What to Look for When Selecting Carpet Padding
by Felicia Williams
When deciding on the color and type of carpet to put in the family room, people seem to overlook a very important component...the padding. How often do you discuss carpet padding when decorating a room? Not very often. The padding, however, is a vital part of your carpet installation and long term carpet satisfaction.
Did you know there are basically 3 types of carpet padding? Before we learn about the types of padding and what they offer, let's get some of the terminology out of the way. Carpet padding is also known as carpet cushion and carpet underlayment. Therefore, if your retailer or carpet installer uses any of these words, they're talking about the material placed between the carpet and your floor.
Another term we should discuss is padding density. Technically, density is a measurement of the weight divided by the thickness measured in pounds per cubic foot. Let me give you a point of reference. The Carpet Cushion Council's minimum recommendation is a carpet density of 5 lbs and 3/8 inches for light traffic areas and 6.5 lbs and 3/8 inches for heavy traffic areas. However, carpet experts and retailers recommend padding with a thickness ranging between 7lbs and 8 lbs. Keep this in mind when you're in the carpet store.
Why buy carpet padding?
- Feels good - Let's face it, walking on something soft feels a lot better than walking on a cement slab.
- Insulation - It helps to insulate the room and muffle sound.
- Cleaner Carpet - Padding increases vacuum efficiency. The motion of vacuuming causes a lifting action which raises the carpet slightly from the pad allowing better access to the dirt. Removing the dirt prevents the dirt from grinding and fraying the carpet fibers.
- Carpet lasts longer - Adequate padding will help stave off the affects of furniture indentation. It also Increases carpet life by approximately 50%
- Carpet cushions were born to absorb the abuse given to carpet.
Now that we know why to buy padding, let's discuss the types of padding:
Rubber (sponge) Carpet Padding
- Waffle Rubber: Just like it sounds, it is a rubber that is waffle like in texture. One drawback to this padding is the air that is trapped in the rubber. In the old days, this type of padding would break down to its original clay components thus adding more wear and tear on the carpet. Today, this type of padding is better made resulting in an improvement in performance and durability.
- Flat/slab Rubber: This padding will be a bit pricey, but apparently worth its price. In a density of 19-22 pounds, your carpet may wear out before the cushion will. This padding should be used in high traffic areas. It also withstands the weight of furniture without showing the indentations nearly as quickly as another padding.
Urethane Carpet Padding:
- Foam: The trick with foam is to get the right density. Generally, foam is not recommended for high traffic areas as it contains air. The up and down movement of the foam may eventually cause it to break down
- Frothed Foam: Frothed foam is super dense urethane and is extremely durable. This can be used as the padding for any carpet. Costs about the same as a quality flat/slab rubber padding but purportedly last longer.
- Bonded (aka rebond): This is the most commonly used and popular padding sold today. Bonded or rebond is just as its name implies. It's bonded/rebonded high-density scrap urethane foam that was used in furniture and auto manufacturing. It is available in varying thicknesses. Be warned, however, that it contains BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene). There are no known health effects to humans, but it may produce yellowing in some light-colored carpet fibers. Before purchasing bonded padding, you might want to get assurances (preferably written) from the retailer that the padding you've selected does not contain BHT.
Fiber Carpet Padding:
- Natural: Natural padding is made from hair (animal hair), jute (material used in making ropes) and/or felt. Being a natural fiber, if it gets too wet, it may produce an odor. The key to the natural fiber is getting the proper density for the traffic level.
- Synthetic: Man-made fibers such as polyester, acrylic and polypropylene. Synthetic padding can be made to withstand light, medium or heavy traffic.
Now that you're aware of basic padding information, let me impart a few words of wisdom.
- Do not buy padding that is too soft as it will eventually flatten (bottom out). Once it bottoms out your carpet will bear the brunt of the foot traffic. This will shorten the life of your carpet.
- Do not buy padding that is too thick. Thick padding may cause the carpet to disengage from the track stripping placed around the edges of the floor at installation. This will shorten the life of your carpet.
- Rule of thumb: The heavier the traffic, the thinner the cushion.
Do not scrimp on carpet padding. If you buy quality carpet, please complement it with quality padding. Not doing so is like buying an expensive car and never changing the oil. Not changing the oil will shorten the life of your car just as improper padding will shorten the life of your carpet.
About the Author: Felicia Williams is a wife, mother and grandmother who likes to write about a host of topics.
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Last Modified: 24 March 2020