What Is a Laminate Floor With an Attached Underlayment?

Planning a laminate flooring installation can be a confusing endeavor.

History of Laminate Underlayment

Laminate flooring rests on a foam underlayment.Laminate flooring rests on a foam underlayment.
While other flooring choices such as hardwood and vinyl require a plywood underlayment and carpeting requires padding, a laminate floor requires underlayment specifically designed for the product to be installed. While typical laminate floor underlayment is purchased by the roll, some newer types of laminate have the underlayment attached to the laminate plank itself.

The Pergo Company of Sweden invented laminate flooring more than 30 years ago. Designed as a removable floor, laminate flooring is not attached to the subfloor as is hardwood and carpet but rather rests on a foam underlayment. This foam underlayment has traditionally been sold by the roll and is spread out to cover the subfloor before the laminate flooring is installed; it now also is available with the underlayment attached to the individual laminate planks.

Purpose of Underlayment

Underlayment allows a laminate floor to expand and contract only at the perimeter of the room, where an expansion space is hidden by the wall's quarter-round trim. The foam of the underlayment cushions the laminate and allows the flooring to float as a whole piece when subjected to changes in temperature and humidity. In comparison, hardwood floors are nailed or stapled piece by piece directly to the subfloor, and each plank expands and contracts individually. Likewise, carpeting is attached at the edges of the room by tack strips that permanently secure the carpet to the floor. In addition, the underlayment serves to even out slight variations in the subfloor as well as providing sound absorption.

Attached Underlayment

A new development in laminate flooring is to attach the underlayment directly to each plank of laminate rather than laying the underlayment in sheets before the laminate itself is installed. This improvement cuts installation time considerably, thereby cutting the cost of labor. Having the underlayment attached to the plank also alleviates the concern of gapping when installing a rolled underlayment, which can lead to friction and wear beneath the laminate flooring.

Warnings

Laminate with attached underlayment should not be used in addition to traditional rolled underlayment, as the floating capabilities of the floor system will be compromised. In addition, attached underlayment requires a moisture barrier when installed on concrete. Always take care to follow the laminate manufacturer's underlayment requirements and installation instructions in order to maintain the integrity of your laminate floor warranty.

About the Author

Robin Hewitt began her writing career in 2008. She is the coauthor of several books, including "The Joyous Gift of Grandparenting," which covers the nutritional and fitness needs of both grandchildren and grandparents.