Elastilon Underlayment Review
A new underlayment system has been stirring interest here in the USA after hardwood retailer Lumber Liquidators began offering it with Home Depot joining in as well (summer 2012). Originating in Europe and manufactured in the Netherlands, Elastilon is a 3 mm thick self adhesive backed underlayment introduced in the early part of the 21st century, but used predominantly outside of the states.
How Does It Work?
The product has several advantages in that it provides an underlayment and moisture barrier for many types of hardwood floors installed on concrete slabs. Costs and project times are also greatly diminished because several steps are eliminated. Let’s use an example with solid 3/4 inch hardwood over concrete.
In this case only one proven option is widely used today; using a separate sub floor system so the solid hardwood can be nailed or stapled to. Elastilon eliminates this by means of their sticky underlayment membrane. The product is rolled out and cut to room dimensions while being lapped up walls similar to the method in which visqueen (poly film) underlayment is used.
Boards are then laid on top of the underlayment. As successive rows are laid, the film protective layer is gently pulled back (photo above) while allowing boards to come into contact with the adhesive backing.
Pros And Cons? More Bad Than Good. Unless
Hardwood installers are always reluctant to try new things with Elastilon being one that sends up red flags. Although the product has been used successfully¹ in many parts of the world, one critical requirement for proper use is the quality of the hardwood being installed.
This is especially true with solid hardwoods and longer length material. Larger mass producers in the USA do not have the knack for superior milling associated with European manufacturers. Often solid hardwoods need persuasion to install a floor tight without gaps. This is accomplished with nailing or stapling floors. The force of the fastening tool, specifically air driven tools, closes up or fixes minor bows or warped floor boards.
The Elastilon system does not offer easy methods to obtain a tight floor with marginal material being used. In fact there isn't one we are aware of. One could invest in strap clamp devices but the force needed to close up gapping with solid hardwoods will ultimately cause the floor to buckle or spring upwards, unless the areas are heavily weighted down.
Elastilon Strong is a new product introduced to the USA that answers all the issues with solid products and the original product. From my understanding, the product is denser while providing greater strength needed for solid hardwood expansion and contraction properties.
"Finally, on the issue of wood quality. Elastilon cannot make cabin grade, rustic, odd lots or any other flooring seconds into a #1 board. Don't use it with these types of boards."
Source Quote: From Elastilon representative. Hardwood Floors Magazine Online, October 2012
Considering Lumber Liquidators is handling the product I feel inexperienced installers and many of their off brand names (sub par quality) and odd lots are likely to create a bad name on the product. As far as being a do it yourself item, consumers are better off avoiding any solid hardwoods on concrete by choosing much simpler systems of installation with easier engineered lock and fold type hardwoods.
¹ I am specifically looking at their use with engineered hardwood flooring and not solid hardwoods.