As preposterous as a basement in the Alamo or a pig with wings is a floor covering installation without underlayment. Essential for noise reduction, moisture control, insulation and cushioning, retailers would do well to include underlayment in each sales pitch in the store.
“The retail salesperson should make every effort to educate the customer on the differences in sound performance, moisture protection and ease of installation between the different underlayments they offer,” said Gary Cole, director of business development, Pak-Lite. “Although the customer may have to pay a little more, the retailer will have a much happier customer in the long run if he is able to sell her an upgraded pad to enhance her new floor.”
Most manufacturers specify underlayments with any new flooring purchase, depending on the type. Underlayment could be the perfect persuasion for a consumer who hates the “hollow” sound of walking on laminate or quieting her concerns of a noisy hardwood surface. “Other floor coverings such as tile or vinyl may require an underlayment for acoustic requirements in multi-family housing situations such as apartments or condominiums,” said Jack Boesch, director of marketing, MP Global. “They may also need anti-fracture membranes to inhibit the transfer of concrete cracks to the overlying tile floor.”
While noise-deadening properties are most commonly a concern for hard surfaces, underlayment is an essential component of the soft surface formula as well. “Quality cushions provide comfort but more importantly provide the foundation and support required to absorb foot traffic and heavy furniture,” said Drew Holland, marketing manager, Healthier Choice, adding it takes strain off the carpet fibers and allows the carpet to last much longer.
For professionals in the floor covering industry, underlayments in a product sale are a no- brainer, but your average consumer will most likely not have that same understanding. According to Ray Rodriguez, president and CEO, Starline Associates, “The quality of the subfloor and underlayment used, as well as installation, are all elements that are necessary and should be explained to the consumer in simple terms.”
Daché Davidson, director of marketing, Pregis, said the most effective method of relaying the value of underlayment requires placing products in high traffic areas where shoppers can gain exposure to and learn about how underlayments add value to a home improvement plan. “In-store flyers, the use of aisle displays and promotions can help improve awareness of underlayment products and drive demand,” he said. “Using tactics such as price segmentation to move shoppers up in quality and brand, and capitalizing on complimentary sales through co-branding, cross promotion and cross-merchandising are all effective and efficient means to increasing profit.”
Making it easy
Realizing consumers are confused by what they perceive as an add-on to the process, manufacturers have put forward products and programs that take all the guesswork out of selling the base of her floor. Starline’s Rodriguez explained that when retailers simply provide the consumer with the information to facilitate a buying decision, they see benefits with better profits, higher margins and larger orders. “Silent Blue provides retailers with brochures, charts and independent laboratory testing results, explained in laymen’s terms for the benefit of the customer.”
Pak-Lite private labels many of its goods to tailor the specification for products. “Retailers selling our goods can be assured they are protected by our proven patented products,” Cole said. “Discerning consumers of laminate flooring should be willing to consider an upgrade to our higher performance underlayments, which in turn provide higher profit margins for the retailer.”
Pregis offers a single-source solution for procurement efficiencies and a marketable advantage, Davidson told FCNews. “EZ-Seam traditional lip and tape flooring underlayments reduces the amount of time for installers to lay underlayment before advancing to the next stage of the flooring install, saving money for the homeowner.” EZ-Seam Renew is also a great answer to the sustainable home building market’s demands for green underlayments.
Green around the edges
The surge in green building’s popularity runs deep, all the way to the floor’s foundation.
“Green is a big buzzword these days and our best selling products are manufactured primarily with recycled materials; we were green before it was en vogue,” said MP Global’s Boesch. “Our underlayments are often specified in new construction and remodels due to our sound deadening capabilities, and our QuietWalk has an inherent moisture management system built in to protect overlying floors from damage due to incidental moisture.”
Healthier Choice is also showing its green side with 100% hypoallergenic memory foam and GreenGuard Indoor Air Quality-certified cushions and underlayments. “These unique features combined with Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial and MoistureBloc breathable moisture barrier technology makes Healthier Choice products the best choice for consumers with allergen and asthma issues,” Holland said.