We often get asked about whether underlay and insulation are the same thing so today we’re shedding some light on the answer: In short, no, underlay and insulation are completely different materials that serve different purposes.
For starters, if installed correctly, underlay and insulation should not occupy the same place and can happily co-exist. This is because insulation is designed to go underneath your subfloor and is laid when your home is being constructed. Underlay, on the other hand, is laid over the subfloor, underneath your chosen flooring option. It is also only required for certain types of flooring, whereas insulation is recommended for all homes.
Secondly, while insulation exists to help keep warmth in (or out depending on the season) underlay serves a range of purposes depending on the type that you install.
At the most basic level, underlay exists to provide a suitable base for your new flooring. There are different types of underlay available for carpet and floating flooring and each one will serve a specific purpose as outlined in the product description. For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on underlay for floating floors as that is what we sell here at Imagine Floors by Airstep.
The great thing about underlay is that, in addition to providing a suitable base for your new flooring, it can also provide additional benefits depending on the type that you buy. This will also be explained in the product description for each option that you are considering, but in general, you can expect some of the below options:
Underlay can act simply as a moisture barrier to protect your new flooring from anything that may rise up through your subfloor, or you can look into more advanced options which can help improve air quality and dampen sounds. Some underlays may also provide thermal protection, although it is important to note that because it is installed over the subfloor, rather than underneath it, it will never provide quite the same level of assistance in this department as purpose built, properly installed insulation.
If you have any further questions about underlay or would like to make a purchase, please contact your local flooring expert.