I’m installing laminate flooring in my basement. I have watched a few videos - some people add the laminate on the concrete with a moisture barrier, but some add a plywood layer over the concrete and then a barrier before the laminate. What are the advantages of adding plywood?

I’m in Colorado and the basement gets really cold. Will the plywood help with keeping more warmth?

EDIT - the install instructions allow for installation over plywood or concrete

  • Have you checked your slab for dampness? Plywood may act as a thermal break to aid in the warmth of the floor. Is the proposed flooring to be vinyl or the typical stuff that will swell up if it get exposed to moisture? – Jack Sep 9 at 5:08
  • @Jack - slab is not damp.Flooring is vinyl and the most water-resistant I could find. Seems I need to later it with a vapor barrier over the concrete, then the plywood, then the laminate. – Tchai Quentin Sep 9 at 12:47
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    Will you fasten the plywood to the concrete? It isn't cheap but you could go with Dri-Core....or it's equivalent. – Jack Sep 9 at 14:22
  • @Jack - yes, I’d screw it down. But looking at Dri-core seems like a good option... – Tchai Quentin Sep 10 at 3:31

If you are going to go that far I would install rigid sheets (1-1.5" XPS is an example) then plywood. Extra insulation plus it keeps the moisture away from the wood.

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  • The only drawback to this suggestion is that it starts to eat into headroom and that can be critical depending on the particular basement in question. – FreeMan Sep 9 at 16:57
  • @FreeMan - I agree but laying wood right down on concrete has a lot of negatives. Water, noise, seams hard to keep together... – DMoore Sep 9 at 17:06
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    @TchaiQuentin "XPS" acts as a vapour and thermal barrier. "EPS" is cheaper but not vapour barrier. Make sure you get the right one. Plywood R value is only 1 per inch, and still needs vapour barrier underlay, plus some sort of "cushion" (e.g. felt) for concrete irregularities. XPS is much better at R5 per inch, and it sits better on concrete irregularities. – P2000 Sep 10 at 5:35
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    @TchaiQuentin, yes their recommendation matters, but if the headroom matters more, you can also take the 6mil poly, 1in XPS and 5/8 plywood (better support for point loads) plus a felt underlay. On the other hand, if your current ceiling is about 8ft anyway, you'll quickly get used to the 3in lost. I had to drop a ceiling by 2.5in and cannot tell anymore. – P2000 Sep 10 at 16:01
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    @P2000 - appreciate the “heads up” - pun intended,. – Tchai Quentin Sep 10 at 16:14

There is no general answer to this. You need to carefully read the manufacturer's recommendations for this particular flooring product. They will have instructions for installation on top of common subfloor types.

If not, check with your dealer and/or contact the manufacturer directly.

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  • Thanks. Instructions indicate installation over concrete or plywood both acceptable. Just looking to know if adding plywood would add any benefit. – Tchai Quentin Sep 9 at 1:56

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