best underlayment for laminate flooring

Best Underlayment for Laminate Flooring

When you decide to put laminate flooring in your home, you might be surprised that you need to worry about more than the laminate itself. The laminate is the pretty part, the colorful, shiny showpiece of all your hard work and hard earned money.

But under that shiny floor, you’ll need to check on the issue of underlayment.

What’s an underlayment? It’s a layer of material that covers imperfections in the subfloor, reduces sound, and may provide other advantages, such as comfort or sound absorption, to the finished project.

The laminate you choose may already have an underlayment attached. Some do. If so, that may be all you need. You’ll want to check with your installer or the store where you are shopping to find out.

However, if the flooring you choose doesn’t have an underlayment, or if you want the additional qualities that they offer, you’ll want to purchase and install one of the products we cover below.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re deciding which underlayment will be right for you, and we’ve done our best to cover all the questions you might have about your different choices.

Read on to learn more: in each category you’ll find out what it is, what the advantages are, what the costs normally run, and major brands to look for.


What is it?

Foam is the most basic variety of underlayment. Foam underlayment comes in a variety of thicknesses from 3mm (1/8”) to 6mm (1/4”) thick and usually comes in rolls of various widths and lengths. You have the most variety of choice with foam underlay.


Many types of foam underlayment include a moisture/vapor barrier that won’t save your laminate from flooding, but can protect your subfloor. You can also find types of foam underlayment that include fibers and rubber that help absorb the sound passing through the floor.

Foam underlayment is pretty easy to install, even for beginning do-it-yourselfers. It comes in large rolls, and you just need to cut the desired amount with a knife or utility scissors to fit.

How much does it cost?

Foam underlayment usually costs between $0.22 to $0.30 per square foot for basic foam, and can run from $0.30 to $0.45 per square foot for sound reducing or moisture blocking varieties.

Best-selling and most popular brands

QEP Roberts is a popular choice of underlayment, and offers more than one kind, including types that offer the moisture barrier and sound absorption that we mentioned above. For those interested in environmental concerns, Courey Eco-Friendly foam underlayment made with 100% post-consumer recycled rubber tires. It’s not only recycled, but also 100% recyclable. 

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What is it?

Cork is a natural type of underlayment made from the bark of cork trees. Much of the high quality cork comes from Portugal. Cork underlayment is usually available in 3 or 6mm thickness. If a moisture barrier is important to you, look for varieties with that feature.


One of the biggest advantages of cork is its capability to absorb sound. If you are installing laminate on an upper floor or in an apartment with downstairs neighbors, the natural substance has been proven to be extremely effective for sound control.

Cork is also an effective way to add insulation to your home, keeping heat and cold in and providing a barrier on the floor to keep heat and cold from escaping.

Cork is also a very ecologically sound choice, as it is a natural material, harvested from the bark of trees. This means that the harvest does not harm the tree and the tree lives on, with the bark regrowing over time. Cork is also extremely durable, and does not need to be replaced for decades.

Cork also has hypo-allergenic properties that make it a good choice for households with allergy sufferers. The anti-microbial nature of cork inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew as well, which can create a healthier home environment.

Finally, cork is fire-retardant, offering an additional safety benefit.

How much does it cost?

Cork underlayment runs anywhere from $0.50 to $0.75 per square foot.

Best-selling and popular brands

QEP Roberts (mentioned above) and a variety of other companies sell cork underlayment, such as AcoustiCORK, and WidgetCo. Eco-Cork, interestingly, offers a hybrid cork/foam product called Eco-Cork Foam that offers advantages of both types of underlayment.

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What is it?

Felt is considered the “gold standard” of underlayment and is the most traditional choice. Felt is made from recycled fibers and is generally 3 mm thick. It is significantly heavier and easier to smooth than foam or cork.


The heaviness and density of felt make it an excellent sound absorber. It is the best at muffling sound of the three major choices. Most reviews and installers find this to be the main selling point of felt underlayment.

Felt also works as an excellent insulator, keeping your heating and cooling inside the house where you want it to stay.

Many feel that felt also does a superior job cushioning the floor and providing a more comfortable experience for walking and standing.

Since it is made of recycled fibers, felt underlayment is also a LEED certified and environmentally sound choice.

How much does it cost?

Felt underlayment is available for between $0.75 to $1.25 a square foot.

Best-selling and popular brands

As above, QEP Roberts offers a popular felt underlayment with a moisture barrier and handy tape strip for attaching one roll to the other. Bellawood also offers a popular and widely available that comes with an anti-microbial treatment.

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Our Conclusions

If you are installing laminate, you may not even need to add an underlayment, as it may come attached to the flooring itself.

If, however, you are seeking some of the sound-dampening, health or comfort advantages of an underlay, and if your flooring does not have one attached, you should consider the three above choices.

Foam is your cheapest option, but the least environmentally responsible. Cork is a great middle option, a natural choice that has health and safety benefits. Felt is the traditional industry standard, offering many of the same benefits as cork, but at a higher price.

Elizabeth Nichols

About Elizabeth Nichols

Elizabeth is a writer and researcher who is also a homeowner and passionate penny-pincher. A lover and student of design, her home is an eclectic and happy mix Latin, Midwest U.S and European style.

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