Which Substrate Under The Laminate is Better, Types & Properties

In the repair of apartments, flooring plays an important role. The comfort of those living in the house depends on the right choice and quality of laying the material. Laminate has many advantages, it boasts an affordable price, which makes it the undisputed leader among flooring. However, poor-quality substrate can negate all the advantages of even the most expensive panels. In the article, we will consider which substrate under the laminate is better and why.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

The substrate is necessary for the proper laying of the laminate.

The main functions of the substrate under the laminate

The house is a place where you want to relax after a hard day’s work, to feel peace and tranquility. But how to do this if extraneous sounds interfere with your rest all the time? Surrounded by neighbors on all sides, we are forced to endure certain inconveniences. However, this problem has a solution associated with laying an additional layer under the floor covering. We will try to figure out what functions the substrate under the laminate performs, what to choose and how to lay it correctly?

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

A substrate is laid on the prepared floor, and then the laminate is laid


When walking around the apartment, the sound of steps is heard quite loudly. This can cause inconvenience to both you and your neighbors. Such poor sound insulation is associated with two characteristics of the laminate: the thickness of the panel and the method of laying it.

The standard thickness of a laminated board is 8 mm. And this is not much at all, given the load she has to withstand. In this case, the laying method is mainly used floating, which creates an additional membrane for transmitting sound. Nevertheless, this problem can be solved by laying an additional substrate, which has good sound insulation.

Many manufacturers provide the laminate with a backing by gluing it to the back of each board. However, such a convenient addition is found mainly in coatings of classes 32 and 33. The thickness of the laminate with the substrate is greater, respectively, and the price of such a product is much higher. Therefore, the decision to lay the substrate with your own hands is a good way not to overpay. It will be much better to choose and purchase a substrate that is most suitable for you in terms of its characteristics.

Helpful advice! Pay attention to the marking of the substrate to be purchased. It is on the packaging that the manufacturer indicates all the characteristics of the material.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

The sheet substrate is easily cut with a clerical knife

Additional surface leveling

Another important function that the substrate performs is to smooth out irregularities that are present on the screed used for flooring. Unfortunately, no matter how you try to level the floor to the ideal state, small differences will still remain. But even such modest deviations in a few months can negatively affect the laminate .

Any deviations and differences in the base cause “backlash” to appear between the panels and the concrete screed. Simply put, the coating sags in places where the gap is as large as possible. And although it seems that a few millimeters is not a problem, in reality it will be quite noticeable on the floor surface both externally and when walking.

The solution to this problem also lies in laying the substrate. High-quality and correctly laid material allows you to hide flaws and achieve an almost perfectly flat surface of the subfloor. However, there are also pitfalls here – you should not assume that the thicker the material, the better it will level the surface.

The optimum thickness of the substrate for the laminate is 3 mm. If you choose a material with a larger thickness, this can lead to the fact that in the joints of the planks, deflections are formed. It can also negatively affect the health of the locks between the panels.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Laminate backing can smooth out minor base defects

Moisture insulation

Everyone knows that the laminate is a rather capricious material and does not tolerate the effects of water. However, care for the safety of the coating is necessary even before it is laid. First of all, the concrete screed prepared for laying the laminate should dry thoroughly before being used as a base. Sometimes this process takes up to one month. Here you should not rush to do everything as soon as possible, otherwise condensation may accumulate between the dry surface and the laminate .

Helpful advice! To understand if the screed is dry, leave a plastic bag on the floor in the evening. If the package remained dry by morning, it means that the base is completely dry. If condensation occurs, you will have to wait a little longer.

In this case, the substrate performs a moisture-protective function, maintaining a microclimate for both the concrete screed and the back of the laminate.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

The substrate under the laminate should have high moisture protective properties

Thermal insulation

In addition to the fact that the substrate itself performs insulating properties, retaining heat in the room and preventing it from being consumed through concrete, the laminate itself is also a fairly warm coating. Thus, a combination of high-quality coating and the right substrate provide a warm floor that does not need to be supplemented.

As for the installation of heating systems, they do not always turn out to be effective, because, being between two heat-insulating materials, they cannot fully reveal their capabilities. Much more appropriate to combine them with tile or other “cold” material.

Which laminate backing is better: material requirements

Based on the foregoing, it becomes clear that laying the substrate under the laminate is a necessary measure. And here it remains only to choose which material to give preference to. The cost of quality rolled materials is quite high, so before you make a purchase you must carefully weigh the pros and cons of each option. Otherwise, chasing a lower cost, you run the risk of soon encountering problems with poor-quality paving.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Laminate underlay provides additional floor insulation

Which laminate backing is better to use? Consider what are the requirements for the substrate, and what criteria should be followed when choosing the best flooring:

  • the material used must be neutral and not react with alkaline compounds;
  • bactericidal properties also play an important role;
  • it must have good thermal insulation properties;
  • to be moisture resistant;
  • the substrate should not be a breeding ground for insects, rodents and bacteria;
  • should contribute to the withdrawal of accumulated moisture;
  • should provide a reduction in the load to which the laminate locks are exposed when walking.
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Focusing on these indicators, you can independently choose a substrate for the laminate. How to do it right – we will consider further.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Choosing a substrate for a laminate – do not save, and then the floor covering will serve you for many years

Types of substrates for a laminate: which one to choose?

A wide selection of materials recommended for use as a substrate can be confusing. And figuring out which option is better is not easy. Therefore, the first thing you should pay attention to is the condition of the concrete screed, prepared as a basis. For a flat and high-quality surface, a substrate of 2 mm will fit perfectly. And if the base is flawed, it is better to level it using a material 3 mm thick.

Helpful advice! Many manufacturers recommend using a substrate of the same company as the laminate. In reality, it does not matter, and absolutely any quality material will do.

Today, among the most popular types of substrates for a laminate, one can distinguish: polyethylene foam, polystyrene foam, combined, coniferous, as well as cork and bitumen-cork. Consider each of these options and try to conclude which of these options is the most high-quality and profitable.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

When choosing a substrate, you need to focus on the recommendations of the laminate manufacturer

Polyethylene foam backing

Due to the high rates of thermal insulation and moisture resistance, polyethylene foam substrates are very popular. Their synthetic nature provides protection against the appearance of rodents and harmful insects under the laminate. Cutting and stacking such material is very easy.

Some manufacturers produce polyethylene foam substrates, additionally equipped with another layer of metal film. Such foil materials are manufactured using aluminum. This option could be the perfect solution, if not for its lifespan. It is limited to several years, after which the material begins to sag and lose its original shape.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Foamed polyethylene foam roll backing

Cork backing

Cork roll or sheet substrate under the laminate perfectly copes with the function assigned to it. Why is it worth buying a cork underlay for a laminate? Among the advantages of this option can be noted:

  • excellent heat and sound insulation characteristics;
  • non-susceptibility of material to rotting processes, as well as the appearance of mold;
  • convenient dimensional parameters for installation;
  • considerable service life without loss of their quality characteristics;
  • the possibility of using together with the ” warm floor ” system and floating floors.

    types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Cork substrate is sheet and roll. The latter is also available with a foil layer.

The main disadvantage of cork under the laminate is the price. Especially when it comes to laying an inexpensive laminate with a fairly limited lifespan. Also, this material is characterized by the appearance of condensate on the back of the laminate, which can adversely affect its condition.

Bitumen-cork substrate

As a basis for the manufacture of this material, kraft paper with the addition of bitumen is used. A layer of cork chips consisting of elements 2-3 mm long is laid on top of such a base. The positive side of the use can be called ensuring proper sound insulation, as well as high-quality protection against moisture.

This is one of the best materials in terms of air exchange and preventing condensation. The only thing worth noting is the use of such a high-quality and expensive substrate with a simple and cheap laminate is simply not practical. This option is more suitable for laying long-lasting and expensive coatings.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Laying laminate on cork

Styrofoam backing

Another common version of a substrate for a laminate is polystyrene foam. A film made from extruded polystyrene foam has the best characteristics when it comes to the stability of the coating to various kinds of loads. This material is indispensable for rooms that are actively used and, as a result, have an increased load on the laminate . Moreover, the film perfectly aligns all the irregularities of the concrete base.

The elasticity and initial thickness of this material can persist for many years, and the ability to absorb vibrations when walking makes the laminated coating virtually silent. The cellular structure of expanded polystyrene provides high moisture resistance and prevents condensation. As a substrate for a laminate, polystyrene is an inexpensive and very high-quality option.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Polystyrene foam structure

Coniferous underlay under the laminate

Almost all the proposed materials cannot boast a high level of environmental friendliness. However, there are exceptions among them. The coniferous underlay under the laminate is made of wood and by nature leaves behind all other materials. Due to the porous structure, such a substrate copes well with the sound insulation function, while providing a semi-natural air exchange.

Installation also does not present any problems even for a beginner. After reading about the coniferous underlay for laminate flooring reviews, you will see hundreds of satisfied owners who provided their home with a reliable and environmentally friendly floor.

The only thing that can cause difficulty is the price of the material. The production of coniferous substrate is not cheap and, most likely, you will have to pay a lot for such a purchase. But if you consider in detail all the pros and cons of a coniferous substrate for a laminate, then you can make sure that it is worth it.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

The coniferous substrate must be laid diagonally

Combo Substrates

The combination substrate is based on a combination of synthetic materials such as polyethylene and polystyrene foam. The brightest representative of this type of substrate for a laminate is Tuplex. Many have seen her more than once, or at least heard of her. Externally, the combined substrate is two layers of polyethylene, between which a layer of polystyrene foam balls is located. This structure provides good air exchange.

Such a “sandwich” is sold mainly in rolls and has a standard thickness of 2-3 mm. Two layers of polyethylene have different characteristics: the top does not allow water to penetrate to the base of the floor, and the bottom, on the contrary, passes moisture from the concrete base to the balls. From there, due to the presence of technological gaps, condensate is discharged out.

The advantages of the combined substrate can also include high strength, flexibility, the ability to hide defects in the concrete base and maintain its original thickness throughout the entire service life.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Foil laminate backing

How to lay a substrate under a laminate

High-quality laying of the substrate under the laminate can be done independently. No unusual construction tools are also needed. All you need is to strictly adhere to the algorithm of actions. After all, the timing and quality of service of your flooring will depend on how accurately you follow all the recommendations.

Read more:  What Makes Cork Engineered Parquet so Special?

Preparatory work

Before laying the substrate under the laminate, it is necessary to clean and prepare the base. It is best to use a construction vacuum cleaner for this . So the screed will avoid unnecessary contact with water. You can cut the selected material using a construction knife or conventional scissors. To simplify the task, all measurements can be transferred to the substrate using a simple pencil or marker.

Note! If you are dealing with an uneven concrete surface, it is strictly forbidden to lay several layers of the substrate.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Laying scheme for the sheet substrate under the laminate

What thickness to choose a substrate for the laminate – you decide. This largely depends on the quality of the preparation of the base, as well as the necessary heat and sound insulation characteristics of the layer.

If you do not follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on what the thickness of the substrate should be for the laminate of the brand you selected, then soon you will encounter a deflection of the floor while walking, as well as the fact that the locks on the panels begin to break one after another.

Basic work on laying the substrate

The first and most important rule of laying the substrate under the laminate is to place it in the opposite direction to the one in which the laminate will lie . This requirement is due to the risk that in the future, with careless movement, part of the floor may move out of place.

The second thing to remember is that the backing must be wound onto the walls. So you provide the coating with greater reliability and extend its life.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Bonding joints between sheets of substrate

Helpful advice! Never use a substrate that has damage. It is better to replace this area immediately than to encounter problems after the entire laminate has been laid.

Another important point is to figure out which side to lay the substrate under the laminate. If you are dealing with a relief film, then it must be laid with the corrugated side down. Due to this, you can better eliminate defects in the base. If you are working with material based on aluminum, then it should always be located on top.

After the substrate is laid over the entire surface of the floor, you can safely proceed with the installation of the laminated coating. If something remains incomprehensible in the process of laying the substrate under the laminate – video clips will always help you figure out what and how to do it right.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

The scheme of flooring roll substrates

Rating of laminate substrates: 5 best options

As in any other field, there are leaders and outsiders in construction. And thinking about which substrate to choose for the laminate, I want to understand which manufacturers are the best in this business. Consider the 5 most popular and at the same time high-quality substrates that meet all the selection criteria.

Premium Cork Underlay

High workmanship and material strength have been tested for years. The substrate does not deform. Extremely low thermal conductivity allows you to effectively warm the floors with it, even in fairly cool rooms. Ideal for children or living rooms, where floors have to withstand significant loads.

The only drawback is that Cork is not designed to level the base with its help. Such a substrate requires a quality base and waterproofing.

The guaranteed operational period is 25 years, the country of origin is Spain, the average price for 1 m² is 90 rubles. with a thickness of 2 mm, and 145 rubles. with a thickness of 3 mm.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Premium Cork backing manufacturer guarantees a product life of at least 20 years

Parkolag backing

Combines all the necessary qualities and provides natural ventilation of the floor. Like the first option, it is not subject to deformation. The only drawback of this product is that it cannot be used together with the “warm floor” system. However, this does not matter, because the high-quality composition itself provides such thermal insulation that additional heating is simply not needed. In addition, the substrate is not affected by fungus, mold, etc.

Country producer – Russia. With a thickness of this bitumen-cork substrate for a 3 mm laminate, the price will be 95 rubles / m².

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Parkolag bitumen-cork substrate structure

Substrate Isoplaat Startfloor Barlinek

Variant of the substrate, ideal for arranging a “warm floor” system. For laying under the laminate, you can choose a product with a thickness of 4, 5, 6 and 7 mm. The flooring of this brand is able to withstand the load of heavy furniture without deformation and damage.

The material responds well to heating, while it has all the characteristics necessary for an ideal substrate: sound and heat insulation, natural air circulation, condensate drainage and resistance to damage by fungi and mold. The average cost of this option is also pleasantly pleasing – 55 rubles / m².

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Fiber-wood backing for Isoplaat Startfloor Barlinek laminate

Tuplex backing

The technical characteristics of this material meet all the requirements for a quality substrate. It has very high noise insulation qualities. It has a low compression ratio (compared to foamed materials – up to 14 times less) and, as a result, retains its shape and keeps the laminate in a stable state.

As mentioned earlier in the article, this substrate perfectly absorbs moisture thanks to its device, and provides natural air circulation.

Among the shortcomings is only the fact that using Tuplex together with the “warm floor” system is irrational. And yet this is one of the most popular substrates of domestic production, which costs about 99 rubles / m².

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

The granulated “breathing” Tuplex laminate substrate

Isolon PES Substrate

Inexpensive substrate with quite acceptable characteristics, including heat and sound insulation. This option is often used in public places where price plays a decisive role. Isolon is not subject to deformation, does not burn and has increased resistance to moisture.

In addition, the manufacturer indicates its service life of 25 years, which is quite a lot for a material with such a cost. With a thickness of 2 mm, the price is only 35 rubles / m². Country of origin Russia.

types properties technical characteristics substrate under laminate

Isolon with a foil layer is one of the most popular types of substrates.

Summing up, we can say that it is up to you to decide which substrate for a laminate is better. It all depends on the goals that you pursue and the characteristics of the material that are decisive for you. Also, a lot depends on whether you plan to lay the substrate under the laminate with your own hands or with the help of specialists. As practice shows, a high-quality substrate is easy to lay on its own, plus it will provide a long service life even to the simplest and most inexpensive laminate.



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