Vinyl plank flooring can be a great choice to give your whole room a lift without breaking the bank. It comes in a wide range of designs and colors. It’s easy to install and maintain. And it’s comfortable underfoot.
But getting the best results means paying attention to what’s underneath it too. That’s why we’re looking at ten underlayments for vinyl plank flooring. We’re going to explore the different options out there, and investigate their pros and cons.
Any by the time we’ve finished, you’ll have everything you need to choose the perfect underlayment for your floor. So if you’re ready, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Why use underlayment?
To properly compare different kinds of underlayment, you need to know why you’re using it in the first place.
Underlayment helps vinyl plank flooring to sit level on the sub-floor. That will prevent it from creaking and groaning as you walk over it. And it will also avoid it coming under stress that could damage the surface.
Manufacturers of vinyl plank flooring will often recommend an appropriate underlayment to use with their product. And in some cases, the flooring will have its own layer of underlayment attached. In that case, you may need nothing more than a vapor barrier.
But supposing that you do need separate underlayment, here are ten great options to consider.
The Best Underlayments for Vinyl Plank Flooring
1. Roberts First Step
It uses a layer of Styrofoam beads to support air circulation and create a spring in your step. This is sandwiched between plastic top and bottom layers.
One thing to note, though, is that when you cut the underlayment those beads will escape. Keep a bag handy to put your offcuts into, or you’ll have bits of Styrofoam all over the place!
Another thing to be aware of when you’re laying this is that it isn’t that thick. So if you’re careless with a hammer, or drop something on it, it can tear. Fortunately, any rips are easily fixed with a bit of tape.
And the design means that this underlayment maintains its thickness even after long periods of wear. In testing, it retained 96 percent of its original depth after seven days under a 1,320-pound weight. Other products subjected to the same test lost nearly half their thickness.
The cushioning will also correct any minor flaws in the surface of your sub-floor. And it will help to absorb noise when the floor is walked upon.
It’s infused with a specially formulated microbial protection called Gold Guard. This, together with the way it promotes air circulation, will prevent mold from forming beneath your floor.
You’ll get 189 feet of underlayment in each roll, and it’s 40 inches wide. That will give you total coverage of 640 square feet. And it also comes with an adhesive strip and overlap film to join up additional rolls.
- Effectively reduces sound transmission
- Formulated with Gold Guard to repel microbes
- Cushioned with Styrofoam beads to promote constant air circulation
- Take care when cutting to size, as those Styrofoam beads can get all over the place
- It’s fairly thin, so handle it with care to avoid tears during installation.
2. Quiet Walk Plus (Our Top Pick)
It uses recycled fibers to deaden sound, so you’ll get a solid feel when you walk on your floor. And it will also prevent the noise of footsteps traveling into adjoining rooms.
The recycled fibers offer effective protection from moisture. This underlayment can be used over concrete sub-floors. It’s even suitable for use with radiant under-floor heating systems, and will promote even heat distribution to the floor above.
In theory, this will work whether your flooring is designed to float, or to be nailed or glued down. In practice, however, we’ve heard of instances where it’s been less successful with nailed down floors. Here there have been cases where the underlayment has popped and creaked under pressure.
Most vinyl plank flooring using a click-and-lock system, however, so this is unlikely to be an issue. And indeed, we’ve also heard from customers who swear by this product for creating a genuinely silent floor.
Each roll measures 3 feet wide by 33.4 feet long.
- Environmentally sustainable option, constructed from recycled fibers
- Very effective at the deadening sound when used with floating floors
- Can be used with radiant under-floor heating systems, promoting even heat distribution
- Works best if your vinyl plank flooring is at least 5 millimeters thick
- We’ve heard some complaints about it popping and squeaking when used with nailed down floors.
3. Steico Wood Fiber
Steico’s underlayment is a great choice for any room where sound reduction is important. It has the highest rating available for soundproofing.
It’s made from pure wood fiber with no glue added. That means you won’t have to worry about nasty chemicals leaching into your home. And it’s very easy to handle and install.
There’s a high compression system to give you a solid feel underfoot. It has a compression strength of 21.32 pounds per square inch. That means you won’t get bounces and squeaks with your click-and-lock flooring.
It also prevents mold from growing using what Steico calls “Vapor Open technology”. The material can absorb up to 20 percent of its weight in moisture. That will prevent spills from spreading and causing damage.
This comes in packs of square panels, rather than a roll. That does mean installation can take slightly longer as you position each panel. And it will create a bit of dust when it’s cut. It’s still very easy to install, however, and a single pack will cover 180 square meters.
- Very effective at reducing noise – this has the best soundproof rating of any underlayment
- Constructed from all-natural materials, so won’t leach chemicals into your home
- Vapor Open technology prevents the growth of mold
- It comes in panels rather than a roll, so positioning each panel can take a little longer
- You’ll generate some dust when you cut into a panel.
4. Bestlaminate 2-in-1 Silent Vapor Barrier
This product from Bestlaminate is designed both to provide a barrier to moisture and to reduce noise. It’s a great choice for floating vinyl floors.
It’s 1.5 millimeters thick and absorbs sound very effectively. You won’t have to worry about your vinyl plank flooring making a racket when you walk over it!
But it’s not thick enough to deal with any imperfections in your sub-floor. If you want an underlayment that will do that, this won’t be the right product. And you may find some creases on the surface when you unroll it. These will mostly smooth out as you lay the floor.
It’s a great choice for anyone concerned about chemicals, exceeding all requirements for VOCs.
It does, though, have a rather plasticky smell when it comes out of the pack. You’re unlikely to detect that once your floor is laid. But you can avoid that risk by leaving it open to the air for a day or two before laying the vinyl.
The underlayment is a different color on the top and bottom. Note that it’s the black side that should make contact with your sub-floor. Each roll will cover a surface area of 100 square feet.
- Very effective at absorbing sound
- Exceeds all requirements for VOCs
- Each roll covers 100 square feet
- Not thick enough to deal with any but the most minor imperfections in your sub-floor
- You may find it has a plasticky odor when it’s first unrolled.
Floorlot’s underlayment offers twice the protection from moisture, with a double layer vapor barrier. It will also reduce the noise of footsteps, and deaden the hollow sound you can sometimes get with floating floors. And it’s designed specifically for use with vinyl flooring, including vinyl planks.
It’s only a millimeter thick, however. So while it will help smooth out minor imperfections in your sub-floor, don’t expect it to paper over anything serious.
And the thin construction also means that it’s very easy to tear by accident. Take care during installation – even the ends of vinyl planks can cut the fabric.
This adheres well to additional sheets of the same fabric. If you’re covering a large area, that’s a big plus. But note that it won’t stick so well to flooring. So while it will work very well with click-and-lock designs, it’s not the best choice for glue-down floors.
Its lightweight makes it easy to handle and maneuver. And a particularly nice touch with this one is that it’s printed with grid lines. That will help you keep a straight line when it comes to installation.
Each roll will cover up to 200 square meters. And you’ll also get seaming tape to join together more than one roll if you need to.
- Provides a double barrier to keep out moisture
- Printed with grid lines for easier installation
- It’s easy to join together more than one roll, and you’ll get seaming tape included in the pack
- Very thin, so take care to avoid tearing it while you work
- Great with click-and-lock vinyl planks, but works less well with glue-down flooring.
6. Amerique Premium 3-Millimeter
Not all vinyl plank flooring will need thicker underlayment. But if you’re looking for a product with more depth, Amerique’s 3-millimeter option is well worth considering.
It’s suitable for use with floating floors as well with wood, bamboo or laminate flooring. It works effectively with vinyl plank flooring. And the design works in three ways to deaden sound, inhibit the growth of mold, and protect your floor from moisture.
It’s very easy to handle and lay. And it doesn’t contain any substances that can cause allergic reactions.
But although the whole underlayment is 3 millimeters thick, the foil coating is much thinner. Take care while you’re installing it, as it’s easy for it to tear.
There’s a self-adhesive strip to help if you need to join together more than one roll. We’ve heard of a few cases, however, where the glue hasn’t been sticky right to the end of the strip. That’s not a huge problem – you can use your own tape if necessary.
Each roll covers an area of up to 200 square feet, and it’s very reasonably priced. Some retailers also offer multi-roll bundles for an even more economical purchase.
- Very effective at deadening sound with vinyl plank flooring
- Inhibits the growth of mold
- Protects your floor from moisture
- The foil coating is thin, so take care as you’re installing it to avoid tears
- We’ve come across cases where the self-adhesive strip doesn’t run the full length of the roll.
7. FloorMuffler LVT/LVP Ultra Seal
FloorMuffler produces various kinds of underlayment, and this one is designed specifically for use with vinyl plank flooring.
It uses cross-linked polypropylene film in a patented design that’s suitable for both domestic and commercial settings.
It greatly reduces noise transmission, so it’s a good choice for upstairs rooms. And it provides a barrier to moisture, exceeding relevant industry standards by 700 percent.
It’s equally effective whether your floor is glued down or floating. And it will cope with thinner vinyl planks too, being used successfully with 3.8-millimeter flooring.
There’s an integrated adhesive strip to help with installation. Each roll is 35 inches wide by 68.6 feet wide. That will give you total coverage of 200 square meters per roll.
For every purchase, the manufacturers make a donation to the Floors for the Cure Foundation. This supports care and research into breast cancer.
There’s very little not to like with this underlayment, but it is expensive. The price per square meter is two and a half times that of the Amerique Premium. And the outer surface generates some static as you lay it. Be prepared to have to wipe away dust and fluff that stick to it.
- Exceeds industry standards for moisture barriers by 700 percent
- Very effective at reducing noise transmission
- Can be used effectively with thinner as well as thicker vinyl plank flooring
- The outer covering generates static, so dust will cling to it.
8. Bestlaminate 3-in-1
This is the second underlayment from Bestlaminate to make our list. And as its name suggests, it goes one better than the 2-in-1 design.
This is bright green and incorporates a moisture barrier, sound reduction and cushioning. It achieves all of this with a high-density IXPE construction, whilst remaining only a millimeter thick. And it’s been treated with an antimicrobial substance to inhibit the growth of mold.
Because it’s very thin, though, you’ll need your sub-floor to be pretty smooth and level. It won’t even out any dips or mounds. And take care during installation to avoid rips or tears.
Each roll comes individually shrink-wrapped. The rolls here are a little smaller than most of the other underlayment products on our list. Each one covers an area of 100 square feet. That makes this an economical choice if you’re preparing the ground for a smaller floor.
- High-density IXPE construction
- Effective sound reduction and cushioning
- Incorporates a moisture barrier and mold repellent
- Too thin to correct any significant imperfections in your sub-floor
- Take care during installation, as it can tear quite easily.
9. Protech USA 3-in-1
This underlayment from Protech USA features a self-sealing lip and pre-attached tape for easy installation. It’s suitable for use with vinyl flooring as well as laminate, bamboo or engineered wood floors.
The 3-in-1 design minimizes sound transmission, protects the floor from moisture and resists mold and mildew. It offers thermal protection too, to help keep your room warm in the cooler months. And it will also prevent the bouncy feel you can sometimes get with floating click-and-lock floors.
The vapor barrier is 1.2 millimeters thick, with a 23-gram aluminum coating. The overall depth of the underlayment is 3 millimeters. It can be used on any kind of sub-floor, whether concrete or hardwood, or on top of existing vinyl or ceramic floors.
Each roll will cover a surface area of 200 square feet. We have, however, heard of some cases where the self-adhesive tape has run out half-way down a roll. Watch out for that if you’re going to need to join together more than one roll. It’s a good idea to have some of your own tape to hand too.
- Offers thermal protection, helping to keep your room warm and dry
- Resists mold and mildew
- Can be used on any kind of sub-floor
- The self-adhesive tape may not run down the full length of every roll – keep your own tape to hand as back-up
- Too thick to be used with vinyl flooring that’s designed to be glued in place.
10. MP Global Products QuietWalk 100
If you’re using a QuietWarmth underfloor heating system, this underlayment from MP Global Products is a good option. It’s fully compatible, providing thermal protection and promoting even heat distribution.
It can be used with either floating or glued-down floors. The Dri-wick material will resist moisture, allowing your sub-floor to breathe. And the cushioned structure will absorb sound and provide a solid feel underfoot.
By supporting the click-and-lock mechanism on vinyl planks, it will also prolong the life of your floor.
This is a good choice for those concerned about their environmental impact. This product is made entirely of recycled materials. Each roll will cover a surface area of 100 square feet.
Just check the terms of the warranty for your vinyl plank flooring before you buy. In some cases, manufacturers require underlayment to meet particular specifications. In the case of Liveproof flooring, for example, using this underlayment will void the warranty.
- Fully compatible with QuietWarmth underfloor heating systems
- Effective with either floating or glued down floors
- Made entirely of recycled materials
- Some vinyl plank flooring manufacturers won’t honor the warranty if their product is used with this underlayment.
If you’re still wondering which is the right underlayment for your vinyl plank flooring, read on! Here are a few factors to consider before you buy.
What kind of sub-floor?
To begin with, check that the underlayment is suitable for your sub-floor. Most manufacturers will set this out in the specifications for their product.
If you have a concrete sub-floor on the ground floor, for example, you’ll need a vapor barrier. That will prevent moisture from traveling up through the ground and damaging your floor. You can buy one separately, but it’s easier and usually more economical to choose an underlayment that includes one.
If you’ll have underfloor heating, make sure your sub-floor will be compatible with that.
And check the condition of the sub-floor too. If it’s smooth and even, a thin underlayment will be fine. But if you want something that will help disguise the occasional lump and bump, choose a thicker option.
Is the underlayment suitable for your flooring?
As well as checking that it’s compatible with your sub-floor, it’s important your underlayment will work with the type of flooring you have.
Most vinyl plank flooring uses the click-and-lock design. You’ll want an underlayment that can provide enough support to the sections where the planks lock together. So look for options that specifically state they are suitable for this.
If your vinyl flooring is of the glue-down variety, you may only need a moisture barrier. Thicker underlayment can create a floor that feels spongey instead of solid.
And last but not least, check any warranty requirements for your flooring. Some manufacturers require their flooring to be used with particular underlayment. If you choose something different, that can void the warranty.
What about noise?
Underlayment can drastically reduce the level of noise generated from people walking on vinyl plank flooring. That can be particularly important in some locations – for example, upper floor apartments.
If the sound transmission is important to you, check the acoustic specifications of the underlayment before you buy. These are measured in negative decibels – -dB. The number tells you how much the underlay will reduce the sound that’s transmitted. The higher the number, the greater the soundproofing quality.
Ready to choose your underlayment?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our whistle-stop tour of some of the best underlayment out there for vinyl plank flooring. The right product will greatly improve the performance and longevity of your floor.
Our top pick is Quiet Walk Plus. It will reduce noise, protect your floor from moisture, and give a solid feel underfoot. Just make sure your planks are at least 5 millimeters thick for the best results.
Whichever underlayment is right for your vinyl plank flooring, we wish you the best of luck with your project. Happy shopping!