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The unsung hero: Flooring underlayment deserves recognition

Adam explains how underlays should receive more credit when it comes to flooring installations.

IN the grand symphony of a flooring install, underlayment often plays the role of the silent conductor, quietly orchestrating the harmony of structures while receiving little recognition. Yet, despite their modest presence, underlayment serves as the essential foundation upon which the edifice of any vinyl flooring stands. It’s time we shed light on this unsung hero of the flooring install.

Underlayment, typically hidden beneath the visible layers of flooring, serves a multitude of crucial functions. It provides a smooth and stable surface for the final floor covering, ensuring durability and longevity. Moreover, underlayment offers some thermal insulation, moisture protection, and contributes to the overall comfort of a space by cushioning underfoot.

As an industry we’ve come a long way in the use of underlayment. Back in 2013, the CFA responded to expressed concerns in the flooring industry regarding the quality of plywood available and those supplied as ‘flooring grade’. At that time there was no industry standard for ‘flooring grade’ ply for use as an underlayment, so the CFA created a guide to help installers obtain the right quality ply for the job. Fast forward to 2017, the UK government finally produces BS 8203:2017, an extensive code of practice for the installation of resilient floor coverings, which commits to standardising the requirements of the flooring industry.

Flooring grade underlayment is integral to the installation of vinyl floors, but it’s also highly recommended anywhere you’re fitting a new floor. From basic levelling properties to its superior bonding capability flooring grade is the solution and the first step on the road to a perfect job.

Despite its indispensable role, ‘floor grade’ underlayment often escapes the spotlight in favour of more visible elements like flooring materials or architectural finishes. However, its significance can’t be overstated. A well-chosen underlayment can enhance the performance and longevity of a floor, while a subpar one can potentially lead to costly repairs and compromises in functionality.

Furthermore, ‘flooring grade’ underlayment plays a crucial role in sustainability efforts in the flooring industry. By providing effective insulation and moisture control, they contribute to energy efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint of buildings. Additionally, high-quality underlayment can extend the lifespan of vinyl floors, reducing the need for frequent replacements and minimising waste.

Investing in a premium underlayment isn’t merely an additional expense but a wise long-term investment. Builders, floorlayers, and homeowners alike should prioritise the selection of an underlayment that meets the specific requirements of a project, considering factors such as material composition, thickness, moisture resistance, and acoustic properties.

Moreover, education and awareness regarding the importance of flooring grade underlayment is essential. Architects, contractors, and homeowners should be informed about the critical role it plays in the performance and longevity of their floors. By emphasising the value of quality, over the ‘cheaper’ substandard alternative, we can elevate industry standards and ensure the install of a more resilient and sustainable floor.

In conclusion, underlayment is the unsung hero of a flooring install, silently supporting the integrity and functionality of your floor. It’s time we recognise its indispensable role and give it the attention and appreciation it deserves. By prioritising quality and investing in premium ‘flooring grade’ underlayment, we can build a more resilient, sustainable, and comfortable environment for generations to come.
Adam Silvester is area sales rep at Lionvest

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