Always use an underlayment with a laminate flooring installation because the floor will be less stable and more prone to warping without one. However, it may be optional or depends on factors, such as installation technique, so there's no clear yes or no answer. The best thing is to seek the advice of experts at your flooring company.
What is an underlayment?
This is the layer between the subfloor and surface floor, usually measuring 2-mm to 3-mm. Although it can sometimes be thicker, don't get too hung up on that number as other factors, such as sound insulation and density, are just as important, if not more so, than thickness.
Underlayments provide extra cushioning, sound insulation, hide subfloor imperfections or act as moisture barriers, and often come pre-attached to the product. If so, you don’t need to buy an extra one. If not, talk to the professionals at the flooring stores.
Types of underlayments
- Rubber. This has superior sound insulation qualities and guards against mold and mildew. It is excellent for wood, carpet, or tile. There's also something called rubber cork, a combination of the two materials, perfect for thin-set tile. However, neither rubber nor rubber cork is suitable for vinyl because rubber stains and affects vinyl.
- Felt. Made from recycled fibers, this has a greater density. It can be used under many flooring materials, including wood, carpet, and laminate.
- Foam. This is the hands-down favorite for laminate flooring and if you’re installing in a moisture-prone area, like the basement, be sure it also has a vapor barrier. Foam is also considered the best choice for wood floors.
- Cork. It is prevalent among apartment dwellers; it is ultra-resistant to sound, guards against bacteria growth and resists mold and mildew. Like foam, cork is considered the best choice for wood.