Vinyl tiles are a popular flooring choice during contemporary times due to their affordability, low maintenance and high durability, as well as their great aesthetic qualities. All of these features make vinyl tiles a great flooring option, but whether they need an underlay or not may be a determining factor in your choice of floor.
Most vinyl tiles do not need an underlay. This is because the structure of vinyl tiles incorporates a base layer which acts as an underlay, adding thickness and protection to the flooring. However, in some cases (where there is an uneven surface or the presence of damp) an underlay may be required.
While most vinyl tiles do not require an underlay, there are certain circumstances in which this underlay might indeed be necessary in order to create the best flooring finish possible. An underlay can add great expense to a flooring project, and so it is important to establish whether this will be a necessary undertaking or not.
Do Luxury Vinyl Tiles Need Underlay?
With a flooring type such as a carpet, for example, an underlay is usually required in order to allow you to gain more from the product over time. Without an underlay in this instance, the carpet itself would absorb all the impact of the foot traffic moving over it, creating unnecessary wear on the carpet itself.
An underlay helps to absorb the majority of the impact of this foot traffic while simultaneously providing cushioning for the feet, creating a major difference to the comfort factor for the user of the floor.
Vinyl flooring, when compared to carpeting, is extremely stable and so does not often move underfoot. The flooring itself is built with a cushioned base layer which acts as an underlay, negating the need for the addition of an underlay to the floor.
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How Is Luxury Vinyl Tiling Made?
Luxury Vinyl Tiling, or high quality vinyl, is made up of a number of layers which give it its inherent strength and durability.
The first layer is the back layer which would essentially be the built-in underlay. Next comes the glass fiber layer, the middle layer, the design layer, the wear layer and the protective coating layer.
The base is made up of a few compact layers which provide the much-needed structural support for the vinyl floor.
The backing is stiff, and combined with a glass fiber layer, provides stability to the flooring. The fiberglass also allows the flooring to feel cushioned and soft underfoot.
The design layer is where the realistic-looking design of the flooring is visible. Innovative technology is used to create realistic images of timber, ceramics or stone onto this layer of film. A mesh coating is applied at a high pressure in order to create the realistic texture which is synonymous with this type of flooring.
The top layers consist of the wear and tear functionality. The defending wear layer acts as a shield over the design to protect it, while another coat of surface treatment provides cleaning abilities as well as an improved scratch-resistance.
When Would An Underlay Be Required For Vinyl Flooring?
If the subfloor surface is uneven, or if there are issues with moisture and damp, an underlay may be necessary. The need for an underlay depends entirely on the quality of the vinyl flooring itself, as well as the quality of the flooring subsurface.
If the subfloor has any weak areas with water and moisture problems, a vapor barrier underlay may be necessary to prevent any moisture issues from occurring at a later stage. The majority of vinyl tiles, however, are equipped with their own waterproofing which means that a damp proof membrane may not be necessary.
When it is necessary to use an underlay with vinyl tiles, there is a specific type of underlay which is designed to be used with this type of floor.
This underlay is usually thinner than the usual underlay material used in laminate flooring or carpeting.
In the event that you want to reduce noise, a vinyl floor underlay may be extremely beneficial, as this can reduce noise from 4dB up to 16dB.
In the event that you are making use of a cheaper vinyl floor which is usually thinner by nature, an underlay will be beneficial in that it will make the flooring feel softer and more comfortable underfoot.
If you are making use of vinyl click flooring, and underlay can affect the strength of the locking system, and so it is recommended that you use an underlay which is 2mm or less in thickness.
Because there is no adhesive used in vinyl click flooring, it is suitable for use over underfloor heating. In this case, however, and underlay should not be added as this can interfere with the underfloor heating.
Stick-down Versus Floating Vinyl Floor
There are several advantages and disadvantages to each type of floor.
The first factor to consider is cost. Glue-down vinyl floors are often cheaper than the floating options, but additional materials are usually required in this type of installation.
Because the floors are glued into place, it is often preferable to bring in a professional to complete the installation. This can bring with it an additional cost.
Floating floors, due to their click/ tongue-and-groove systems, are a simpler option when it comes to installing the floor on your own. Their ease of use allows for individuals to complete the installation without the need to hire any professionals.
Durability is another major factor to consider when choosing which type of vinyl floor to install. Because floating floors are not attached to the subfloor, there is a chance that individual tiles could begin to lift in high-traffic areas. In this instance, glue-down floors may be preferable as they will be more durable in areas with high foot traffic.
Repairs may become necessary at a point, and this is often easier with the glue-down option. In this case, individual tiles can be lifted and replaced. With the floating vinyl option, because the tiles are all interlocking, the whole section may have to be lifted to the point where the floor meets the wall in order to replace tiles or make repairs.
While most vinyl floors do not require and underlay, there are certain instances where an underlay may be required. It is always best to follow the instructions of the floor manufacturer, as well as those of the contractors who may be installing your floors.