If you’re laying a carpet getting the right underlay can not only make your chosen carpet more comfortable but also last longer – not to mention help with insulation and sound-proofing. However, finding the right material and type for you and your budget isn’t always that simple so we’ve put together this handy guide to getting the most out of your carpet.
Why do you need a carpet underlay?
Laying a new carpet without underlay is a false economy. When re-carpeting a room, underlay is a relatively minor cost that will be repaid several times over by the benefits it offers in improved comfort, durability and appearance.
Underlay: provides a layer of cushioning, increasing the overall thickness of floor covering and making the carpet more comfortable to walk upon; adds insulation against cold passing through the floor; adds insulation against noise from rooms below; helps with noise absorption within the room; maintains the appearance of the carpet over the long term by helping to reduce pile flattening; and provides shock absorption against wear and tear, giving the carpet longer life.
Which material should you choose?
Underlay is commonly manufactured from one of three materials, each with its own advantages and disadvantages:
Rubber was historically widely used but it is now in decline as alternatives have been introduced. Rubber is expensive and has poor thermal insulation but it is hard wearing and provides good noise reduction and a firm feel underfoot. It cannot be recycled.
Foam padding is manufactured from polyurethane sponges which are mulched and assembled on to a thin backing material, in varying thicknesses generally between 7mm and 12mm. Foam provides a soft ‘tread’ and good noise- and thermal-insulation. Foam underlay is budget-friendly and, although it cannot be recycled, it might be considered environmentally-friendly (since it is manufactured from recycled materials). Foam underlays are easy to cut to size with a craft knife or kitchen scissors and pieces can be joined with duct tape.
Felt underlays were traditionally manufactured from jute fibres which added to a carpet’s thickness but not much else. They had cost advantages but provided little extra comfort or insulation. Newer felts, though, are available that are manufactured from wool and provide good heat and noise insulation and feel good underfoot. Modern felts are durable and are a good choice for stairs and high traffic areas.
What else should I consider?
Tog ratings are usually quoted for bed quilts and ski jackets but also, occasionally, for underlays. Tog stands for ‘thermal overall grade’ and is an indication of the heat-insulating properties of a material. An underlay’s tog rating will depend on its thickness, density and material of manufacture: the higher the number, the less heat will be lost through the floor.
Underlay manufactured from recycled materials helps reduce its cost but no underlay should ‘break the bank’ and we’ve researched and reviewed several brands that will meet your requirements at very reasonable prices.
Best Carpet Underlay
T&A Upholstery Supplies 15m² Roll of 10mm-thick PU Foam Underlay
This underlay is supplied in a 1.37m wide roll that is 11m long. The vendor quotes a 2.71 Tog rating which is reasonable for foam backing. The foam’s density is listed as 90kg per cubic metre. The 10cm thickness will provide some ‘springiness’ and cushioning underfoot and this is a well-reviewed underlay at a very competitive price.
Wilsons Underlays 15m² Roll of 10mm-thick Woollen Felt Underlay
The seller claims a high 3.4 Tog rating for this felt underlay. 10mm is a substantial thickness of felt and this underlay will add warmth and thickness to any carpet, over wood or concrete floors. Reviews are positive and this is an excellent choice – especially for buyers who prefer the under-carpet ‘feel’ of felt versus foam – at a feasible cost.
Tredaire ‘Dreamwalk’ 15m² Roll of 11mm-thick Underlay
This polyurethane foam underlay scores high marks for its heat- and noise-insulating qualities. The manufacturer lists a tog rating of 3.13 and the seller advises that the foam has a density of 127kg per cubic metre. The thickness and density of this underlay make it a high-quality pick, that will prove comfortable and durable for the life of the carpet.
‘Plushwalk 12’ 15m² Roll of Foam Underlay
Plushwalk supplies foam underlays in 8mm, 10mm and 12mm thicknesses. Their 12mm offering is described as ‘Super Luxury’ and it provides thick cushioning and good insulation, with a tog rating of 3.3. An added feature is the two polyethylene backings that include a damp-proof membrane. It is supplied in a 15m² roll in a 1.37m width and an 11m length. Plushwalk 12 is a little more expensive than our other picks but it has excellent reviews and will reward a buyer looking for a quality product and a thickly-padded feel underfoot.