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BENEFITS OF WOOD FLOORING UNDERLAY

Noise reduction: if you live in an upstairs flat and want to install engineered wood flooring a sound-minimising underlay is essential.

Thermal insulation: all flooring underlay provides insulation to some extent as it provides an extra layer to your flooring but tog ratings of 1 and above 1 will provide the best insulation. 

Levelling uneven subfloors: a good thick underlay will even out bumpy and irregular floors providing a smooth surface for the wood to lie on. 

Comfort: a thick underlay will cushion the impact of footsteps on the wood making it feel much more comfortable. 

FLOORING UNDERLAY GUIDE

When you’re buying hardwood floors, you might wonder whether you need to buy underlay for your floors, and if so – what kind of underlay? Most wood floors are what’s known as ‘floating’ floors which means that they aren’t permanently fixed down to the ground underneath it. These are the type of floors that will need underlay beneath them, to stop vapour getting into the flooring as well as for sound-proofing purposes. Depending on what type of floor you’re looking to buy and where you’re planning to install it, there are different options for underlay available to suit your needs. Read on for further information on how to choose the right underlay.

Sub-floor types

Firstly, the type of underlay you need will depend on the sub-floor that you’re fitting your new flooring on top of. Usually the sub-floor is either a concrete base or wooden floor base. If the sub-floor is concrete then usually you’ll need an underlay that has a moisture barrier, a built-in DPM (Damp Proof Membrane) or a separate barrier installed. This is to ensure your flooring is protected from and doesn’t get ruined by damp.

On the other hand, if the sub-floor is wooden, most underlays will do the job but the most suitable will depend on which type of flooring your laying, whether it be a laminate, solid wood or cork floor.

Engineered flooring underlays

Like laminate floors, engineered flooring is generally installed as a floating floor which is joined together, not glued to the sub-floor. So as with laminate flooring, most underlay products will be fine to install with engineered flooring, but if the sub-floor is concrete then you will need one with a moisture barrier, otherwise you’ll need to fit a separate barrier in addition to the underlay.

Solid wood flooring underlay

Installing solid, or real wood flooring is a little more complex to fitting a laminate or engineered floor as a wood flooring needs to be glued down to the floor beneath it. Taking this into consideration, you may want to ask a professional floor fitter to install your solid wood floor and if so they will know which underlay to use.

However, if you’re going to install the wood floor yourself, or need to buy the materials for someone else to do it, the underlay requirements are fairly straight-forward. Basically you need to ensure you use a pre-glued underlay, and if you install it onto a concrete sub-floor then a pre-glued underlay with built-in DPM is required.

Can I use carpet underlay for hard floors?

No, the common misconception is that carpet underlay can be used for hard flooring such as laminate and wood flooring, however this is certainly not the case.  Carpet underlay is too soft and spongy and would cause flooring joints to collapse and break, so it is really important to use a proper underlay for your flooring.

TYPES OF UNDERLAY

There are two basic types of underlay: rubber and felt.

Rubber is the most commonly used material for wood flooring underlay. Typically made from compacted shredded car tyres, they come in a variety of thicknesses, depending on the use of the room (thicker underlay is used as protection in rooms with several pieces of heavy furniture. It is particularly good at sound dampening, and is often the greenest option, given that the car tyres are being recycled.

Felt underlay is also comprised of recycled materials, typically jute and cashmere. It tends to become compacted more quickly than rubber, but is very effective at preventing heat loss. 

There is a third option, foam, similar to that used to insulate the loft. However, this type of underlay does not tend to be as effective as rubber or felt for wooden floors.

WOOD FLOOR UNDERLAY INSTALLATION INSTRUCTIONS

The wood floor underlay is easy to install and requires only a few tools and supplies to complete the project.

Subfloor Preparation

Before installing the underlay, the subfloor should be cleaned of all dust, dirt and debris. You must also remove any protruding screws or nails. Loose areas of the floor require securing beforehand. If there were noticeable creaks or squeaks, it would be a good idea to address them now before you cover them with the underlayment and flooring.

Tools and Supplies

Aside from the underlay, common tools and supplies required for the project are a utility knife, hammer, broom or vacuum, dustpan, duct tape, tape measure and a pair of scissors. You should check with the flooring manufacturer about specific types of tape that may be required to join the seams of the underlayment to avoid voiding your flooring warranty. Some types of underlayment do not require duct tape. They incorporate a bevelled edge with peel-and-stick tape attached.

Installation of Underlay

Basic instructions for installing underlayment to a subfloor are to simply roll out the material in rows, butt or align the edges and fasten them together using the duct tape. Underlay products that incorporate a bevelled edge with attached peel and stick tape are overlapped when joining them together. The edges of the underlayment should be tight against any walls, baseboards or doorjambs. A utility knife or pair of scissors trims the material around doorjambs, door casings and corners.

HOW TO CHOOSE WOOD FLOORING

With the variety of woods, colours and finishes available today, shopping for a wood floor can be a bit overwhelming. Here is how to prepare yourself for choosing a hardwood floor.

 

Type of Wood Floorings

There are primarily two types of wood flooring products—solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. 

Solid wood flooring is milled from solid wood logs, and is joined with a traditional tongue and groove along both the long and short edges. Because it can be repeatedly sanded, it can last for decades. A natural material, solid hardwood is susceptible to temperature and humidity changes and cannot be installed below grade or in damp spaces. It must be nailed or stapled to a wooden subfloor.

Unlike solid wood boards, which consist of a single piece of wood, engineered hardwood is created by bonding layers of hardwood together in a cross-grain construction. The visible top layer – or wear layer – is ‘real’ wood, beneath which typically lies layers of plywood or sometimes a three-ply construction, laid and glued at 90° to the layer above. These layers give greater stability. Because it can withstand higher levels of humidity, engineered hardwood can be installed in baths and basements, as well as over concrete subfloors and radiant heating elements. Once the floor has been put in, only the top of these layers can be seen.

Cheaper products are typically those with thin wear layers – which can be as little as 0.6mm – making them unsuitable for re-sanding.

The higher-quality engineered woods (which can rival or even exceed the cost of quality solid boards) are those with a thicker wear layer – up to 6mm in some cases – which take lots of wear and can be sanded several times if required.

When it comes to aesthetics, engineered wood flooring can be ‘three strip’ – one board is made up of three pieces of wood – which tends to cheaper. ‘Two strip’ is also an option, but more expensive and popular are ‘one-strip’ boards or planks consisting of a single piece of wood across the width, providing a cleaner look.

 

Type of Finish


The finish is the real determining factor in the overall appearance of a wood floor. The same wood species will look completely different finished in a clear gloss, versus a distressed, hand-scraped or wire-brush finish.

Flooring is sold either “unfinished” or “pre-finished.” Unfinished floors are sanded and finished on-site, which provides for a consistent seal and prevents dirt and moisture from penetrating the seams between boards (floors typically receive one to three coats of sealant). Some homeowners prefer site-finished floors due to the wider selection of stain colours and the opportunity to hone the surface and even out imperfections after the boards are in place.

Pre-finished flooring is factory-applied in a controlled setting, and typically receives seven to eight coats of sealant. These factory-applied finishes generally have a longer warranty as they are longer lasting and more durable than site-applied finishes.

 

Joining Method: Tongue-and-Groove or Click System

Tongue-and-groove

 

Tongue and groove wood flooring is made up of planks, each of which feature a tongue and a groove.  The grooves on tongue and groove wood flooring planks are cut into one long side and one short side and the tongues stick out on the other two sides. In its installation, tongue and groove wood flooring can either be secret nailed, glued down to a suitable sub floor or laid in a floating installation.  When fitting a tongue and groove wood floor, the idea is to fit each tongue into each groove.  Once installed, a tongue and groove wood flooring system results in a smooth and long lasting finish.

Pro´s for Tongue & Groove

-More suitable to environments where there are extremes in humidity and temperature, click would face the risk or damage (wooden floor react on humidity changes and any excessive movement can cause a click joint to splinter or break; this usually cannot be repaired)

-Professional installation of T&G using glue will make your floor more silent and comfortable as compared to floating systems

-Can be installed on joists, click profile always require flat underfloor for installation

-If you prefer wide boards, T&G is the only option, click is usually limited up to 120 mm width on solid oak

Click system flooring 

 

Click, or lock wood flooring as it’s sometimes known, is a relatively new to the market wood flooring option.  Essentially a way of covering existing flooring (but not uneven wood floors or carpet), it gets its name from the fact that the boards used in its construction process “click” (or lock) together, removing the need for fixing using nails, staples or glue.  In fact, click (or lock) flooring is often portrayed as one of the simplest, most straightforward ways of installing a wooden floor, particularly on a DIY basis.

Pro’s for Click System

-Much quicker to complete an installation, floated installation

-No messy glues.

-Less skill required to install (can lower installation costs), best for DIY solution

-Easier to replace a badly damaged plank

-Less chance on future gaps because of humidity changes in the room