Does LVT Flooring Need Underlayment?


When picking and choosing a specific flooring, such as LVT (luxury vinyl tile) floors, one of the things that you want to keep in mind is if you need underlayment or not. Some people may wish for extra padding beneath their vinyl floors for more protection, whereas others might not want to deal with this because they have heard how easy it is to install LVT floors. I mean, all you want to do is get the floors done and over with, so you can enjoy it more quickly! 

So does LVT (luxury vinyl tile) flooring need underlayment? Since many LVT floors have underlayment installed to each plank, and most vinyl flooring is waterproof, it is unnecessary most of the time. However, if you wish to add further protection to your floors, such as soundproofing, or you have a concrete subfloor, then underlayment will be an added benefit. 

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Keeping that in mind, we will go further in-depth on what type of subflooring would be best to put underlayment underneath LVT floors. Although deemed unnecessary for many vinyl floors, there are many things to consider when installing underlayment under your LVT flooring. 

What Is Underlayment?

Some homeowners might wonder precisely what underlayment is and what its usage is. Underlayment is essentially a thin layer of material that goes in between the flooring and the subfloor. Not only this, but it provides better insulation, reduces wear and tear with your floor, helps to cushion, and gives sound absorption with everything that is going on. 

Underlayment is essential because your subflooring is not guaranteed to be an even surface and will add extra protection on the ground. For the majority of floors, this would be a wise decision for better security. However, with a lot of LVT floors, you are not required to have it. 

How To Tell If You Need Underlayment

You can tell if you need underlayment flooring by looking at what type of subfloor you are working on within your home. If you have existing hard and cold floors, such as concrete, then adding an underlayment would be the best option due to the cold and hardness your feet may experience without an underlayment. On the contrary, if you have an existing cushion backed vinyl floor, a below-grade floor, or if your vinyl plank already has an underlayment installed, then you will not need an underlayment.

What Type Of Underlayment Do You Use For LVT Flooring?

There are many underlayments made in this world, but what exactly do you need to ensure a more refined finish for your LVT floors? The type of pad that you need depends on what kind of subfloor you have. Below are a few different types, which will help you decide what you need for your flooring down below. 

  • Concrete subfloor: Since these floors are a harsh surface and can hurt your feet in the long-run, it is essential to choose a suitable underlay that adds extra protection from moisture, cushion, and insulation.
  • Any uneven surface: Typically, you do not need a moisture barrier for LVT flooring unless the floors beneath are uneven. In return, an underlay will help with the bumpiness.

What About Click and Lock LVT Flooring?

Since luxury vinyl tiles are one of the most popular floorings out there, it is effortless to install. Most LVT floors have a lock and click system, which makes them more appealing. All things considered, since vinyl flooring is usually thin, adding underlayment may hinder how the floors are supposed to be. 

If you are installing your LVT floors over concrete for extra defense, an excellent product to use is a vapor barrier underlayment. Although it does not add any additional padding underneath, it will ensure no moisture will ruin your floors, which does not hinder your flooring’s locking process.

Do You Need Underlayment For Peel & Stick LVT Flooring?

Luxury vinyl tile floors have underlayment on the planks’ bottom; it is unnecessary. Nevertheless, you can still use underlay for peel and stick vinyl flooring. As long as the pad is smooth and clean with no dust or dampness on the floors, you can assure that the LVT floors will go on the padding without a problem. However, if there was any grain on the floors, a peel and stick tile will get loose over time and come off. If you wish to not deal with this issue, your best route will be to use plywood for a subfloor. Just make sure that with any subfloor, it is even all around.

Other Reasons To Consider Underlayment For LVT Flooring

Before we move on to the next point, there is one more thing to mention: compression resistance. What I mean by that is if you have high traffic in a room, such as the living room or kitchen areas, then it may be the right choice for getting underlay in those spaces, since a lot of traffic can permanently damage your floor structure, which makes it more problematic in the long run to fix.

Another thing to consider is that if you have pets or children playing in your home or continuously drop your drinks from high in the air, adding underlayment can help with this issue by upholding the configuration and giving your LVT flooring added strength.

Can You Use 2 Layers Of Underlay Under Vinyl Flooring?

Some people may want to use two layers of underlayment to protect their floors better, but we do not recommend this. Using one good quality underlayment is more than enough protection. We recommend this because your flooring base ends up being too soft and can easily ruin your flooring. You also may void the warranty doing this.  

What Is The Best Underlayment For LVT Flooring?

Now that we know a lot of information already, one must ask themselves the best underlayment for LVT floors. Not all of them are safe and made with the intention of vinyl floor usage. If you are unsure, look at the manufacturer’s instructions before purchasing. They are each rated in 3 different categories:

  1. STC (Sound Transmission Class), the higher the number, the better the muffling sound you will get.
  2. IIC (Impact Isolation Class), the higher the number, will prevent further insulation and measure noise when an object falls on the floor or if someone is walking around upstairs.
  3. R-Value (thermal resistance), which is a thermal rating. The higher the number, the less likely heat will transmit through it. Usually, you will see roughly .2 and .4 rating.

Keeping that in mind, here are some of the top 3 contenders with underlayment for vinyl flooring:

2in1 Silent Vapor Barrier Underlayment

Overall, this brand from Bestlaminate is going to be your best value for your money. It is one of the thinnest underlays, so it does not provide much cushion and has a lower sound rating than others. 2in1 Silent Vapor Barrier also has good sound dampening ratings, is eco-friendly, and suitable for concrete and wood floors.

  • STC: 65
  • IIC: 70
  • R-Value: .15
  • Thickness: 1.5mm

MP Global Products QuietWalk

Being an all-in-one type of underlayment, it is one of the top qualities for vinyl floors. Featuring many qualities, Global Products can be recycled being free of VOCs (volatile organic compound), is sturdy, provides extra cushion, sound damping, warmth, and a moisture barrier. Not only this, but it is a very durable product and is applied for floating and gluing down LVT plank flooring systems.

  • STC: 66
  • IIC: 71
  • R-Value: .58
  • Thickness: 3.2mm

STEICO Wood Fiber Flooring Underlayment

Made by a German company, it is an engineered natural wood fiber product. It is environmental and ecological and comes in flat sheets for those who do not want to roll out their underlayment. If you are installing it on a concrete slab, a moisture barrier is recommended between the underlay and concrete.

  • STC: 55
  • IIC: 50
  • R-Value: .5
  • Thickness: 6mm

How To Install Underlayment

If you wish to process with getting an underlayment for your vinyl floors, then there are a few key points to keep in mind. Installation should not be an issue and is relatively easy to do. You typically do not need to attach the underlayment to the floor, but in specific areas, such as frequently used doorways and rooms with a lot of natural sunlight, it would be a good idea to use adhesive in those sectors.

Here is a quick and easy guide for installation:

  1. Make sure the subfloors are cleaned thoroughly. Get rid of all dirt, dust, and any other debris the floors may have. Make sure the surface is washed and thoroughly dried. If your subflooring is plywood, do not mop, but instead, use a vacuum with a high-suction power.
  2. Place the material in the opposite direction of the flooring.
  3. Beginning in a corner, roll the underlayment out to the other side of the room, keeping the shiny side up.
  4. Leave 2 inches around the edges on all sides, which will be trimmed off after the flooring is installed.
  5. Pieces installed previously may butt up against each other but never overlap.
  6. With clear packing tape, seal the seams through the length.

Conclusion

Using an underlayment with your LVT flooring most of the time is deemed unnecessary since vinyl flooring comes with underlayment added to it. It can still add a great feature within your home, especially if the vinyl planks you get have 4 layers instead of 6. Adding that extra padding will provide more comfort and warmth to your everyday lifestyle. So deciding what is best for your lifestyle is a must before choosing both your floors and underlayment.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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