Have you ever thought about what shocks do for a car? Most people would say it gives the passengers a smooth ride. That’s true, but shocks do more than that. Every time the vehicle goes over a bump it cushions the amount of impact on the tires. For example, if you take your hand and slam it down on a desk, your hand hurts. But, if you slam your hand on a balloon, it doesn’t. In other words, the balloon cushions the blow, but the desk does not. If shocks did not cushion the blow of a bad bump your tire tread would quickly wear away. Your tires would be shot in just a few months. This is exactly what a good carpet pad does for a carpet. It is a shock absorber that cushions the footsteps so the carpet is not damaged when someone walks on it.
Let me tell you about a mistake that illustrates the importance of carpet padding. About 15 years ago, a couple came in and the husband was in a wheelchair. They wanted top-of-the-line carpet and said the wheelchair had to roll on it so it couldn’t be too cushy. I allowed them to pick a high-end residential carpet that we would glue down. In other words, no padding would be placed under the carpet.
Less than six months later they called and said their carpet looked absolutely horrible. They brought pictures in that I showed to the factory representative. He looked at me in horror. He asked, “You didn’t glue this down did you?” I said yes, why? Then he told me that there is no warranty on any residential carpet unless it is laid over a minimum six-pound pad. I apologized to the customers profusely. I had to pay for the new carpet and pay to install it with a special pad designed for wheelchairs. It was an expensive lesson, but the point is, residential carpet has to be put over some type of pad or it will get trampled.
There are three primary types of carpet padding that are commonly sold: rebond, memory foam, and rubber. Rebond pads are little scraps of foam that are compressed together. Memory foam, like rebond, is also compressed, but the scrap used is a much higher grade raw material. The color of the scrap with memory foam is also usually a much lighter shade. Rubber pads have historically been called waffle pads because one side resembles a waffle. These pads are made of rubber and are considered the highest quality carpet padding available. Pads used to come in various thickness, but issues with installation standardized the process to 7/16 thickness. The thicker cushions were causing properly installed carpets to loosen too soon forcing re-stretches that would cause the carpet excessive wear.
Rebond pads are the least expensive pads sold. These pads come in six, eight, and ten-pound densities and are used in apartment buildings or with low-quality carpets. The way density is computed is as follows. Manufacturers take one cubic yard of scrap that weighs six pounds and cut it into 7/16 thickness. They do the same for each density. The ten-pound density costs more than the six-pound and is a much higher quality pad. The higher densities feel harder when you touch them, but when they are put under carpet they make the carpet feel much nicer. These weights are all available in versions with moisture barriers. The purpose of a moisture barrier is to prevent liquid from entering the foam where it can bleed back up through the carpet causing stains and bad odors.
Although memory foam pads look similar to rebond pads, they are very different. If you’ve ever looked at the cost of a Tempur-Pedic mattress (ouch), memory foam derives from the same family. Yes, memory foam pads cost considerably more than rebond, but they are almost as good as rubber pads, which are the very, very best. The memory foam springs back better and for longer periods of time than its distant cousin, rebond. Memory foam pads usually come with moisture barriers already attached, but not always. The color of most memory foam is cream, pink, or a combination of both, and is a really high quality cushion that can go under any carpet.
Rubber pads are considered the best pads by most experts. To start, it’s the only one recommended to go over radiant heat. It is so heavy and dense that nothing can compare to it as a sound and heat insulator. It is almost waterproof, so the need for a moisture barrier is minor. It extends the life of a carpet better than any other pad and lasts longer than any other cushion. It’s completely non-allergenic with zero dust penetration. It has an unmatched feel and comes with the longest warranty. It even comes with an anti-microbial enzyme moisture barrier as extra protection even though water can’t penetrate. A roll of rubber pad weighs about 60 pounds for 12 square yards. Rebond and memory foam pads come in 30 square yard rolls and weigh less than 30 pounds. This stuff is super, super heavy, which means it’s good quality.
All of these pads come with something on one side called scrim. This is a coating that always faces up when the pad is laid down so that the back of the carpet will easily slide on it. This is done to make installation manageable for the craftsman.
Carpet padding is always the best money you can spend in a carpet store! Put it this way, if you were to spend $3 more per yard on carpet, you may or may not be able to tell the difference. However, take that same $3 and spend it on an upgraded pad and it will make all the difference in the world.