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Underlayment: LVT requires unique product

September 14/21; Volume 30/Number 7

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 1.56.02 PMUnderlayment is an integral part of the floor covering installation process; without it a floor may reveal a “clacking” sound when walked on, feel cold and harsh underfoot or allow noise to travel from room to room. Although often taken into consideration at the last minute, choosing the right underlayment for a particular application is vital in order to achieve optimal results. “Density, stability, durability and acoustic performance all play a part in selecting the correct underlayment,” said Bas Vangenderen, managing director for InstaFloor.

Generally, end users look for a few things in an underlayment, including sound reduction, leveling of subfloor imperfections and comfort underfoot. Regarding luxury vinyl tile, some qualities are more important than others. “All underlayments are designed to meet specific needs,” said Bob Cummings, sales and marketing, hard surface, resilient and carpet tile, Pak-Lite. “Vinyl flooring underlayments are specifically designed for vinyl flooring. They need to have very high compression-set and compression-strength attributes to support the flooring joints, while also providing enhanced sound transmission attenuation.”

Because LVT is known for being a softer and more flexible product, its compatible underlayments come with different requirements than other hard surface products. “The laminate industry as represented by manufacturer members of NALFA [North American Laminate Flooring Association] helped determine standards for underlayment beneath their floors,” said Jack Boesch, director of marketing at MP Global Products, who explained that no such regulations exist for LVT underlayments.

“What might work well for one type of flooring may not work well for another,” said Duane Reimer, technical director at MP Global Products, noting that LVT underlayment can be installed under other hard surface flooring but not the other way around. Some manufacturers have addressed this by creating a product that adheres to the requirements of multiple hard surface products. For example, InstaFloor’s InstaLay 25hg is suitable for LVT and can also be used for engineered and solid hardwood as well as ceramic and porcelain tiles.

“There are no industry standards for LVT underlayment, so the characteristics that an installation requires may vary from job to job,” Reimer continued. Despite the lack of these standards, manufacturers agree the product’s most important attribute to note is its density.Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 1.56.08 PM

“LVT is a softer product than laminate, so the underlayment has to have a great deal of resilience and density vs. what may be used under a laminate floor,” said Andy Stafford, marketing manager for Healthier Choice. “[Other hard surfaces] can use foam that is soft and easy to crush. Because the potential of denting is commonplace with vinyl flooring, you need a high-density, heavy-duty material under it.” In other words, underlayment that is compatible with LVT cannot be too soft otherwise denting can occur and interlocking floating LVT tiles can uncouple.

OmniChoice by Healthier Choice is one example of a high-density acoustic underlayment with a heavy weight construction that ensures it will remain resilient and functional as an acoustic membrane, outperforming other lightweight acoustic underlayment that can crush and fail from the weight of heavy foot traffic.

Another rule of thumb to remember is underlayment for LVT must be thin. “What we’ve found in all of our testing is any underlayment thicker than 1mm tends to fail over time due to the compression characteristics necessary,” said Jeffrey Castor, national sales manager, North America, Diversified Industries. “Compared to laminate, we had to make our product half the thickness and more than twice the density in order to withstand typical LVT activity over time. Anything thicker than 1mm provides too much cushion and cannot handle the wear and tear.”

LVT is also known for its moisture resistance, a quality that makes it attractive to consumers for various spaces in a home; underlayment manufacturers have created products that don’t compromise LVT’s moisture-resistant capabilities. In fact, due to its composition, FloorMuffler LVT by Diversified Industries works as a moisture barrier without an additional film, complementing the similar attributes of LVT. It can be installed with both floating and glue-down floors and its lip-and-tape system offers a complete seal against moisture as opposed to roll-out formats that leave room for seams and tapes that aren’t moisture resistant.

Although some manufacturers recommend installing underlayment in all applications above ground level, it is not typically required under LVT unless there are sound requirements or building codes to be met. “Single-family homes normally do not have any acoustic requirements to meet,” Boesch said, “however multi-family housing such as condominiums and apartment buildings often require specific IIC or STC test scores to deaden sound between floors.”

OmniChoice Universal by Healthier Choice is specially designed to abate airborne and impact noise associated with hard surface floors. It also works to reduce noise levels as well as floor-to-ceiling sound transmission in multi-family homes.

“When it comes to underlayment for vinyl flooring, it is all about room-to-room transmission sound control,” Cummings said. “Vinyl flooring works well to dampen in-room sound, however it is poor at controlling sound transmission to the rooms below.”

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Underlayment: Sustainable solutions come in various forms

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Making sure the environment stays clean and safe remains a priority for underlayment manufacturers today, and is evident through the numerous sustainable products available in the marketplace. What most people tend to forget, however, is that creating environmentally friendly products isn’t the only way to go green; companies have taken additional steps to reduce their environmental footprints through innovative manufacturing technologies and protocol in warehouses and factories.

“Sustainability is important because the choices and actions we make today will affect the future,” said Ray Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.53.22 PMRodriguez, president and CEO of Starline Associates, whose Silent Blue product has been made from 100% biodegradable pads with an easy to remove recyclable film since its inception. “We should make decisions now that will not limit the choices of future generations.”

Manufacturers agree that the move toward sustainability saw significant growth in the recent past but has dwindled due to a new standard. “When I grew up we never worried about lead-based paint because that was what everyone used,” said Jack Boesch, director of marketing at MP Global Products. “As generations go by, more is learned about what is harmful. Years ago there wasn’t a concern for running out of space in landfills and people didn’t care what went into them. Then we found out underwater streams were being contaminated; with so many health problems out there you want to make sure you’re not contributing to it.”

Since then most manufacturers and retailers have created “green stories;” some of today’s consumers, especially millennials, have come to expect them. “I don’t believe the focus is as strong as it was two or three years ago,” said Andy Stafford, marketing manager for Healthier Choice. “A standard has been set. It’s still very important to consumers—you just don’t hear a big buzz because most manufacturers moved to meet their demand.” Healthier Choice emphasizes health and safety, along with sustainability, within the home and makes use of a renewable resource in its underlayments. By replacing a percentage of its petroleum-based polyall with a polyall made from soybeans, Healthier Choice provides sustainable, safe and healthy options for the home.

In addition to consumers, architects and designers have also come to expect green solutions from manufacturers, especially in California where requirements and standards are the strictest in the country. Most companies aim to comply with California standards so they carry throughout the rest of the states.

“The A&D community is searching more and more for green products,” Boesch said. “We found out early on that our products need to meet certain requirements to be used in multi-family projects in California. Anybody doing business there needs to be cognizant of the environmentally friendly manufacture of products and services because California leads the nation. They set the bar for sustainability, clean air, etc.”

MP Global has installed slicing and opening equipment to harvest fibers from recycled carpet that would have otherwise ended up in landfills. Waste fibers from textile manufacturers are brought in truckloads at a time to be used as raw material. The company has also pioneered a process that regrinds underlayment to reuse post-consumer fibers.

According to Stafford, the recent “60 Minutes” exposé had an affect on the underlayment segment as well as the various floor covering categories, and brought the issue of sustainability back to top-of-mind for consumers. “All of a sudden, how healthy or how safe their flooring products were became a priority for consumers. It was an eye-opener—to what is in the home, what is safe and what is not.”

Although many shoppers in general seek sustainable alternatives, performance is still the main factor in a consumer’s decision to purchase, while a higher price continues to drive some away from green options. “People care about the environment,” said Jeffrey Castor, national sales manager, North America, Diversified Industries, “but performance is still the No. 1 characteristic in terms of buying patterns.” The company’s EcoStep Ultimate contains 98% recycled content, is made in the U.S., and is offered at a price comparablScreen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.53.31 PMe to many non-green products without jeopardizing its performance benefits. “A lot of the green products on the market don’t offer the same performance values. This gives you equal performance qualities as well as the ability to use recycled content.”

Manufacturers can take simple steps to ensure their products are sustainable such as attaining third-party testing and specific certifications, information that retailers in turn must relay to the consumer. But sustainability is more than just recycled or recyclable products; for Bas Vangenderen, managing director for InstaFloor, it’s about using fewer materials and generating less waste. “Our underlayment has an adhesive layer attached. Having just one material is much better for the environment.” The company’s InstaLay is also Cradle to Cradle certified; the product is made by bonding together ground car tires found in landfills that can be recycled after use.

At Diversified Industries, employees are continually challenged to come up with ways the company can reduce its carbon footprint. In addition to offering EcoStep Ultimate, Diversified changed all of its light bulbs (throughout its offices and entire plant) to LED lighting, installed a new roof that will naturally keep the site cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, and is currently working on a $500,000 investment that will include installing magnifying skylights to make use of natural light and conserve energy.

“Artificial lighting is one of the largest sources of energy consumption in a manufacturing plant,” Castor said. “Our skylights will allow our lights to be turned off approximately 70% of the working day. This kind of investment, although costly on the front end, will not only save money in the long run but will help to save our planet for future generations.”

As far as marketing a manufacturer’s sustainability initiatives to consumers, Boesch recommends showing potential customers a product’s seals and certifications as well as educating them on what they mean (MP Global’s products contain certification seals on packaging and marketing materials). At Healthier Choice, a sample bag is used as the main marketing tool in a retailer’s showroom. The product’s features and benefits are prominently stated on the bag and more information can be found inside.

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Underlayment: The many benefits found under the surface

March 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 18

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 5.30.44 PMWhile the marketing strategies across all hard surface segments always include the benefits of each particular product, the attributes of underlayment do not seem to garner the same attention. Many individuals in the industry do consider underlayment the unsung component of a successful flooring job, yet it often remains underappreciated and undervalued.

Underlayment manufacturers believe their products are just as important as the flooring itself and implore RSAs to pass along this philosophy to end users. The many benefits of a quality underlayment can make all the difference between a positive flooring experience and disappointment.

“The phrase, ‘It’s what’s underneath that counts,’ is not just a trademarked phrase of ours, it’s the core philosophy of products,” said Giovanna Carchidi, national sales coordinator, Diversified Industries. “Consumers are looking for innovation and quality, and we’re able to deliver a complete range of products for under most hard and soft surfaces.”

Sound control

The consensus among underlayment execs is that sound control is a critical issue for end users. “One of our product’s major benefits is sound control, which means sound is not heard in the room below where a wood floor is installed, such as two or three-story residential homes, condos, apartments or other high-rise buildings,” said Jim Wink, vice president of sales and marketing of Foam Products.

Foam Products’ underlayment offerings include Eco Ultimate Silencer, Eco Silencer HD FOF and Silencer LVT. According to Wink, they are all made with high-density polyurethane memory foam, which rebounds from applied pressure and lasts the lifetime of the laminate or wood flooring. “We hear from our customers that the density does more than just help deaden sound; it enables lightweight laminates to have a solid, real wood sound.”

Also highlighting sound abatement, Duane Reimer, technical director for MP Global Products, said the company’s QuietWalk underlayment for floating wood and laminate floors offers superior acoustic benefits, quieting impact noise and footfall, and dampening ambient sound traveling to the room below.

“It’s engineered to eliminate clicking noise and makes laminate floors sound more like real wood,” he explained. “QuietWalk is made from recycled fibers that smooth out little subfloor imperfections while suppressing impact sound and floor-to-ceiling noise.”

At Healthier Choice, noise reduction technology is featured in its OmniChoice Universal acoustical underlayment for wood, luxury vinyl and tile applications. “OmniChoice is a high-density acoustic underlayment specially designed to attenuate airborne and impact noise associated with hard surface flooring,” said Andy Stafford, marketing manager. “It is effective in reducing in-room noise levels and floor-through-ceiling sound transmission, such as footsteps in multi-level structures.”

Stafford also noted that the company’s Sound Solution premium acoustical underlayment offers better sound control in laminate, engineered wood or hardwood installation. With the strength of soy-based polyurethane, it performs over time without losing thickness or its contribution to a better sounding flooring system, he explained.

Moisture protection

Another benefit of underlayment is moisture control. According to Wink, providing moisture protection from the subfloor, which has the potential to damage installed flooring, is a main focus for Foam Products as the company features moisture protection technology throughout its entire product line.

MP Global’s QuietWalk also offers exceptional moisture protection and control, Reimer cited, by featuring a 1.5 mil vapor barrier that protects the laminate from moisture coming up from below.

Healthier Choice’s OmniChoice and Sound Solution products also feature a breathable moisture barrier and vapor protection.

Durability/performance

Durability is, of course, a No. 1 priority for any product, underlayment included. At Foam Products, the durability of a high-density product that doesn’t easily collapse enables lightweight laminate floors to perform decades beyond their wear warranties, Wink noted. “The firm support/cushion allows these lightweight floors and their joints to outperform their life expectancies, delivering value far beyond the average lightweight product.”

Another benefit appreciated by Foam Products customers is the ability to roll the underlayment out and have it lie flat, which helps installers use all 100 square feet of a roll. Comparatively, lighter weight, plastic foams often have so much memory at their roll cores that it only yields 90% to 95% of installable material.

“In addition to these necessary benefits,” Wink added, “our products are environmentally friendly and several contain recycled content for LEED credits when building a green building.”

QuietWalk is made by a patented manufacturing process that features randomly air-laid filaments of various lengths that lie across one another in layers, Reimer noted. This gives the underlayment greater tensile strength than underlayment made with fibers laid only in one direction and enables the underlayment to deliver premium sound control. “Plus, there are no needle-punch holes, eliminating risk of pockets of moisture that might collect in needle-punched underlayment.”

Roberts AirGuard also provides long-lasting support and comfort, Miller said, scoring a 96% on its original thickness after seven days.

With OmniChoice, Stafford said its heavyweight construction ensures it will remain resilient and functional as an acoustic membrane, outperforming lightweight acoustic underlayments, “which crush and fail from the weight of flooring, furniture and the dynamic forces of foot traffic.”

Sustainability

With underlayment, manufacturers know that being green is important to architects, designers and consumers. MP Global is achieving a certain level of sustainability with QuietWalk, which is VOC-free, odorless, hypoallergenic, third-party certified and made from at least 94% pre-consumer recycled textile content, according to Reimer.

And over at Healthier Choice, Stafford noted that both OmniChoice and Sound Solution are UL GreenGuard Gold certified, free of harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde, latex and PBDEs, and made in part with natural resources. It is 100% recyclable and eligible for LEED credits.

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MP Global releases LuxWalk underlayment for LVF

October 27/November 3, 2014; Volume 28/Number 10

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 2.33.57 PMNorfolk, Neb.—MP Global Products recently introduced LuxWalk sound-suppressing underlayment for superior performance under floating or glue-down luxury vinyl flooring (LVF). A good match for condos, high-rise apartment complexes and anywhere else where sound control between floors and IIC and STC sound test ratings are considerations, LuxWalk is designed and engineered to soothe impact sound and floor-to-ceiling noise.

At 25⁄1000-inch thickness and featuring a smartly engineered heavy-duty design, LuxWalk adds the right amount of cushioning under LVF. It also retards movement of LVF installed over it, helping reduce abrasion of the underside of the flooring.

“LuxWalk is nice and thin, which is what you need for luxury vinyl flooring so it doesn’t buckle up,” said Deanna Summers, marketing director for MP Global. “It also has great pressure resistance, which is key to any good vinyl flooring. You need something with a nice finish that also won’t conform to bumps and imperfections in the floor.”

Because luxury vinyl can easily compress to the base on which it rests when pressure is applied to it, underlayment with good compression resistance is important. LuxWalk, which has exceptional compression resistance testing results (exceeding test machine limits), enhances LVF’s performance, minimizing impressions and indentations that can occur on the finished floor.

Made from polyethylene film that incorporates blended recycled polyester fiber—derived from soda bottles diverted from landfill—with hot-melt adhesive, LuxWalk includes 31% post-consumer recycled content, is LEED compliant and will contribute to MRc 4.1 and 4.2 credits.

Ingredients include blended recycled polyester fiber, made from  soda bottles diverted from landfills.
Ingredients include blended recycled polyester fiber, made from soda bottles diverted from landfills.

In the IIC test, designed to measure the impact sound transmission performance of a floor-ceiling assembly in a controlled laboratory environment, 4.2mm luxury vinyl planks installed over LuxWalk and 6-inch concrete with suspended ceiling achieved an impressive sound rating of 72.

In the STC test, which measures the sound-insulating property of a partition element expressed in terms of the sound transmission loss, 4.2mm luxury vinyl planks over LuxWalk and 6-inch concrete with suspended ceiling achieved a rating of 66.

Both of these ratings are appreciably higher than the ratings the IBC (International Building Code) suggests, which is 50.

LuxWalk’s sound test results provide documentation that can be shared with building inspectors who are evaluating sound suppression, whether or not the manufacturer of the flooring has independently tested for sound reduction. The underlayment also has full film coverage and carries a Water Vapor Transmission Rate of 0.273 grams per 100 square inches per day, improving the way LVF handles potentially harmful moisture.

LuxWalk is available in 3-foot x 66’8” rolls for easy installation.

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Underlayment: Suppliers strut their green stuff

May 26/June 2, 2014; Volume 27/Number 28

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 12.24.24 PMAs every area of the industry strives to become more environmentally friendly, products continue to become safer and more sustainable. When it comes to underlayment and carpet cushion, the same holds true. Whether it’s the ingredients in the offerings themselves or the way they are manufactured, cushion and underlayment companies are doing what they can to provide retailers and end users with the safest, most effective products.

Diversified Industries

“To our company, green is much more than a passing fad,” said Jeffrey Castor, vice president of sales. “Our team constantly tries to improve our efficiencies and lower our carbon footprint. Everyone is constantly forced to weigh their desire to take care of the environment versus the cost to do so. Our new product allows them to do both.”

That new product is EcoStep Ultimate, a grade fiber underlayment and moisture barrier featuring Diversified’s UltraSeal self-sealing lip and tape system. EcoStep is made from 98% recycled content, is 100% recyclable and is domestically manufactured.

“It has great compression characteristics, extremely high acoustic ratings and an unparalleled consistency with respect to thickness and density,” Castor said.

Fabricushion

According to Andrea Morris, vice president, sales/marketing, Fabricushion—producer of both carpet cushion and underlayment for hard surfaces—offers various green products, which either leverage recycled tire crumb or acoustical mineral sand. Both add to the properties of the products while furthering green mandates.

“Our products range from residential and commercial carpet cushion to LVT underlayment to other acoustical underlayment,” she said. “On top of achieving CRI approval, our products contain recycled content and are recyclable at the end of their life.”

Fabricushion’s top two lines—Cush-n-Tred and DB Cover—are both rubber-based. Cush-n-Tred features recycled tire crumb, a Textron backing and is available in carpet cushion and underlayment for hard surfaces, while DB Cover is a premium, high-density underlayment containing acoustical mineral sand. DB Cover Vinyl is a palletized product and offers stability, moisture protection and sound absorption for LVT planks or tiles.

Cush-n-Tred is an affordable green choice, Morris noted, and “with its densities and other attributes, the correct Cush-n-Tred cushion can handle a range of traffic levels and perform over radiant heated floors, above and below grade.”

MP Global Products

MP Global’s latest green product is LuxWalk, an underlayment engineered specifically for floating or glue down luxury vinyl flooring (LVF), made with 31% post-consumer recycled content. Providing full subfloor coverage and carrying impressive IIC and STC sound test ratings, LuxWalk effectively reduces impact sound and floor to ceiling noise, noted Kelly Kennedy, national sales manager.

In addition, LuxWalk is LEED compliant due to its construction with a polyethylene film that incorporates blended recycled polyester fiber (derived from soda bottles diverted from landfill) with hot-melt adhesive.

“Because denting is inherent in luxury vinyl, its underlayment has to be dense and firm enough to support the LVF and minimize any denting,” Kelly said

Vinyl Trends

For Vinyl Trends, maker of Eternity brand underlayment, sustainability is nothing new, noted president Rob Kuepfer. The company got its start by reclaiming and recycling plastic and rubber materials into new products. Over the years, the company has managed to keep millions of pounds of scrap material out of landfills across North America.

Most notable from the company’s portfolio is Zero VOC foam formulation, which is the first and only zero VOC underlayment, he noted. “Eternity does not off gas harmful chemicals, and it creates a barrier between the subfloor and the room, while many traditional subfloor materials contain numerous chemical compounds including formaldehyde, which often migrate into the living space.”

Also, Eternity is a natural microbe inhibitor, so Vinyl Trends does not need to add any antimicrobial chemicals.

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Promoting the value of underlayment

Volume 27/Number 21; March 3/10, 2014

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 11.16.50 AMThe industry has been promoting warranties for hard surface flooring products for what seems like forever. Warranties are a major selling point and a way of letting potential customers know the manufacturer stands behind its product. In-store, warranties are usually featured in POP signage and are always top of mind with savvy retail associates.

With that said, shouldn’t the same methods of warranty promotion be applied to what lies underneath flooring? When it comes to underlayment, what are the most effective ways for potential buyers to learn about its benefits? What attributes should be prominently supported? Continue reading Promoting the value of underlayment

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Comfort priority for cushion, underlayment manufacturers

September 2/9 2013; Volume 27/number 10

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 4.57.16 PMToday’s underlayment and cushion manufacturers are currently focused more than ever on comfort. Whether it’s cushion for broadloom or underlayment for hard surface flooring, mills are producing quality product using state-of-the-art technology with end users’ comfort being top of mind. Continue reading Comfort priority for cushion, underlayment manufacturers

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Silence is music to the ears of underlayment producers

How they create serenity while adhering to regulations

by Lou Iannaco

In acting as the ambassador of silence in the flooring industry, reliable underlayment is crucial, especially in multi-family and office environments. Underlayment producers strengthen their reputations and help make sales by keeping things quiet.

How exactly is underlayment manufactured? What needs to be done to create the best product and reduce noise? How does technology play a role in the world of underlayment? Continue reading Silence is music to the ears of underlayment producers

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Underlayment suppliers keep surfaces dry, headaches to a minimum

by: Louis Iannaco

Volume 26/Number 21; March 4/11, 2013

When it comes to installation problems, professionals from across the industry always sing the same tune and lament the same culprit: moisture. The quest to develop the latest solutions in order to abate and prevent moisture from seeping up through subfloors continues.

The first order of business is identifying the issues at hand understanding why they happen. This research leads to solutions and methods of attacking the problem.

At QEP, marketing manager Leslie Del Pozo described how moisture problems in homes come in many forms—from leaks in the roof to below-grade situations where water comes through the walls and, of course, the capillary effect through subfloors (concrete as a prime example) and other such high moisture subfloor situations (exposed crawl space, etc). Continue reading Underlayment suppliers keep surfaces dry, headaches to a minimum

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Underlayment: The softening of hard surface flooring

by Louis Iannoco

Every salesperson in the industry should know the importance of underlayment on the soft surface side, but with more and more hard surface products gaining popularity and market share, the emphasis and focus have shifted.

But what exactly should sales associates know when it comes to underlayments and hard surfaces? Does it really make a difference what is used beneath them? Continue reading Underlayment: The softening of hard surface flooring