We are committed to researching, testing, and recommending the best products. We may receive commissions from purchases made after visiting links within our content. Learn more about our review process.
Many people put a lot of time and effort into finding the right flooring for a new room renovation. The choice of hardwood, carpet, vinyl and tile flooring is one that requires some research and consideration. The choice for what to put underneath the flooring, however, is sometimes overlooked. The right underlayment is crucial for keeping a new floor strong, silent, level and protected from harm.
01 of 07
Best Overall Underlayment: Roberts Airguard
The best underlayment has to do a lot of things at once. First and foremost, it must serve as a protective barrier to keep dirt and moisture from damaging the subfloor underneath. For some flooring materials, it also should act as a dampener to reduce noise and promote comfort while walking on the floor. The Roberts Airguard underlay is the top pick since it can handle both tasks with ease.
The underlayment comes in rolls of 40" x 30' with a maximum coverage area of 100 square feet. The underlay seals out moisture using a patented air flow design. Antimicrobial filters are included to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria from damaging the flooring and subfloor. Best used with laminate and engineered woods, the underlay will reduce sound and provide extra cushioning as well.
02 of 07
Best Budget Underlayment: TrafficMASTER Standard
You may consider budget underlayment options if you have a larger floor surface to cover. Some budget options sacrifice extra protection from moisture, mildew or bacteria for a lower cost, but the best give you the protection you need. The TrafficMASTER Standard underlay rivals many more expensive underlay products at a price point that is more budget friendly.
Coming in rolls of 25' x 4', the TrafficMASTER Standard is thinner than other underlayment options, making it ideal for wood floors. Made of polyethylene foam, the underlay works to reduce noise and provide extra flexibility to keep wood panels from damage after extended use. The underlay unrolls quickly and lays flat for easy installation.
03 of 07
Best For Hardwood Underlayment: Floorlot Laminate Flooring
Hardwood floors require extra support to survive the standard abuse of foot traffic. Alone, wood floorboards will flex, squeak, and potentially crack under the weight of a person. Underlayment like the Floorlot Laminate Flooring underlay needs to be flexible enough to absorb the impact of footsteps without turning the floor into an exercise mat.
At three mm thick, the underlayment provides extra cushion and protection for wood floors that may otherwise be more fragile under normal use. The barrier includes moisture, mold and mildew resistant properties to protect the flooring and subfloors from long-term, costly damage. The sheets contain an overlap for easy taping to anchor down the underlay quickly during the installation process.
04 of 07
Best Underlayment For Tile: Schluter-Ditra XL
Unlike hardwood floors where a bit of flexibility is desired, tile surfaces need rigidity. The combination of tiles and grout would break up over time with a flexible underlay. Therefore, denser, more solid materials like Schluter-Ditra XL’s rubber underlay are the best choice for providing a solid foundation to keep the floor protected.
The XL’s rubber structure forms a grid pattern that keeps weight down while still providing the rigidity necessary for tiled surfaces. This will prevent the surface from deforming or cracking after extended use. Each roll provides 175 square feet of coverage and comes with a layer of vapor management to keep moisture from getting trapped underneath the tile surface.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Best Underlay For Vinyl: HomeDepot Plywood Underlayment
Vinyl tiling is a popular alternative to ceramic tiles that replicate the overall look and feel while offering more stability and durability. Vinyl tiles differ from ceramics since they are more flexible with a slightly larger degree of “give.” It is also a good choice for affordable underlayment where a single 1/4” layer of plywood will suffice.
HomeDepot’s Plywood Underlayment are large sheets of four by eight-foot plywood. The wood is easy to handle and cut for abnormally shaped rooms. Thin enough to be cut with a utility knife, each sheet still provides enough rigidity for vinyl surfaces while preserving the necessary amount of cushion for comfortable walking. Resistant to warping and moisture, this is a great choice for bathrooms and kitchens where water is abundant.
06 of 07
Best Underlayment For Sound Absorption: DMX 1-Step Air Gap
Hardwood and laminate floors produce a lot of noise which can become an issue in larger rooms and spaces with echoing acoustics. The right underlay can help reduce this noise using sound absorption properties that dampen footsteps and provide more flex with each step. The DMX 1-Step Air Gap underlay takes a unique approach to sound absorption using pockets of air.
The 100 square foot rolls unfold to reveal sheets of bubble-like underlay. Each dimple forms a pocket of air that improves sound dampening and cushioning for extra protection and comfort. A heavy-duty plastic shapes the underlay and protects the underlying foam from damage and moisture. The underlay itself has the same standard of mildew and mold protection as traditional options with the additional perks of being lighter.
07 of 07
Best Environmentally Friendly Underlayment: QEP Cork
As with all building materials, most underlay options can take a toll on the environment with nonrenewable sources. For environmentally conscious individuals, a better, renewable alternative is the QEP Cork underlay. Cork has become a popular building material in recent years since it combines great strength, durability and looks with renewability.
Each roll of cork offers 200 square feet of coverage, making it a great option for those with a tight budget as well. In addition to the typical sound reduction and moisture protection, cork is great at repelling termites and insects. For installation, you can either glue the underlay down or simply rest it on top of the subfloor with tape support. The underlay works best on solid subfloors like cement.