Carpet Pads vs Carpet Padding: Which One Should You Get?
So you’ve decided it’s time to buy a new carpet or area rug.
After learning the difference between rug and carpet and a lot of consideration, you’ve settled on the design, material, and color.
Now it’s time to think about pads.
Good pads will make your rug look better, feel better, and last longer.
The best carpet pad or rug pad will protect your flooring, preserve your carpet or rug, and minimize chances of slipping.
Not all pads are created equal though, so we at RugPadUSA made a complete guide on everything you should know about the best options available when it comes to carpet pads.
What is carpet padding?
A carpet pad is a thick layer of material that serves as a foundation for installing carpets.
It comes in a variety of materials, thicknesses, and sizes. Most kinds of carpet padding are made from a type of polyurethane foam — the material that’s used for stuffing furniture and mattresses.
A pad is soft but extremely durable, and the installation is easy. All you have to do is glue it down so it doesn’t move when you install the carpet.
Carpet padding vs. rug pads
They both have “pad” in the name, so they’re basically the same thing, right?
Not exactly. Carpet padding is meant to go under wall-to-wall carpet and uses carpet tape to stick directly to the carpet and the floor. Rug pads go under moveable, impermanent area rugs or runner rugs.
Carpet padding is a necessary part of the carpet installation process and is a fairly permanent thing, while rug pads go under a rug that you can move around and switch up.
We don’t recommend using carpet padding for rugs or rug pads for carpeting because they serve slightly different purposes and won’t offer the same benefits.
If you’re looking for the best rug pad for an area rug, check out our guide on choosing the right rug pad for your area rugs.
Why do you need carpet padding?
Carpet padding can make you feel like you’re walking on clouds, but that’s not all they’re good for.
The best type of carpet padding keeps the backing on the bottom of the carpet safe and also increases its longevity. It also adds cushioning and contributes to noise reduction, insulation, and stability.
Extends carpet life
A carpet is essentially just fiber woven together. Without padding, the backing will break. Once this happens, the carpet starts to age. It loses its shape and starts looking worn.
Carpet padding can help with absorbing everyday foot traffic and lessen fiber crushing — something that happens when fibers undergo a certain amount of pressure. For example, from a couch.
Carpet padding helps prevent this and makes sure the carpet stays in good condition.
Did you know? A study conducted by the Carpet Cushion Council found that carpets without pads lose 19% of their pile height, while those with padding lose only around 5–10%.
Provides more comfort
Carpet pile refers to the carpeting fabric loops — the carpet’s soft surface. A high carpet pile means the fibers are taller and looser, like on a shag carpet.
However, the fact is that, regardless of how thick the carpet is, without carpet padding it won’t be comfortable.
Good padding will absorb footstep impact which will in turn lessen walking fatigue.
A great way to soundproof a space is to install carpets with pads. Have you ever seen a recording studio room without some sort of carpeting or rug?
Carpets and carpet pads lower reverberation levels — the degree to which the sound lives on in the room — as well as eliminate noise from things like children running around, footfalls, and chairs scraping.
Related: A Practical Guide to Soundproofing Floors In Your Home
Heat and sound insulation
If you live in an apartment and can hear your upstairs neighbors stomping around, they don’t have carpet padding.
On top of soundproofing, padding will add to thermal insulation, too. It can retain heat inside your home and also prevent cool air from escaping.
If you’re looking to cut down on utility costs, this is a neat trick. There’s no need for expensive AC or heating systems, as insulated foam can help with temperature regulation.
Seven types of carpet pads
There are a number of different types of carpet padding to put under wall-to-wall carpeting. While here are RugPadUSA, we don’t offer carpet padding (only rug pads), we still want to make sure you find the very best for under your carpets.
Then, if you decide to put a rug on top of your carpeting, then our Carpet Lock rug pad will be the perfect solution.
1. Rebonded foam
Rebond pad is the most common pad choice and is often the most affordable too. Because it’s made by combining various parts of recycled foam, rebond pads are multi-colored.
- Eco-friendly — Made from recycled foam
- Durability — Bonded padding makes it durable
- Not suitable for high traffic areas
2. Frothed foam
Example carpet padding from Home Depot
This is the most durable option on our list using high-density urethane foam. The foam padding is great for long term residential carpeting on high traffic areas or in high traffic commercial spaces like hotels or waiting rooms.
- Durability — Likely to outlast the carpet itself
- Density — Denser than other types of foam padding
- The price — More expensive than other pads on our list, but as it can last as long as at least two carpet installations, it can be worth it.
3. Prime foam
Another common pad option that’s affordable and around midrange when it comes to performance. This type of padding comes from new polyurethane foam meaning it’s not recycled and is instead cut from a big mass of foam.
- It’s firm — Is also used in couch cushions and upholstery
- Not the best heavy traffic option
- Not durable — Has air pockets that collapse over an extended period of time, especially if used in high traffic areas
- Not recycled — Made of polyurethane foam
4. Memory foam
If you have a memory foam mattress, then you already know what memory foam feels like – it’s that lush, cushioned gel sort of feel that’s oh-so-nice. When you put it in carpet padding form, your feet can have that luxurious feeling, too.
This is great for places like living rooms or bedrooms where you want to sit and relax.
- Durability — Made of durable frothed foam
- Comfort — Extremely soft, and will add to your comfort
- Price — More expensive than recycled pads
- Not suitable for heavy traffic — Squishes down over time
- Can stretch the carpet backing which leads to carpet wear and tear
This type of carpet pad isn’t made of foam, but a combination of materials — nylon, felt, polyester, and sometimes jute. Also worth mentioning is wool carpet pads. If you’re getting a Berber carpet, the warranty may require a fiber pad.
- Suitable for all kinds of traffic
- Dense and flat — A great choice for commercial carpeting
- Not comfortable as soft as foam
6. Waffle pad
Waffle rubber pads are one of the oldest paddling styles and still work fairly well. They are cushioned and have a very low price tag which can be nice. Because it has that waffle design, it allows airflow which is nice for a soft underfoot feel, but tends to collapse and wear down quicker than foam or fiber.
- Not durable — Air pockets make it less durable than slab rubber
7. Rubber pad
Example rubber pad from Home Depot
Rubber pad is premium carpet padding that offers some of the most durable padding for carpets - but it also comes with a high price tag. Solid rubber like this offers the cushion and density that rubber waffle pads have, but doesn’t have the issue with air pockets collapsing and the pad condensing over time.
- Durable — Can last for more than two sets of carpet
- The price — Expensive, but, if you plan to live in your house for 20 or more years, it’s a good choice.
How to choose the best carpet pad
Now that you know the different options to choose from, how do you actually choose the best one for you? These are the things you’ll want to think about.
Carpet pad thickness
Thicker padding is not always better. Sometimes the pad isn’t as durable and can cause wrinkles in the carpet, which don’t look aesthetically pleasing and can be a tripping hazard. Plus, if you’re getting a thin carpet and thick, cushioned padding, thin furniture legs or high heels could potentially puncture the carpet surface.
The general rule is that carpet padding shouldn’t be thicker than 1/2”. The Carpet and Rug Institute recommend padding no thicker than 3/8” for Berber carpets.
Here is what thickness works best for different areas:
- High traffic areas, such as living rooms — A thinner carpet with heavier weight
- Low or moderate traffic areas, such as a bedroom — Thick padding
- Berber Carpet — Thin pads, as thick rug pads have too much give for a short-pile carpet
Carpet pad weight
Carpet density — or weight — can go from 2 to 10 pounds per square foot. In the majority of cases, you’ll need padding between 6 to 8 pounds for best durability and comfort, but we recommend checking your carpet manufacturer's recommendations.
R-value refers to a pad’s ability to resist the flow of heat. You’ll see R-value in everything from mattresses to carpet padding. Carpets with a higher R-value are more successful in trapping and storing heat, so it doesn’t seep out through the floor.
Here’s a comparison table of different kinds of padding in terms of R-value.
FAQs about finding the best carpet pad
Still have questions? We don’t blame you! Flooring, especially carpeting, can be confusing and there’s a lot of contrasting information out there. Here, we’ve answered the most common questions for you.
What is the best carpet pad for pets?
With pets, it might be a good idea to invest in a waterproof carpet pad or rug pad to keep any potential pee accidents from seeping through the carpet and damaging your flooring. For more information on waterproof rug pads, check out our guide on the best carpet pad for pets.
Does a carpet pad make a difference?
Yes, it does. With carpets, the underlay carpet pad is the foundation between the carpet and your floor which is essential for your carpet to be comfortable and last a long time.
For a rug, getting a pad under it will also make a difference by making the rug softer, keeping the rug in place, and providing protection for your floors and rug.
Is memory foam carpet pad worth it?
It depends because it can be a pretty big investment. If you’re looking for ultimate luxury and comfort, then yes, memory foam is definitely worth it. However, if you need to be thinking about cost or the carpet won’t have heavy traffic, it might be better to go with a more cost-effective material like rebonded foam.
How much is a good carpet pad?
The cost of padding depends on the type you want and how big of an area you’ll be carpeting. The cheapest is the bonded foam, while the most expensive is flat rubber.
According to Home Advisor, the average cost per square foot of carpet padding is $3.75.
What are the grades of carpet padding?
- Rebond Padding: 5lbs–10lbs
- Frothed Foam: 10lbs–12lbs
- Prime Foam: 10lbs–12lbs
- Memory Foam: 8lbsFiber: 6.5lbs +
- Waffle Pad: 4lbs +
- Rubber Pad: 18lbs–22lbs
What is the difference between 6lbs and 8lbs carpet padding?
8lbs padding is stiffer and more dense, while 6lbs padding is softer and more cushioned. 6lbs is still dense enough for use with a residential carpet and provides a nice cushioned feel but will be slightly less durable than 8lbs carpet padding. 8lbs provides more durability for high-traffic areas or commercial spaces.
Is 25 Oz carpet any good?
It all depends on the carpet style.
For example, a Berber has a lower face weight than Saxonies because of their low pile. A 25 oz good quality Berber is more likely to outlast a 25 oz mediocre quality Saxony.
Is an 8lbs carpet pad good?
Yes, it is. If you’re looking for padding for a residential area, 8lbs is a great choice in terms of durability and comfort.
When is the best time of year to buy carpeting?
Spring. The majority of the big manufacturers introduce new collections at The International Surface Event, usually held at the end of January in Las Vegas.
After the event, manufacturers send samples to the retailers, and new styles hit the carpet store in early spring.
Though if you’re looking for the best prices, we recommend shopping during the Christmas holiday season into early January.
What carpet padding is recommended for berber carpet?
Berber needs a stable, low-flex pad, no more than 3/8” thick and with an 8 density.
Is carpet padding toxic?
Older carpet padding can contain toxins, such as endocrine-disruptors, phthalates, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These can lead to organ damage and cancer.
However, nowadays most manufacturers are much more careful about toxins in carpet padding and there are strict regulations to ensure carpet padding is safe for homes.
How do I install carpet padding?
Can I reuse carpet padding?
It depends on the type and condition of your padding. The majority of padding will become worn, dirty, and even smelly after years of use.
But, if your padding is in good condition, you can reuse it.
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