After selling hundreds of millions of square feet of its QuietWalk underlayment for the past 25 years, MP Global has been busy over the last 18 months not only improving upon its flagship recycled fiber products, but also developing two new solutions that respond to what president, Al Collison, says is the company’s mission: “We are innovative and problem solvers.”
While most of the industry’s innovations focus on flooring planks and installation techniques, MP Global prides itself on providing solutions for what lies beneath. These developments are designed to expressly protect the floor so it performs better and lasts longer. As such, within the five years the company rolled out two iterations to QuietWalk: QuietWalk LV and QuietWalk Plus. In the past 18 months, two entirely new products were introduced: a premium underlayment called AquaLayer and a fiberboard underlayment called QuietBoard.
Everything branded QuietWalk is designed to manage moisture better than competing products. “Moisture is present in concrete subfloors, we didn’t create it, we don’t want to just block it, and we certainly don’t want to ignore it,” Collison explained. “We provide a pathway to keep moisture in its truest form as moisture vapors. We want to keep it in its natural state. Any time you block it you are causing it to change from a gas to a solid and you start to see droplets of water and that can be the start of problems to flooring. Our fibers are installed down toward the subfloor. That allows the vapors to maintain their breathability, offering an air gap.
“The vapor barrier is protecting the decorative floor from ever being introduced to that action with the fibers. Our fibers allow moisture dissipation over time. Whenever moisture is present the fibers wick up the water and keep it away from the subfloor. That is how our technology is different and that is the power of our fibers. It’s the base DNA of who we are.”
There is a sustainability story that goes with it. “We take fibers that have otherwise been destined for a landfill and reuse them in a more practical way,” Collison added. “Specifically, our underlayment fibers are made from scraps from the textile industry—375,000 pounds weekly that would otherwise go to landfill,” he said.
Collison said QuietWalk was developed for use underneath laminate floors in 1998 because MP Global realized laminate had two issues: one was sound absorption and the other was moisture that could be trapped under the floor. “So we manage the water that is already there and make the floor quieter.”
Within the last five years, MP Global introduced QuietWalk LV, a thinner version of QuietWalk for vinyl planks that is more versatile. “It still has great sound properties,” he said.
Also in the last five years, a new-and-improved version of QuietWalk for hardwood floors, QuietWalk Plus, was unveiled. According to Collison, it is still great at handling moisture but becomes more universal with installation applications. An attached vapor barrier allows for glue or nail-down applications, permitting fasteners to penetrate and self-seal. QuietWalk Plus can be installed over wood or concrete subfloors.
“Some people still like QuietWalk because it’s bulletproof, they’ve used it for years and it has done a great job,” said Deanna Summers, senior marketing and account manager. “But many have switched to QuietWalk LV and QuietWalk Plus because of its versatility (under laminate, vinyl or engineered wood). Laminate is making a resurgence, and many people want to stick with what they know has worked for them.”
Oftentimes, when taking out thicker flooring materials like carpet and replacing with thinner vinyl planks, an installer needs to elevate the subfloor or address a gap between the baseboard and flooring. To close that gap, the flooring needs to be raised. To that end, QuietBoard is a specially formulated fiberboard underlayment with an integrated moisture barrier that fixes the gap efficiently and inexpensively compared to plywood wood and other materials.
Not only does QuietBoard raise the floor height, but its dense construction reduces impact noise, supports multiple types of flooring products, minimizes flex between planks to make floors solid and comfortable under each step, and will absorb moisture while protecting the floor with the attached vapor barrier. QuietBoard also checks the sustainability box. It is made in the USA from 100% recycled fibers and has no VOCs or other harmful emissions. It is like having plywood, underlayment and vapor barrier all built into one solution.
Combined with MP Global’s exclusive Eco-Wick system, QuietBoard is designed to hold up to five times its weight in moisture, allowing the board to maintain its structural integrity, shape and functionality. Encouraging constant airflow and breathability prevents moisture vapors from becoming blocked or trapped. Fibers are treated with antimicrobial and integrated with a metallicized film barrier that allow the concrete to breathe, protecting the flooring from moisture and inhibiting mold and mildew while providing thermal reflective properties for better energy efficiency.
Summers told FCNews that QuietBoard has been scientifically proven to absorb energy and reduce impact on people’s joints. “We took QuietBoard to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, which has a state-of-the-art biomechanics testing lab. It was proven that QuietBoard reduced 2.2% of force to joints. So if you’re a 198-pound man, it reduces almost 4 pounds of force to lower limb joints. If you take anywhere from 4,000 to 18,000 steps per day, that’s potentially five elephants worth of force to your joints that MP Global relieves because of our upgraded underlayment.”
Last but not least, the dense, recycled fiber structure of QuietBoard is designed to absorb high levels of both impact and ambient sound, minimizing unwanted walking and room noises. “We tout that our underlayments do a better job of protecting the floor and better helps people than our competitors do for about the same price,” Collison said.
AquaLayer, the latest innovation from MP Global, aims to provide a real solution for wood and laminate floors. “A key laminate flooring manufacturer came to us with a problem,” Collison said. “Water spills on the floor eventually seep through the floor and sit on the underlayment (if it is not cleaned up quickly). This can lead to mold and mildew and damage the floor. So we developed a film (Hydro-Lock Vapor Barrier) where the water goes through the underlayment and does not come back up. Water will pass through the film on our AquaLayer and soak into the fibers and dry out.”
Additionally, it works the opposite way as well. For instance, if there is a wet subfloor, AquaLayer will soak that water out of the subfloor, block it in itself and dissipate it over time so the floor is not damaged.
Basically, AquaLayer is QuietWalk with a pre-attached perforated vapor barrier so the water can transfer down to the fiber. Moisture disperses throughout the pad, aggressively locking away water and allowing it to slowly dissipate to prevent damage to the flooring and substrate. The process is called Dri-Wick Technology, which is the wicking abilities of the antimicrobial-treated fibers and a perforated barrier to promote moisture dissipation and evaporation. “Fibers love water,” Collison said. “Once they take it in they don’t want to release it, allowing slow dissipation and evaporation. That’s why the water won’t go back up the other way.”