Recommended Vapor Barrier for Hardwood Floors


Hardwood provides a durable and attractive flooring surface. Wood, by its nature, swells when it absorbs water, directly or through humid conditions. If you're installing a hardwood floor on concrete, a vapor barrier is essential to protect the wood from absorbing moisture present in the concrete.

Felt Paper

  • The standard vapor and noise-reduction barrier for use with hardwood is 15-lb. felt paper. When installing a hardwood floor on top of wood joists and a subfloor, use felt paper. Butt the ends together and secure the paper to the subfloor with a staple gun.

Polyethylene Film

  • When installing hardwood over a concrete slab, polyethylene provides an additional layer of moisture protection. Roll out polyethylene film over the entire concrete floor, extending the film up the wall 3-inches. Overlap and tape seams together with tape approved for use on polyethylene.

    Firring strips and the subfloor will go on top of the polyethylene, and you will still install 15-lb. felt over the subfloor.

    This is only appropriate for installing hardwood over concrete that is above grade. Check the manufacturer's warranty. If you install hardwood below grade, such as in a basement, you could void the warranty.

Engineered Hardwood Underlayment

  • Engineered hardwood uses actual wood for the decorative floor surface, but beneath the hardwood layer are multiple wood fiber layers that form a strong plank. When installing an engineered hardwood floor, use a special cushioned layer of polyvinyl as a sound and vapor barrier. This moisture-resistant underlayment comes in large rolls.

Hardwood Tip

  • Acclimatize your hardwood flooring before you install it. Changes in humidity and temperature can result in expansion and contraction of the wood. If you install the hardwood before it adapts to the interior environment, it may move later, creating gaps or bulges in the floor.

    Allow the hardwood planks to sit in the room where you will install them for a minimum of two weeks prior to installation.

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