Question about using Luan as underlayment for LVP or SV

Discussion in 'Vinyl & Rubber Flooring Sales and Installations' started by atty, Sep 26, 2020.

  1. atty

    atty Pro Member

    Hi, all.

    Jim had mentioned in another thread about Luan being an unsuitable underlayment. (I recently revived an old thread that had been already been solved, a fairly embarrassing thing to do for which I feel appropriately mortified for, lol. I mentioned the use of Luan in my post there. )

    My boss usually includes Luan on our single family new construction projects to cut down on the amount of floor patch/ leveler that we have to use when installing lvp or sv. I haven't seen a warranty issues relating to it over the 8 or so years working at my shop. This includes projects completed during my time here as well as other homes they used it in up to 15 years ago.

    I definitely realize that the whole "just because I've never seen a problem" approach is both anecdotal and potentially dangerous. What are the potential problems that I should I be aware of with using Luan? What are a few alternative suggestions?

    Thanks in advance for your help and guidance. I know I don't post a whole lot here but I really have learned a lot from the wisdom and experience that is shared throughout these forums. Flooring is complex and interesting and i love learning more about the trade.
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  2. It’s very easy to cut, practically with a utility knife if you don’t mind carpal tunnel or arthritis, lightweight, smooth. We’ve done it on several projects and strongly steered the retailer to proper underlayment grade material. Proper underlayment Not always readily available sometimes probably due to volume selling in the box stores for our area which is mostly slabs. Cheap, agree.

    There’s been a lot of discussion on why not to use it, integrity, quality, lack of standards.

    One job we were instructed to put it down and we missed nailing in a spot. Ceramic was going over it which is another thing that shouldn’t be done. Retailer said just put it down they’re going through a divorce, whatever, shoulda took the wife’s offer of a 5k$ saltwater aquarium for 500$ but guess I had morals. So the area popped off floor about 3/4” high. Maybe not moisture stable as well.

    We haven’t had callbacks in it but that’s never an indication due to if a homeowner does their “home” work, why would you want people coming back to fix something shouldn’t been done in first place. So we fastened the hell out of this stuff, 1” cleats which leaves no indentations using a manual nailer, I’ll sell it to you!

    Many non underlayments do not use exterior grade adhesive Bonding the plies together.

    Personally I like replying to old threads, I believe it’s relevant and someone doing research may need updated info on that particular thread. And actually someone was talking about a product 10 years ago that nothing has changed for an engineering design and I come along and think the same exact thing they did.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. I've seen many an issue from using luan. The most common being delamination & staples blowing through due to it not being strong enough. Its basically a paper thin veneer with some kind of mdf in the center.
  4. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain TFP Owner/Founder Administrator

    @atty, your post in that old thread was in reference to using 1/8" lauan, which is more commonly used as a door skin or laminated to particleboard furniture to make it look more like wood. I've used thicker versions, primarily quarter-inch, as a cheap alternative to particleboard when I couldn't convince a customer to use actual underlayment grade plywood. But even then I knew it was a gamble simply because of its lack of structural integrity and lower standard of manufacture.

    Standard 18 gauge narrow crown staples would sometimes blow right through it, or drive below the first layer of wood. Moisture from the adhesive or the floor patch can cause small areas of delamination, usually several inches long, by an inch or so wide along the grain pattern. This problem might not arise during installation of a floating floor, but could easily happen if there's any condensation or a spill.

    Once I became exposed to more and more experienced flooring installers online, in the late 90s, and heard their experiences and opinions, I stopped using it all together. I worked in a small rural area and there were very few installation shops and even more sparse communication between the installers, so I missed out on important OJT and sharing stories at practically nonexistent training seminars. It was online message boards and forums that I received the kind of information that helped me improve the quality of my skills.
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