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The Difference Between the Subfloor and Underlayment

Rosie Valdez
June 15, 2015

If you are getting your floors redone or thinking about doing some remodeling, there are some things you need to know about the flooring process, specifically about the subfloor and underlayment and their roles in waterproof flooring. While both are important to the overall flooring project, they play very different roles. The subfloor is the bottom most structure of the floor. It provides a flat and stable surface and supports the actual floor. Underlayment is different from the subfloor in that it rests between the subfloor and the actual floor. Resting on top of the subfloor, it acts as a protective barrier and is meant to absorb any roughness or imperfections of the subfloor. Underlayments help to provide extra support to the actual floor.While there are different types of subfloors, the most common type is made from plywood. This is because it is straight, flat and relatively strong. It is also cheap and while it is not waterproof, it can resist sharp changes in humidity. Plywood also can become water resistant by purchasing a moisture barrier. Hardboard is also used as a subfloor. Hardboard is a material that is formed from tightly packed wood fibers. While hardboard provides a smooth and hard surface and is good in resiliency, it is not good to use in areas of moisture such as basements or bathrooms.There are different types of underlayments and they are used for specific purposes. When dealing with hardwood floors, a standard foam underlayment is the most popular choice. Standard foam works best when moisture will not be a factor, as it does not deal well with moisture. You can however pair it with a moisture barrier. Cork is another popular underlayment material, though it tends to be expensive. Cork should be used if you desire noise reduction between floors. Both subfloors and underlayments are extremely important aspects of the flooring process. The more you know, the better your project will turn out.