Vinyl Flooring and Underlayments – The Two Common Questions Asked
Vinyl floors are incredibly common as they are easily accessible at your nearby depot, affordable, easy and fast to install, and comes with many variations of thicknesses and patterns. Many buildings especially residential buildings have vinyl flooring. With how common it is, comes with a lot of questions regarding it. We’re here to answer the two big common ones today. So let’s get started!
Introduction – What is an underlayment?
An underlayment is simply another layer of product that goes underneath the building’s surface flooring. It is typically manufactured and supplied in single sheets or rolls which are then laid flat on the floor and installed between the finished floor surface and the base structure below (typically concrete or wood) of a floor ceiling assembly in a building. They vary in materials and thicknesses, and all acoustically perform differently.
Common Question #1 – Do vinyl floors need underlayment?
Short answer is no, vinyl flooring itself does not necessarily need underlayment, however it may need depending on the acoustic requirements of the building. As mentioned previously in some of our articles, every building has to follow its own local building requirements, and one of those requirements is the acoustic performance of the ceilings and floors. If the building requires a specific STC and IIC value range, then underlayments will need to be incorporated into the flooring buildup to improve its acoustic performance and meet those local requirements. In short, vinyl flooring itself can be completely self sustainable and does not require an underlayment to function properly.
Another reason underlayments may be suggested for vinyl flooring is if the vinyl flooring type is thin. When the vinyl flooring is thin, it becomes a lot easier to flex and bend. Point loads (highest weight pressure point) of furniture feet may cause the flooring to have curve indentation and a “soft bouncy” feel when walked on, which is a feeling that some may not prefer. By incorporating acoustic underlay beneath the surface flooring, it adds stability and durability to the tiles, making it less easy to flex.
Common Question #2 – How thick should the vinyl flooring underlayment be?
There is no standard thickness for underlayments under vinyl flooring. Thickness depends on the purpose of the floor and its usage. If the flooring is expected to be used in a situation with a lot of foot traffic or heavy equipments that will be transported around, then a thicker underlayment will be required to meet the desired acoustic requirements.
Another thing to consider is the material of the underlay. There are many types of underlays on the market that are made with different materials. Some materials produce a firmer underlay, which makes the vinyl flooring less prone to indentation and breaking, an issue mentioned previously. Materials that produce a firmer underlay include recycled rubber and cork.
Making a Decision
Making a decision on underlays with vinyl flooring can be tough. Where do we start? Do we need it or do we not? How should the buildup look like? Will it fit the budget? These are all questions and concerns that one would have in the beginning. One of the best ways to start is to look at a variety of examples of buildups that have been proven to work and is used in the real world today.
Pliteq EchoOne is a large online database with over 700 acoustic test reports, where members can browse through a large collection of acoustic build ups that contain vinyl flooring with various underlayment options. Acoustic test reports are linked to each build up that will indicate the acoustic ratings. These test reports can be great references for builders and property owners to assess their options and determine what is best for their situation. To learn more about Pliteq EchoOne or sign up to become a member, visit here.
As an extra to top things off, here is a video on installing vinyl plank flooring, and 10 common rookie mistakes that should be avoided!