There are a variety of considerations to make when deciding whether or not you’ll need to underlay your vinyl plank flooring installation. While the benefits discussed are tough to beat, in some circumstances you don’t technically need underlayment.
Depending on your type of subfloor or the flooring you’re installing vinyl on top of, you may or may not need underlayment. The type of flooring also determines which type of underlayment you should buy if it’s needed. Different types of subfloors have different properties that may warrant one style of underlayment over another, and different installation methods have different underlayment needs. Stick-on, glue down, and loose lay vinyl don’t require an underlay. It’s always best to check with the manufacturer, or flooring dealer, and follow their recommendations.
Finally, some luxury vinyl planks come with a built-in underlayment that provides sound dampening and softening qualities. In this case, you’ll only need to install moisture and vapor barriers if installed over damp surfaces like concrete.
Do I Need Underlayment for Vinyl Plank Flooring on Concrete?
If your home’s subfloor is made of concrete, you will absolutely need an underlayment if installing luxury vinyl plank flooring. While concrete is an exceptionally durable construction material, it has a few inherent properties that don’t play nicely with the flooring of your home. The reasons why concrete needs underlayment includes:
- Moisture Secretion: Concrete is naturally porous, meaning moisture, humidity, and vapors can travel right through it. Moisture is always moving within the concrete, and the material can secrete from it over time. This may result in mold that can be particularly damaging to your home. If installing over concrete, use a underlayment that has a moisture barrier built in.
- Hard Material: If vinyl plank flooring is installed directly on the concrete, it will be incredibly stiff to walk on. Adding an underlayment made of foam, cork, or rubber will allow some suspension beneath your feet as you enjoy the home.
- Thermal Regulation: Concrete is exceptionally cold in the winter, and this can cause the flooring in your home to be uncomfortably cold as well. Underlay will help block the coolness that comes off of the concrete.
Do I Need Underlay for Vinyl Plank Floor Installed Over Ceramic Tile?
Unlike concrete, an underlayment is not an absolute necessity for installing vinyl plank floors over ceramic tile, however, it is still highly recommended. Tile has some properties to it that can benefit from installing an underlay and will allow you to enjoy your vinyl flooring more thoroughly.
When looking for the proper underlayment for tile, you won’t need to worry about a product with moisture protection. Tile doesn’t secrete any water as concrete does, so there is less of a risk of mold caused from moisture.
Tile is a hard surface though, and you’ll experience the same stiffness as concrete when vinyl flooring is installed directly to it. Consider adding underlay simply for the cushion it provides. Tile can also be cold in the winter, so the insulation benefits of an underlayment apply as well.
One main advantage of installing an underlay between tile and vinyl is that it skips the need to fill in the grout lines. You’ll need to choose a thicker underlay option to keep those grout lines from showing through the vinyl floor. If you choose not to install an underlay, every single grout line will need to be leveled to meet the rest of the floor.