Category Archives: underlayment

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is a very good choice for active homes with kids, pets and for those that want to have easy maintenance.
Here are 3 basic types of Laminate flooring to consider:

The basic level is cluttered with all kinds of things from 6mm crap to very tough 7mm and 8mm laminate flooring choices. How can you tell? You can’t by simply looking. Research and ultimately trust will guide your decision. Price levels range from .59 cents to 1.69 for the exact same specifications. Only through testing and diligence can you get past the market BS and get to the facts.

The middle level of laminate flooring is the 8mm-12mm floors that have narrow planks, richer decors and designs and even some special treatments like handscraping or high gloss. The price range in this laminate typically runs from 99 cents to 3.99 – of course there are some brands like wilsonart laminate, mannington laminate, pergo laminate and others that are in the 3.99-5.99 and even a few high range, but they face stiff competition.

The best laminated flooring is called Super laminate flooring – vinyl plank flooring with and HDF core. It is as tough as laminate for durability, it is as good as vinyl as far as care and maintenance, and it feels better under your feet while being SUPER easy to install. It has smooth surface, textured surface and handscraped surfaces that will blow your mind. Price ranges from about 2.99-4.99 per foot. Some SUPER LAMINATE FLOORS have commercial warranties.

Whatever laminate flooring is best for you relates to your own individual needs.

No matter what laminate you choose I ALWAYS recommend a premium grade underlayment to help get the best acoustic and comfort factors for your new flooring. Don’t let this detail about flooring underlayment become a casualty of ignorance or something your installer says, “I have some left over from another job.” Get the best stuff you can afford to and that suits your application. It’s impossible to overstress the higher level of satisfaction that premium flooring underlayment users have compared to those who get the cheapest stuff available. Cork underlayment is one of the finest choices which is also eco-friendly.

IIC Ratings

Q: I am wondering how to add IIC ratings for two different materials, as I know that I can’t simply “add” them together for the total score.
I am meeting a lot of resistance in my condo regarding installing wood floors because of noise issues. I found an ASTN test result that tested a similar carpet & pad to what was originally in the unit for an IIC rating of 54. If I use an underlayment that has an IIC of 58, would that number be reduced when coupled with the engineered hardwood floating floor that will be installed over it?
I can find IIC testing for carpet/pad systems, but no test conducted with actual wood *over* the underlayment, so I’m not sure what the IIC rating would be for the overall system!
Is there a mathematical way to determine what the overall IIC rating would be for my flooring system? Also, is the difference typically audible, compared to carpet, if one doesn’t wear shoes?
Hope you can help me!

A: Most IIC ratings for wood flooring underlayment is calculated with a layer of 5/8″ bare plywood laid over the top of the underlayment to act as a pseudo floor. This means the ratings should be pretty accurate to what you will get with a finished floor over the underlayment. The primary difference you get between carpet and hard surface flooring is that your feet impact the hard surface first with a wood floor, where as with carpet that impact is cushioned before hitting the subfloor’s hard surface.
If you choose to not wear shoes over a wood floor there will be an audible difference in your condo, but overall the impact transfer should be roughly the same going to other units. If you want the room itself to sound quieter, walk around in socks and it will reduce sound quite a bit. This is especially the case with high heeled shoes as they are very noisy over wood floors and can cause denting, so avoid wearing them when possible. Overall, if you have concerns about your condo board, you could combine underlayments, such as using 6mm and 3mm cork or 6mm cork and sound 6, but typically this is overkill for most condos and 6mm cork tends to be enough or various other underlayments out there which are denser modified-foams or rubber.

Hardwood Installation in a Condo over Gypcrete

Q: I’m a new condo owner and would like to install hardwood (like the BR-111 Engineered Tigerwood or Triangulo Tigerwood). The builder didn’t offer hardwood on the main level, citing the need to minimize noise transmission from my unit to the unit below. However, there’s nothing in the building codes or condo bylaws to restrict the use of hardwood, except a line about “flooring must be replaced with the same type (e.g., carpet) and quantity (i.e., square footage) as originally installed.”
I’ve known a few other owners to replace their floors without problem, although they bypassed the builder and the condo association. But I’d like to get condo association approval to avoid any risk.
It’s a 4-story, townhouse-style condo (a 2-story unit over another 2-story unit), with wood frame construction and a gypcrete subfloor (ugh). The base carpet/pad is a 25oz plush carpet with a 6lb pad.
I noticed in a previous post that you suggested using Sound 6 plus 6mm cork underlayment. Assuming I opt for the BR-111 engineered Tigerwood, is this the underlayment you’d suggest for me? What about PadTech FloorArmor, or Maxxon’s own Acousti-Mat II, or one of the million other rubber underlayments? Shouldn’t the gypcrete help to isolate the sound as well?
Should I float the floor? Or attempt a glue-down installation? Is one better than the other for sound transmission/impact isolation?
What combination will make the engineered floor sound more like a 3/4″ solid (to me)? I’ve noticed that laminate floors (at least in the flooring showrooms) can be much more “clicky” than the solid floors.
I’m hoping that I find an underlayment/installation method/hardwood combination that can achieve STC/IIC ratings similar to the base carpet/pad installation. That way, the condo association would have little reason to deny the request. I’d really hate to spend $15,000 on hardwood floors and then have to rip them out.

A: Going through a process with your condo association ahead of time is a very good idea. In order to do this, we will need to dig up some information for the carpet currently specified to go into your condo, then compare them to the ratings for hardwood underlayment.
Its tough to find builders who are willing to glue to gypcrete. Although most gypcrete is approved for glue down by the manufacturers, but there can be some issues with it when it comes to adhesive curing because gypcrete will absorb more moisture than normal concrete – thus making the curing process for adhesives or thinset mortars different. So I would suggest going with a floating floor, and thus we’ll do the numbers based on use of floor and underlayment in a floating system.
With a bit of digging I was able to find some STC and IIC testing on carpet, which I will admit has been tough to find in the past. Let’s first discuss what each rating means, and how it will matter to your Condo board. STC or Sound Transmission Class, refers to the amount of sound absorbed by a partition or in our case, a floor. This typically applies most to air-born sound such as conversation, music, etc. IIC or Impact Isolation Class, refers to the amount of sound created by impacts, such as walking, which is reduced by a floor. It is important to pay attention to both of these ratings when it comes to sound control for a condo.
We’ll start by comparing some IIC ratings. Now with a hard surface floor, such as the BR-111 floors you are looking at, they have very little IIC when compared to carpet, so you are relying on the underlayment to make up for this. 6mm cork, over a 6″ concrete slab subfloor produces an IIC of 23 on its own, furthering the concrete’s IIC of 27 to give a total IIC of 50. Your gypcrete should give very similar results, which means 6mm cork is roughly equivalent to another 6″ of concrete.
For the carpet’s IIC, a 25oz carpet on its own over concrete provides an IIC of 22. Carpet padding is just as varied as hardwood underlayment, but most pads tested provided roughly 5 – 10 IIC, with the median being about 6 IIC. So using the same concrete slab, that would give us a total IIC of roughly 56. If we used a more premium carpet pad, this can be pushed upwards of about 60 or so IIC. Overall, very similar IIC ratings between your basic 25oz residential carpet with pad and 6mm cork.
Now let’s look into an STC comparison. Our 6″ concrete slab has an STC of 27, much like the IIC. 6mm cork’s STC on its own is 24, which gives us a total STC of 51. The carpet STC data I found is based on a wooden subfloor over joists with a suspended ceiling unit made from gypsum board. In similar tests with concrete subfloors, the suspended ceiling unit provided and additional STC rating of 14. wood over joists style subfloors will typically differ, and no data was provided for the raw bare floor’s STC rating, but we can speculate that this will be somewhere in the range of 20-24 total, including the suspended gypsum ceiling piece to represent the ceiling below the wood subfloor. The overall STC rating provided by the 25oz carpet with a 1/2″ thick 6lbs carpet pad was 49. With some quick math that means basic 25oz residential carpet with a typical 6lbs pad is going to provide an STC of roughly 23-29, but to be safe let’s assume its going to provide on the higher end and go with 29.
This would put 6mm cork pretty close when it comes to both STC and IIC ratings versus our basic carpet and pad which is why we so commonly recommend it for condo owners. As you mention, there is a myriad of underlayment out there, some of it is great, others not so much. Personally, I am big on how a floor feels when I walk on it, which is part of why I am such a big proponent for cork, it just feels more like a solid floor under your feet than any foam underlayment – even the best stuff like Sound 6 and similar modified foam underlayment.
When you walked over the laminate, part of that hollow or “clicky” sound is due to lack of good underlayment and also part of the raw thickness of the floor. A 3/4″ solid is just that, a thick, solid floor so it will sound more like it, whereas laminate is much thinner, normally 8mm – 10mm in thickness so the sound just has less it has to travel through. Now this gets alleviated by good underlayments, which is why we so commonly suggest against cheaper, foam underlays as they just don’t perform as well. So, what’s the best set up for you and what will pass your condo association needs while also fitting your own wants?
First off, your looking at a couple of very good floors, personally I’m a fan of the triangulo as it is a very good floor and can be installed as a floating with a 5″ wide plank – so you get an easier install method and a nice wide plank to make sure its very stable. Combine this with good underlayment and it will both sound and feel like a nailed down solid hardwood floor. If you look into other products, find ones with substantial plies, thicker plies can be very nice for getting that solid floor sound.
For underlayment, I would suggest going with 6mm cork as a baseline. If sound is your primary concern, using 6mm cork as a substrate with Sound 6 over the top is a great option, but you will get a bit more movement in your floor than using solid cork. Another option would be 12mm cork or 6mm cork with a 3mm cork layer over the top if your concerned with overall floor height. This secondary option keeps the more solid feel under foot while beefing up the IIC and STC power with a bit more cork. 6mm has met all basic condo standards that we have encountered in the past and the regulations would have to be very strict to rule it out – so adding onto it should put you in the clear, but checking first is always wise. On any of the other underlayments out there, make sure you get STC and IIC test results to get the real ratings for them as this will help you compared them to other underlayment options.

Wood Flooring for Condos

Q: I am working on a condo remodel project for my second home. I would very much like to install an engineered wood floor in the great room and dining room since I am very allergic to carpet (and I really do not like cork).
Since I have neighbors above and below me the Homeowners association tells me I have to install carpet or other sound conditioned floor covering.
Is there any really effective sound barrier type of underlayment or wood flooring out there on the market I can use?
Your help would be greatly appreciated
Mrs. Hall

A: This is a fairly common problem for folks in condos, but there is a very easy solution. Now although you do not like cork as a flooring choice, it is an excellent choice for underlayment in condos. 6mm cork meets all of the standard Condo Association sound needs and the benefit of cork over all other underlayments is that it, unlike a foam, can be used with glue down applications as well as floating.
Depending on what engineered floor you are looking at will depend upon whether or not you can float the floor, which would be the easiest installation choice. Kahrs and Saso make some of the best click-together engineered hardwood floors on the market, and from an install perspective they are far easier to install than any other floating engineered hardwood. There are other engineered floors which are approved for floating installations, but require some glue in the tongue and groove rather than using a locking mechanism.
If the floor you choose can not be floated, which is rare in engineered wood floors, then you will need to glue it down. This can still be done with cork underlayment, but you will need to have the cork glued down, then glue down your engineered floor over the cork.
In the end here, try to choose a floor which is suitable to be installed as a floating floor, then choose a good underlayment, my suggestion being 6mm cork as it easily meets condo requirements. Don’t forget that if you are installing over a concrete subfloor you must use a moisture barrier and tape up the seams.

Floating Cork over Concrete

Q: I am planning to replace the carpet in my family room with a floating cork floor (Westhollow Cordoba Natural). I haven’t checked, but I’m pretty sure that the sub floor is concrete, since the family room was added on to the house sometime after the original build. What kind of underlayment would work best in this case. I know that I’ll probably need a vapor barrier (even though we really don’t have a moisture problem, I’d rather be safe than sorry in a few years), but I’m not sure if I’d need anything else. Noise is really not an issue, as this is a single family home, but the room does get cold in the winter, so I wouldn’t be opposed to putting in an underlayment to help with insulate the room. What are your thoughts?

A: Before proceeding with any installation, make sure that you test the subfloor to ensure it is level. Just use an 8′ straight edge, even a 2″ x 4″ will suffice. If you find any high spots or low spots, it’s a good idea to use a self-leveling compound to flatten these out. If you do any leveling work, make sure you use a bit of latex additive to give it some elasticity when the concrete flexes during the seasons and give it plenty of time to cure before installing your new cork floor over it.
Ensure you use a moisture barrier and tape up all the seams with a wide seam tape to ensure good overlapping. For underlayment which insulates your best bet would be to use cork. Here at the office we have a great floating cork floor which is installed over 6mm cork underlayment. This not only adds some warmth to the floor via insulation, but also gives the floor a solid sound and feeling over foot, making it akin traditional hardwood floors, but with cork you have just enough softness that it will remain comfortable even for longer durations of standing.
At a minimum I would suggest using a 3mm cork as an underlayment, but 6mm is superb and well worth the small shift in floor height. If you are heavily concerned with floor temp, you could look into using an electric based radiant heat system such as BestHeat or NuHeat’s pads, but I think you should be set with just the flooring and underlayment.

Replacing Carpet with Laminate

Q: My home is a double-home trailer and I want to remove my carpet and install laminate flooring. What do I need to install this floor on my trailer?
Hope you can help me. Thank you.

A: When selecting your floor, make sure that you are also selecting a good underlayment. Underlayment is just as important a choice, if not more important, than the floor you choose. Even the best laminate floors will feel and sound bad when installed over cheap underlayment. If you want your floor to sound and feel like a solid wood floor, get something like cork. If your concerned about the height of your floor, but still want it to sound and feel good, look into something like Sound 6. If you are installing over a wood subfloor, you will not need moisture barrier, but if the construction makes it fairly similar to a crawl space, then I would suggest using a moisture barrier as a good insurance policy to prevent moisture vapor from coming up under the floor and ruining it.
When it comes down to installation, here are a few tips. Once you remove the carpet, make sure to remove all tack strips, loose nails, tacks, screws etc to ensure that you are working with just the subfloor. At this point it is good to check for loose or noisy areas in your subfloor, if you find any, anchor them down with flooring screws, screwed into the joists. Once this is done, check to make sure your subfloor is level and flat. If leveling work needs to be done, make sure that the variance in height of your subfloor is no more than 1/32″. From here just make sure that the subfloor is flat and dry and you will be set to move on with your installation.
If you are using a moisture barrier, install it first and make sure you use a wide seam tape to ensure plenty of overlapping. From here, install your underlayment and then you can move onto getting the laminate itself into place. I would highly suggest picking up an install kit, as this will give you spacers, a tapping block and pull bar which are all essential to successful floating floor installs. Take your time during the install, spend extra time planning and making sure your measurements are good – remember, measure twice, cut once. Beyond this, pull planks from multiple boxes of flooring at a time so you can get a nicely varied look over your floor.

Pergo for a Bathroom

Q: What do you think of laminate flooring in a bathroom? Also if you use Pergo would you still need and underlay and what type?

A: Laminate can work in a bathroom, but if you have younger children or expect to have standing water or wet clothing on the floor relatively often, you might want to look into another flooring option. The biggest concern here is moisture getting into the seams of the laminate where it is unprotected. When this occurs, warping and buckling tend to follow. This does not mean that is impossible to have a successful laminate floor like Pergo in your bathroom – especially if your home has no younger children and you should not have wet clothing or towels sitting on the floor.
A few tips for success here. You must use an underlayment under any floating floor – so look into a underlayment which is approved by Pergo and try to get one which is denser as this will cause the floor itself to move less when walked over, reducing the chance of exposing the joints. Cork underlayment is a great option here as it supports the floor rather than cushioning it. You could put a very thin bead of glue into the seams when installing the floor to act as an additional moisture seal, but again this is not really necessary for an adult household. When installing, take you time and ensure that all of the planks are snugly fit together and you may want to put some silicone caulking into expansion gap areas near the shower and around the toilet to act as a good moisture seal.