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Selecting the proper carpet padding
Dear Ms. Builder: We have had the same wall to wall carpeting for 15 years and we need to replace it. I am trying to determine the proper type and thickness of carpet pad to get. Is thicker always better? - Bev M.
Dear Bev: Although thicker carpet padding is sometimes better, it is not always the proper choice. Choosing the right carpet padding (called cushions in the trade) is as important to comfort and carpet longevity as the carpet itself.
It is very easy for any homeowner to become confused about what to buy. Everyday, we are inundated with all the carpeting commercials on TV and radio offering the free thick padding. It seems as though the carpet stores are competing to see who can offer the most padding.
First, you must understand the purpose of carpet padding and how it works to determine which type is best for your home and family. A properly carpeted house will have different thicknesses and densities of padding in various rooms and areas within rooms.
Carpet padding is designed to 1) absorb the impact of feet on the carpet, 2) to control the flex of the carpet backing, 3) provide comfortable walking and 4) to provide some insulation over cold floors.
If a carpet pad is too thick and not very dense, it flexes a great deal as you walk on it. This may feel nice at first, but you will quickly begin to notice that your vacuum cleaner bag is getting full of carpet fibers.
This excessive flexing of the carpet backing actually breaks it down and the carpet fibers fall out. On the other hand, if there were no padding, the fibers themselves would take the full impact of foot travel and they would break off and just wear down quickly.
In most areas of the home with moderate to heavy foot traffic, a relatively thin (3/8 inch maximum) high density carpet pad is best. This provides adequate cushioning for comfort and fiber life, but it does not allow the carpet backing to overflex and disintegrate prematurely.
In other areas of your home, where there is little foot traffic and you want a nice "cushy" feel to the carpet, you may choose a thicker, less dense padding. This might be in a bedroom or an area in front of the TV where your husband sits on the floor to watch football.
Generally, you will have three basic material choices for residential carpet padding - foam, sponge rubber and fiber. They are all available in a range of thicknesses and densities. For a given thickness, you can compare the ounces per square yard to gauge the density of the padding.
Foam padding, often urethane foam, is my favorite for most residential applications. There are several grades available, but you will usually see what is called bonded foam. It is made of multicolored small pieces bonded together. It typically has fairly good density.
Fiber padding, which you often see under older carpeting, looks like animal hair. There are new types of fiber pads and some are made from recycled fiber. Fiber pads produce a very firm foundation and may be a good choice for very high traffic areas. Sponge rubber pads are available in a waffled or flat contour. The waffled design is much more resilient than the flat design. If you choose this type, or can find it on sale, make sure to choose a thin pad. Rubber padding provides the least amount of insulation value for cold floors.
If you want to make the best carpet padding selection for each room of your home, contact the Carpet Cushion Council, P.O. Box 546, Riverside, CT 06878 - (203) 637-1312. They have some helpful literature on these topics. In particular, there is a pamphlet
recommending the proper padding type of each room of your house.
Send your questions to Ms. Builder, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com/msbuilder.