Nailed-down hardwood floors or engineered wood flooring both require an underlayment before you can install the flooring. The underlayment primarily acts as a moisture barrier, but also cushions the wood floor and even muffles sound. Hardwood floors can only go over a wood subfloor because the thick planks must be nailed in place, but engineered wood floors can be installed over multiple types of subfloor surfaces as long as the surface is flat and free of defects.
Hardwood floors require either 15-pound felt paper or resin paper as an underlayment. Either product is stapled over the subfloor before you install the hardwood atop it. Resin -- also known as rosin -- paper is a cleaner product to work with, but 15-pound felt works just as well to retard moisture and provide some cushioning for the hardwood floor. Overlap the edges of both underlayments about 6 inches on seams.
Engineered Wood Floors
Engineered wood floors have multiple options for installation, such as nailing, stapling, floating or gluing, based on the selected product. When you nail or staple the engineered floor in place, 15-pound felt, polyethylene film or rosin paper matches the installation. For floating floors, a foam underlayment with a vapor retarder is suitable for cement slabs, but just use the foam for wood subfloors. If you plan to glue your hardwood floor down, then you also need an underlayment that glues down, such as acoustic cork or a proprietary self-adhesive underlayment. Some engineered hardwood flooring comes with an underlayment already attached to the planks.
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