In the realm of trendy, resilient flooring lies SPC—a dimensionally stable, strong, vinyl flooring option for demanding applications. But in order to ensure the product will perform as designed for years to come, it’s important to invest in the proper underlayment to go along with it, cushion marketers say.
“Although marketing wordsmithing like ‘waterproof’ have helped escalate vinyl plank flooring growth along with other winning attributes, what we have found out over the last two years is that vinyl plank flooring isn’t bulletproof to age-old moisture problems,” said Deanna Summers, marketing and account manager, MP Global. “Moisture problems deriving from the subfloor are starting to rear their ugly heads in the vinyl plank category as a whole. Cupping, curling, dimensional [flexing] and unsightly alkalinity migration to the surface of the plank are real problems the industry is facing.”
While SPC or other rigid core planks that already feature an attached backing provide added convenience for the homeowner—while at the same time giving the retailer a higher- margin product to sell—there are still additional benefits to be had by applying more cushion between the substrate and the plank.
“Planks with attached backing or underlayments do not provide subfloor coverage to help block moisture problems,” Summers noted. “The seams are still exposed to moisture vapor from the subfloor. This leaves the plank vulnerable. It has been proven over time that these vapors will wreak havoc on all flooring types.”
When working with planks with attached underlayments, Summers suggested adding a thin but dense underlayment like MP Global’s QuietWalk Luxury Vinyl underlayment. This option (along with other vinyl underlayments available from MP Global) offers moisture protection along with plank support and sound control, she noted.
“Understanding other important benefits the end consumer desires is just as important and helps with upselling to a quality underlayment that can assist with selling the product naturally,” Summers said. “QuietWalk Luxury Vinyl underlayment offers comfort and performance benefits that a well-rounded underlayment can bring to the table for the end user/customer.”
Another issue that can arise without using an additional underlayment would be lack of support for the click system of floating (lock and click) planks, which—in some cases—could result in breakage. “Most floating vinyl planks are usually 4mm-7mm thick and have very thin locking joints/edges,” said Jim Wink, vice president of sales and marketing, Foam Products. “Knowing this type of construction, the acoustical underlayment must be very dense to prevent any cushion effect that could allow these locking joints/edges to break.”
To prevent the failures of locking joints/edges, Wink recommended Foam Products’ Silencer LVT, which is specially produced for installation with all vinyl planks. Silencer LVT is a very dense polyurethane foam and provides the acoustical benefit required by HOAs and also provides ample moisture protection when installed over concrete subfloors. Other underlayments may be too thin to provide the necessary acoustical benefit and many are too thick, which will compress and allow the locking joints and edges on the vinyl planks to break.”
Another short-coming of some products with pre-attached padding is some do not always meet IIC sound rating standards. That’s according to Tina Crossland, national sales manager, WE Cork, who stressed installing the correct underlayment with SPC flooring. Specifically, she cited WE Cork’s Silently LVT, a high-density underlayment made of cork and rubber. “It provides [great] sound insulation while adding comfort,” she said, noting the product’s ability to reduce the sound transfer between floors. Silently LVT provides
the recommended sound ratings needed to meet building codes, she added.
Despite the allure and popularity of SPC floors with attached padding, there is no shortage of aftermarket cushion products designed to enhance the durability, comfort and longevity of an already sturdy product. Case is point is Schönox TS, a cork and recycled urethane underlayment designed to improve impact sound insulation by up to 17 decibels—all while only being 3mm thick. In addition, according to Tracy Johnson, creative director, it improves heat insulation, comfort underfoot and contributes to LEED v4 certification due to its low-emitting materials.
Consumers and end users are not the only ones that stand to benefit from doubling up on underlayments. There’s something in it for specialty floor covering retailers as well. “High-end materials properly installed typically result in successful installations, which ultimately leads to happy installers, happy customers and no claims,” said Dre Eisenmann, product manager, building finishing, Sika Corporation. “Moreover, when these underlayment options come with a proven compatibility with additional solutions from one trusted supplier, retailers can become a one-stop shop for their valued customers.”
When it comes to recommending the right cushion for SPC products specifically, Sika-DriTac recommended DriTac 8301 Impact—a technologically advanced, 1mm underlayment and acoustical barrier. The product is also recommended for glue-down or floating installations of other resilient floors such as WPC and LVT/LVP.
“DriTac 8301 Impact contains negligible VOC content, affording the green community the best sound abatement choice for eco-friendly projects,” said Nick Mizzone, marketing coordinator, Sika. “Impact is lightweight for easy transport and is available in both straight seam or Lip and Tape roll options.”