Your guide - best carpet underlay

Carpet underlay is a fundamental part of buying a new carpet. It's important that you do some research before replacing your carpet, making sure that you choose the right carpet underlay for the room in your home. 

Often when we are choosing a new carpet, we focus on buying a beautifully soft carpet that feels really luxurious and soft, only to be disappointed a couple of years later when the carpet feels really hard and flat. This is partly because of the type of carpet, but the underlay also plays a huge part in the feel of your carpet over time.

It’s recommended to buy new underlay when you replace your carpet, rather than using the existing underlay. The best type of carpet underlay will provide thermal insulation, reduce noise, make the carpet feel softer underfoot and will help the carpet last longer as it acts as a shock absorber.

Here is our guide to choosing the best type of carpet underlay, including the benefits and the best type of carpet underlay for different rooms in the house. We mention some brands of underlay that are popular, we are in no way affiliated with these companies, this is just our recommendation to help you when you are choosing you underlay.


Why do you need underlay?

Underlay is an integral part of replacing your carpet. There are so many benefits and you should never consider going without carpet underlay. The benefits of the best type of carpet underlay include:

Noise reduction

Carpet underlay will help soundproof your home, so it's perfect if you have a busy household! Or if you live on a first floor flat, you may want to invest in a high performing underlay to reduce the noise for your neighbours. Carpet underlay will help with the impact noise of people walking on the room above.

Your carpet will look better for longer

Good quality underlay will stop the pile flattening and so the carpet will look new for longer. As the underlay acts as a shock absorber, your carpet will sit better and take more wear.

Carpet will feel softer

You carpet will feel more luxurious and softer underfoot with the extra cushioning that underlay provides. Some types of underlay will provide more cushioning and it often pays to choose thicker and more cushioned underlay in areas such as the bedroom where you want the carpet to feel extra soft underfoot.

Reduce energy bills

The best type of carpet underlay will reduce your energy bills as it will keep the heat in your room. If you plan on living in your property for longer, consider investing in a good quality thermal underlay. 

The tog rating of carpet underlay will impact the energy efficiency, so look out for something over 2.5 to keep your home cosy and draft free!

Your carpet is easier to clean

As the carpet pile is protected, the carpet is easier to clean and dust will be removed more easily.


How much should you pay for underlay?

Expect to pay from £2 per metre squared for a budget underlay to £10 for a premium thermal underlay. Invest more in areas of high traffic such as the stairs as it will help the carpet retain its appearance and shape for longer. You can get really great quality of carpet underlay which will cost around £4. 

When choosing a new carpet, it's a common error to budget for the carpet and then choose the cheapest underlay. Think about allocating slightly more to the underlay and you carpet will last for years more.


Do I always need to replace the carpet underlay?

Yes, there is no point investing in a new carpet on top of old underlay. It might provide the carpet decent support for a few years but ultimately will not last as the carpet itself will start going flat.


Where can I buy carpet underlay?

Most people would buy underlay with the carpet rather than sourcing it separately. Most good carpet retailers would have a wide range of underlay to suit all budgets, so you should be able to source the perfect carpet underlay with your new carpet.

You can also buy underlay  online, so you can shop around when choosing your new underlay as you may save quite a bit compared to some chain retailers.


How thick should carpet underlay be?

Carpet underlay can give your carpet a really thick cushioned feeling so overall you should get as thick an underlay as possible. Popular manufacturers make underlay of around 11mm-12mm and this is ideal. 

However, thick underlay on the stairs can make it challenging to fit the underlay, so you must compromise on the comfort slightly. A 9mm underlay would be far easier to fit on the stairs rather than something as much as 12mm.



Should I consider the tog rating of carpet underlay?

The tog rating is so important when choosing your carpet underlay and should be a key consideration.

The carpet underlay tog rating is determined by the composition, density and thickness of carpet underlay. The tog rating is a measure of heat insulation and the higher the tog rating, the better an insulator the underlay should be. Carpet underlay tends vary from 1.0 to 4.0 tog rating.

However, a high tog rating isn't always optimum in all homes - if you have underfloor heating then you should choose a lower tog which would let the warmth rise through the underlay into your room. An underlay with a tog rating of less than 1 are popular for underfloor heating to allow the heat to pass quickly. Do check that your underlay is compatible with underfloor heating and will cope with high temperatures - you are best to invest in specific underfloor heating underlay.

You should choose a tog of 2.5 or over if you don't have underfloor heating.


So what is the best type of carpet underlay?

There is a variety of underlay to choose from, with the most popular being polyurethane (PU) foam, rubber and felt.

1. PU Foam

PU foam is very popular choice as it gives a lovely soft feeling underfoot. PU foam is made from recycled furniture foam, so it's an environmentally friendly choice which can be recycled again after use.

PU foam is available in various thickness depending on budget. The thicker the underlay, the better the insulation, luxurious feel and noise reduction.

Pros

  • Soft underfoot
  • Excellent thermal insulator
  • Environmentally friendly

Cons

  • Will flatten over time
  • Will not recover as easily from furniture as rubber will

Best for...

  • The bedroom where you want a really soft feeling underfoot and have less wear, so less inclined to flatten

One of the most popular types of PU foam underlay is Cloud 9 Cumulus 11mm thick carpet underlay. Normally priced at under £4 per metre squared, this is one of the best types of carpet underlay which can be used around the home but particularly good in the bedroom where you want the underlay to be really soft. With high noise reduction of 43dB and a tog rating of 3.1, it's also an excellent soundproofing and insulating carpet underlay. This can be bought from many carpet retailers as well as online.


2. Rubber

Rubber is great at sound proofing as well as protecting the carpet. Choose a high rubber content though to ensure your carpet recovers easily from furniture marks and to ensure it doesn't disintegrate. Rubber has been around for years and has two popular forms; sponge rubber and crumb rubber.

Sponge rubber

Sponge rubber comes in the traditional waffle form or the more modern flat rubber. Waffle takes its name from the pattern of the underlay which creates an air bubble or pocket. Waffle will flatten quicker than the flat rubber.

Pros

  • Soft underfoot (the softest after PU foam)
  • A firm underlay

Cons

  • Can disintegrate and flatten over time if you buy cheap
  • Waffle flattens easily

Best for...

  • Waffle sponge rubber is better suited to areas such as the bedroom with low traffic
  • Flat sponge rubber performs well in areas of high traffic

Crumb rubber

Crumb rubber is made from recycled car tyres, so it's an environmentally-friendly option. It is very firm and provides good support to the carpet.

Pros

  • Extremely dense and firm
  • Excellent sound proofing
  • Recovers well from furniture marks
  • Environmentally friendly - often made from around 80% recycled materials

Cons

  • Can feel very hard

Best for...

  • Areas of high traffic such as the stairs or rooms with heavy furniture
  • Popular for commercial properties as its hard-wearing

Tredaire sells a good range of rubber underlay, in both sponge and crumb rubber. Tredaire Colour Red Sponge rubber has a high noise reduction of 46 dB and is thick so will make your carpet feel bouncier. 

3. Felt

Felt underlay is a traditional choice and has a high wool content, making it great for insulation.

Pros

  • Extremely firm
  • Excellent thermal properties
  • Recovers well from furniture marks

Cons

  • Not luxurious underfoot

Best for...

  • Stretched woven carpets

Wilson's Wool Rich 56 Underlay is a really popular choice wool felt underlay and it's also economical at around £4 per metre square. It's made from 100% recycled fibres, so it's one of the most environmentally friendly options whilst also being economical. It's 12mm thick and although not quite as soft as others, will provide great cushioning. It has a 3.6 tog rating and noise reduction of 37 dB, so it meets all of the thermal and noise reduction properties.


What other types of underlay are there?

Flooring other than carpet requires underlay. You can get underlay for luxury vinyl which is made of rubber and helps the tiles to stick to the underlay. This will also help with noise reduction and improve thermal performance.

You can also get carpet underlay for wooden and laminate flooring which can cover up any minor floor irregularities, providing more stability and insulation. We do recommend that you speak with the flooring supplier as to whether you will need this for your specific flooring.

Published: July 22, 2019

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