Underlayment: Suppliers stress sustainability

June 03, 2016

May 23/30, 2016; Volume 30, Number 24

By Reginald Tucker

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 4.16.57 PMToday’s vast crop of underlayments and cushions for both hard and soft surface applications do much more than provide comfort underfoot and sound abatement. They also provide peace of mind and reassurance for specifiers and end users looking for products that offer sustainable solutions.

A prime example is the QuietWalk brand from MP Global Products—a line of underlayments designed for use underneath floating laminate and engineered wood floors. According to Jack Boesch, president, the company’s recycled fiber underlayments are third-party certified for recycled content and designated as a clean air contributor by SCS. This certifies that QuietWalk has 94% recycled content and is certified as “Indoor Advantage Gold,” which basically means there are no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could off-gas and lead to sick building syndrome. MP Global underlayments also are treated with a safe antimicrobial additive to inhibit mold and mildew growth.

“Our company was founded on manufacturing recycled materials,” Boesch said. “From day one we manufactured padding from fibers used in the textile and carpet industries. These were post-industrial fibers that were basically too short for any use, so we patented a manufacturing process to utilize these fibers that would ordinarily have gone to the landfill.”

Other underlayment manufacturers are implementing innovative ways to incorporate recycled content in their products. For example, the ProBase line of rubber underlayment products from Sound Seal boasts 85% recycled content, which qualifies the product for LEED points. As Dale Asp, national business development manager, explained: “During the manufacturing process, our product is washed multiple times and magnets are used to remove all the steel that might be in there from the used car tires. This results in a product that’s devoid of oils and road grime inherent with recycled tires. It’s very crisp looking for a rubber product.”

In addition to ProBase, Sound Seal offers an array of underlayment products derived from recycled wood fibers. Lines include Jumpax, Paladin, Redupax and Superfloor. “The raw materials are all FSC certified so we know exactly where the wood came from and that it was harvested legally,” Asp said. “Our process allows us to utilize the materials to create a usable, environmentally safe product.”

Environmental consciousness is also a top priority at Carpenter, which produces both prime urethane and bonded carpet cushion for soft surface floor coverings. EnviroStep, the company’s flagship product, is made from 100% recycled urethane trim and is itself 100% recyclable. In addition, all EnviroStep products are ozone friendly—meaning they do not contain CFCs—and they exceed CRI Green label air-quality standards.

For its recycled products, Carpenter sources foam materials typically found in high-end mattresses. It then goes through an intricate grinding and cleansing process and is then mixed with virgin materials to make bonded products. The company also takes back old carpet cushion for processing. “Our product is different from our competitors in that a large portion of our trim is not post-consumer, it’s considered recycled trim,” Rob Heuay, senior vice president, explained.

Other underlayment manufacturers emphasize the fact they utilize environmentally friendly ingredients in their products. The Eco Ultimate Silencer from Foam Products, for example, uses soy-based ingredients as opposed to petroleum in its construction. It is designed primarily for wood floors, vinyl plank flooring as well as WPC. In addition, Foam Products offers a 20% granulated recycled rubber tile for hard surface applications.

“This provides a strong environmental story because we are not sending rubber tires to the landfill,” said Jim Wink, vice president of sales and marketing. “Plus, the end users get LEED credits there because they’re dealing with recycled content.”

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