What You Need to Know About Underlay
Last Updated Feb 29, 2012 · Written by Rob Schneider
Most of us spend a great deal of time choosing our carpets
, but very little if any choosing our carpet underlay. Why could something that is hidden beneath the carpet be important? Won't the cheapest underlay be good enough? When you know a little more about it, you'll see why it's important to know about underlay.
Why is Underlay Needed?
When asked why carpet underlay is needed, most would come up with one or a combination of these standard replies:
- It provides a cushioning effect when you walk on it.
- Underlay provides better noise insulation than carpet alone.
- Underlay provides insulation against cold, bare floors in winter.
Actually, all of these answers are correct, but there's even more to it than that. When you walk on a carpeted floor with a good underlay, the underlay has a cushioning effect on the carpet as well as your feet. This helps prevent your feet from grinding in to the carpet and can greatly extend the life of your carpet. This is one reason why a good underlay is not a waste of money. On the contrary, in the long run it can save you money.
Types of Underlay
There are three standard types of carpet underlay:
- Felt underlay is the cheapest type of carpet underlay. It is made from wool and other fabrics. Rarely used today, felt used to be the only type of underlay available.
- Rubber or "rubber waffle" underlay is springy, durable and, because of its cellular construction, breathable. A relatively expensive option, it is often considered to be superior than other types of underlay.
- Foam underlay was originally introduced as an inexpensive alternative to rubber. However, foam technology has improved to the point where this is not necessarily the case anymore.
In addition to carpet underlays, underlays are now available for timber and vinyl floors. Wood underlays are primarily for noise reduction while vinyl underlays include the extra benefit of making a vinyl floor feel springier and softer underfoot.
How to Choose Underlay
First of all, don't make price your first consideration when purchasing an underlay. Instead, choose the best underlay for your needs. For example, some of the more expensive rubber waffle underlays provide excellent noise insulation, a property that is well worth paying more for in upstairs bedrooms. Some other things to consider include:
- If you intend to install a floor heating system, talk to your supplier before you choose an underlay. Some underlays are designed specifically for this application.
- If possible, try an underlay before you buy it. Depending on your choice of carpet, one underlay may feel better underfoot than another.
- When replacing your carpet, believe your supplier when they tell you that you should replace your underlay as well. Underlays wear out at the same rate as carpets. The few dollars you save by laying a carpet on top of an old underlay will be lost when your carpet wears out sooner and you'll miss out on the nice feeling of a springy new carpet.
Carpet laying is a viable DIY project, but unless you're laying an inexpensive carpet in an unimportant room, it's unadvisable. A professional carpet layer
will give you a well-laid carpet in a fraction of the time it takes most amateurs to do a substandard job. There's nothing nicer than a smoothly laid carpet to come home to. Leave it to the pros and that's what you'll get.