Engineered wood flooring does not necessarily require an underlay. However, it is highly recommended. The main reason for using an underlay with engineered wood flooring is to make sure the subfloor surface is smooth before laying down the engineered wood flooring.
There are many other benefits to using an underlay for engineered wood flooring. An underlay between the subfloor and engineered wood flooring will provide extra comfort while making the floor look great and last longer.
What is a Flooring Underlay?
Simply put, a flooring underlay is a thin sheet of material that is laid between the subfloor and the floor.
Underlay for floors comes in a variety of different materials. Choosing the right underlay will provide insulation, help to smooth the surface of the floor, adds an extra barrier or protection, be a moisture barrier, make the floor more cushiony, and serve as a sound barrier.
What is Engineered Wood Flooring?
Engineered wood flooring is a type of floor that looks like hardwood. Engineered wood floors are often chosen because they are cost-effective for those on a tight flooring budget.
If the engineered wood flooring is made well, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between an engineered wood floor and a real hardwood floor. Instead of a single wood plank, engineered wood flooring is usually made out of a plywood core with a thin layer of hardwood flooring on the top.
While engineered and real hardwood floors may look the same, you cannot refinish engineered wood.
So, when the flooring wears down, you may need to replace the entire floor. Whereas, with hardwood, you could refinish it several times over to extend its life.
Reasons to Use Underlay on Engineered Wood Flooring
Making sure you have a smooth surface on top of the subfloor is the main reason for using an underlay with engineered wood flooring. Additionally, using an underlay underneath an engineered wood floor will provide the following benefits.
The right underlay between the subfloor and the engineered wood flooring will:
- Provide extra moisture resistance from spills, standing water, or too much humidity, especially an underlay with a built-in vapor barrier
- Help make the floor more durable
- Provide better insulation for a wood floor
- Lead to huge savings in energy bills since it helps to regulate the temperature of the floor
- Help to muffle sounds like those that come from a second-story floor as well as footsteps or creaks
- Extend the life of the flooring
- Make the floor feel more comfortable under your feet
- Provide the floor with an even surface as it smooths out minor flaws or dips on the subfloor
- Add an extra barrier between the subfloor and the engineered wood floor
Types of Underlay
When you choose to use an underlay with engineered wood flooring, the most important decision will be to determine which one works best for your type of engineered wood.
The type of underlay you choose will also depend on how the engineered floor was installed.
If you used the floating method, for instance, your wood planks will not be attached directly to the subfloor, and an underlay can provide the necessary support and stability for floating floors.
There are several types of materials to use in the underlay. Choose from these types of underlay material options:
A plastic underlay sheet is good for humid climates as it helps to block out excess moisture.
Plastic underlays can also be paired with other moisture barriers. The plastic will help keep the condensation from warping the floors while preventing mildew or mold from growing underneath the engineered wood floor.
A foam underlay layer helps to keep the flooring even. The foam also serves as a type of thermal insulation. Foam underlay also makes a nice sound barrier.
Felt is the most commonly used type of underlay since it tends to be affordable and easy to work with.
Felt is very easy to cut to size appropriately. It is also easy to install. Felt offers a moisture barrier and serves as nice insulation as well as soundproofing.
Cork is another cost-effective choice. Cork is very easy to work with and offers a great sound barrier. Cork also has a natural antimicrobial effect and helps to keep mold and mildew at bay.
Cork is not, however, the best moisture barrier and will not do as well in high-humidity areas like kitchens, wet basements, or bathrooms. Cork works great for second-story flooring.
Using a rubber underlay will do well as a buffer between the flooring and the subfloor. Rubber can also serve well as a moisture barrier and offers some amount of soundproofing.
Engineered wood flooring does not require the use of an underlay.
However, using an underlay with engineered wood flooring will ensure that the subfloor is smooth to provide a good foundation for laying the flooring. A good underlay may even extend the life of the floors.
There are many benefits to using an underlay for engineered wood flooring. Using the right underlay will provide you with a layer of insulation and cushion. An underlay will also help to smooth the surface of the floor, add an extra barrier or protection, be a moisture barrier, and serve as a sound barrier.