Is cork the best underlayment for laminate on 2nd floor?

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Old 06-11-16, 10:40 PM
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Is cork the best underlayment for laminate on 2nd floor?

I'm debating between putting laminate and hardwood flooring in a rental unit that I may sell. I'll replace old carpet on 2nd floor and stairs. And I'm debating what underflooring to use if I go with the laminate.

Questions:
1. How much of an improvement is 1/2" cork vs 1/4" on stairs and on 2nd floor?
2. Is it true that cork is not durable enough for floating laminate intallations?
3. What's the best acoustic laminate underflooring: felt, cork, something else?
4. Should I put a moisture barrier in 2nd floor bedrooms, corridor, stairs? There's no natural high moisture source.
5. Is there a layer (other than moisture barrier) recommended to use with cork under laminate to reduce cork wear?
6. What can I do to make 12mm laminate sound and feel as much like solid wood as possible?
7. Am I being dumb to consider laminate is better than solid wood in my situation?
8. How do I measure the thickness of the current underflooring?

I can see exposed beams (or maybe they are joists?) about 12"x4" supporting 2nd floor from below, and what looks like particle board under carpet. I'm not sure how to determine the thickness or other layers of underflooring without ripping a part of the floor apart, which I haven't tried doing yet.

So, 12mm laminate with 1/4" cork. I heard a horror story about one HOA requiring at least 1" cork on 2nd floor and forcing an owner to rip out and redo the floors. How often does that happen? There's no limitations I know of on underflooring in CC&Rs of my 1982 HOA, and other people installed hardwood floors, I don't know what underlayment they used. I want to make it as quiet as possible regardless, for the comfort of the neighbors, renters and so that it sounds more like real wood if I decide to sell it.

Laminate can withstand a few years of renter abuse and still look decent, and hardwood will look worn and lose resale value very quickly. Also, hardwood is 2+x more expensive, harder to install, and much harder to rip out and replace when I want to sell. I can see myself replacing the laminate with real wood before sale 5-10 years from now, but not really replacing the wood, that seems like too much work.

Thank you!
 
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Old 06-12-16, 03:08 AM
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1-2-3. You should use whatever underlayment the flooring manufacturer recommends. This will keep the warranty in effect, and will eliminate joint popping due to movement of the floor.
4. Normally the prescribed underlayment is a self contained moisture barrier.
5. refer to 1-2-3
6. Change your thinking and install either engineered flooring or hardwood. Like making a Chevrolet look like a Lamborghini.
7. Laminate, IMO, is the last resort flooring. It is more difficult to install, the tolerances of manufacture are less stringent, and it will always swell in the presence of water. After all it is only MDF with a picture of wood attached to it and coats of Aluminum Oxide for a finish.
8. You can drill a 1/4" hole in the subflooring, use a coathanger bent on the end. Insert the coathanger through the hole, pull up on it, mark the point where it stops with a marker and withdraw the coathanger. Measure from the bend to your mark.

Posting pictures of what you see will help us help you. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...your-post.html

To eliminate a horror story, check with the HOA before hand for restrictions or amendments needed. Laminate will never "sound" like real hardwood. It will always "clack" when you walk on it.

Today's prefinished hardwood will withstand much more punishment than earlier versions. Hardwood is more expensive because you are buying a quality product, versus a bargain bin item. Hardwood is much easier to isntall than laminate. It just requires more sophisticated tools.

If you are flooring it to sell, why worry about ripping it out to replace it, whether it be laminate or hardwood.

IF advice is what you want, I would look into 5" wide handscraped stranded bamboo engineered flooring. It lays in click lock fashion, is much more durable than laminate, wears great, and looks rich. I have it in our bedroom where two large dogs also occupy their bed, and they have yet to scratch it, even chasing the cat It has been down for over 2 years.
 
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Old 06-12-16, 05:27 AM
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Not much to add to Larry's comments other than when it comes to flooring underlayment, thicker is not better. I'm guessing that the HOA who insisted on 1" doesn't know a thing about flooring. Wood is a hard surface, it will make noise when walked on under certain conditions regardless of what you do. Wood will give you a higher resale value to the property than Laminate.

Further, you can not put a floating laminate on stairs.
 
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Old 06-12-16, 07:07 AM
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I doubt if a 1982 HOA would require any extreme sound deadening. I think you have already checked that and you're OK.

Just take the advice above and install the best combination of quiet and durability.
 
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Old 06-14-16, 04:31 PM
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> you can not put a floating laminate on stairs
That makes sense, somehow I didn't think of it, thanks for mentioning that!
 
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Old 06-14-16, 04:37 PM
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Thanks a lot for the detailed reply. Sounds like I may have been misinformed about laminate durability and I'll have to seriously research it. My information probably stemmed from old, low quality hardwood that scratched easier than modern hardwood. Any pointers on what to look for in the engineered (or solid) hardwood products to end up with durable product? Is there some finish, technology or layer that the manufacturers use that increases durability beyond that of a good laminate?
Also, if I may ask, could you post the close-up picture of your 2-year-old floor, the worst-looking spot if you can? Pretty pleeeease?
 
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Old 06-14-16, 04:54 PM
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Nearly all wood flooring, including laminates have aluminum oxide finishes, which are quite hard. The type of wood you choose for the floor will also have its hardness rating. I chose stranded bamboo for its hardness and basically its looks. Here's a couple of pictures showing the flooring. It is handscraped by design, so that is factored in. Note no scratches, and you are looking at the "launching pad" when they chase the cats, so it would have more wear than any other, but I don't see any. Dog hair, sure, so forgive that.

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Old 06-14-16, 05:56 PM
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Dog hair, sure, so forgive that.
Dog hair, really? Never heard of that from a Lab....my god do they know how to shed....
 
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Old 06-14-16, 06:45 PM
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Laminate will never "sound" like real hardwood. It will always "clack" when you walk on it.
I don't know if I got lucky or what. I've had laminate in my kitchen for over 7 years, it looks almost as good as the first day. It's probably the most used room in the house.
The floor lays flat and is quiet, it had pre-attached backing. No slapping or movement at all.
It's DuPont Real Touch Elite.

To me the only bad thing about laminate is dropping something on it and breaking the surface.
If the surface gets a chip, it's hard to hide with any usual filling methods.

I would say the floor Larry posted is better, but laminate is an option if high quality.
 
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Old 06-21-16, 02:26 PM
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Comparisons

Thank you all for the replies, it really gave me food for thought. I'm now choosing between stranded bamboo and (probably engineered) hardwood.

Stranded bamboo would be a no-brainer, except it seems to be a compromise (there's always one of those..). Here's a couple of links I found useful:
Beyond Bamboo Basics: Gain a Deeper Understanding of this Flooring - Hardwood Floors Magazine
Before You Install a Bamboo Floor… | Bamboo Flooring Reviews

It's a relatively new product, so much less is known about manufacturing and installing it than hardwood. Quality varies greatly and there are no real industry standards. Some people are very happy customers because it's very hard, looks good and is relatively cheap.

But for some, it warps and "breathes" much more than normal hardwood. It soaks up and releases moisture really slowly, and it seems to not be homogeneous like hardwood: bamboo stalk properties differ greatly from stalk to stalk, from inside out and from top to bottom.

It off-gasses urea formaldehyde, and it seems to be unregulated. So you don't know if you may get unsafe amounts of it from a given manufacturer.

You need to acclimate bamboo much more carefully than hardwood, and even then it's still a dark art. It may not move, or it may warp 2 month after installation even without any additional moisture present.

I got a few samples of hardwood, bamboo and laminate and dropped a chisel on them all from the same height, tried to scratch them all with a screwdriver and then pushed the screwdriver into them intently. I misplaced them all, but when I find them, I'll put them all into a puddle of water to cover just the footings and see what happens in a week or two. These are all cheap products, but I wanna see how the low end behaves, the problems are probably more pronounced.

My conclusions so far are:
Laminate has the best scratch resistance, mainly because it's smooth. Hardwood has texture, and it scratches easily, but the scratches are softer and less visible.
When laminate scratches, especially when the upper layer breaks, it's impossible to fix. Hardwood is the best there, it's softer but the cracks aren't as noticeable.
The stranded bamboo sample that I got was laminated with maple picture... I don't know why. But the laminate was horrible on that bamboo. However, the plank itself was really tough. I believe it'll sound much better than laminate. I need to find good looking stranded bamboo to judge the scratch resistance.

I really want to put in stranded bamboo, but it seems pretty scary, with all the horror stories...

Any thoughts?
 
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Old 06-21-16, 05:31 PM
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Stephen King writes horror stories. Of all the stranded bamboo I have laid, I have never had any problems, including customer call backs. But, you have to make a decision that you can live with. Laminate finish is no harder than any other flooring finish. It is all aluminum oxide. I am not sure what sample you got, but it wasn't stranded bamboo.

The bamboo I pictured is in our bedroom and will soon be in the other two bedrooms, making us a carpet free location. In our weekend rental cabin I have full 3/4 stranded bamboo nail down, and have laid many locations with it.

Good luck with your choice.
 
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Old 06-22-16, 09:23 AM
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From my understanding, the issues with bamboo only come up very rarely. I might have 0.1% chance of hitting one of those, so statistically it's a tiny issue affecting tiny number of people.

I got another sample of strand bamboo from Lowes, without the awful laminate, it's really tough and the most scratch-resistant material of all the samples I tested. It's also $5.49/sqft though.

I'm still thinking but I guess I'll just get some solid 3/4" wood for around $4/sqft at LL or BD (Maple, Oak or Ash) just to be on the safe side.
 
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