Some of you may be confused about the necessity of underlayment for a tile floor. If you’re one of those people, then this article is going to be a good one for you. My name is William Baker, and today I’m going to answer the question; do you need underlayment for tile floor?
You may know that underlayment is a supportive flooring material that goes underneath a finished floor or lies between a subfloor and tile. It can protect your subfloor and tiles from cracks, prevent them from growing moisture, and enhance the longevity of your floor.
A good quality underlayment makes the floor more rigid by providing a water-stable base. It’s usually made out of foam, felt, cork, rubber, rubber cork, and other types of materials. You’ll also find a variety of underlayment options for accomplishing different purposes.
If you still want to know how necessary underlayment is for a tile floor, fortunately, we’re here at Home Cosmetica to provide you with an excellent guide to clear all your confusion. In this article, we’ll find out the reasons why underlayment is essential for a tile floor.
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Do You Need Underlayment for Tile Floor?
If you’re going to install tiles on your floor, then you shouldn’t forget underlayment. It’s a material that can make a tile project lasts for years. According to most tile installation experts, it’s like an insurance policy that provides benefits in the long run.
Installing tiles without underlayment may cause unexpected cracks in your concrete slab. The cracked slab can weaken grout and thin-set and so loose tiles. So, you shouldn’t tile directly to the subfloor or concrete floor.
Why Underlayment Matters to a Tile Installation Project?
You’re probably be wondering why you should use tile underlayment before you install tiles on your finish floor. There are several reasons why you have to bother with tile underlayment. Here are some reasons that you can take into consideration.
Underlayment Prevents Moisture
Moisture is one of the biggest flooring headaches. It can not only creep up through your subfloor but also ruin your finish floor and other layers of the floor. If you use good quality tile underlayment, it can prevent moisture from damaging your floors.
Underlayment Provides a Smooth Finish
Subfloors are often riddled with gashes, nails, and unevenness. They’re not quite good for installing tiles directly. If you use top-quality tile underlayment, it can provide your floor with a smooth, flat surface and help you install tiles without any hassle.
Underlayment Provides Extra Padding
You may have walked on solid surfaces like vinyl or hardwood that felt harsh on your feet. If so, then you should use tile underlayment to give your floor flexibility. It can remove your backaches and sore feet.
Related blog: Which Tiles Are Best For Flooring? [Read here]
Different Types of Tile Underlayment
Hopefully, you may understand the necessity of using tile underlayment before installing tiles on the floor. If you’re now looking for the right type of underlayment for your floor, you can check out the different types of tile underlayment below.
#1. Cement Board: Cement board is an excellent underlayment that works best for a variety of mortared floors, including porcelain, ceramic, and stone tiles. It can be a great choice for wet surfaces, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
This moisture-resistant underlayment is a perfect option for beginner DIYers due to its easy-to-cut feature. It’s a piece of more durable material than plywood. It usually comes with ¼ to the ½-inch thickness and requires 0.75 to 1.10 dollars per square foot to purchase.
#2. Fiber Cement Board: Fiber cement board is a unique tile underlayment made of fibers and cement. It offers flexibility to the floor and allows you to transform your finish floor without cracking. When you’re going to install fiber cement board as underlayment, you need to fill the seams with thin-set mortar.
#3. Self-Leveling Compound: The self-leveling compound is another cement-based underlayment that you can even use sloping floors. If you want to purchase this underlayment, you have to spend around 36 dollars to cover 50 square feet floor with 1-inch thick depth.
#4. Felt: Felt is one kind of tile underlayment that is made of recycled fibers. It’s an eco-friendly choice for those who want more lightweight underlayment than foam and cork. It provides a smooth surface to the tiles and absorbs unwanted floor sounds.
This excellent underlayment usually comes in between 3mm to 6mm thickness. If you’re willing to install this underlayment on your floor, it’s a little bit expensive, and you have to pay 0.75 to 1.25 dollars per square foot.
#5. Foam: Foam is one of the cheapest underlayment that comes in both heavy and light versions. It can make your subfloor smooth and absorb unnecessary sounds. The lightweight one is available at half of the price of the felt underlayment. You just have to pay 0.22 to 0.45 dollars per square foot.
#6. Cork: Cork is a soft tile underlayment made from the bark of cork trees. It floats and doesn’t need to be attached to the subfloor. It comes with hypoallergenic and antimicrobial elements that prevent growing bacteria, mildew, and mold on the floor.
Besides that, this underlayment comes in 3mm to 6mm thickness like other underlayment types. If you’re looking for it for your floor, you have to pay for per square foot of cork underlayment 0.50 to 0.75 dollars.
#7. Rubber: Rubber tile underlayment is made from eco-friendly, recycled rubber products. This underlayment is one of the great choices to install over concrete subfloors. It can prevent the growth of moisture and protect your floor from mold and mildew.
This excellent underlayment comes in 2mm to 9mm thickness. It also provides a quite-easy installation process. However, if you’re looking to have rubber tile underlayment, it will be more expensive than other types. You have to spend 1.15 to 1.50 dollars per square foot.
#8. Rubber Cork: Rubber cork underlayment comes with a combination of rubber and cork. Although it can stain vinyl tiles, it can be one of the greatest underlayment for other tile flooring options. It’s an invisible bodyguard that prevents cracks in your tile.
#9. Plywood: Plywood is the most-used tile underlayment that comes in ¼ to ½-inch thickness. It’s an inexpensive option that costs 0.4 to 1 dollar per square foot. The Orient-stranded board is similar to plywood and can be used as an underlayment. The dimensions are 4 x 8 inches for both options.
#10. Uncoupling Membrane: Uncoupling membrane, typically made of polyethylene and fleece, is a tile underlayment that prevents tiles from cracking. It also protects the subfloor from moisture. This underlayment usually comes in ⅛-inch thickness. And it requires 1.55 to 1.90 dollars per square foot.
Which is the Best Underlayment for Tile Floor?
All tile underlayment that we’ve just mentioned are the best for flooring. If you choose any of the underlayment options from above, you’re going to get a top-quality protective material for your subfloor.
However, if you want to know what we recommend, we’re going to tell several names, such as cement board, felt, cork, rubber cork, and plywood. Rubber cork underlayment can be the best solution for the floor that has a thin-set.
How to Install Tile Underlayment
Installing tile underlayment is an easy process that requires a few simple steps to follow. When you’re going to start the installation process, you have to gather some tools and materials, including thin-set mortar, bucket, putty knife, 1/4-inch notched trowel, drill-driver, and more.
- Apply the mortar bed to the floor to place the first underlayment sheet.
- Install more sheets to cover the entire floor area.
- Trim the last panel to adjust the row.
- Cover the joints with painter’s tape.
How to Remove Tile Underlayment
Removing tile underlayment can be challenging, especially when you use an old mortar bed. It may take plenty of hours if you don’t know the right techniques. But, you can remove old tile underlayment within half an hour by following some easy steps.
- Collect the necessary tools, such as a chisel, hammer, shop-vac, painters’ tape, etc.
- Wear safety equipment to protect yourself.
- Remove the tiles and underlayment from the floor.
- Clean the adhesives and small chunks from the subfloor.
If you want to know the steps elaborately, read our article about “how to remove tile underlayment.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you tile directly on subfloor?
If your subfloor is durable, you can tile directly on it, but most experts recommend not applying the tile directly to the subfloor. Otherwise, it can cause cracks in the tiles and grout lines.
What is best underlayment for tile floor?
Cement board, cork, rubber cork, felt, and plywood are some examples of the best underlayment for a tile floor. You can choose any of the underlayment that fits your requirements best.
How thick does the subfloor need to be for tile?
In terms of installing tiles, a subfloor needs to be at least 1 1/8 inch thick. If you use plywood or OSB as a subfloor, they should be 5/8 or 3/4 inches thick.
We hope you’ve already got the answer to the question; do you need underlayment for tile floor? Tile underlayment is something that can enhance the life of your tile floor for years. It can protect your tiles from cracking and prevent moisture from growing.
When you’re going to install tile underlayment on your floor, you should read instructions carefully. However, if you have any prior experience of installing tiles and underlayment, you can share it with us and make this guide more useful for others.