By Elisabeth McGowan While underlayment is usually an easy sell alongside a carpet purchase, it’s not always top of mind when finalizing a hard surface sale. However, as hard surface flooring continues to grow in demand, consumers are discovering its pain points more readily. “One of the common complaints of hard surface flooring is just that—it’s hard,” said Chris Palmer, vice president of sales, Leggett & Platt.
As it turns out, the right padding can not only extend the life of a laminate, hardwood or SPC purchase, it can also provide a more comfortable surface for the homeowner to walk on—all of which can contribute to a satisfied customer over the long term. This presents an add-on opportunity for retailers who stand to profit from pairing a hard surface flooring purchase with the appropriate underlayment. “While there is a surge in awareness and competence for acoustics in the commercial market, there is still a prevailing ignorance to sound and vibration in the residential space,” said Bob Racioppi, director of sales, ECore. “As soft surface wanes, there is a huge opportunity for retailers to add value by educating the consumer. The best way to approach this is to do demonstrations to show how the underlayment works.”
Clearly, retailers stand to generate more revenue by coupling a flooring purchase with padding or underlayment—not only in terms of material sales but also related installation services, experts say. But first, a retailer needs to understand the advantages of a hard surface underlayment, the benefits of which are numerous.
“The added cushion of foam or rubber underlayments can make for a more comfortable walking surface while lowering leg fatigue and limiting the risk of slipping or falling,” said John Lio, vice president, marketing, DriTac.
Noise reduction is another advantage, according to experts. Jeff Johnson, business manager, Mapei, noted that acoustic membranes provide sound reduction from foot traffic. “For example, if you’re installing hardwood or ceramic in an apartment or condo, acoustic dampening becomes very important,” he explained. “In some respects, it is important to know that acoustic dampening type underlayments can improve the sound of an installed floor (hardwood or ceramic) by decreasing surface noise and making the floor quieter.”
Deanna Summers, marketing specialist for MP Global, said underlayment can also enhance the overall look and performance of a hard surface floor by smoothing out minor imperfections in the subfloor below. With any dips and uneven areas in a ceramic floor, for instance, the end user would notice an unevenness when walking on it.
Mapei’s Johnson agreed, adding: “If you are installing ceramic on a concrete pad, you might consider using a crack isolation type underlayment. This is important because if the concrete slab itself decides to crack, the crack will not be transferred up through the ceramic tile.”
The benefits don’t end there. Underlayments can also contribute to a home’s energy system by providing insulation between the floor and the substrate. MP Global’s QuietWalk, for example, is designed to help with seasonal temperature fluctuations in a home, thus providing both comfort to the resident and energy efficiency to the home, according to Summers.
In that same vein, an underlayment can prevent cold temperatures in the concrete or the basement from seeping through the tile, according to Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork. In addition to insulation, the underlayment could also offer moisture protection, according to Leggett & Platt’s Palmer. Whether it be from spills or moisture vapor from below the flooring, an underlayment provides an anti-moisture element.
Following are the latest underlayments that offer various benefits to hard surfaces flooring.
ECOsilence is a flat, resilient underlayment used directly under most flooring materials. It yields exceptional results even under hard surface flooring and over concrete and wood joist construction. Available in four options, installers can thin-set ceramic and porcelain tile directly to it and it can be installed quickly.
DriTac 8302 Double Impact is a 2mm underlayment and acoustical barrier for successful installations of hardwood and laminate flooring. It offers the Total Sound Reduction System (SRS) enhanced lifetime warranty when utilized in conjunction with approved DriTac flooring adhesives in double-stick applications. Double Impact contains negligible VOC content for an eco-friendly option.
Leggett & Platt
Whisper Step offers a consistent layer of high-density rubber designed to absorb foot traffic impact noise while maintaining support for the life of the floor.
Mapesonic RM is a high-performance, acoustic rubber membrane underlayment designed to reduce ambient and impact sound transmissions in installations of ceramic and porcelain tile, natural stone, wood flooring, LVT/P, sheet vinyl and carpet tile.
Designed for floating floor materials, QuietWalk’s recycled filaments are specially processed to cushion the floor, absorbing sound and reducing unwanted noise. QuietWalk can manage moisture that emits in the form of vapors that naturally come up from concrete subfloors with its exclusive DriWick technology.
Warm & Quiet provides enhanced thermal insulation under hardwood floors. The insulation prevents cold from the concrete or basement from transferring to the floor.