Written by
Michael Chmielecki
August 1, 2014


Selling Underlayment for Hard Surface Flooring 

Underlayment is one of those overused industry terms that carries a different meaning depending on the person with whom you are talking. It can be shorthand for carpet cushion, as well as used for the sound-abating cushion beneath hard surface options such as laminate, resilient and hardwood. It can even allude to crack isolation membranes and backer boards in the case of ceramic tile. Floor Trends spoke with several manufacturers in the segment to give retailers some basic pointers on selling the material and why it is an important part of the overall package in making the end user happy. 

Todd Hall, Cal-Flor Accessory Systems’ product development director, said when selling underlayment as part of a flooring sale, you should always take the time to review the flooring manufacturer’s requirements to ensure no warranties are being voided. “For laminates and woods, there are many choices on the market. Know which underlayments have an actual moisture barrier, what the R-values (measurement of thermal resistance) are and what the STC (Sound Transmission Class) and IIC (Impact Insulation Class) ratings are. These are all important to know and relay to the customer. Many apartments and condos have specific regulations as far as STC/IIC that must be met.”

He also recommended choosing an underlayment that performs better than the minimum default. “Simply meeting minimum requirements only works if everyone before you also met minimum requirements, nothing has changed and no one made any mistakes. That means a flat subfloor, zero moisture, perfect tongue-and-groove milling and no sound problems with the neighbor living below you. This is nearly impossible to know or guarantee; one screw-up and your minimal product doesn’t cut it. The ratio of the cost of a good underlayment relative to the overall project is just not worth scrimping on.”