Shopping for new carpet is exciting. There are a wealth of colors and styles to choose from, and close to a half-dozen fibers to consider. Once you make the big decision, the work isn’t over, as you still need to think about what goes beneath the carpet in your home.
When you’re having carpet installed, you may never see the carpet padding, but it should be an important part of your buying decision. If you’re unsure of the density or type of carpet padding you need, our guide will clear things up as we’re going to break down all the basics.
The Importance of Carpet Padding
Carpet in a home may look good and feel great under your feet, but it would be a different story if the pad were removed. Carpet padding serves as the foundation for your carpet whether it’s cheap or top of the line. It ads cushioning underfoot but also provides stability along with insulation and noise reduction.
The best carpet padding will protect the backing on the bottom of your carpet and keep it from breaking down, thus prolonging the life of your carpet. If you choose the wrong type of padding, it can actually cause problems, however. That’s why it’s essential to understand the types of padding, available, and what to keep an eye out for when a slippery salesperson comes your way.
Carpet Padding Types
As manufacturers strive to push innovation and come up with greener products, new hybrids are introduced every year. You may even find some interesting choices in local carpet shops, but the most common carpet padding types are also the most popular for a good reason.
Rebond Carpet Padding
This is the top option for most homeowners, and if you’ve owned carpet in the past, it was probably beneath it. Rebond carpet padding is among the cheapest forms available and is made from recycled foam, which gives it a multicolored appearance.
If you choose the right density, rebond carpet padding is often the best way to go unless your style of carpet calls for another option. Homes that have heavy foot traffic in carpeted areas may want to consider our next option.
Bonded foam may be popular and will suffice for most homeowners, but if you want a carpet pad that’s built to last, there are far better options avilalable. From the foam family, the best choice would be frothed foam. This type of padding is incredibly durable, with far more density than other types of foam.
Frothed urethane foam carpet padding is so resilient it will likely outlast the carpet itself. It’s commonly used in conjunction with broadloom carpet but is more expensive than other types of carpet padding. It’s not suitable for everyone, but it is one of the best types of carpet padding.
Frothed foam provides durability and is dense underfoot, while rebounded foam is an affordable all-around choice. Memory foam is similar to frothed foam but has been infused with gel, which gives it the feel memory foam is famous for.
Memory foam beds are something many of us have had experience with, and you can have that same sinking feeling beneath your feet with this type of carpet padding. It’s not a good choice for any area in your home that sees a lot of foot traffic but is perfect for bedrooms.
The last type of commonly used foam in the carpet industry is called prime foam, although its name can be misleading. It’s in the middle of the pack in terms of performance and price but is firmer than rebond and several other types of foam padding.
This is the same type of foam you’ll find in things like couch cushions and upholstery. That means they can be reasonably firm, but not suitable for heavy foot traffic. While you will find a lot of options in the density department – just don’t use it in a hallway.
One of the oldest styles of carpet padding, the classic waffle pad, is still available today. It has a lot in common with rebond from a comfort and price standpoint but lives up to its namesake as it looks like a giant rubber waffle on the floor.
While waffle carpet padding is soft, it’s not built to last like other forms of padding beneath your carpet. If the attractive price tag entices you, be sure to look for rubber waffle carpet padding that is dense, and made from high-quality material.
Synthetic materials are commonly used in carpet padding, but there are a few pads in the fiber pads that are an exception. While there are synthetic fiber carpet pads as well, you can pick up padding made from materials like Jute.
Jute may be ideal for some areas in your home, but you don’t want a natural material used as padding in below-grade rooms. Fiber carpet padding is often recommended for Berber carpeting but is a flat, dense type of pad. It’s not nearly as soft as foam but is relatively inexpensive in both natural and synthetic forms.
Rubber’s always been an excellent choice for consumers with allergies, and it’s a material known for its resilience. Well, it’s also an option in the carpet world as you can purchase flat rubber padding, which dense, heavy, and extremely durable.
A high-end rubber carpet pad will last just as long as a good frothed foam pad, which means it will outlive your new carpet. It’s expensive, however, so it’s not something you’ll want to use with budget-friendly carpet.
How to Choose the Best Carpet Pad
Now that you understand the types of materials available for carpet padding, it’s time to discuss how to find the best fit for your needs. As you’d expect, there are hundreds of companies producing carpet padding, including big names like Shaw and StainMASTER. Quality control is critical as a bad pad can break down your carpet quickly, but that’s far from the only factor to consider when looking for the best carpet pad.
Carpet Pad Density
Density is a term you’re going to encounter often with carpet padding. You’ll hear it when you walk into a carpet store, and if you have an honest salesperson, they will be able to explain things quite nicely. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, so it pays to understand density when dealing with any type of carpet padding.
Carpet padding density can measure between 2 to 10 pounds, which leaves a lot of room for error if you don’t know what to look for. Each style can has its own range as well, so foam is going to register differently than rubber or a felt pad. It’s measured by calculated the pounds per cubic foot, although this isn’t a situation where math is required.
In most cases, homeowners are perfectly happy with carpet padding between 6 and 8 pounds. That’s the ideal range for the residential class, but again, it’s always best to use whatever density your carpet manufacturer recommends.
Carpet Pad Thickness
Carpet pad thickness is another area where consumers can find themselves in a sticky situation if you go in uninformed. Thicker flooring is a good thing in the flooring world, as it generally means more durability and that your flooring will last longer.
That’s not the case with carpet padding, however, as a thicker pad may actually do more harm than good. If you choose low-pile carpeting in your home like a looped Berber, it’s recommended to go with carpet padding that’s no thicker than 3/8”, but want to stay under a ½” in general regardless of the style.
The Carpet Cushion Council set the minimum recommendations for residential use, which is handy information to have on hand before heading into the carpet store when you know what type of padding you want.
The standards set by the CCCs are used by HUD and the U.S. Department of Housing and fall into two categories with Class 1 and Class 2. Class 1 refers to areas in your home that receive light to moderate foot traffic. This includes bedrooms, dining and living rooms – basically most residential rooms. Class 2 mainly refers to multi-family dwellings, stairs, and areas that receive a large amount of traffic.
With bonded foam, it’s recommended that’s it has a minimum thickness of 0.375 inches and a density of at least 5.0 lbs/ft3. That’s for Class 1, so the density rises to 6.5 for Class 2, although the minimum thickness stays the same. Are you interested in foam that’s been frothed mechanically? Well, you’ll need to make sure it has a minimum density of 10.0 lbs/ft3 and a thickness of 0.250.
Rubber has the highest density in Class 1 at 18.0 lbs/ft3, with a minimum thickness of 0.220. Synthetic fibers fare slightly better than bonded foam on the density chart at 6.5, but the minimum thickness is the same as grafted prime foam. Keep in mind, those are the “minimum” recommended guidelines, and the full chart is available online from the Carpet Cushion Council.
Carpet Padding Installation
Unless you are only planning on installing carpet in one room, most homeowners choose to go with a professional carpet installation. As we discussed in our guide, the cost to install carpet yourself can be far more trouble than it’s worth. If you do plan on installing carpet on your own, it’s all starts with the padding and some prep work.
The first thing you need to do is clear the room and make sure the subfloor is prepped and ready for carpet pad installation. Each manufacturer may have their own methods, but just make sure the prep work is done, there’s no debris, and your floor is as level as you want it.
Your tack strips should already be down and properly nailed to the subfloor before breaking out a roll of foam or any type of padding. Once you are ready, find the “top” of the carpet padding, which can vary depending on the style and manufacturer. If both sides look the same, the slick side usually goes up unless noted otherwise.
You want any seams to remain at right angles to any angles in the carpet, and you want to keep any padding seams tight. Don’t lay overlap seams – that will cause a ripple in the carpet. Butt seams together before taping or stapling them, but stagger the staples, so they aren’t across from each other if tape isn’t recommended. Also, remember to keep the padding away from the tack strip so your carpet can be appropriately attached.
A hammer-tacker will save you a lot of time when attaching padding near the edge of tack strips, but also on the padding itself. Alternative staple locations so that If an adhesive is required, make sure it’s low VOC and rated for your padding.
Once finished, trim any access, and be sure to remove any scrap from the carpet padding before you install the new carpet. Again, these are basic steps that will work for most forms of carpet padding, but you should always refer to the manufacturer’s directions or recommendations when provided.
Carpet Padding Cost
As with any line of products, some brands of carpet padding are going to perform better than others. That’s largely reflected in the carpet padding cost, which can be hard to wrap your head around if you’re new to the carpet world or not a professional. With that in mind, the table below will give you an idea of what to expect from carpet padding cost across the most common styles of padding.
$0.44 sq. ft.
Future Foam Cush-N-Tred
$1.06 sq. ft.
Synthetic Felt Fiber
$0.53 sq. ft.
$1.03 sq. ft.
Future Foam Prime Comfort
$0.81 sq. ft.
Q: What’s the best type of carpet padding if you have pets?
A: Despite claims that some pads are better than others with pets, the main thing to keep in mind is a pad with a moisture barrier in case your pet has accidents in the house.
Q: What type of carpet pad should I use with Berber carpet?
A: Most manufacturers agree that a firm, thin pad is the best choice. That means you should look for a fiber or slab rubber pad for your carpeting.
Q: Are VOCs a concern with carpet padding?
A: It won’t be an issue with the best carpet padding, but you can look to ensure the products are certified by CRI’s program.
Q: Do carpet pads come with a warranty?
A: That’s a great question, and something you may have noticed when looking through carpet padding. Some manufactures have warranties ranging from 5 to 10 years, while others offer no guarantee at all.
Q: Can I use a radiant heat system with carpet padding?
A: You’ll want to refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations, but a waffle or thin rubber pad is usually the best choice as it allows more heat to get through the carpet pad.
Q: Is it okay to reuse our current carpet padding with a new installation?
A: In most cases, it’s not recommended, although high-end frothed foam padding or a rubber pad could be an exception depending on the length of the previous installation and condition of the pad.