Best Types of Underlayment for Vinyl Flooring

Choosing the right underlayment is a crucial aspect of installing vinyl flooring, as it impacts the overall performance, durability, and comfort of the finished floor. Underlayment is a thin layer of material placed directly under the vinyl planks or tiles, providing cushioning, sound reduction, and moisture protection. With various types of materials and properties available, it’s essential to select an underlayment that meets your specific needs.

Common materials used for underlayment include foam, cork, and rubber, each with its unique features and benefits. To determine the best underlayment for your vinyl flooring, it’s crucial to consider factors such as subfloor type, room use, and specific requirements like moisture resistance and soundproofing. Keep these key points in mind as you explore the various options on the market.

Importance of Underlayment

Installing an underlayment underneath vinyl flooring can have several benefits for your home. These benefits can generally be categorized into two main areas: stability and support, as well as acoustic and thermal insulation.

Stability and Support

Underlayment provides a stable and supportive base for your vinyl flooring. It acts as a cushion between the flooring and the subfloor, helping to stabilize and support the luxury vinyl flooring. With proper underlayment, your flooring will remain in place and have a floating effect, which is important for the long-term durability and aesthetics of your floors.

Acoustic and Thermal Insulation

Another essential aspect of underlayment is its ability to provide acoustic insulation. It helps in reducing the noise levels within the room by absorbing and dampening sound. This can make a significant difference in multi-story buildings, where noise transfer between floors can be an issue.

Underlayment also contributes to thermal insulation, with some types of underlayment having specific R-values, indicating the level of thermal insulation they provide. A higher R-value signifies better insulation, and selecting an underlayment with an appropriate R-value can help maintain a comfortable temperature in your living space while potentially reducing energy costs.

Best Types of Underlayment for Vinyl Flooring

There are several types of underlayment materials available to choose from, depending on your vinyl flooring needs. Each type has its own unique characteristics and benefits, helping to address specific issues like unevenness, sound absorption, and stability.

Foam Underlayment

Foam underlayment is a popular choice for vinyl flooring due to its affordability and ease of installation. It provides a comfortable cushion for your feet and can help with sound absorption, reducing impact noise by up to 20%. Some foam underlayment options even come with a pre-attached moisture barrier that minimizes the need for additional materials, making it a cost-effective solution.

Foam underlayment is usually the most affordable option, with prices ranging from $0.15 to $0.50 per square foot. This budget-friendly choice offers basic cushioning and sound absorption, making it suitable for residential applications with moderate foot traffic.

Cork Underlayment

Cork underlayment is an eco-friendly option that offers excellent sound insulation and thermal properties. It can reduce impact noise by up to 50% and is naturally resistant to mold, mildew, and pests, making it a durable choice for your vinyl flooring. Cork can be slightly more expensive than foam, but it is more resilient and absorbs sound better than some other underlayment materials.

Cork underlayment is a moderately-priced option, with prices ranging from $0.75 to $1.50 per square foot. It provides better sound insulation and thermal properties compared to foam, making it a good choice for those seeking an eco-friendly option with enhanced performance.

Rubber Underlayment

Rubber underlayment is another great option for vinyl flooring, especially in high-traffic areas or commercial settings. It provides excellent sound absorption, reducing impact noise by up to 25%, and durability, making it a long-lasting option for busy homes and offices. Rubber underlayment can be more expensive compared to foam or cork but is worth considering for its exceptional performance.

Rubber underlayment typically falls within a mid-to-high price range, with prices ranging from $1.00 to $2.00 per square foot. The higher cost is justified by its excellent sound absorption, durability, and suitability for high-traffic areas or commercial settings.

Felt Underlayment

Felt underlayment is a traditional option that has been used in flooring installations for decades. It is made from recycled materials, making it an environmentally friendly choice. Felt offers good sound absorption, reducing impact noise by up to 15%, and insulation properties, though it may not be as effective as cork or rubber. It is generally more expensive than foam underlayment but is a reliable choice for many vinyl flooring projects.

Rubber underlayment typically falls within a mid-to-high price range, with prices ranging from $1.00 to $2.00 per square foot. The higher cost is justified by its excellent sound absorption, durability, and suitability for high-traffic areas or commercial settings.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Underlayment

Flooring Type

When selecting an underlayment, it is important to consider the specific type of vinyl flooring you plan to install. For instance, thicker flooring options like WPC and SPC typically provide better sound insulation and are more forgiving over imperfect subfloors, so an underlayment with additional cushioning may be unnecessary. On the other hand, thinner vinyl flooring can benefit from a more cushioned underlayment, which offers added support and comfort. 

For thicker vinyl sheet flooring, a moisture barrier or basic underlayment may be sufficient, while thinner options will benefit from a cushioned, sound-absorbing underlayment.

Installation Method

Consider how you plan to install the vinyl flooring, as different methods may affect the type of underlayment needed. For floating floors, a thicker underlayment with moisture protection is ideal, while glue-down installations may require a thinner, firm underlayment that doesn’t interfere with adhesion.

Moisture Protection

When installing vinyl plank flooring, especially over concrete subfloors, moisture protection is essential. An underlayment that provides moisture regulation can prevent damage to the flooring over time. Some underlayments offer a built-in moisture barrier, which is ideal for installations in damp or high-humidity areas. According to Bob Vila, it’s best to pick an underlayment option that provides both heat insulation and moisture regulation for vinyl plank flooring on concrete.


Last but not least, consider your budget when selecting an underlayment for vinyl flooring. While a higher-end underlayment can offer better performance and a more luxurious feel, more affordable options can still provide adequate support and moisture protection. For example, Roberts Super Felt is a popular underlayment that offers good insulation properties and a luxury feel at a reasonable cost.

How thick should underlayment be for vinyl flooring

The thickness of underlayment for vinyl flooring largely depends on the type of vinyl flooring and the subfloor’s condition. Here is a list of underlayment thicknesses to consider for different situations:

Thin Vinyl Flooring (up to 2mm thick):

For thin vinyl flooring, opt for an underlayment with a thickness of 1-2mm. This provides sufficient cushioning and sound insulation without creating a risk of telegraphing subfloor imperfections through the flooring.

Standard Vinyl Flooring (2mm to 4mm thick):

For standard thickness vinyl flooring, a 1-3mm thick underlayment is typically adequate. This thickness range offers a balance between cushioning, sound insulation, and stability.

Thicker Vinyl Flooring (4mm and above):

For thicker vinyl flooring options, such as WPC or SPC, an underlayment thickness of 1-2mm may suffice. These flooring types already have built-in cushioning and sound insulation, so a thinner underlayment is enough to protect the flooring from moisture-related issues when installed over concrete subfloors.

Imperfect Subfloors:

If your subfloor is uneven or has noticeable imperfections, consider using a thicker underlayment (3-6mm) to help smooth out the surface and provide a stable base for the vinyl flooring. This is especially important for thinner vinyl flooring, which is more susceptible to telegraphing subfloor irregularities.

Sound Insulation Requirements:

If sound insulation is a top priority, opt for a thicker underlayment (3-6mm) made of materials with excellent acoustic properties, such as cork or high-density foam. This will help reduce impact noise and improve the overall acoustic performance of the flooring.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right underlayment for vinyl flooring is crucial for ensuring its durability, comfort, and overall performance. The SPC (stone-plastic composite) core is one of the most durable options, but it may not provide the same level of comfort as other types of underlayment.

Some top-rated underlayments for vinyl plank flooring include Floorlot Laminate Flooring Underlayment, QuietWalk Plus QW100PLUS Underlayment, and Bestlaminate 3 in 1 Flooring Underlayment. Additionally, STEICO offers 3mm and 6mm wood fiber flooring underlayments that have gained popularity for their natural sound insulation barrier.

Considering factors such as floor type, noise reduction, and moisture protection will help you make the best choice for your specific needs. For example, if you’re installing vinyl plank flooring over a concrete subfloor, using an underlayment with a built-in moisture barrier is essential to prevent damage to your flooring.

Lastly, don’t forget to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific type of underlayment suitable for your chosen vinyl flooring. This will ensure that you get the best performance and maintain any warranties associated with your flooring product.

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