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Underlay For Laminate Floors

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 31 Mar 2011 | comments*Discuss
 
Underlay Laminate Floors Wood Flooring

So you’ve decided to go for laminate flooring as a simple, cost-effective option. This is a good choice, as it's possible to lay entire floors in a weekend, after all. But don't overlook the importance of the underlay, an essential part of any laminate floor.

Solid Reason For Underlay

Underlay acts as the foundation to your laminate flooring, and without it you could end up with all sorts of problems further down the line – particularly in rooms you use regularly. Underlay basically allows the laminate floor that sits upon it to ‘float’, so the boards are free to expand and contract.

Laying underlay is necessary because the flooring will react to changes in temperature and humidity. This isn't anything to worry about, it's completely normal. But the underlay must allow this movement or the flooring could buckle and crack.

Other Factors Affecting Underlay Choice

Depending on your property, underlay can play an important role in other areas. If you live in a flat, you can use underlay to soundproof a room, protecting neighbours below from the intrusion of you clacking across the floor. Alternatively, if you’re in an older property that suffers from humidity and mild dampness, then it can prevent vapours from rising through the floor and help to keep your room insulated.

Chances are you want your flooring to look good. Underlay helps this by allowing a certain amount of spring, making it feel softer when you walk on it. It also gives you an even surface to lay the flooring on in the first place. Nobody wants a floor that ripples, after all.

Which Underlay For Laminate Flooring?

But deciding what kind of underlay to have can be a headache all on it's own. There are lots of options out there, many concentrating on a different aspect. For example, foil is better for reflecting and keeping in heat, while rubber is good for soundproofing a room.

The problem with many of these options is they are environmentally unfriendly. This isn’t helped by the difficulty of obtaining information on the sustainability of your underlay. Many include polystyrene beading and PVC elements, and you may have trouble finding something that’s efficient and environmentally sound.

Sustainable Trends Influence Shops

Often it’s about using your common sense. Although foams and rubbers are clearly never going to have a big green tick next to their name, a product like wool-based underlay uses a natural material and, with a bit of shopping around, is relatively easy to come by.

As more retailers look to keep their sustainably minded customers happy, they are stocking an increasing amount of environmentally friendly flooring that don’t have to be more expensive than traditional types. Hopefully this trend will make sustainability information on each product easier to find, too.

Alternative Sustainable Materials

Wood-based underlay materials like cork are slowly becoming more popular, but they can prove to a quite expensive. Alternatively, lightweight, sustainable polymers are creeping into the market, though they can be quite tricky to find.

Recycled Underlay

The easiest – and indeed cheapest – way of keeping your underlay sustainable is to opt for the recycled route. For example, rubber is increasingly recycled and often cited as an environmentally friendly option to new rubber underlay.

You can also go online and check out the many forums and groups that look to safely offload unwanted furniture, materials and flooring, without taking it to the dump. Even if you find something that started life as environmentally unfriendly underlay, by reusing it in your own home you’re keeping it out of the landfill, and often it’s still in perfectly good condition.

As long as the underlay has not become too worn over time, and there aren’t big areas that have become flattened, it’s still fine to use and will help to keep your home better insulated.

Extra Benefits From Good Underlay

If you’re trying to make your property more environmentally friendly, you'll want sustainable underlay. Not only are the materials kinder to the environment, by insulating your rooms you’ll find you need less energy to heat your property, which will cut down on your gas and electricity bills, too.

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