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Choosing the Right Carpet Pad

You’ll put a lot of time and energy into picking the perfect carpet — color, material, carpet style, stain resistance, durability, and so on. But what about what’s underneath your carpet? Carpet padding is the unsung hero of your flooring, and it can make a huge difference to the comfort, durability, and appearance of your carpet.

Why Do You Need Carpet Padding?

Believe it or not, most of the comfort from walking on a carpet — that soft, pliable feeling underfoot — is from the carpet padding, not the carpet itself. But it’s not as simple as picking the softest carpet pad to get the softest carpet.

Your feet put quite a lot of pressure on your carpets. After all, your whole body weight is concentrated onto your heel, which is a circle only a couple of inches across. That’s why you want a carpet pad that’s dense enough to support your body weight. If your pad is too soft, you’ll simply flatten the pad so much that it’s like not having one at all.

Extending the Life of Your Carpet

It’s a misconception that carpet “wears out” in the usual sense. What shortens the life of a carpet isn’t usually wear and tear on the fibers themselves, but “pile crushing” — over time, the carpet fibers are pressed down over and over, and eventually, they stay that way.

In a study done by the Carpet Cushion Council, a rolling chair with 150 pounds in it was rolled over carpet samples 20,000 times. Carpets with no cushioning lost almost 20 percent of their pile height to pile crushing. Carpets with padding, on the other hand, only lost five to ten percent of their height.

Sound and Heat Insulation

In many houses, the ground floor is where your social life happens. The living room, kitchen, and dining room are all downstairs. Upstairs, by contrast, is a place of peace and tranquility, where bedrooms and babies’ rooms live. Keeping them separate is good for your peace of mind, and carpet padding can help.

When you’re upstairs, carpet padding can help keep the sounds of cooking, talking, and music from filtering through the floor and disturbing your sleep. And when you’re downstairs, the durable foam or rubber padding can keep heavy footsteps and creaking furniture from sounding like a thunderstorm overhead.

Carpet padding can also make a substantial difference in heat insulation, which will help keep the temperature in your home evenly distributed and save you money on power bills. Typical carpet pads have an R-value (a measure of insulation) of between 0.75 and 2 — almost as good as fiberglass!

How Thick Should Carpet Padding Be?

The thickness of your carpet padding will depend on two main factors: the carpet on top of it and the kind of usage it’s getting.

In general, for high traffic areas like hallways, stairs, and offices (where rolling chairs can be hard on carpets), you’ll want a thinner, denser pad that will hold up to heavier use.

In living rooms, playrooms, bedrooms, dens, and similar areas, you won’t be walking around or moving furniture nearly as much, so you can splurge on comfort. In these rooms, a thicker, more luxurious carpet pad is perfectly suited to a cozy, intimate room.

Berber carpet, one of the more popular carpet styles in recent years, is a special case. Since the loops in Berber carpet are layered and twisted into each other, they are more susceptible to wear and tear from internal friction. However, Berber carpet is also more dense — it stands up better to heavy foot and furniture traffic, so it doesn’t need as much padding. While other carpet pads are around 0.5 inches thick, Berber carpet often uses a thinner pads. But have no fear, these things are also individual choices and our staff can show you the difference between these thicknesses. You can even walk on them in our showroom and experience them for yourself!

Types of Carpet Padding

Carpet padding is usually made of different types of foam, and is often sorted by “weight.” Weight refers to the weight of one cubic foot of carpet padding material, and ranges from 3-10 pounds. We don’t recommend using a carpet pad under a 6-lb weight for residential purposes, and 8-lb padding is probably better for high-traffic areas.

Other kinds of carpet padding include:

  • Bonded Foam — responsible for 85 percent of the carpet padding in the United States, bonded foam is a great all-around mix of value, durability, and price.
  • Prime Foam — prime foam is very soft and inexpensive carpet padding, but tends to wear out more quickly than other varieties.
  • Frothed Foam — made from foam that’s had air injected while in its liquid state, frothed foam is extremely durable and dense, which makes it an excellent choice for high-traffic areas. However, it’s significantly more expensive as a result.
  • Memory Foam — similar to frothed foam, memory foam is the most comfortable option on the market, but it’s also more expensive and wears out more quickly.
  • Fiber Padding — instead of foam, fiber padding uses a dense network of natural or synthetic fibers. It’s not very soft, but it’s extremely durable, making it perfect for high-traffic and commercial settings.

Choosing Your Carpet Pad

When it comes down to it, you should be putting just as much attention into choosing your carpet pad as you do into choosing your carpet, but it can be hard to choose! Luckily, our expert staff at Sloane’s Carpet Secret can help you find the perfect pad for your home and your carpet.

Book an appointment with Sloane’s, and we’ll show you the wide variety of carpets and pads that we carry in our warehouse. We’re sure that we can find something that you and your family will love!