make material that is suitable for use with heated floor systems, while others like MP Global produce heated underlayment with the element embedded within the material.
Other things to consider
Most underlayment is sold on a roll, and you’ll notice common measurements in our pricing table below. Rolled underlayment is relatively easy to manage, but some styles of underlay like cork are actually sold in sheet form as well. While not heavy, they can be more challenging to haul if you don’t have a truck or SUV but are an interesting alternative to traditional roll-based products.
Self-sealing seams are another thing to keep an eye out for, and something you’ll find on plenty of products. It makes installation easier and can save you a lot of time in wide-open rooms. It’s not nearly as helpful in small rooms or hallways, so consider your layout when considering underlayment for laminate flooring.
Laminate Underlayment Pricing
There are hundreds of options to choose from when you’re looking for the best underlayment for laminate flooring. Some materials are more popular and easier to track down locally, while others may have to be purchased online, which can raise the overall cost.
Underlayment can increase the overall price of your flooring project, especially if you have a larger home or multi-story house. The table below will give you a rough idea of what to expect from different manufacturers whether you need a roll of foam, cork sheets, or prefer felt underlayment for laminate flooring.
25’ x 4’ x 100 sq. ft.
$0.25 sq. ft.
27’ x 3.6’ x 100 sq. ft.
$0.35 sq. ft.
25’ x 4’ x 100 sq. ft.
$0.59 sq. ft.
Foam and Cork
25’ x 3’ x 76 sq. ft.
$0.75 sq. ft.
25’ x 4’ x 100 sq. ft.
$0.85 sq. ft.
Fiber w/ heating element
10’ x 3’ x 30 sq. ft.
$8.80 sq. ft.
3’ x 2’ pack of 25 (150 sq. ft.)
Q: Do I have to use underlayment with laminate flooring?
A: It depends on the type of flooring. In some cases, you could actually void your warranty if you don’t use the correct kind of underlayment beneath your floor.
Q: Will underlayment help to level my subfloor?
A: Thick foam can help to a degree, but if your subfloor is too uneven, you’ll need to use a self-leveling compound or call in a professional before installing laminate.
Q: What is the best type of underlayment for concrete subfloors with laminate flooring?
A: Foam or cork. Concrete is tough on your feet, and both of these materials will add some cushion between concrete and the laminate flooring. You’ll need to install a vapor barrier as well unless the underlayment has one already attached.
Q: Will thin carpet padding work beneath laminate flooring?
A: No, that’s not advised. You should only use underlayment recommended by your manufacturer or specifically geared towards your flooring style.
Q: Do I need to use a vapor barrier when installing laminate over plywood?
A: Wooden or plywood subfloors need to breathe, which makes plastic vapor barriers a bad idea, although there are some exceptions to the rule.