Wood floor underlay is an extremely important factor when considering a floating wood floor. Vitrex have introduced their premium underlay to accommodate the need for a quality wood floor underlay, but is it any good and how does it compare to fibre board underlay? Let me answer that question for you here and give a little insight from a professional wood floor installers point of view..
Lets start with some information about the Vitrex premium underlay..
- Dimensions – 600 mm Width – 900 mm length – Thickness 5 mm
- Coverage – 10 square metres per pack
- Suitable rooms – All, including rooms with high moisture content i.e. Bathrooms
- Material – Highly compressed polystyrene
- Cost – Vitrex currently £3 per square metre. Fibre board around £3.20 per square metre
Ok, so I’ve been using Vitrex underlay for years and there are some pretty clear differences with this underlay compared to it’s counterpart, fibre board underlay.
Firstly, I’m going to list one by one all the features and benefits of the premier underlay that are given by Vitrex and add my take on each as well as how it compares to it’s rivals, including fibre board.
Features and benefits :
- Excellent Thermal Insulation – Board underlays of any kind generally have good thermal insulation properties mainly due to there thickness compared to thinner roll underlays, noted with some exceptions. They will help keep your wood floor protected from a cold concrete slab. Is there much difference between the thermal insulation properties of a fibre board underlay and a polystyrene type? I’d say you’d be hard pushed to notice.
- 5 mm Thick – Should you have a sub-floor that has acute discrepancies of up to 3 mm, the Vitrex underlay will go some way to stopping such discrepancies effecting the feel of your wood floor. The thickness is key as thinner underlays will struggle to soak up imperfections. The Vitrex is very good at providing a level top surface for any wood floor although I would also caution that it’s not a miracle underlay and should not be purchased with the sole purpose of skimping on good sub-floor preparation. The sales jargon will tell you it levels out sub-floors but I always add ‘within reason!’. There is very little difference between polystyrene underlay and fibre board in the sense of levelling properties, although most fibreboard underlays come in 6 to 7 mm depths, which helps absorb slightly higher discrepancies in the sub-floor.
- Excellent Moisture Resistance – Absolutely agree! Should you be installing an underlay in say a bathroom, there are few better than Vitrex premium. Due to it being made from polystyrene, moisture has very little effect on it. It’s fibre board equivalent is essentially made from organic fibres and is not recommended for high humidity areas as it returns to a pulp once in contact with moisture. The Vitrex premium will not change in any way! This is a huge advantage and one fibre board underlays lack.
- Excellent shock absorber – With a compression strength of a whopping 6000 kg per square metre and it’s outstanding structural integrity, in other words when something is dropped on the Vitrex premium underlay it doesn’t break up (and that’s before a floor covering has been installed on top). It has exceptional shock absorption properties. The high compression value may sound like this underlay is solid. However, it actually ‘gives’ when lightly pinched and returns back to it’s original state when released (I write this as I hold a piece of the underlay in hand). Hence, the high absorption value. However, when I press my nail into the underlay as to replicate an acute discrepancy in a sub-floor, my nail impression stays. This is an excellent example of the capabilities of this underlay. However, fibre board under will react in a very similar way and give just as good a performance when comparing shock absorption.
- Blocks out Damp – In relation to a wood floor covering, only when a moisture resistant tape has been applied to the seams of each board will it block out damp adequately!! Do not be mislead with this ‘blocks out damp’ statement. For high levels of damp/moisture i.e. on concrete slabs with no effective DPM, a separate 1000 gauge (minimum) visqueen sheet should be installed below the vitrex. Damp will not effect the actual premium underlay itself, but it can build up and effect your wood floor. Fibre board underlay does not block out damp in any way so the Vitrex premium certainly has the edge here.
- Withstands high weight surface loads – Again this relates back to it’s extremely high compression strength of 6000 kg per square metre. Got a piano or any other heavy furniture, not a problem! Although, caution is always advised regards the surface load of a floating wood floor covering. Floating floors can often carry a maximum load guideline of 450 kg per square metre. More than ample for most household objects but worth noting all the same.
- Lightweight – Vitrex premium can be lifted in it’s full packs with one finger, literally! It is the lightest block board type underlay I have ever used and by far lighter than it’s fibre board equivalent. This fact greatly ads to it’s ease of use.
- Easy to lay – Agreed! With a sharp utility knife the Vitrex premium cuts like butter and doesn’t put up a fight. Fibre board underlay can often tear and become a real pain to cut. The Vitrex premium absolutely has the edge when it comes to installing.
- Anti-fungal and mildew resistant, will not rot – During my career I’ve lifted hundreds of floors due to moisture issues and when lifting polystyrene type underlays, even though bacteria may be attached to the underlay, I have always found it unaffected. Fibre board underlay however, essentially turns to dust and rots as the bacteria feeds on the fibre. Not pleasant!
- Non Dusting, non-toxic and odourless, recyclable – Vitrex premium or any polystyrene underlays for that matter do not shed dust when being cut. Fibre board underlay very much does and can be an irritant in the process as the fine fibres are breathed in. Vitrex premium is the best choice for a clean installation.
Rest assured the Vitrex premium is a good quality underlay product. However, before I wrap this review up, I’d like to add one reason why I prefer a fibre board underlay in certain circumstance. That reason is that the fibre board underlay can be shaved! This may sound like a strange comment but stick with me.
Sometimes when installing an underlay, I come up against sub-floor discrepancies that need to be taken out of the equation. I like to do this with as least mess as possible. That means, planing floor boards or grinding down high spots in concrete are occasionally a no no. To be able to doctor the underlay is sometimes by far the best option and there’s no other underlay that I can do that with apart from fibre board. It can simply be shaved using a chisel to remove some of it’s material and suit the undulation in the floor, leaving a level surface with minimal fuss and effort. For me, the ability to do that with fibre board is very welcome and not possible to do with a polystyrene type underlay like the Vitrex premium. This should not be taken as ‘fibreboard trumps Vitrex premium’.
So as with most things in life, there are pro’s and con’s to every product. I hope I’ve outlined some of them here and given you a clearer picture of the best type of underlay to use in your particular circumstance. It’s time to make a decision!!
© Copyright 2013 Wes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Fitmywoodfloor