Many people use foam underlayment. It does the job well enough but foam is not an earth friendly product. Like plastic, it is a petro-chemical product that is neither bio-degradable nor easy to recycle. Because of this foam underlayment usually ends up in a landfill at the end of its working life.
Much better is cork underlayment. Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree. The bark can be peeled off the tree without damaging the tree. In nine years the bark grows back thicker and more uniform. It is for these reasons that cork is considered a renewable resource. And thus, cork underlayment is a sustainable subsurface.
Cork underlayment can be used under carpets, tiles, laminate flooring, cork, coconut, hardwood and bamboo flooring. It can be installed with a floating installation, glue down or nailed down installation.
There are a number of benefits of buying cork underlayment. The first benefit is that cork is an elastic material. The millions of tiny cells in cork trap air. This structure allows for cork to compress and expand. The elasticity of cork allows cork underlayment to compensate for any minor flaws that may be present in the subfloor.
Secondly, the honeycomb structure of cork underlayment absorbs sound. This helps deaden the sound of people walking across the floor. This is a godsend for people living downstairs.
Thirdly, cork underlayment also has thermal insulating properties. It traps the heat from the floor, keeping it warmer longer. This helps reduce heating costs in the winter.
Fourthly, cork is mildew and water resistant. These properties help protect flooring. Cork underlayment also ‘breathes’ and so doesn’t trap moisture between the flooring and the subsurface. It must be remembered, however, that cork is not water-proof. A moisture barrier should be used if cork underlayment is used on a concrete subfloor, especially a concrete subfloor in a basement.
Finally, cork contains suberin that makes cork antibacterial and anti-fungal. Cork underlayment combined with cork flooring or strand woven bamboo flooring is ideal for people who wish to have an allergen free interior because both cork and bamboo are both antimicrobial.
Although cork underlayment is slightly more expensive than foam underlayment the many benefits of cork underlayment, not the least of which is that it is very a renewable resource makes it the smart choice.