Do You Need Underlay for Vinyl Flooring?

The short answer is: it depends. Some types of vinyl flooring require an underlay, while others do not. The type of subfloor, the installation method, and the quality of the vinyl flooring are all factors that affect the need for an underlay. In this article, we will explain what an underlay is, why it is important, and how to choose the right one for your vinyl flooring project.

What is an Underlay and Why is it Important?

An underlay is a thin layer of material that is placed between the subfloor and the vinyl flooring. It serves several purposes, such as:

  • Providing cushioning and comfort for the feet
  • Reducing noise and sound transmission
  • Improving thermal insulation and energy efficiency
  • Leveling out minor imperfections and unevenness in the subfloor
  • Protecting the vinyl flooring from moisture and mold
  • Enhancing the durability and lifespan of the vinyl flooring

An underlay can make a big difference in the performance and appearance of your vinyl flooring. However, not all vinyl flooring types need an underlay. In fact, some vinyl flooring types are not compatible with an underlay and may void the warranty if used.

Which Types of Vinyl Flooring Need an Underlay?

There are three main types of vinyl flooring: sheet vinyl, vinyl tile, and vinyl plank. Each type has its own characteristics and installation methods, which affect the need for an underlay.

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Sheet Vinyl

Sheet vinyl is a type of vinyl flooring that comes in large rolls that are cut to fit the size and shape of the room. Sheet vinyl is usually glued down to the subfloor with a special adhesive. Because sheet vinyl is thin and flexible, it conforms to the contours of the subfloor. Therefore, sheet vinyl does not need an underlay, as it may cause bubbles, wrinkles, or seams to form. However, sheet vinyl does require a smooth and clean subfloor, free of any debris, nails, or cracks. Any irregularities in the subfloor may show through the sheet vinyl and affect its appearance and durability.

Vinyl Tile

Vinyl tile is a type of vinyl flooring that comes in individual tiles that are usually 12 by 12 inches or 18 by 18 inches. Vinyl tile can be installed in two ways: self-adhesive or glue-down. Self-adhesive vinyl tiles have a sticky backing that adheres to the subfloor without any additional glue. Glue-down vinyl tiles require a separate adhesive that is applied to the subfloor before placing the tiles. Vinyl tile may or may not need an underlay, depending on the type of subfloor and the quality of the vinyl tile. If the subfloor is smooth, level, and dry, an underlay is not necessary. However, if the subfloor is uneven, rough, or moist, an underlay can help to create a better surface for the vinyl tile to adhere to. Additionally, if the vinyl tile is thin or low-quality, an underlay can provide extra cushioning and insulation.

Vinyl Plank

Vinyl plank is a type of vinyl flooring that comes in long planks that resemble hardwood flooring. Vinyl plank can be installed in three ways: glue-down, click-lock, or loose lay. Glue-down vinyl planks are similar to glue-down vinyl tiles, except they are longer and narrower. Click-lock vinyl planks have a tongue-and-groove system that allows them to snap together without any glue. Loose lay vinyl planks are simply laid on top of the subfloor without any adhesive or locking mechanism. Vinyl plank usually needs an underlay, especially if it is a floating floor (click-lock or loose lay). An underlay can help to reduce the noise and movement of the vinyl planks, as well as provide cushioning and insulation. However, some vinyl planks have an integrated underlay attached to the bottom layer, which eliminates the need for a separate underlay. In this case, adding another underlay may cause the vinyl planks to be too thick or unstable.

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How to Choose the Right Underlay for Your Vinyl Flooring?

If you decide to use an underlay for your vinyl flooring, you need to choose the right type and thickness for your project. There are many types of underlays available, such as foam, cork, rubber, felt, and fiber. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the factors such as cost, comfort, noise reduction, moisture resistance, and thermal insulation. You also need to consider the thickness of the underlay, which can range from 1 to 6 mm. The thicker the underlay, the more cushioning and insulation it provides, but it also raises the height of the floor and may affect the fit of the vinyl flooring. You should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the type and thickness of the underlay that is compatible with your vinyl flooring.


To sum up, whether you need an underlay for your vinyl flooring depends on the type of vinyl flooring, the type of subfloor, the installation method, and the quality of the vinyl flooring. An underlay can provide many benefits, such as comfort, noise reduction, insulation, and protection, but it can also cause problems, such as instability, thickness, and warranty issues. You should always consult with a professional installer or the manufacturer before choosing an underlay for your vinyl flooring project.