Underlayment: The many benefits found under the surface

Home Inside FCNews Underlayment: The many benefits found under the surface

March 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 18

While the marketing strategies across all hard surface segments always include the benefits of each particular product, the attributes of underlayment do not seem to garner the same attention. Many individuals in the industry do consider underlayment the unsung component of a successful flooring job, yet it often remains underappreciated and undervalued.

Underlayment manufacturers believe their products are just as important as the flooring itself and implore RSAs to pass along this philosophy to end users. The many benefits of a quality underlayment can make all the difference between a positive flooring experience and disappointment.

“The phrase, ‘It’s what’s underneath that counts,’ is not just a trademarked phrase of ours, it’s the core philosophy of products,” said Giovanna Carchidi, national sales coordinator, Diversified Industries. “Consumers are looking for innovation and quality, and we’re able to deliver a complete range of products for under most hard and soft surfaces.”

Sound control

The consensus among underlayment execs is that sound control is a critical issue for end users. “One of our product’s major benefits is sound control, which means sound is not heard in the room below where a wood floor is installed, such as two or three-story residential homes, condos, apartments or other high-rise buildings,” said Jim Wink, vice president of sales and marketing of Foam Products.

Foam Products’ underlayment offerings include Eco Ultimate Silencer, Eco Silencer HD FOF and Silencer LVT. According to Wink, they are all made with high-density polyurethane memory foam, which rebounds from applied pressure and lasts the lifetime of the laminate or wood flooring. “We hear from our customers that the density does more than just help deaden sound; it enables lightweight laminates to have a solid, real wood sound.”

Also highlighting sound abatement, Duane Reimer, technical director for MP Global Products, said the company’s QuietWalk underlayment for floating wood and laminate floors offers superior acoustic benefits, quieting impact noise and footfall, and dampening ambient sound traveling to the room below.

“It’s engineered to eliminate clicking noise and makes laminate floors sound more like real wood,” he explained. “QuietWalk is made from recycled fibers that smooth out little subfloor imperfections while suppressing impact sound and floor-to-ceiling noise.”

At Healthier Choice, noise reduction technology is featured in its OmniChoice Universal acoustical underlayment for wood, luxury vinyl and tile applications. “OmniChoice is a high-density acoustic underlayment specially designed to attenuate airborne and impact noise associated with hard surface flooring,” said Andy Stafford, marketing manager. “It is effective in reducing in-room noise levels and floor-through-ceiling sound transmission, such as footsteps in multi-level structures.”

Stafford also noted that the company’s Sound Solution premium acoustical underlayment offers better sound control in laminate, engineered wood or hardwood installation. With the strength of soy-based polyurethane, it performs over time without losing thickness or its contribution to a better sounding flooring system, he explained.

Moisture protection

Another benefit of underlayment is moisture control. According to Wink, providing moisture protection from the subfloor, which has the potential to damage installed flooring, is a main focus for Foam Products as the company features moisture protection technology throughout its entire product line.

MP Global’s QuietWalk also offers exceptional moisture protection and control, Reimer cited, by featuring a 1.5 mil vapor barrier that protects the laminate from moisture coming up from below.

Healthier Choice’s OmniChoice and Sound Solution products also feature a breathable moisture barrier and vapor protection.

Durability/performance

Durability is, of course, a No. 1 priority for any product, underlayment included. At Foam Products, the durability of a high-density product that doesn’t easily collapse enables lightweight laminate floors to perform decades beyond their wear warranties, Wink noted. “The firm support/cushion allows these lightweight floors and their joints to outperform their life expectancies, delivering value far beyond the average lightweight product.”

Another benefit appreciated by Foam Products customers is the ability to roll the underlayment out and have it lie flat, which helps installers use all 100 square feet of a roll. Comparatively, lighter weight, plastic foams often have so much memory at their roll cores that it only yields 90% to 95% of installable material.

“In addition to these necessary benefits,” Wink added, “our products are environmentally friendly and several contain recycled content for LEED credits when building a green building.”

QuietWalk is made by a patented manufacturing process that features randomly air-laid filaments of various lengths that lie across one another in layers, Reimer noted. This gives the underlayment greater tensile strength than underlayment made with fibers laid only in one direction and enables the underlayment to deliver premium sound control. “Plus, there are no needle-punch holes, eliminating risk of pockets of moisture that might collect in needle-punched underlayment.”

Roberts AirGuard also provides long-lasting support and comfort, Miller said, scoring a 96% on its original thickness after seven days.

With OmniChoice, Stafford said its heavyweight construction ensures it will remain resilient and functional as an acoustic membrane, outperforming lightweight acoustic underlayments, “which crush and fail from the weight of flooring, furniture and the dynamic forces of foot traffic.”

Sustainability

With underlayment, manufacturers know that being green is important to architects, designers and consumers. MP Global is achieving a certain level of sustainability with QuietWalk, which is VOC-free, odorless, hypoallergenic, third-party certified and made from at least 94% pre-consumer recycled textile content, according to Reimer.

And over at Healthier Choice, Stafford noted that both OmniChoice and Sound Solution are UL GreenGuard Gold certified, free of harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde, latex and PBDEs, and made in part with natural resources. It is 100% recyclable and eligible for LEED credits.

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