A popular choice of flooring material for bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms nowadays is vinyl flooring. The reason a lot of homeowners choose vinyl sheets and vinyl tiles is that the resilient flooring material is easy to install, easy to maintain, affordable, and comes in a wide range of colors.

Once vinyl flooring is installed, it bonds strongly with the subfloor below it. If that subfloor is made of, for example, unfinished cement, every bump and uneven feature of that surface will be pronounced on the vinyl floor as well. For this reason, people choose to install an underlayment first, so the vinyl flooring is installed on a smooth surface. Luan is one such underlayment material best suited for laminate flooring.

What is luan underlayment?

installing vinyl floors

Luan is a thick plywood underlayment material around ¼ inch thick, usually sold in 4 by 8 sheets. The core material in Luan is a tropical mahogany fund in the Philippines, from where it gets its name. Luan panels are manufactured by layering thin strips of mahogany at right angles and binding them together under high pressure.

Each luan panel has a smooth side and a rough side to it. While installing a luan sheet, remember to always have the smooth surface up.

Is luan different from plywood?

vinyl floor types

Plywood can be made of a lot of different types of wood, such as softwood, hardwood, marine wood, and aircraft wood, for example. The properties of plywood differ depending on the type of wood it is made from. 

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An example of hardwood ply is birch plywood Hardwood plywood is used for structural support, thanks to the strength of the material.

Similarly, softwood ply, made out of woods like pine, fir, or cedar is a great choice for roofing and flooring. Marine plywood is used to build boats.

While luan plywood gets its name from a tropical hardwood found in the Philippines, all tropical hardwood plywood is generically called luan.

The average cost of a sheet of luan

The average cost of a full sheet of luan depends on the thickness of the sheet and the size it needs to be cut. Most often, these sheets are ¼ inch thick and cut to 4 feet by 8 feet. You can order them online or from stores like Home Depot.

The average cost for those sizes is between $0.40 and $0.60 per square foot, or between $ 15 and $20 a sheet.

How to install luan sheet

vinyl flooring installation

Tools and materials

  1. Circular saw
  2. Staple gun
  3. 1/4 inch crown staples
  4. Utility knife
  5. Measuring tape
  6. Chalk to mark cutting lines
  7. If required, a subfloor adhesive

The process

  1. Luan by itself is not structurally sound enough to be a subfloor. It has to be installed on a subfloor.
  2. Start by laying a full sheet of luan in the corner of the room facing the direction perpendicular to the direction of the subfloor panels.
  3. Ensure a gap of 1/16th of an inch between the luan and the wall at the corners as you lay the sheets down.
  4. Use the staple gun to insert 1/4-inch crown staples every 6 inches apart on the surface of the luan and 2 inches along the edges.
  5. Leaving an expansion gap of 1/16 of an inch between each panel, install subsequent luan panels in the same way.
  6. If you need to cut the luan sheets, always use chalk to mark the lines you want to cut along. While a circular saw should be used to make the larger cuts, smaller ones can be handled with a utility knife.
  7. Make sure you cut the luan from the rough side and not the smooth front side to avoid splintering the face of the sheet.
  8. Once you’re done with the installation, check to make sure the staples are either flush with or below the surface of the luan. This is because you don’t want the contours on the staples stocking out once you install vinyl flooring.

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Pro tip

While lauan plywood does offer a smooth underlayment to install flooring on, the material is not water-resistant. It tends to swell and deteriorate when exposed to excessive moisture. For this reason, we’d advise you to install sheet vinyl flooring instead of vinyl tiles over luan underlayment.  

Luan underlayment for vinyl flooring was last modified: October 14th, 2022 by Narayan Shrouthy
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I would give vinyl flooring a try, this guide gives me confidence… thanks