Do I Need Special Underlayment For Bamboo Flooring?

First things first: in case you don’t already know what underlayment is, it’s the material laid on top of the sub-floor before the bamboo floor is installed (the subfloor is pretty much the raw floor of your house, whether it’s a concrete slab or plywood resting on floor joists).

The long and short of it is that you need bamboo flooring underlayment if you are nailing down or floating a bamboo floor. However, you do not need underlayment when gluing down a bamboo floor. Using underlayment under your bamboo floor can provide soundproofing, moisture protection, and stability and reduce wood on wood squeaking. Bamboo flooring and an underlayment/vapor barrier can be installed on any existing floor, including concrete, laminate, wood flooring, vinyl tile, linoleum, tile, etc., as long as the floor is flat and solid.

What type of bamboo flooring underlayment is best?

If you’re nailing down a floor – use 15 lb felt paper.

Guide to buying bamboo flooringThe most common bamboo flooring underlayment used when nailing a floor down is 15 lb felt paper (i.e., roofing paper) or red rosin paper. Most installers prefer 15 lb felt paper. This is because rosin paper tends to leave behind red dust that can stain walls and clothing. This dust is often hard to remove.

There is a common misconception that 15 lb felt paper is a vapor barrier – it is not! While it does help to wick away moisture from the bottom of the flooring planks, it is not meant to serve as a vapor seal. Therefore, when installing over wet crawl spaces or basements, you need to seal them first. 15 lb felt paper would not protect your floor from sub-floor moisture. Another advantage of installing 15 lb felt paper is it reduces wood on wood squeaking.

People often ask if they can use 3 in 1 foam/rubber bamboo flooring underlayment under nail down floors.

The answer? It’s not recommended.

These underlayments compress slightly when walked on, and the vertical flexion can result in loose nails and squeaky boards.

If you’re floating a floor – use a 3 in 1 underlayment.

While bamboo flooring is extremely durable, like all hardwoods, it is vulnerable to moisture. When floating a floor, a 3 in 1 underlayment is a must, especially if there is excessive moisture emitted by the sub-floor – such as a concrete slab or crawl space.

One of the premiere benefits of bamboo flooring is that it can be installed in dry or humid climates. Even if you live in a relatively dry climate, there’s no guarantee that your subfloor won’t have moisture issues. That’s why it’s essential to choose an underlayment with a built-in vapor barrier. The vapor barrier provides complete protection against moisture.

When choosing an installation method, floating is popular because it can be done without professional help. Convenient click-lock mechanisms are standard on engineered hardwoods, vinyl planks, and a multitude of bamboo flooring styles – to name a few. It cannot be understated how important a floating floor underlayment is to this process.

If you are choosing the floating for ease of installation, then it is critical that you don’t cut corners. You might be wondering, “what makes a floating floor underlayment so important?”

Stability – added benefit of a floating floor underlayment

If your subfloor is slightly uneven, underlayment can smooth out small imperfections. This means that when you lay your floor, it lays a little flatter. This benefits more than just your balance — your floor is less prone to damage and buckling when it’s installed correctly, thereby extending its life!

Sound Absorption – added benefit of a floating floor underlayment

guide to installing bamboo flooringA 3 in 1 floating floor underlayment prevents a louder, hollow sound and provides a fuller sound when walked on. It also dampens the sound from impact or sound transmission noises. The higher the STC and IIC rating, the more soundproof and sound absorbent it is.

IIC = Impact Isolation Class *ASTM E492/E989

STC = Sound Transmission Class ASTM E336/E413

These ratings relate to the sound traveling through the total floor/ceiling assembly between upper and lower floors/spaces.

Are you someone who sleeps in a while your significant other is an early riser?

Do you have a new baby that wakes at the slightest sound?

Do you live in a condo or apartment building?

You should look into a 3 in 1 underlayment with the highest STC rating you can find.

If you’re installing over radiant heat – use a 3 in 1 underlayment

Have an underfloor heating system? If you’re floating an engineered floor over it, be sure to use a high-quality 3-in-1 underlayment that includes a vapor barrier. This bamboo flooring underlayment should have a minimum thickness of 2mm to insulate and protect your floor. You can use both engineered floating and solid glue down bamboo flooring over radiant heat subsystems as long as the floors are properly installed and maintained.  If you’re gluing down a bamboo floor over radiant heat, ensure to use an adhesive with a vapor barrier, as the adhesive will help insulate the floor from sudden changes in heat.

Note: The color or thickness of the underlayment has no relationship to the amount of thermal resistance. This is measured purely by tog ratings.

If you’re still unsure what bamboo flooring underlayment is best to use with your bamboo or eucalyptus floors, get in touch, and we’ll match your needs with the right material. 

EXPLORE MORE BAMBOO FLOORING CONTENT: All About Strand Woven Bamboo Floors  |  What is the Janka Hardness Scale + How Does Bamboo Rank?  

Last Updated: 1/6/2022

16 thoughts on “Do I Need Special Underlayment For Bamboo Flooring?”

  1. Thank you this information was very helpful. Just had a guy install bamboo over my old carpet’s padding and had to have it all taken up as that was not the correct thing to do.

    • Hi Soupset,

      Glad that you found the information useful! Sorry to hear you had to have your floors pulled up, and I hope the replacement goes smoothly for you!

  2. I purchased strand woven bamboo flooring and am going to use nail down method but only 15# under layment I can find is asphalt saturated. Is this correct?

    • Hi Susan! Yes, the 15 LB asphalt-saturated felt paper is the underlayment we recommend for nail-down installation of solid tongue and groove bamboo floors.

  3. Hi Soupset!

    How much did it cost to pull it up and have it put back down? Were they able to reuse the old flooring or did you have to buy all new again? I have the click and put it on tup if an existing hardwood and didn’t know to get the underlay (the floor guy told me it wasn’t needed). Of course now the hollow sound drives me crazy.

  4. My contractor used ultrabond eco977 only, no inderlayment on concrete that had been leveled for my bamboo. Is the 977 the correct product and did I need an underlayment? Btw, I live in a very humid region.

    • Hi Paula!

      When installing bamboo flooring over concrete using the glue-down method, a urethane wood flooring adhesive that includes a vapor barrier is the ideal glue to use. Underlayment is not required in addition to the adhesive.

  5. I am considering putting a Bamboo floating floor over brick pavers. ( The room was previously a screened porch; now a Sun Room). Can I use leveling compound over the brick pavers as a leveling agent? I plan on using Quiet Walk underlayment.
    ( The brick pavers do have approx 1/4″ grout spaces).

    • Hi James!

      The subfloor must be flat to 3/16″ per 10-foot radius, so if you can achieve this with the leveling compound, you can effectively float your bamboo floors in the sunroom with an acoustical underlayment that contains a vapor barrier.

  6. How interesting that you mention underlayment. I am starting a new business this year. I will also find a great commercial floor installation service for it.

  7. I am installing Carbonized Bamboo 3-3/4-in Wide x 9/16-in Thick on 2nd floor landing area. It’s a 2019 stick built house and this install area has around 280 sqr feet in it and adjoins all the 2nd floor rooms. It was formerly carpet /pad installed on OSB.

    Should I use Pergo Gold underlayment(product marketing at store suggests it but without knowing or specifying under what conditions a buyer is installing)

    You can see above what my conditions are.

    Should this product be nailed down on my OSB? and if so Should there be any underlayment are my questions..?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi John! Unfortunately, we don’t recommend nail down installation on standard OSB. Advantech OSB, however, is warranted for a nail down installation, so it would be important to know which type of OSB subflooring you have. For nail down installations, we recommend using 15 lb asphalt saturated felt paper or red rosin paper.

  8. I had strand woven bamboo floated on pergo gold over osb and have regretted it. it’s very noisy when walking on it (snap, crackle, pop). Plus, in some areas the corners of the boards are cracking. I suspect the installer left gaps in the underlayment where the corners are. Been dealing with issues for a year now. Going to ask them to pull out the underlayment and glue it down. Hopefully that will prevent both issues. Since it appears you can’t nail over osb I wanted to let you know my experience with floating on pergo gold and recommend against that option.

    • Hi Tim, thanks for sharing this information. We’re so sorry to hear about the issues you’ve had with your flooring. Advantech OSB is warranted for nail down installation, but standard OSB is not. Always have the installers consult with the manufacturers installation guide to avoid any potential issues such as this. Hopefully, you will able to rectify the issue by getting the floors glued down. Keep us posted, and good luck!

  9. I am about to put solid bamboo flooring in my kitchen that currently has vinyl. The house has no basement, only a crawl space that definitely has moisture. I want to avoid asphalt felt paper underlayment. I don’t like the smell. Should I float the floor or nail it? Should I use red rosin paper? Or is there some better underlayment for sound absorption, etc. (I want to avoid VOC’s).

    • It is critical to ensure that the crawl space is properly sealed to prevent moisture from affecting the floors. Red rosin paper is suitable for nail down installations if that is your preference. Alternative vapor barrier underlayments are more properly suited for floating installation. If you want to glue, you could get a vapor barrier adhesive, but it is most important to seal the crawl space or else the adhesive and floor could be left vulnerable. Our installation guide has a comprehensive section about crawl spaces if you are interested in checking it out here:


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