Underlayment goes on top of the structural support of your floor and under your actual flooring. It is designed to create a smooth, durable surface – which is why it is so important for vinyl flooring.
Vinyl flooring is so thin that any imperfections underneath it – like bumps, grooves, or cracks – will show right through. Without a solid underlayment, your vinyl flooring will not look as good as it should, and it will start to wear out faster. The last thing you want is for your vinyl flooring to fail because your underlayment isn’t any good!
So, what’s the best type of underlayment for vinyl flooring?
There are several good choices to pick from.
Wood is the oldest form of underlayment. If you want to use lumber as a vinyl flooring underlayment, your best bets are using either particleboard or plywood. They are both thin types of wood that won’t raise the level of your vinyl flooring up too much.
However, particleboard and plywood are both smooth enough that they provide a solid foundation for vinyl flooring. The only thing you need to keep a careful eye out for is nail heads and wood staples. If any of them are exposed, it can lead to vinyl flooring that looks bumpy.
But when it comes to picking the right underlayment, just any ‘ol wood is not good enough.
Hardboard is not a good underlayment for vinyl flooring because it is not a completely uniform surface. It’s also a very porous surface that can extract all of the liquid out of vinyl flooring adhesives – leaving the vinyl itself loose and slippery.
However, wood is not always the best choice for underlayment. If it ever gets exposed to moisture – from something like a leak or clogged drain – the wood can warp. If your underlayment warps, your vinyl flooring will start to buckle and break.
That’s why vinyl flooring manufacturers have been working on newer, better ideas for underlayment.
One of the newest types of underlayment is gypsum fiber panels. Not only are these panels incredibly smooth, they can even be exposed to a lot of moisture without warping, buckling, or expanding – meaning that your vinyl flooring will be safe and intact up top.
No matter which underlayment you choose, make sure to go over it carefully with a vacuum before you install your vinyl flooring. Even tiny pieces of dust and debris on your underlayment can lead to bumps and bubbles in your vinyl flooring!