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Our Guide to Understanding Carpet Underlay

So, you’ve taken the plunge and decided to re-carpet your home. The perfect carpet has been picked out, the room’s been measured and you’re ready to go — but what about underlay?

From why it’s an essential component to how to choose the best underlay for your individual rooms, here’s our guide to understanding carpet underlay.

What is carpet underlay?

Put simply, underlay is the material that’s placed underneath carpets before they’re laid down. It has numerous purposes and is an essential part of carpeting a room.

Why is underlay important?

Underlay isn’t just crucial for comfort underfoot, but it also drastically helps maintain your carpet as well as providing extra protection against moisture. It is also a great shock absorber, meaning it’s ideal for reducing noise from things like footsteps, voices or moving furniture.

In general, carpets without underlay have a much shorter lifespan and are more at risk of rapid wear and tear. Underlay is especially important if you’re planning on laying carpet over concrete as it will help make walking across the room much more comfortable.

Aside from the obvious comfort benefits, UK carpet underlay manufacturer Ball & Young, have shared some lesser known benefits; Many people don’t know that good quality underlay can actually save you money, with a reduction in heat loss resulting in lower energy bills. Furthermore, underlay can play a role in reducing noise transfer, which results in an overall reduction of noise levels. Underlay is also critical in protecting the carpet pile, which in turn, makes cleaning easier and leaves your home more hygienic.

In short, if you’re looking for longevity, luxury feel and want your carpet to last, always ensure your carpet is fitted with a quality, new underlay underneath – carpets fitted without underlay may also invalidate your guarantee or warranty, so it’s a wise investment long-term.

Are there different types of underlay?

Yes, just like carpets, underlay comes in a range of different types. These include:

Foam underlay – Typically made of PU foam, this is one of the most versatile types of underlay. It’s soft and lightweight as well as being good for insulation and noise reduction. Foam is also a very easy underlay to fit, making it fantastic for difficult areas like staircases or hallways.

Sponge rubber underlay – Sponge rubber underlay is very durable and great for sound reduction which makes it one of the best carpet underlays for concrete floors. It’s also the best carpet underlay for underfloor heating as it allows heat from the underfloor panels to escape into the room efficiently.

Felt underlay – This is a more traditional form of underlay that provides excellent cushioning as well as a reasonable level of noise reduction and warmth. Felt underlays are typically made of wool, making them cheaper and easier to lay.

Crumb rubber underlay — This form of underlay is made mostly from recyclable materials that are densely packed together. It’s great for rooms with heavy furnishings as it will protect your carpet from indentations.

What are tog ratings?

Just like duvets, carpets and underlay also have tog levels which refer to their ability to retain heat. Typically, the higher the tog rating on your underlay, the better it will be at insulating your floor. If you opt for, or already have underfloor heating, be sure to add the tog rating and the carpet together to get a combined rating – especially if you’ve got the luxury of underfloor heating, or if you’re thinking of investing in it. You should be looking for a combined tog rating of less than 2.5 for your carpet and underlay for underfloor systems to operate efficiently.

Choosing carpet underlay

It might be tempting to re-use the old underlay beneath your existing carpets but it’s crucial that you don’t. If your carpet is looking worn out, then so is the underlay. Old underlay will already be flatter and worn out, unable to cushion the everyday footfall throughout your home and protect the pile surface of the carpet.

 

Instead, you’ll want to pick out some new underlay to go with your brand new carpets. Which type of underlay you choose will be determined by several factors such as:

1. The type of carpet you’re placing on top

Your choice of carpet won’t have a huge amount of influence on the type of underlay you need. However, if you’ve opted for a thinner carpet, you may want to choose a slightly thicker underlay. This will provide extra cushioning without compromising on the style of your carpet.

Felt underlay can be one of the best underlays for wool carpets if you’re considering them for areas like bedrooms, hallways or stairwells. This is because felt underlay provides a great level of comfort underfoot and will prevent the wool carpet from flattening out.

2. The type of floor it will sit on

Is your carpet going on top of a concrete floor or perhaps in a room with underfloor heating? These factors will determine the type of underlay you choose as you’ll want to go for one that provides the correct level of insulation, soundproofing and shock absorbency.

Sponge rubber underlay is a great option for harder floors as it’s hard wearing and provides plenty of insulation if the floor is made of a cold material like concrete.

3. Which room you’re placing it in

You should try to choose the correct underlay to suit the purpose of the room if possible. Are you re-carpeting a bedroom or are you re-doing the carpet on your staircase? You’ll want an underlay that’s good at insulating and cuts out noise for the former, while the latter requires an underlay that’s versatile and easy to install on difficult surfaces.

Furnishings will also affect your underlay choice as you’ll want to protect your carpet from becoming permanently indented by heavy items. Denser underlays like crumb rubber and smooth rubber are ideal for this.

When it comes to furnishing your home, the underlay you opt for can be just as important as your choice of carpet. It’s crucial that you understand all your individual requirements and make the right decision as doing so can really benefit your carpet and your home in the long run.