Once you've gone through the exciting process of picking the style, texture, and color of your gorgeous new carpeting, it's time to get down to the technical details. Actually, we should just say "detail" because the most important decision you're going to have to make for your carpet is what kind of padding will go under it. Carpet padding is the cushioned (usually foam) layer that goes underneath your carpet during installation, and while it could be assumed that this layer is used simply to provide cushioning under your carpet, it actually works to give your carpet as many advantages as possible. Your carpet pad will also support your carpet and extend its lifetime, affect the acoustics of the room your carpet is in, and add some insulation to your home. But carpet padding is not one-size-fits-all, and we're here to help you see why.
First, you've got to consider where your carpet is going to be installed. Is it intended for a high-traffic area such as an office building or hallway, or is it going to grace your den or living room? A thinner carpet pad (no more than 3/8") is best suited for the former, while a delightfully cushioned carpet pad (around 1/2") is perfect for the latter. How thick your carpet pad should be is also going to depend on the type of carpet you purchase. Some types of carpeting, such as Berber, are too thin to be supported by a thicker pad. Just imagine putting a piece of paper on top of a sponge and pressing down on it. The paper would crinkle, right? A similar rule applies to think carpet over thick padding.
Now, let's talk about the weight, or density, of carpet padding. Typically carpet padding lands somewhere in the 3-10 lbs per cubic foot range. We recommend going no lighter than a 6.5 lb carpet pad. Any thinner and you'll be shaving years off your carpet's lifespan. If you're looking to make this new carpet of yours last for as long as possible (around 10 years or so), go for a 8+ lb pad. The denser your carpet pad, the longer your carpet will survive.
With our two biggest components out of the way, it's time to take a look at the different kinds of foam carpet padding and the pros and cons of each. We always suggest you speak with a knowledgeable professional before making a final decision, but this little snapshot should give you a general idea of what you may want in your carpet padding.
1. Prime Foam
Pros: Allows for a soft step due to air pockets / Budget-friendly (usually what you get if offered free carpet padding)
Cons: Doesn't stand up to heavy foot traffic / Not super durable / Sinks quickly
Verdict: Avoid this carpet padding if you can afford something better
Pros: Inexpensive / Can stand up to heavy foot traffic / Great for commercial or low-pile carpeting
Cons: Can mold if made with natural fibers / Adds little cushion for comfort
Verdict: Unless your home has more foot traffic than the average, it's probably best to leave this pad to commercial use.
3. Memory Foam
Pros: Possibly the most comfortable carpet padding on the market / Quite durable
Cons: Stretches and squishes over time and could ruin your carpet as a result / Pricey / Newer to the market
Verdict: If comfort is your biggest priority with your carpet, go ahead and treat your self to this luxury padding.
4. Bonded Foam
Pros: Durable / Eco-friendly / Best bang for your buck
Cons: Doesn't hold up well to high foot traffic
Verdict: Unless you're buying for a commercial building, you can't go wrong with this padding.
5. Frothed Urethane Foam
Pros: Super durable / Able to stand up to high foot traffic / Comfortable
Cons: It's expensive
Verdict: This padding is great for the busy household and will keep your carpet looking great. If you can afford the expense, go for it.
6. Flat Rubber Pad
Pros: Outlasts your carpet (can be used for a second) / Extremely durable / Will help your carpet last longer
Cons: It's expensive
Verdict: If you plan on living in your home for 20+ years and can afford it, this is the luxury pad for you!