Carpet Pad – Is it really THAT important?

by Chris Moline, LEED AP

Pad, padding, carpet underlayment, cushion, foam… whatever you may choose to call it, it’s the unseen and often unsung hero of an excellent carpet installation.
If you’ve never bought carpet for a home, I’m glad you’re here.
If you have, and feel you were well-educated by your sales person, you are one of the fortunate few, my friend.

On my desk is a piece of yellow foam, 3/8 of an inch thick, masquerading as pad… and it’s bothering me. Of course, it is FHA base-grade pad and weighs in at a paltry sub-3-pound density… but that’s not the real story.
The real story is – tada! – that “pad” will void your warranty, no matter how excellent and well-thought-out your carpet choice. In fact, few sales people take the time to educate their customers in the area of the importance of pad.

Let’s go to the go-to resource, the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI). They mandate that carpet cushion should be “no more than 7/16 inch thick and no less than 1/4 inch with 6 pounds per cubic feet density. If the carpet is a Berber or a low profile carpet, choose a cushion no more than 3/8 inch thick with 8 pounds density.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself, and I have, thousands of times over the years because it is so vital.
Check out this picture of what junk pad can do to good carpet:



And here is a close-up of the culprit:

Base grade, foam pad ruined this carpet.

Base-grade, foam pad ruined this carpet.

I do not sample that type of pad, but it is available, begrudgingly.
My standards start at 6 pound and range through the most beautiful 22 pound slab rubber pad you’ve ever set your feet on.
In fact, I have three wonderful, very active, children and you’ll find rubber pad in my basement! We take it very seriously and think you should, too.
That’s why our professional sales staff will take the time to work with you to ensure you’ll be pleased with your choice years from now.
If you are in the neighborhood, stop by our newly-redesigned “Green Area” and take a walk on 40 yards of Sorona SmartStrand frisse carpet with five different pad types underneath. Come to think of it, by next week there will be six because I am going to put a small section of this… lovely… yellow… FHA base-grade foam down, just to make a point.

Feel free to email with any of your “pad” related questions and I’ll do my best to get you the best answer in a timely manner. I will be updating this post with much more in the coming weeks.

All the best!

<br>Christopher Moline, LEED AP<hr><br>Residential Group Manager<br>Commercial Carpets of America <br>703-370-0000 <br><a href=
Christopher Moline, LEED AP
Residential Group Manager
Commercial Carpets of America
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And here is what Shaw has to say about pad:

Carpet cushion, or “pad,” is available in three basic types: foam, fiber, and rubber.

Each type of carpet pad has several different varieties and constructions. The type and thickness of cushion you need varies according to traffic levels and carpet patterns. Bedrooms and other areas with light or moderate traffic, for example, can use thicker and softer carpet cushion. Living rooms, family rooms, hallways, stairs and other heavy traffic areas require thinner and firmer cushion.

Consult your carpet dealer to help you decide the best carpet cushion for you.

The Carpet Cushion Council describes the three different types as follows:
Foam Carpet Cushion
Generally speaking, foam carpet cushion comes in three recognized, clearly different varieties:
Prime polyurethane foam is a firmer version of the same cushioning used in upholstered furniture, mattresses, and automobile seats. Two liquid ingredients are combined to form a large mass of foam, which is then sliced into sheets for use as a carpet cushion.
Bonded polyurethane foam (sometimes called rebond) is quite unique. You cannot mistake it when you see it, because it is formed by combining chopped and shredded pieces of foam, in different sizes and usually different colors, into one solid piece. It frequently has a surface net for ease of installation and improved performance.
Bonded foam is one of the most amazing recycling projects of all time. Nearly all the scrap foam in the U.S., and some from other countries as well, is utilized to make bonded cushion. This recycles waste which would otherwise be thrown out, and it eases the strain on our landfills. Moreover, bonded foam is itself recyclable.

Froth polyurethane foam is made with carpet backing machinery. Liquid ingredients are applied, either directly to the backs of some carpet styles, or to a non-woven material (for making separate cushion). They reach and form a thin, dense foam which is particularly useful in commercial applications with wide expanses of carpet.
Rubber Carpet Cushion
There are two basic types of sponge rubber carpet cushion:
Waffled rubber carpet cushion is made by molding natural or synthetic rubber. Heat cures the rubber and forms a waffle pattern. This variety produces a soft, resilient cushion whose luxurious feel is particularly useful for residences.
Flat sponge rubber is a firm, dense carpet cushion which has a flat surface and is normally used in large-scale commercial applications and with loop type (or Berber) carpet.

Rubber carpet cushion manufacturing processes can be varied to produce different levels of density and firmness. The usual measurement is the weight in ounces per square yard.
Fiber Carpet Cushion
Foam and rubber carpet cushions are produced from new and recycled materials. Fiber carpet cushion, on the other hand, uses existing fibers (both virgin and recycled, and either natural or man-made fibers) which are interlocked into a useful sheet of felt. There are two distinct varieties of fiber carpet cushion:

Natural fibers include felt, animal hair, and jute (the material used to make some kinds of rope and heavy burlap bags). This is one of the oldest types of carpet cushion, dating back to the earliest days of machine-made carpet.
Synthetic fibers include nylon, polyester, polypropylene, and acrylics, which are needle-punched into relatively dense cushions which have a firm feel and, as with other types of carpet cushion, can be made in virtually any weight, to stand up under light, medium, or heavy traffic, which is how they are usually classified.
Special Notes
Berber carpet is becoming increasingly popular, and needs a thin, firm carpet cushion. When buying this type of carpet, be sure that the accompanying cushion has been specified by the manufacturer as suitable for Berber carpet.

Radiant heating is becoming more widely used in certain sections of the country. In the case of radiant heating, you do not want a carpet cushion which is an exceptionally effective insulator, but one which allows the heat from the subflooring to penetrate the carpet system and heat the room. A relatively thin, flat cellular sponge rubber or synthetic fiber carpet cushion works well under these circumstances.

6 responses to “Carpet Pad – Is it really THAT important?

  1. Pingback: Northern Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland Flooring - Residential, Commercial, GSA « Northern Virginia Flooring Bamboo Carpet Wood Tile Green LEED GBC and GSA

  2. Hello, I live in a suburb of Chicago and think I would like to install Mohawk SmartStrand in my house after 16 yrs living in my home, its due!
    I discovered Frothed foam from reading on the internet, and carpet owner really doesn’t know much about it.
    My question is..Should I install frothed foam padding? all the carpet will be installed over plywood subflooring, all except the family room where it is submerged 3/4 underground with a concrete floor. And what is the real difference in the 8 lb vs 10lb Frothed Foam pad? Would I get a better, thicker feel with the 10lb? Or just the opposite? I had a kidney transplant and need thick, lush carpeting with a good cushioned pad to go underneath. I have a 13yr old son and 16 yr old daughter, no pets. Is this combination a good choice for my wants of soft, thick, cushy, non-staining, wear resistance carpet?
    I would appreciate your reply.
    Thank you,

  3. that carpet looks scary 😮

  4. yes this carpet looks gross. I’ve been told pad is so important but I think this picture really says it all!!!

  5. We are looking for somewhere in VA that recycles Carpet padding and hopefully Carpet.. If you can help plead let us know.. Thanks…Mis

    • Chris @WebMindSet

      We recycle what we remove during the project process.
      I’m not aware of others who recycle without performing the work.
      I’ll do some research and follow up.

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