Concrete floors are common in modern-day buildings due to their durability and versatility. However, they can pose unique challenges, especially when it comes to comfort and noise. This is where the right underlay comes into play.
Underlay can transform a cold, hard concrete floor into a comfortable, quiet surface suitable for any flooring type laid on top.
Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about concrete subfloors, including how to alleviate some of the issues that go hand in hand with them, and the best underlays for concrete floors.
In this guide
Concrete floor properties
Concrete subfloors are known for their strength, which makes them an excellent foundation for various types of flooring. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that concrete is inherently hard and cold, susceptible to moisture ingression, and can contribute to elevated noise levels, especially in apartment blocks.
With that in mind, any underlay you install should look to combat these issues to help create a more comfortable living environment.
Underlay requirements for concrete floors
When choosing underlay to lay over concrete, these key features will help negate the downsides of this type of subfloor:
Moisture protection: concrete can absorb and retain moisture, which can then seep into and damage your flooring if it’s not protected. An underlay with a built-in damp proof membrane (DPM) or vapour barrier is crucial to prevent water damage to wood or laminate flooring, especially in basements or ground floors.
Thermal insulation: concrete floors are typically cold and uninviting. An underlay with good thermal insulation properties (i.e. a high TOG value) will help your floor feel warmer and much more comfortable underfoot.
Sound absorption: concrete can amplify sound, leading to echo and noise issues. To soundproof your floor, look for an underlay with a high sound reduction rating (measured in decibels) to help alleviate impact noise from footsteps and the like.
Cushioning and comfort: a thick, soft underlay will add a welcome level of cushioning to hard concrete subfloors. This is particularly important in spaces designed for relaxing such as living rooms.
Durability: concrete is hard and unforgiving, so your underlay needs to be durable enough to withstand the pressure and wear of daily foot traffic without compressing or degrading too quickly. For this, look for a high density figure (100kg/m³ and above).
Types of underlay suitable for concrete floors
Considering the above, these are the best types of underlay for concrete floors:
Crumb rubber underlay: crumb rubber is dense and hard-wearing (it’s made from recycled car tyres after all) with natural moisture resistance.
It’s also extremely durable and provides a good level of cushioning, making it a go-to choice in commercial environments or areas with high foot traffic, like your stairs.
Foam underlay: made primarily using recycled offcuts from sofas, mattresses and the like, foam underlay is spongey and will create a comfortable cushioning effect over any subfloor.
The most popular type of underlay on the market, it comes in a variety of thicknesses and densities to suit various flooring needs and budgets, so there’s an option for every space.
Sponge rubber underlay: this modern form of underlay sees sponge mixed with rubber to create a product that offers the best of both worlds. You get the cushioning, insulating and sound-reducing properties of sponge (the natural air pockets help with this) alongside the durability of rubber.
Many of the best laminate underlays are made from sponge rubber and will even incorporate an integrated vapour barrier, saving you from having to install a separate damp-proof membrane. An ideal choice for any concrete subfloor.
The best laminate underlays for concrete floors
The most important thing to consider when laying laminate or wood flooring over a concrete subfloor is moisture. Any moisture absorbed or released by the concrete can seep into the boards and quickly cause them to warp or degrade, reducing the lifespan of your flooring.
Therefore, the best laminate underlays will incorporate an in-built DPM or vapour barrier to stop this from occurring.
Another consideration with hardwood flooring is whether you have underfloor heating pipes installed in your subfloor. If this is the case, you’ll require an underlay with a low TOG value to allow heat to transfer efficiently into the room.
Here are three of our favourites:
Heaflow Wood & Laminate: designed specifically to be used with underfloor heating systems, Heatflow has a TOG rating of just 0.35, which allows the warmth generated by underfloor heating to pass quickly into the room. The revolutionary product manages to do this without sacrificing comfort or density, offering excellent support and cushioning for your flooring.
Duralay Silentfloor Gold: does what it says on the tin. ‘Silentfloor’ is a market-leading acoustic underlay for laminate and hardwood flooring, proven to reduce in-room noise by up to 30%. This is particularly welcome if you have a concrete subfloor, which can increase impact sound. Not only that, this product also contains an in-built DPM to help prevent moisture ingression from your subfloor and is extremely dense, offering excellent cushioning while increasing the lifespan of your flooring.
Duralay Timbermate: our bestselling laminate underlay, and for good reason. Made from highly dense sponge rubber, it offers a comfortable feel underfoot and will prevent any moisture damage thanks to its integrated Vapourstop barrier. It will also help reduce in-room noise by 30%, is antimicrobial and mildew resistant, and compatible with underfloor heating systems. A true all-around great product.
The best carpet underlays for concrete floors
When installing carpet moisture from the subfloor isn’t as big a concern. Instead, you’re going to want to up the thickness and comfort factor to counteract concrete’s cold, hard surface. A high TOG value and sound reduction rating are other must-haves.
Here are three carpet underlays that fit the bill:
Tredaire Dreamwalk: this premium underlay from Tredaire is one of our thickest at 11mm, providing exceptional comfort without sacrificing durability. An extremely insulating underlay, it keeps the noise out (44dB) and heat in (3.13 TOG), punching well above its price tag. The definition of affordable luxury.
Tredaire Softwalk: for those on a budget and searching for an underlay that can installed throughout the home, including on the stairs, look no further. Softwalk is 9mm thick yet offers a sumptuously comfortable feeling underfoot, all while managing to deliver exceptional heat retention (2.69 TOG) and sound reduction (41dB). Pound for pound it will compete with any other product.
Plushwalk 12mm: visitors will have no idea there’s a cold, hard concrete floor underneath Plushwalk, which boasts a whopping 12mm thickness to go alongside its market-leading thermal insulation (3.50 TOG) and sound reduction (49dB). A true luxury product that will add the wow factor to any living space.
Need help choosing the right underlay?
Hopefully this guide has armed you with the knowledge to make a confident purchase.
If you’re still unsure what would be the best underlay for your project, please get in touch with our expert team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be more than happy to help.