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Does Engineered Hardwood Need Underlayment: 5 Reasons [Explained]

Does Engineered Hardwood Need Underlayment

Last Updated on July 10, 2023

When installing engineered hardwood flooring in your home, you may wonder if you need to install an underlayment.

Engineered hardwood typically requires the use of underlayment, as it provides additional support and stability to the flooring.

Underlayment is a thin layer of material placed between the subfloor and the hardwood flooring.

The underlayment acts as a barrier between the subfloor and the hardwood, absorbing sound and preventing it from traveling through the flooring and into the room below.  Underlayment can also help prevent moisture from seeping into the wood, which can cause warping, buckling, and other damage over time.

Let’s look into why an underlayment is super important for correctly installing engineered hardwood floors.

Why Engineered Hardwood Floor Needs Underlayment?

Why Engineered Hardwood Floor Needs Underlayment

If you’re wondering why your engineered hardwood floor needs underlayment, it’s because there are several benefits to using it. Here’s why:

1. Moisture Protection

2. Subfloor Imperfections

3. Noise Reduction

4. Comfort and Insulation

5. Stabilizing Floating Floors

Now let’s explore deeper:

1. Moisture Protection

Moisture protection is one of the main reasons why engineered hardwood floors need underlayment. With a moisture barrier underlayment, you can rest assured that your hardwood floors will be safe from water damage, giving you peace of mind in your home.

Without a moisture barrier, water seepage could occur and cause significant damage, such as swelling, warping, or even mold growth. Moisture can come from various sources, including humidity, spills, leaks, and even the subfloor itself.

A good quality underlayment with a moisture barrier can prevent water from penetrating through to the hardwood floor. It acts as a protective layer, providing an additional barrier against water damage.

2. Subfloor Imperfections

Underlayment provides a smoother surface for hardwood installation by compensating for small, uneven areas on the subfloor. This creates a stable foundation for long-lasting flooring.

Using underlayment helps eliminate subfloor imperfections, such as bumps, dips, and cracks. It makes it easy to install engineered hardwood on a level surface.

This is especially important because any imperfections in the subfloor can cause the hardwood to shift, buckle, or even crack over time.

When hardwood is installed directly on the subfloor, underlayment can also help prevent squeaks. The underlayment acts as a cushion, absorbing sound and creating a more comfortable walking surface.

Some underlayment materials have insulating properties that can help regulate the room’s temperature and reduce energy costs.

3. Noise Reduction

You can reduce noise transmission by up to 30% with underlayment for your flooring. This is especially important if you live in an apartment building or have multiple floors.

The underlayment helps to absorb sound and minimize the impact of foot traffic and other sources. This makes it easier for you to relax and enjoy your living space without the constant noise.

When selecting an underlayment for your engineered hardwood flooring, choosing one with the appropriate sound transmission class (STC) rating is important.

The STC rating measures how well the underlayment is able to reduce sound transmission between floors.

4. Comfort and Insulation

Comfort and Insulation

To make your feet feel more comfortable and regulate the temperature in your living space, it’s a great idea to consider using underlayment for your newly engineered hardwood flooring.

Underlayment provides a cushioning effect that makes walking and standing on the floor more comfortable, especially for extended periods. Also, it acts as insulation, helping regulate the room’s temperature and improving energy efficiency.

5. Stabilizing Floating Floors

Stabilize your floating floors with essential underlayment to prevent potential damage and moisture buildup over time.

Underlayment not only helps to level out minor subfloor imperfections but also acts as a moisture barrier to protect your engineered hardwood.

With proper underlayment, the constant movement of a floating floor system can prevent the planks from rubbing against each other and creating friction.

The most common types of underlayment for floating floors are foam, cork, and rubber. Each material offers different benefits, such as sound insulation, moisture resistance, and thermal insulation.

Which Types of Underlayment Are Suitable for Engineered Hardwood Flooring?

When choosing your engineered hardwood flooring underlayment, there are a few options to consider.

1. Felt Underlayment

Using felt underlayment for your engineered hardwood flooring can enhance its moisture resistance and provide an affordable sound-absorbing solution.

Here are some benefits of installing felt underlayment under engineered hardwood flooring:

  • Underlayment made of felt is eco-friendly as it is manufactured using recycled materials.
  • You can cut it to fit any room size or shape.
  • Felt underlayment provides a cushioning effect, which can help prolong the life of your engineered hardwood flooring.
  • It can also help reduce noise transmission between floors, making it a great choice for apartments or multi-level homes.

When selecting felt underlayment for engineered hardwood flooring, make sure to select a high-quality option at least 2 mm thick to provide adequate moisture protection.

Be sure to ensure that the felt underlayment is compatible with your specific type of engineered hardwood flooring, as some manufacturers may recommend specific types of underlayment for their products.

2. Foam Underlayment

Foam Underlayment

Engineered hardwood floors also benefit from foam underlayment because it absorbs sound. It can reduce sound transmission by up to 30 decibels, so you can enjoy a peaceful and quiet home environment.

One of the main advantages of foam underlayment is its affordability. It is one of the most cost-effective options available, making it a great choice for homeowners who want to save money on their flooring project.

Also, foam underlayment is easy to install and can be used with a variety of different flooring types.

To give you an idea of the different types of foam underlayment available, here is a table outlining some of the key features of each type:

Type of Foam UnderlaymentThicknessSound AbsorptionMoisture Barrier
Standard Foam2-3 mmGoodNo
High-Density Foam4-6 mmExcellentNo
Foam with Vapor Barrier2-3 mmGoodYes
Combo Foam4-6 mmExcellentYes

As you can see, there are different types of foam underlayment available to suit different needs.

When choosing foam underlayment for your engineered hardwood floors, it’s important to consider factors such as thickness, sound absorption, and moisture barrier.

3. Cork Underlayment

If you want a sustainable and durable option for your floors that also offers excellent sound absorption and insulation properties, cork underlayment is a great choice.

Cork is a natural material and has a unique cellular structure that allows it to compress and bounce back without losing its shape or effectiveness.

This makes cork underlayment ideal for engineered hardwood floors, as it can help reduce noise transmission and provide additional warmth and comfort to your space.

Cork underlayment comes in various thicknesses, ranging from 1/8 inch to ½ inch, and can be easily installed using glue or nails. It is also resistant to moisture and mold, making it a great option for areas prone to humidity and dampness.

Also, cork underlayment is hypoallergenic and safe for people with allergies or chemical sensitivities.

4. Rubber Underlayment

Now that you’ve learned about the benefits of cork underlayment let’s move on to another popular option: rubber underlayment.

Rubber underlayment is known for its flexibility, resilience, sound absorption, and insulation properties. It’s a great choice for those who want added comfort underfoot and moisture resistance.

One thing to keep in mind is that rubber underlayment can have a distinct smell, so it’s important to consider ventilation during installation. It’s also relatively easy to install, making it a popular choice for DIYers.

Also, rubber underlayment is compatible with various flooring types, including engineered hardwood. Installing rubber underlayment under your engineered hardwood can help to reduce noise and provide added cushioning.

How thick should the underlay be for engineered wood flooring?

How thick should the underlay be for engineered wood flooring

For optimal stability and support, it is recommended that the underlayment for engineered wood flooring be 5mm or less in thickness.

A thinner underlayment ensures the flooring stays firmly in place on the subfloor without compromising its structural integrity.

A thinner underlayment can prevent the flooring from feeling too soft or spongy underfoot. Thicker underlayments can potentially make the floor unstable and lead to issues with installation and long-term performance.

Do you need a vapor barrier under engineered hardwood?

Installing a vapor barrier under engineered hardwood flooring is highly recommended, especially when placing it on a concrete subfloor. The concrete has the potential to absorb moisture, which could cause damage to the flooring.

Adding a vapor or moisture barrier creates a protective layer that prevents moisture from reaching the engineered hardwood. It reduces the risk of warping, buckling, or other damage over time.

This affordable and simple addition can greatly extend the lifespan of your engineered hardwood flooring.

Maximize Your Comfort with the Right Underlayment for Your Engineered Hardwood Flooring

You now know the importance of underlayment for your engineered hardwood flooring. Underlayment can make your space more comfortable to walk on and live in by providing a cushioning layer and reducing noise.

Many types of underlayment are available, including foam, cork, and rubber. Each has its own benefits, so choose the one that fits your needs and budget.

The general rule of thumb concerning thickness is to use a thickness that is at least equal to the thickness of your engineered wood flooring. You can opt for a thicker underlayment for extra cushioning or sound reduction.

If you live in a humid area, it is recommended that you use a vapor barrier to protect your flooring from moisture damage.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and install your engineered hardwood flooring with the right underlayment today.

Does Engineered Hardwood Need Underlayment: 5 Reasons [Explained]

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