Does Vinyl Flooring Need Underlayment? (Ultimate Guide)

We have answered your query “does vinyl flooring need underlayment?” in very detailed with the help of this article.

The right underlayment is very important for any wood-based flooring. The same goes when it comes to vinyl flooring, but in this case, the question of whether or not you need an underlayment largely depends on the type of vinyl flooring that you choose.

While different types of vinyl floors have their own unique characteristics and qualities, they also come with their own unique problems. Underlayment is used to improve the compression resistance of floors, as well as moisture protection.

It also has other benefits, such as improving floor life. So, if you are considering underlayment for your vinyl flooring, it is important to consider the unique benefits that each type of vinyl flooring has.

Vinyl plank flooring requires an underlayment for the same reason that it has a tendency to buckle, cup, and bounce. In some cases, however, vinyl underlayment is a waste of money when the LVP/LVT is already beneath.

Once you have decided on the kind of underlayment that will suit your needs best, you should know the right way to go about installing it.

In this article, we will discuss “does vinyl flooring need underlayment?”, as well as how to choose the right one for your home.

What Is Underlayment?

Underlayment is an important component of any flooring project. Underlayment, otherwise known as a subfloor, can be made from materials such as plywood or OSB (oriented strand board). The most popular types are soft and rigid underlayment.

Underlayment is an inexpensive product that protects your flooring from uneven surfaces. It can be made out of different materials, but for vinyl flooring, the most popular are plywood.

Underlayment has a variety of advantages, including clod blocking, hiding imperfections, moisture resistance, decreasing sound, and extra cushioning.

When it comes to vinyl plank flooring, an underlayment should always be used because there will be no hiding any of the seams without one.

If you are installing vinyl planks in a bathroom, kitchen, game room, or other areas where moisture is present, an underlayment will be beneficial because it helps prevent moisture penetration.

For other types of flooring, such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT), using an underlayment is not always necessary. In many cases, the LVT is already manufactured with a waterproof backing.

It doesn’t matter what kind of flooring you have because using underlayment can always improve certain characteristics for any floor type.

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Does Vinyl Flooring Need Underlayment [How To Know]

Before you choose your underlayment, you must consider several variables. The first and most important question to ask is: why am I installing this vinyl flooring? Is your subfloor in good shape? Is the surface smooth and free of dents, bumps, and other flaws? Is the surface room tidy and dust-free? Are there any penetrations in the subfloor, such as pipes or power outlets?

If you are putting your vinyl planks on a concrete subfloor, there is a good chance that the underlayment will be necessary. Underlayments are known for their ability to dampen noise and can improve compression resistance, which reduces squeaking.

However, if you have a home with a cement subfloor and your vinyl flooring has a waterproof backing, installing an underlayment is not always necessary.

This is due to the fact that many vinyl flooring products already have a waterproof backing installed, which reduces the need for an underlayment.

If you’re installing vinyl planks over a hardwood floor, you don’t need to be concerned about water vapor damaging them; nevertheless, an underlayment is always a good idea for extra protection or sound reduction.

If you’re not sure whether or not your vinyl planks require an underlayment, contact a professional installer. They will be able to guide you towards making a decision about whether or not you should install an underlayment.

If your vinyl planks are not waterproof, then it is recommended that you have a layer of plywood or some other underlayment installed to help prevent moisture damage.

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When Does An Underlayment Help?

There are several specific instances when an underlayment might be necessary. For one, if your subfloor has a lot of visible gaps and cracks, then using a good quality underlayment will help hide these imperfections.

Even if you have a concrete subfloor with some bumps that need to be filled in, adding an underlayment will cover up any blemishes.

If your subfloor has dents, bumps, or other surface imperfections, the underlayment will help protect your vinyl flooring from damage.

Another situation where an underlayment would be beneficial is when you are installing vinyl planks on new construction.

If you are laying vinyl plank flooring over a concrete slab that has just been poured, then an underlayment will allow for a smooth installation and prevent any damage due to uneven surfaces.

One more instance where an underlayment provides value is when you want to dampen the noise from your vinyl plank flooring.

If sound quality is essential to you or there are other loud noises in your house, then installing an underlayment is an intelligent idea.

A moisture barrier underlayment can assist keep the vinyl planks from getting damp. If you’re covering a concrete basement, for example, the underlayment will not only keep moisture at bay but will also aid in humidity control.

Keep Reading: Guide On Getting Rid Of Vinyl Floor Scratches

What You Should Know Before Installing An Underlayment

Before installing an underlayment, there are a few factors you have to be aware of.

Type Of Subfloor Material

The first thing you should consider is the type of subfloor material. There are different underlayment materials for different kinds of flooring that will produce the best results.

Normally there are 3 types of subfloor such as concrete subfloor, Tile, Vinyl, or Hardwood subfloor, and Plywood subfloor.

A concrete subfloor is the most solid type of subfloor, so it doesn’t need an underlayment. But if you want to add sound insulation and moisture resistance, then you should choose concrete or some other underlayment.

Moisture won’t be an issue if the subfloor is made of plywood. However, you may still want more underfoot comfort and soundproofing. The subfloor is already well-protected against moisture with concrete, hardwood, or glue-down vinyl tiles.

Type Of Vinyl Flooring Product

For different vinyl flooring products, there are different requirements for underlayment.

Vinyl planks that have a thick profile don’t require an underlayment because they already come with good cushioning waterproof backing.

When the vinyl floorboards are thinner, and the profile isn’t as thick, then you should use an underlayment to provide extra cushion and moisture resistance.

You will need plywood or some other underlayment for vinyl planks that are intended for outdoor use, such as wet rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms.

When you are using Premium-quality vinyl flooring, which gives you a 12mm+ thickness, it has a waterproof vinyl backing, and the planks are lightweight.

In this case, there is no need for plywood or some other underlayment because these premium flooring products have all the right properties needed.

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Underlayment Is Not Required For Vinyl Plank With Pad

Some do-it-yourselfers like to use their own flooring solution by adding padding and then laying down the vinyl planks. If that is an approach you’d like to try, then you don’t need any underlayment.

In many cases, your underlayment has attached padding, so you don’t have to add your own. With this kind of installation, you can cut out the cost of purchasing an underlayment, and you’ll save on time as well.

Using Underlayment With Floor Heating System

When installing vinyl plank flooring on a heated floor, you may want to use an underlayment to keep the heating elements cool so they last longer. The heating system must be compatible with the underlayment material you choose.

You have to check with the manufacturer before laying down the new floors regarding the compatibility of the heating system with your underlayment.

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Types Of Underlayments For Vinyl Plank Flooring

There are different underlayments available to consider during the vinyl plank installation process. Below we have discussed 2 types of underlayments that are soft and rigid underlayment.

Soft Underlayment For Vinyl Plank Flooring

Normally, these are floating underlayments, which means they are not attached to or fastened to the subfloor in any manner. So it’s easier to install and remove if you want to change or upgrade your flooring.

When the weight limit is not as much as the rigid type, this type of flooring underlayment is preferred. The soft type of underlayment also does a better job at adding soundproofing and thermal insulation to bring you more benefits.

The only drawback about this underlayment is that it is not as sturdy as the rigid underlayment, so it is more susceptible to damage due to tripping and other hazards.

The type of underlayment you select will completely depend on the subfloor and on your personal preferences. Obviously, if the subfloor is uneven and isn’t flat, you will need a rigid underlayment to provide extra support for vinyl flooring.

On the other hand, if your subfloor is flat and doesn’t have any major issue, then you can choose soft underlayment because it’s easier to install, remove, soundproofing & soft feeling under the food.

Rigid Underlayment For Vinyl Plank Flooring

This type of underlayment is recommended for use with vinyl planks that have a thicker profile. This underlayment is also suitable to be used when the subfloor has major issues like leveling, smoothing, or other prep work that might be necessary to get it into shape for laying down new flooring. The rigid type of underlayment comes in different thicknesses and weighs everything from 3 to 5 lbs per square foot.

When you have a curved or angled floor, the rigid type of underlayment is helpful because it offers extra stiffness, strength, great moisture, and a sound barrier. This type of underlayment is also required when there is moisture present, such as in bathrooms, kitchens, etc.

Ensure that the underlayment you select is compatible with the vinyl plank flooring type you bought. The weight of both should be similar, or else it will cause problems while installation and may result in unique issues during usage.

It provides more stability & works as a water vapor barrier, but on the other hand, it also raises the height of your floor slightly. It may raise the floor too high if the underlayment is too thick, necessitating modifications to some areas of your home.

Types Of Vinyl Flooring

There are numerous varieties of vinyl flooring on the market. For example, there is sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl tile (LVP), planks, tiles, and more. The thickness also varies with each type of flooring depending on whether it’s a single layer or double-layer one.

The underlayment you choose should be compatible with the type of flooring you choose. Below we have discussed 3 types of vinyl flooring.

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Vinyl Sheet Flooring

Vinyl sheet flooring is a popular option because it’s affordable and comes in a variety of colors and styles. It’s also easy to install and can be used in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas of your home.

Vinyl sheet flooring is available in both single and double-layer thickness, and it can be installed over most existing floors. One downside to vinyl sheet flooring is that it can be challenging to repair or replace if damage occurs.

Additionally, it can be difficult to clean and may not be as durable as other types of vinyl flooring. For vinyl sheet flooring, the rigid underlayment is a good choice as it provides strength and can be used as a moisture barrier.

It also prevents potential damage to your subfloor from tools you use during installation, along with adding extra insulation. Vinyl sheet flooring does not require underlayment since it may simply adhere to most flooring surfaces. Still, in the case of the uneven or bumpy, or buckled floor, then underlayment is needed.

Click and Lock Vinyl Flooring

This type of flooring is popular because it snaps together and doesn’t require any glue, nails, or tools to install. This makes it easier to install as you don’t need to worry about the seams not matching up perfectly.

It also comes in a variety of patterns and designs for adding texture and visual interest to your home. Since click and lock require no glue to install, it’s easy to replace if damaged. It’s also easier to clean than other types of flooring.

If you want to improve soundproofing and cushioning, however, underlayment should be installed beforehand. There is a requirement of adding underlayment with click and lock vinyl flooring in concrete subfloor as they are porous, so it will help to prevent moisture damage.

It comes in single and double-layer thickness, which means that they’re easy to install & remove if necessary. The underlayment for this type of flooring shouldn’t change the height of your floor because these are already low-profile flooring.

Luxury Vinyl Planks

Luxury vinyl planks (LVT) are another popular option for homeowners and interior designers. LVT comes in a variety of colors and styles with added patterning to give it a real wood look; also, it is one of the best options for softer flooring.

Underlayment is not required for this type of vinyl flooring. It’s a multi-layer flooring, and each layer is a water-resistant barrier which means that it can resist moisture from seeping in from underneath.

The majority of these high-end luxury vinyl planks include an underlayment on the bottom side. As a result, it is no longer necessary to apply additional underlayment.

Vinyl plank flooring is quite easy to maintain and clean. You can use soap, water, or mop or use vinegar-water mixture (50 percent of each) for cleaning it. When the time comes for replacing these luxury vinyl planks, it’s fairly simple to do so. It can be installed quickly and can be attached to your subfloor.

How To Install Vinyl Flooring Underlayment

Installing your vinyl underlayment is a fairly straightforward process. This step-by-step tutorial from Lowe’s shows you how to install it in order to add extra insulation and soundproofing to your vinyl floor installation project.

In this example, they used multi-purpose asphalt felt paper with adhesive backing for their installation over a concrete subfloor and LVT for installation over a plywood subfloor.

Tools & Materials:

  • Utility knife with sharp blade
  • Hammer
  • Circular saw
  • Tape measure
  • Drill
  • Ladder
  • Air compressor (if using an airnailer)
  • Flooring nailer (optional)
  • Flooring adhesive
  • Rubber mallet
  • Tongue-and-groove pliers
  • Utility knife
  1. Get the measurements of your room and mark your subflooring where you want to start installing it. You don’t have to cover the entire room, but rather just the areas that are visible when you walk in.
  2. Cut out pieces of felt using a utility knife.
  3. Place the adhesive strip on top of the felt and press firmly in place. Make sure that the entire strip is smooth and flat against the surface. This will ensure a secure installation without any potential for movement or slippage.
  4. Use a hammer to tap down each side of the underlayment to adhere it completely to the subflooring.
  5. Extend your measurements around the entire perimeter of the room for overlapping folds (so that you can tuck them underneath).
  6. Use tongue-and-grove pliers to press down on the overlapped portion and ensure that it is secured well in place; then continue tucking it underneath the subflooring.
  7. Continue this process for all pieces of underlayment until you’ve completely covered your subflooring in coverage.
  8. Nail down the underlayment with adhesive and/or a flooring nailer. If you opt to use a hammer and nails, do so sparingly as it can cause the underlayment to bulge.
  9. Trim any excess pieces off of your underlayment with a utility knife.
  10. After completing the installation, cover any seams or gaps that are visible with trim molding or another decorative element of choice.

Reasons To Install Underlayment For Vinyl Flooring

There are many reasons that people choose to install underlayment for vinyl flooring. Here is a list of the most common uses:

Cold Blocking

When installing vinyl flooring in a room that is cold, adding underlayment can help to minimize the cold that enters the room from the floor.

In this case, it will help to block the cold from making its way into the home by creating a barrier between the floor and the subfloor.

Underlayment, too, can make a significant difference. Underlayment may also serve as insulation and keep the heat in during the winter by keeping the chill-out.

It’s easy to convert a chilly basement into a pleasant living area simply by installing underlayment directly over concrete.

Hide Imperfections

In order to cover up imperfections underneath the vinyl flooring, many homeowners opt for installing underlayment first. This will serve as a barrier between the floor and any bumps or dips that may be present underneath.

It’s easier to install underlayment than it is to get the subfloor totally perfect; you’ll be done in no time. Additionally, if you’re installing vinyl flooring over an uneven surface (such as a concrete basement floor), the underlayment will help to provide a smooth and level surface that can be walked on.

Once this step has been taken, you can easily go ahead and install the vinyl flooring over the top. But note that there are some situations in which it is unnecessary to use underlayment.

For example, if you’re going to be installing over a concrete floor that has been finished with a coat of paint or another type of sealant, underlayment is usually not necessary.

Moisture Resistant

Moisture can be a problem in some homes, especially if you’re installing vinyl flooring in the kitchen or bathroom. While moisture may not cause the flooring to degrade or become damaged, it will help to speed up that process if left on for too long.

Installing underlayment is beneficial because it helps to prevent moisture from seeping through the floor and into the subfloor.

In some cases, underlayment can also serve as a vapor barrier if it is installed over a concrete surface that has been painted or sealed with another type of sealant.

In this case, installing underlayment will help to keep any moisture from seeping up from below and creating a potentially dangerous problem for your flooring.

Decreasing Sound

In order to decrease the amount of noise that can pass from one room to another, many homeowners choose to install underlayment underneath their vinyl flooring.

In this way, they are able to stop sound from resonating throughout the rest of their house. Installing underlayment will help to absorb any vibration that is being generated by foot traffic, which will also help to reduce noise pollution.

If you’re installing vinyl flooring in a particularly noisy area of the house (such as the living room), it may be beneficial for you to consider installing underlayment underneath your new flooring.

This is especially true if there are high traffic areas that generate enough sound to bother other members of the household.

Additionally, if you live with pets or children who are particularly rambunctious, installing underlayment underneath your vinyl flooring may be a good decision for you.

Extra Cushioning

When walking, the last thing you want is to feel all of those bumps and dips on your floor. That’s why many homeowners choose to install underlayment underneath their vinyl flooring.

Underlayment gives a little extra cushioning and protects against noise and moisture penetration, as well as any potential damage that may be done by objects falling on the floor.

It’s challenging to install underlayment in a completely even and consistent way, so when you walk on your flooring, it shouldn’t be totally smooth and level.

However, when installing vinyl flooring, it may be beneficial for you to consider using underlayment in order to add an extra layer of protection against any damage that can occur to your flooring.

If you’re looking for an additional layer of cushion when walking on your vinyl flooring, you may want to consider installing underlayment underneath it.

Final Verdict

We hope this guide on your query “does vinyl flooring need underlayment?” was helpful and solved your doubt. If you think we missed some information then please let us know.

Vinyl flooring is a great option for anyone looking for an affordable and durable flooring solution. While it doesn’t require underlayment in all cases, it’s always a good idea to speak with a professional about your specific needs before making a purchase.

By understanding the benefits of underlayment and how it can improve the look and feel of your vinyl floors, you can be sure you are making the best decision for your home.

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Shelley Stevenson

Shelly Stevenson is the full-time editor responsible for painting, flooring, bathrooms & home climate coverage at StyDomIo. She is a home improvement expert with an eye for design and the skills to get the work done. She knows what turns a house into a home and has the advice and ideas to make upgrades easy and fun.

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