Underlays - see how to choose the best support for your floor
The underlays for floor are like a coach - you cannot see him, but he supports the athlete and helps him achieve his full potential. It works similarly in the world of flooring - a good underlay will make the panels look delightful, while a bad underlay can spoil the whole effect, even if you have the best floor panels on the market. Why there is such a discrepancy? Why is the underlay so important for panels and what to pay attention to when shopping? All you need to do is be familiar with a few facts, and soon you will be able to judge it yourself.
Why is a high-quality underlay necessary?
What is a good floor characterised with? First of all, it should be even, resistant to damage and reduce sounds. All these features depend not only on the quality of the flooring that are to be installed in a room, but also the underlay is largely responsible. In the past, many investors downplayed this element, resulting in a floor with unevenness that is also easy to damage. To make matters worse, the panels tend to make a hollow noise when you step on it. This is especially the case with panels installed as a floating method so without the use of glue. A soundboard is often created between the floor and the floor, which makes noises with every step - yours, children and even your dog. The answer to these difficulties is a dedicated underlay for panels that meets high standards and approvals.
If you have planned to use ordinary PE foam, available in DIY stores, forget about a durable and resistant floor. It used to be called an underlay, but after the publication of EN16354, it turned out that it did not meet virtually any standards. The nomenclature has been withdrawn, but there are still people who, in the name of savings, decide to use this material. We strongly advise against this step, because it is an apparent saving - over time you will lose the most on this solution. XPS underlays are much more interesting and will certainly protect and dampen the floor better. However, the real star among underlays is a relatively new product on the market - polyurethane underlays. They are also called polyurethane with mineral (their composition is based on polyurethane and minerals), quartz mats. In Arbiton PUM underlays are called Multiprotec and this is the most popular series for professionals.
Find out about the unique properties of Multiprotec’s - polyurethane underlays
Underlays for different types of floor made of a combination of minerals and polyurethane are top shelf products. Despite the relatively high price, they are gaining more and more supporters who realize that such an investment will pay off in the future. Multiprotec underlays are also an ideal choice for underfloor heating. They perfectly conduct heat, minimizing its losses - thanks to this, the costs of heating a house or apartment can drop by up to several hundred EUR a year. Underlays for floor planks made of polyurethane and minerals are also characterized by extremely effective soundproofing properties. The reverberation accompanying the footsteps is one of the biggest problems of novice investors, which is usually only discovered after some time. At first glance, it is not clear that a beautiful looking floor could have any disadvantages. Unfortunately, everyday use of a noisy floor can be extremely burdensome, and dreams of an imminent renovation are becoming more and more real. Therefore, we encourage you to choose the underlay, which requires a bit more financial outlay, but in practice will be reliable for many years.
A few words of technical data, i.e. what to look for when buying an underlay
There are more reasons to invest in a good underlay. The weakest side of this type of floor are the locks - that is, the elements that hold the individual boards together. While the panels themselves may be waterproof and virtually tear-resistant, their locks are the elements that are the easiest to damage. Thanks to the good quality underlays, the floor will last much longer intact. Invisible to the naked eye, microcracks can let water in, which will damage the panels on the underside. That is why it is so important to choose a top-class underlay that will give you peace of mind for years.
So what should you pay attention to when choosing an underlay for your flooring? The parameters of CS, i.e. compression resistance, and DL - dynamic load, determine the product quality the most. The recently introduced standards describe 3 levels of underlay classes, from 1 to 3. CS1 and DL1 meet the lowest requirements, and CS 3 and DL3 respectively are top-shelf products. The aforementioned PE foam does not even qualify for the lowest ceiling, which is why we warn you so much against choosing it as a low-cost replacement. Proper protection of the locks can be ensured only by dedicated underlays for selected type of flooring.
Thermal insulation is an extremely important feature of the floor. If you want to install underfloor heating in your house, flat or other premises, then when choosing the underlay, pay attention to the R parameter, which is thermal resistance. The lower the parameter, the more efficiently the underfloor heating system will work, while it is assumed that it should be at most 0.075 m2K / W. Currently, the best achievements in this field on the market are, of course, polyurethane-mineral underlayment, which fluctuate around 0.006 m2K / W. With such parameters, even wooden floors, which are a natural insulator, have a chance to work effectively with underfloor heating.
Choose an underlay that will make your floor as quiet as possible
A perfect floor is characterized not only by its longevity and good heat transfer, but also by excellent sound insulation. When choosing an underlay, it is best to follow the European standard EN16354, which precisely defines how to conduct tests and present technical data of the product. This standard also defines the EN16205 test methodology, which is a very reliable method. When comparing underlays, we recommend that you choose the same test procedures, because another method, eg IHD-W431, may show up to two times better results for the same product. So what do these standards define? What tells us the most is the RWS coefficient, short for Reflected Walking Sound. It tells about the volume of reflected sounds, such as footsteps. Underlays for panels with the highest RWS parameter are the best at suppressing floor noises. It is assumed that a very good indicator is RWS> 20%, while there are also models that can boast of RWS> 30%.
A bit of sensorics - we choose the underlay for the panels using our senses
We know that the analysis of technical parameters is not easy for everyone. If you trust your senses more, here are some tips for choosing a good quality underlay. There are various types of underlays on the market, and the most popular are foam underlays. These are not bad products and will fulfil their function, but they do not guarantee full satisfaction. This is only the middle class, so if you want your floors to meet the highest criteria of comfort, usability and durability, hang your eye on the shelf higher. How to recognize that we are dealing with a lower-quality underlay? Here are simple ways: products made of foam, despite their high density, will always be much lighter than polyurethane underlays - sometimes even more than by half. Rubber underlays give off a characteristic smell, while polyurethane underlays are odorless. Let's go a step further, because polyurethane underlays are not created equal either.
The best underlays for mineral vinyl flooring are those that contain an integrated vapor barrier foil as well as adhesive tape. Thanks to this, you can be sure that your floor is protected to the highest degree - and at the same time, this solution makes installation easier. The method of winding the liner in production is also of great importance. A properly made product should develop like a carpet. The tedious unwinding of the roll to place the backing with the foil facing up (because this is the correct way to install it) is a sign of some shortcomings on the part of the manufacturer. Among the important things the place of production have a great role. In this field, Polish studios are distinguished by their attention to quality, which is why the MADE IN POLAND designation is an additional big plus.
Tell us what kind of foundation you are looking for and we will suggest a product tailored to your needs
The flooring market has been our whole world for over 20 years, which is why we are happy to recognize the needs of our customers in order to best respond to their expectations. Over the course of two decades, we have developed a wide range of underlays, so that every investor can choose the perfect one. Depending on the conditions of the premises, its location, purpose and method of heating, we can choose various underlays. Tight sound insulation is designed to dampen the sounds of footsteps in a given room, but not only. You can choose an underlay that protects the lower room under the floor particularly strongly against noise. If you are planning to build a house and you do not want the steps of the householders from the first floor to distract you from the living room or kitchen, this will be the best choice.
We also have underlays for various types of heating systems. The fact that we have products integrated with the underfloor heating system has already been mentioned several times. However, if you are interested in the option of additional thermal insulation from an unheated room below, e.g. a basement or garage, we have an interesting assortment for you. Likewise, you have the option of choosing the right product in terms of the amount of traffic on your floor. If you plan on normal domestic use, a medium intensity underlay is sufficient (appropriate CS value underlay). If, on the other hand, you want to lay the floor in a commercial premises or in an industrial space, an underlay intended for high traffic intensity will be a much better choice.
The world of underlays can be more complex than it seems. However, with the help of experts, you would be able to purchase and install the floor yourself. We encourage you to watch our instructional videos that will show you how to properly lay the underlays or flooring. Become an Floor Expert on your floor!