By Megan Salzano
Underlayment is often the unsung hero of a flooring installation. It might not be the most glamorous of products, but without it the project could eventually fail.
Underlayments come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they offer an even greater variety of features and benefits—from noise reduction to moisture resistance. As consumers continue to add hard surface flooring to their homes, the properties of underlayments have become even more essential for a successful flooring installation. Some retailers and their RSAs are savvy underlayment sellers, while others struggle tremendously with the pitch, sale and even basic underlayment merchandising practices.
To help those retailers who have yet to tap the potential of this undervalued sundry category, manufacturers of sound-reduction underlayments have offered their best advice for when and how to approach these types of underlayments during the purchasing process for a successful, full-package flooring sale—and boost the bottom line in the process.
“It should be made resoundingly clear that underlayments are designed to augment the overall effectiveness and longevity of an installation,” said Dave Cima, Eastern sales director, DriTac Flooring Products. “If a retailer meets a prospective customer with sound-abatement needs, underlayment should be one of the first solutions introduced. It is a low-cost solution with a range of added benefits that could eliminate the need for supplementary products. High-quality and premium flooring underlayments deliver sound reduction within a larger package of benefits, resulting in a single product guaranteed to add significant value for the consumer.”
When selecting an underlayment with sound-reducing qualities, Jim Wink, vice president of sales and marketing, Foam Products, said consumers should be educated by the sales associate during the selection process. “They need to understand the IIC/STC test method to determine if it applies to their condo/apartment/home construction,” he explained. “Too many underlayment products list only a high acoustical value with insulated floor assemblies to appear the best, when that type assembly does not apply to the average condo/apartment/home.”
“Education is the key to success when selling acoustical underlayment products,” said Andrew Stafford, marketing director, Healthier Choice. “Acoustical underlayment can be challenging to sell because it is a highly technical product and can be very difficult to understand or explain. Most customers are aware they need an underlayment, but they might not fully know why. It is the retailer’s responsibility to educate the consumer about the health benefits of sound reduction, and then direct them to the best product suited for their application. However, when the features and benefits of the underlayment are absent from the sales pitch, the customer is left to decide solely on price, setting the installation up for potential failure. Manufacturers and retailers must work together to educate sales staff about the acoustical underlayments’ vital role in the overall flooring system.”
Leggett & Platt
“The RSA should describe the underlayment as being designed to work with the particular flooring for the purpose of absorbing some of the vibrations associated with walking and other impacts that might occur, such as children bouncing a ball or dropping toys,” said Chris Palmer, vice president of sales, Leggett & Platt. “What’s important for the RSA is to let the consumer know that once the floor is installed, it’s too late to go back and add the underlayment. Show the underlayment and recommend it. The consumer wants to hear the RSA’s recommendation.”
For MP Global’s Jack Boesch, director of marketing, merchandising is key. “Many times, retailers have a ‘golf ball display’ where they try to illustrate the difference between two underlayments, but the small golf ball displays are not ‘real-world’ applications,” he explained. “It might not be reducing the decibel level but the quality of sound. It might make a laminate floor sound more like solid wood. Actual results in installations will depend upon the substrate you are installing over. So, buyer beware. The IIC and STC score comparisons are a pretty good indicator for acoustics.”
“A retailer should be familiar with the standards (IIC, STC and dIIC) and what they mean, as well as which underlayments and accessories will help to reduce sound transmission,” said John Bonney, vice president of sales operations, Schönox. “Depending on the needs of the client, such as carpet or hard surface and the type of residence, he or she should put together a variety of options, pointing out the features and benefits of each one. This will result in the client making a well-informed choice and more sales dollars for the retailer.”
“The best way to sell the benefits of sound reduction is to have a floor with underlayment and one without next to each other—the significant sound difference will do all the selling,” said Ann Wicander, president, We Cork. “If the customer mentions condos or second story installations, the retailer should offer an underlayment as a solution to meet code or prevention of the sound transmission. The single-family homeowner might not have considered the sound issue and will be appreciative if the retailer mentions the sound prevention underlayments can offer.”