With their timeless traits and the ability to never look outdated, hardwood floors are an excellent investment for your home. They’re easy to care for and coordinate with any style. Whether you’re upgrading your floors or starting from scratch, it’s important to understand why underlayment for hardwood floors is important. Do things right from the beginning and your new hardwood floors will keep on giving.
What Is Underlayment?
Underlayment is an additional material that you install over the subfloor prior to installing flooring. Underflooring serves a variety of purposes based on the material you choose to use as underlayment. The three most common options for underlayment material are cork, felt, and foam.
The Many Benefits of Underlayment
Underlayment for hardwood flooring offers several benefits. Specifically, the benefits include protection from moisture, reduction in sound, cushion underfoot, easing of subfloor issues, insulation for warmth, and added stability. Let’s look at each one of the perks of underlayment.
Protection From Moisture
If you’ve ever lived with hardwood floors, you understand the concern of moisture. No matter how strong a wood floor is, we worry moisture will get to them and possibly ruin the floor. Moisture and wood don’t mix, and it can cause mold, cracking, and warping of the wood. With an underlayment installed, that concern is eased.
Cork and foam underlayments help wick moisture away from your hardwood floor. Moisture often sneaks in from underneath the floor. That’s where your underlayment comes into play, offering protection from that moisture.
Let’s face it, hardwood floors are loud when there’s nothing to absorb the sound. With no underlayment, any noise on the floor echoes between the subfloor and the hardwood. Felt and foam underlayment softens those noises. Chairs scooting and toddlers running aren’t noticed in the way they are when there’s no underlayment.
Cushion Your Steps
We want our hardwood floors to be hard; after all, they’re made of a hard, durable material. However, we don’t want sore and tired feet at the end of the day because we were on a hard surface. We can’t make hardwood floors soft outside of placing rugs upon them, but we can add an underlayment to create a slight cushion.
Hardwood doesn’t feel like carpet. If that’s what you wanted, you wouldn’t have chosen wood floors. Still, adding a slight cushion between the subfloor and the hardwood floors gives just enough relief to your feet.
As a bonus, that cushion also provides compression resistance, which extends the life of your floors and helps with reducing those annoying squeaks.
Cover Up the Subfloor
The subfloor is the first layer of your flooring. It’s installed when the house is built. Subflooring is usually concrete or plywood. It sees a lot of action and sometimes get a bit banged up. If a subfloor is badly damaged, it needs replacing. However, if there are just minor imperfections, adding an underlayment on top of the subfloor helps protect it from further damage.
It’s also better to install your hardwood floor over something new and in good shape, rather than a worn-out subfloor. And of course, as mentioned, the underlayment adds a layer of padding that the subfloor simply can’t achieve.
Warm Up Your Feet
We love beautiful hardwood floors, but there’s no getting around it; they are a cold jolt to our feet on blustery, winter days. There’s no need to give up beauty for warmth. Use an underlayment before installing hardwood floors and it will help with the cold factor. That extra layer helps keep the cold drafts from sneaking up and through the floor.
A popular technique for installing hardwood and engineered hardwood floors is called the floating floor installation. A floating floor is installed directly over the subfloor and simply lays on top of it. There is no nailing down of the boards. Boards are cut to size and glued side by side.
This process is great for those who want to install flooring on their own without the help of a professional. Still, a floating floor causes boards to eventually shift because they aren’t nailed down. The method works well, and it isn’t a major problem; however, adding the layer of an underlayment prevents the shift from happening and adds stability to the hardwood floor.
Which Underlayment Material Is Best?
As mentioned, there are three common materials used for underlayment: felt, foam, and cork. Carpet padding is not an underlayment for hardwood floors. Carpet padding is designed for, well…carpet. It has more give than what we want for a hardwood floor, and if used, boards will eventually bend and crack. Let’s look at how felt, foam, and cork differ.
Felt is an excellent option for those on a budget. It’s inexpensive and works well as an underlayment. Some benefits of felt are that it’s made from recycled material and works as a natural moisture barrier. You won’t get as much cushion as you would from other underlayment options, but felt does the trick in protection from moisture, sound reduction, added warmth, and protection of the subfloor.
Foam is a top-of-the-line choice for underlayment. It’s the most expensive of all the options but well worth it. Foam, designed for underlayment use, usually has a moisture barrier built into it.
Its thickness makes an excellent cushion underneath the hardwood flooring and the sound reduction is the best you can get. To cover all your bases as far as noise reduction, warmth, moisture protection, subfloor protection, cushion, and stability, foam makes a great underlayment.
As a renewable source, many homeowners choose cork for an underlayment. Its best qualities are sound reduction and cushion. Unfortunately, cork does not create a moisture barrier. Another layer of protection from moisture is needed when using cork. If moisture isn’t a concern, cork is an excellent, middle of the road option.
As you make your home beautiful with hardwood flooring, we hope understanding why underlayment for hardwood floors is important helps you in the process. You can’t go wrong with timeless, hardwood flooring. And you can’t go wrong with an underlayment for protection and comfort.
From the Forest is proud to offer USA made engineered hardwood flooring. High-quality materials and excellent customer service make From the Forest America’s trusted hardwood resource. Browse our online store or contact us with any questions about hardwood flooring and underlayment materials.