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Carpet Underlay Buying Guide

Your carpet and floorboards may be the stars of the show when it comes to how your flooring looks, but don’t forget the assistant hiding in the wings – underlay.

Underlay refers to a thin layer of material such as fibre, rubber, foam, or felt laid under your flooring. Although you can’t see it, it’s important for a number of reasons. It can:

  • Absorb shock, which protects the condition of your floor
  • Add cushioning for comfortable walking
  • Reduce noise by up to 30%
  • Better insulate your home
  • Keep your floor level and stable
  • Cover small bumps in the subfloor

You want your flooring to be as comfortable and long lasting as possible, and the underlay you choose is a big part of that.

Carpet Barn are specialists in high-quality flooring and underlay solutions. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about choosing the best underlay for your carpet.

Types of Carpet Underlay

Carpet underlay needs to cushion your steps. It should also do a good job at protecting your floor from wear and tear, especially in high-traffic areas.

You might think you can install any kind of underlay under your carpet. They all work pretty much the same, right?

Well, not quite. The underlay you choose should be based on the purpose and location of the carpet.

Below, we’ve described the different types of underlay available, and explained which you should pick depending on your needs.

Polyurethane (PU)

PU foam underlay is the most popular carpet underlay on the market, and it’s not hard to see why.

Made from recycled foam found in mattresses, sofas, and car seats, PU is incredibly lightweight and easy to handle. It offers a plush, super soft surface to walk across and is highly versatile, so it can be laid pretty much anywhere.

Even better, being made of recycled materials makes it one of the greenest options out there!

PU underlays we stock:

  • Zest
  • Brio
  • Sensation
  • Standard Gold

Crumb Rubber / Felt and Crumb Rubber

Crumb rubber is made out of recycled car tyres. There is approximately one whole car tyre per square metre. Some crumb rubber underlays are enhanced with felt, making them more comfortable to walk on.

Crumb rubber is very tough and hard-wearing. It’s typically too hard for softer carpets, but it’s ideal for carpeted areas that will see a lot of footfall, like corridors and stairs, as well as rooms with heavy furniture.

Like PU, being recycled makes it a more eco-friendly option.

Crumb rubber underlays we stock:

  • Axfelt

Sponge Rubber

As the name suggests, sponge rubber is a type of rubber that has been manufactured to have a sponge-like consistency.

Sponge rubber offers the best of both worlds: it has the toughness of rubber with the flexibility of sponge. Like crumb rubber, it’s ideal for areas that see a lot of traffic. Its good insulation rating also makes it great for underfloor heating.

Sponge rubber underlays we stock:

  • Treadmore
  • Colours Red
  • Supreme Rubber
  • Timbermate Excel
  • Hallmark Supreme

If you’re looking to lay a new underlay or replace your old one, Carpet Barn can help! We’re experts in all things carpets, and can source and install high-quality underlay for your home you can rely on for decades.

To get in touch, call your local store or fill out our online form!

Carpet Underlay FAQs

Underlay is designed to last 25 years or more. However, the exact lifespan depends on the material used. Tough materials like rubber will last longer than foam and felt.

Warning signs your underlay needs replacing include:

  • Weakened support (e.g. you can feel the hard floor underneath)
  • Visible damage
  • Carpet defects (e.g. creasing, lumps, bubbles)
  • Bad smells

If you’re not sure if your underlay needs to be replaced, get in touch with our team of flooring specialists. They’ll be able to offer you expert advice on the state of your underlay, and point you in the right direction should it need replacing.

Underlay is generally available in thicknesses ranging from 8 mm–12 mm.

  • Thinner underlay is hard-wearing and cheaper, but doesn’t provide much cushioning. It’s not recommended to lay thin underlay over a concrete base or in areas where you often walk barefoot.
  • Thick underlay has a softer and more luxurious feel. It’s more expensive and best used in areas of low traffic, like bedrooms. Because it allows for a lot of movement, thick underlay lain in a busy area may cause damage to both the underlay and the carpet.

Density is another aspect to consider when choosing an underlay. It can have a big impact on how soft and comfortable a carpet is to walk on: a 12mm thick piece of dense underlay may feel firmer than a 9mm thick piece of less dense material.

Denser materials should be reserved for high-traffic areas and stairs.

In most cases, underlay is just as important as the carpet itself. Without underlay, your carpet will quickly wear thin and possess worse acoustic properties. You will be able to feel the hard floor underneath, making it very uncomfortable to walk on. The room will also be colder due to less insulation. In short – yes, you need underlay under your carpet!

The only exception is if your carpet comes with thick felt backing included. This will act as an underlay, so you won’t need an additional layer of it.

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