When you install flooring of almost any type, an underlayment is necessary for best results. If you’re thinking about laminate flooring for your home, then an underlayment must be installed first. This thin layer of wood creates a buffer between the laminate and the subfloor, which reduces wear and tear on all the products.
One of the products developed to reduce the amount of time spent installing items like this in the home is laminate flooring with an attached underlayment. Because the extra layer is built directly into the laminate design, you can immediately install the product in a prepared flooring surface in almost any building.
When laminate flooring is installed correctly, it will give a home a look and feel of hardwood without the same expenses or ongoing maintenance concerns. Modern products look so much like hardwoods that it is difficult to tell the difference with a correctly installed product.
Laminate flooring with an attached underlayment can be a great choice. As with any type of product meant for the floor, there are specific pros and cons to consider. Here is a review of the vital issues before you start the installation process.
List of the Pros of Laminate Flooring with Attached Underlayment
1. This flooring option is effortless to install.
Laminate flooring with an attached underlayment is one of the most natural options to install in a home. Even if the room is not square, you can taper the last row on both sides to make up the difference, creating a look that is not noticeable. Make sure that your subfloor is smooth before working too since a dip in the floor will create spongy sections when walking over the laminate. Then just tap and lock the pieces in place to create the final look you want.
The average person can install about 300 square feet over the course of a single weekend. Modern laminate doesn’t require gluing like the older products. It just clicks or folds, then locks into place. It’s like putting together a puzzle in your room.
2. Trimming doesn’t require a saw when working with laminate.
If you’ve decided to install laminate flooring with an attached underlayment, then you can trim the pieces to fit with minimal difficulty. Instead of using a miter saw, the planks will trim neatly, without ragged edges, with a high-quality laminate shear. Entry-level shears cost less than $100 and are available at most national hardware and home improvement chains.
If you’re thinking about doing the work yourself, then try the 13-inch shear from Bullet Tools, which retails for about $350.
3. It is one of the cheapest floor installations available today.
The cost to install the underlayment of a laminate floor for about 500 square feet totals about $350 in the United States as of 2018. It requires a couple of hours of labor to get the job done. You can save about $100 (maybe a little more) if you do the work yourself instead of hiring a professional.
The average cost to professionally install laminate flooring is up to $8 per square foot. If you purchase laminate flooring with an attached underlayment, the final cost may be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 per square foot. Discount products may drop the price to just $0.25 per square foot.
4. Once installed, the floors are very easy to clean.
When you have laminate flooring with an attached underlayment installed in your home, cleaning it requires either a broom or a vacuum to remove debris. If you see footprints or have spilled on the floor, then a mop which is slightly damp will make it look like new. Using a laminate floor cleaner whenever possible for best results.
Some homeowners use a steam cleaner for their laminate floors, but that should be avoided. The hot vapor goes between the cracks in the floor, which causes curling and warping over time. With some laminate, the extra moisture even causes swelling. Laminate floor cleaner retails for about $0.15 per fluid ounce.
5. You can install the flooring in rooms where moisture occurs.
When the boards of your laminate flooring with an attached underlayment are tight, it will offer some water resistance. Newer options may even rate as being waterproof under specific conditions. That makes it possible to install the flooring option in kitchens, non-shower bathrooms, and other areas where topical moisture is present. You must avoid pools of standing water to get the most of your floor, however, so any place with the potential of a heavy leak should be avoided.
6. It provides the floor of your home with added strength.
Unlike wooden floors that tend to dent with impacts, the installation of laminate flooring with an attached underlayment creates a stronger surface for impacts. The design of this product features what is called a “wear layer.” It protects the photographic layer of the wood underneath the top surface. Manufacturers like DuPont give up to a 10-year warranty on this wear layer, and newer products have an even longer guarantee to enjoy.
Combined with the stain-resistant nature of the product, laminate floors are a reasonable investment to make when wanting a durable finish.
7. The flooring reproduces the look of any natural material.
Using photographic printing technologies, modern laminate flooring replicates almost any desired look. Although wood is the primary option available to consumers, you can purchase laminate that looks like stone or other natural materials today too.
You won’t have the imperfect pieces which natural products always come with either when you choose laminate flooring with an attached underlayment. The manufacturing process creates a superior consistency which is difficult to replicate otherwise.
8. Laminate floors provide an environmentally-friendly flooring solution.
When you purchase laminate flooring with an attached underlayment, what you’re getting is a synthetic product which fuses multiple layers together through lamination. The manufacturing process uses particleboard wood, which comes from the byproducts created when processing logs. This low-density fiberboard is made from sawmill shavings, wood chips, and sawdust when mixed with a resin. It is then extruded to produce the layers which are used to create the flooring. That is why this flooring option is cheaper while offering homeowners a denser floor compared to conventional wood products.
9. It will install over most other types of flooring.
A laminate floor will install over most other flooring types, especially when the underlayment comes with the product. The only exception to this rule is carpet. If you install the product on a hard floor, there may be less comfort when walking in the home without shoes on. That’s a small price to pay considering you don’t have the same tear-out costs to face as you would with other flooring options. As long as you keep the surface free of abrasive grit, your new floor will become a durable finish that you’ll enjoy for years to come.
10. Professional installation is cheaper than other floor options.
According to Home Flooring Pros, the installation of laminate flooring with an attached underlayment is much cheaper than other options, especially in the kitchen. You’ll pay an average of $4.50 per square foot with laminate, compared to the $13.50 average for ceramic tile or the $20 average for natural stone. It resists fading better than the natural options do, offers fewer defects, and features several aesthetic options to match the current look and feel of what is in your home.
11. Heavy commercial laminate is suitable for all traffic areas.
There are five different grades of laminate flooring available: AC1 through AC5. If you have heavy traffic in your home, then anything rated AC3 or above is well-suited for your needs. Even if you operate your own business at home, laminate rated at AC5 will meet your needs. Compared to other flooring options, you’ll find the investment into a robust laminate floor provides more benefits than disadvantages when installed correctly.
List of the Cons of Laminate Flooring with Attached Underlayment
1. Most options are not waterproof.
Unlike other floor types which are available today, laminate flooring with an attached underlayment does not give you waterproof protection. Although some laminate options are being created right now which will provide this option, a separate underlayment is necessary to achieve the advantage. Since most laminate uses a click-and-lock system for installation, there is a vulnerability when exposed to moisture. Over time, that creates curling of the veneer, swelling of the product, and a higher risk of damage to the home.
2. Sound absorption is not as good with this option.
When installing laminate flooring with an attached underlayment, you’re using a product which offers a thin layer of foam to absorb sound. You’ll find that footsteps are much louder with this flooring option compared to even a laminate with a separate underlayment. That thin foam layer also struggles with repetitive compression, eventually wearing out to eliminate all potential sound absorption benefits over time.
Although you can install a separate underlayment, then the laminate flooring with an attached underlayment together, you’d be spending more to get the wanted results. If you want sound deadening features, then this product may not provide the desired outcome.
3. You cannot restore the features of the laminate when it receives damage.
Laminate floors might look like hardwood, but it requires a different type of maintenance when damage occurs. Hardwood floors are capable of being sanded and refinished multiple times before a replacement becomes necessary. Each sanding and finishing chore then restores the look and feel of the flooring.
You must unlock the planks to restore the look of damaged laminate flooring with an attached underlayment. If the damage is close to a wall, then you must remove the base molding, then number each plank until reaching the damaged portion. When issues occur in the middle of the room, then you must cut out the flooring. That’s assuming the laminate wasn’t glued down in the first place.
4. Some laminate flooring looks fake.
When you purchase laminate flooring with an attached underlayment, the amount you spend matters. There are more fashionable choices with this option compared to hardwood or carpet, but it comes with some risks too. Cheap laminate often looks fake when installed. Even if the price is around $0.25 per square foot, the quality of the product will dictate how much maintenance it requires and how good it looks over time. When considering this product, invest as much as you can into it to enjoy its quality for years to come.
5. Laminate flooring can sometimes be slippery.
When installing laminate flooring with an attached underlayment, you must be careful about footing once the work is finished. The new floor will be slick, creating a slipping hazard which could lead to injuries for yourself, guests, and pets. There are several fixes, including area rugs, which are non-invasive to the floor to stop this issue. The best option, however, is to use an anti-skid treatment on the finished floor to preserve the look you worked so hard to create.
6. It will not improve the resale value of your home.
If you’re replacing old, worn-out flooring with a new laminate floor, then you might see a boost in the overall value of the home. That is the only exception to this potential disadvantage of laminate flooring with an attached underlayment. There is a general rule in real estate which dictates that laminate rarely looks good when you install more of it.
Cheap hardwood encounters the same issue. The only way to promote a substantial increase in value is to invest in top-of-the-line flooring which serves the overall needs of the house and its owner – whether that’s you or someone else. If you’re on a tight budget, look for engineered wood instead of hardwood for savings opportunities.
7. Attached underlayment is not suitable for heavy traffic areas.
Most laminate flooring with an attached underlayment will use a repurposed layer of thin foam on the underside of each locking section. Although it is cheaper than other flooring types, it does not withstand heavy traffic patterns. You’ll find that this product does not hold up well over time, often creating a “warped” look in the areas which receive the most foot traffic. If you live in a small home or want a durable product for your common traffic patterns, then look for a flooring option which offers an acceptable compression resistance.
8. Each board has its own underlayment attached to it.
The issue with laminate flooring with an attached underlayment is that each board comes manufactured with its own thin layer of padding. That saves you time during installation, but it also means you’ve got hundreds of different pieces contributing to the floor instead of one overall lower layer. Even though many laminate products are moving toward the attached underlayment design, the benefits of having a single layer under your floor are sometimes worth the extra time and cost.
With a single underlayment, your compression resistance is better. The whole floor is protected against moisture. It will absorb sound better for you. Compare the costs of both systems to ensure that the outcomes provided are the ones you require.
9. Laminate flooring must be cleaned frequently.
The one issue not always discussed with all laminate flooring options is the tendency it has to create static electricity. Even with minimal movement across the surface of the floor, the build-up is enough to create an uncomfortable contact when you touch a metal surface. The only way to prevent this issue is to clean the floor frequently. For some homeowners, that means using a laminate flooring cleaner every day. That creates a cost which begins to add up quickly.
10. The patterns of laminate flooring become quickly repetitive.
Most laminate flooring manufacturers use 10 or fewer different patterns with their boards in the sets they produce. Without prior layout planning, it is very easy to accidentally lay two boards with the same pattern next to each other. That throws off the final look of the flooring, making the room feel unnatural. Although you must get close to the floor to see this issue, it is a disadvantage which never applies to carpet or floors using natural products.
11. Flooring pieces sometimes chip or warp when they’re put together.
Improvements to laminate flooring over time have reduced this issue somewhat, but it still exists. The planks or tiles of the boards use edges and ends which snap together. That reduces the need for glue with the floor. It also eliminates the need for nails. What you will find, however, is that some pieces do not want to snap or lock together as they should. Forcing them into place, or catching an edge just right, may cause the top layer of the product to chip.
12. You still need a moisture barrier installed in specific home locations.
There are many advantages to find with laminate flooring with an attached underlayment in almost every room of the home. You will also discover that when this flooring is installed in basements or on slabs, a moisture barrier is necessary. Because the underlayment can sometimes vary from piece to piece, fitting the puzzle together to create an even floor becomes challenging. Even when you get it right, you’ll want to seal the perimeter with silicone caulk, as you would a bathroom installation, and think about gluing your edges.
The pros and cons of laminate flooring with an attached underlayment balance convenience and installation ease with long-term value and ongoing maintenance challenges. Choosing laminate over hardwood saves you money now, but it may not do so over the life of the product. It resists scratching, but it isn’t scratch-proof. Consider each point carefully, then choose the look and design that works best for your home.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.