What’s the Difference Between an Underlay and a Subfloor?

What’s the Difference Between an Underlay and a Subfloor? - TimberTown - Flooring Experts Calgary

Many Albertan homeowners have heard the terms underlay and subfloor, but unless they work in the flooring or wood industry, they might not know what those words refer to. We’ve even met people who used them interchangeably! But an underlay and a subfloor aren’t the same thing; they have very different jobs and your new floor likely needs both!

Underlays come in a variety of materials depending on the type of floor being place on top, but they all generally perform the same basic functions. Your underlay helps to keep things soundproofed and protects your floor from moisture. When placed under carpeting, the underlay will be spongy and absorb any water. When used with lino or laminated wood, the underlay creates a vapour barrier that protects the floor. Often, underlays also offer cushioning and comfort. Because underlays come in so many varieties and most types of floor need a specific one, it’s important to talk with the experts and make sure you’ve chosen correctly.

Subfloors go between your flooring choice and the structure components of your floor. When you walk across a room, it’s the subfloor that offers the strength and support you feel underfoot. It is the bottom most structural component, and it is generally hidden beneath a decorative, finished floor covering (such as carpet, hardwood, tile, etc). Typically, a subfloor is made from two layers of moisture resistant plywood, but in higher end homes or when the flooring covering is particularly heavy, three layers will be used instead.

Basically, subfloors are a structural part of your home that provide strength and rigidity to your home’s flooring. Underlays, on the other hand, protect your floor covering from moisture, help soundproof your floor, and offer cushioning and comfort underfoot. You can think of your floor like a sandwich cookie. The subfloor is the bottom cookie, the underlay is the creamy-middle, and your decorative flooring covering is the top cookie.

Planning on renovating your floor? TimberTown’s professionals have all the know-how you need. We can help you choose the floor covering that’s best for your home and life, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know to install it yourself — alternatively, our experts can do the hard work while you relax. Have a flooring question? Looking for a flooring expert in Alberta? TimberTown is here to help! Come into the TimberTown location closest to you today!

View our underlayment and subfloor options here.

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