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March 24, 2022
There are a lot of different types of carpet padding available, but what’s the best carpet pad?
We’re here to answer that very question!
First, we’ll explain what carpet padding is before diving into the general benefits it offers. Then, we’ll cover the pros and cons of many of the most popular types of carpet padding, round up any lingering carpet pad FAQs, and deliver a quick verdict on the best carpet padding available!
First of All, What Is Carpet Padding?
All types of carpet need some sort of carpet padding. So, what does it do?
The best carpet pad can act as a buffer between your carpet and your subfloor. In practical terms, carpet padding supports your carpet and limits the ability for wrinkles and creases to form. In terms of comfort, it increases a carpet’s cushion, warmth, and sound dampening qualities (which helps keep a room quiet).
Some of the best carpet brands will pre-attach a carpet pad to their products, but for the most part, carpet padding is a separate (though usually inexpensive) purchase.
Oh, and nearly all types of flooring require some sort of buffer between the floor itself and your subfloor, like underlayment for vinyl flooring. Even the best laminate flooring and other fake wood floors need an underlayment!
Translation: this isn’t some ploy by carpet manufacturers to fork out more dollars out of your wallet—in fact, the reason many manufacturers don’t pre-attach carpet padding is so you can choose the option that best suits your needs.
Carpet Pads vs. Rug Pads
One quick note: carpet pads and rug pads are not the same thing and should not be used interchangeably.
That said, on a slightly unrelated note, you can put a rug on a carpet for style points.
Does a Carpet Pad Really Make a Difference? Yes!
The best carpet padding makes a massive difference in the longevity of your carpet.
Even if you were to buy one of the very best floors from a top carpet brand, the floor would only be a shade better than useless without the proper support the best carpet pads offer.
Here’s a quick analogy: would you cross a bridge made purely of asphalt (i.e. no support columns, no cable suspenders—just a flat pathway made of unsupported asphalt)?
Of course not!
The point: even the best carpet needs structural support beneath it or will essentially crumble. The only exception is peel-and-stick carpet tiles, which usually have some sort of carpet pad equivalent pre-attached to their base.
What Benefits do the Best Carpet Pads Provide?
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how much the best carpet padding can help your soft-surface floors.
The Best Carpet Padding Will Extend Your Carpet’s Life…
You might have noticed that we keep saying “the best carpet padding”. Why is that exactly?
Because you’re not going to get your money’s worth from carpet with mediocre padding! And poor-quality padding will deteriorate over time.
Worse: it’ll likely do so unevenly. But why does that matter? If your carpet padding starts breaking apart in some spots, it’ll be noticeable in the floor itself. Not only will this look bad, but low-quality padding could take your carpet with it. So you’ll have to replace both.
On the other hand, the best carpet pad can extend your carpet’s anticipated lifespan.
…Because It Enhances Your Carpet’s Durability
The best carpet padding offers enough support for your carpet to resist damage from everyday wear and tear. Basically, whenever someone steps on your carpet, the padding absorbs some of the impact force.
It’s the same idea as the padding inside of a helmet. If you bonk your head on something, the helmet’s padding will absorb some of the impact force, sparing your brain the worst of the collision.
That said, carpet padding isn’t everything—you still have to factor in things like carpet pile, fiber, and so on—but a good carpet pad goes a long way.
Of course, if you want the strongest floors available, you might want to look into products from the best vinyl plank flooring brands or the best engineered wood flooring brands. These products are designed from the ground up to be as robust as possible, whereas carpet’s chief focus tends to be on comfort.
Carpet With Padding Is More Comfortable
And speaking of comfort, the best carpet pad can make a big difference in comfort for your carpet.
Carpet padding can add a lot of cushion to your floor, so even if you don’t opt for the comfiest carpet available, your choice of carpet pad can add a little bit of springiness.
There are a lot of ways to play around with this, too. The best carpet for bedrooms, for example, usually has a comfortable pile and cushiony carpet pad. Or, if you choose a durable berber carpet (which typically isn’t known for comfort), you can lay it over comfy carpet padding to improve the feel of the floor.
And the Best Carpet Pad Offers Better Insulation (for Both Heat and Sound)
Lastly, carpet already has great insulation qualities, but the best carpet pad can make those qualities even better. And better insulation means your floors won’t “leak” heat in colder months, or let heat in when it’s hot outside.
This also applies to noise. Loud sounds won’t carry very well over a carpet with the best carpet pad attached.
The only other floors that have comparable insulation properties are WPC flooring and the best cork flooring, both of which are hard-surface floors.
Features to Look for in the Best Carpet Pads
There are 2 factors to consider when it comes to the best carpet padding: pad thickness and pad density.
The Best Carpet Pad Thickness (aka Carpet Pad Height)
The best carpet padding typically ranges between 6/16” (or 3/8”) and 8/16” (or 1/2”) thick. Anything outside of this range is likely to cause install problems.
The best thickness, on the other hand, heavily depends on whether you have cut pile vs. loop pile carpet.
For medium or deep cut pile carpet, the best carpet padding will either be 7/16” or 8/16” thick. Because these carpets are already very cushioned, they benefit from a thicker, denser pad that focuses on structural support.
For low-pile and loop carpets, the best carpet pad options are thinner, at around 6/16” thick. For these carpets, thicker pads offer too much “give”, which lets the fibers stretch, wrinkle, and crease.
The Best Carpet Pad Density (aka Carpet Pad Weight)
Carpet pad density or weight essentially measures how much material exists within a cubic foot or yard. Most carpet padding weighs between 3 to 10lbs per cubic foot, although 6.5lbs or higher is ideal.
In fact, the best carpet pad usually weighs at least 8lbs per cubic foot.
That said, there are exceptions based on material (see next section) and anything between 6lbs and 10lbs should offer a good balance of cost and function (i.e. “the sweet spot”).
What’s the Best Carpet Padding for Your Floors?
Just as there are many types of carpet, there are many types of carpet padding too!
Here are the most common options, a couple of which make the case for being the best carpet pad available.
Also, keep in mind that we’re excluding magnetic flooring underlayments from the choices below because their use in carpet is still pretty rare (though possible).
The Pros and Cons of Prime Foam Carpet Padding
Prime foam carpet padding is probably the weakest option here as it typically only weighs between 2 and 5lbs per cubic foot (and only lasts 3 to 4 years on average).
The best thing about it is that it tends to be the most budget-friendly option, and it often comes pre-attached to budget carpets. Otherwise, prime foam carpet padding is best left to low-traffic rooms.
The Pros and Cons of Frothed Foam Carpet Padding
Frothed foam carpet padding, on the other hand, is absolutely a contender for the best carpet pad crown. It usually weighs at least 12lbs per cubic foot and offers significantly enhanced durability and comfort over “prime” foam carpet pads.
The Pros and Cons of Rebond Carpet Padding
Rebond carpet padding is a good value option because it typically weighs between 5 and 10lbs per square foot (i.e. right in the sweet spot) and has a relatively low cost compared to the other options here (aside from prime foam options).
On the downside, it’s not nearly as durable as frothed foam padding. But if you buy a heavier rebond pad—at least 8lbs per cubic foot—it should work well enough for residential purposes without breaking the bank.
The Pros and Cons of Memory Foam Carpet Padding
Memory foam carpet padding is increasingly popular because of how comfortable it is. But is it the best carpet pad available? That’s debatable.
On the one hand, it is super comfy and fairly affordable. On the other, memory foam carpet padding doesn’t last as long as frother or rebond padding. Basically, memory foam carpet padding makes you choose between comfort and longevity.
Pro tip: most memory foam carpet is measured in ounces per cubic foot rather than pounds per cubic foot, because doing so gives it the appearance of being durable—when in fact, it is not. For example, you’re likely to find memory foam carpet between 30 and 40oz. Sounds great, right? Well, that’s only 1.9 to 2.5lbs—which is far below the ideal 6-to-10lb sweet spot!
The Pros and Cons of Fiber Carpet Padding
Fiber carpet padding is sort of an anomaly because it either makes for the best carpet padding or the worst. It really depends on the type of fiber, whether it’s made of natural or synthetic fibers, and then its density, of course.
Natural-made fiber carpet pads, while more eco-friendly, are susceptible to mold and moisture damage. Synthetic fiber carpet pads don’t suffer from mold or moisture, but they’re usually not very comfortable.
On the bright side, you can usually find a wide range of density options with fiber carpet pads, including padding that weighs over 8 to 10lbs. As such, this type of carpet padding can be supremely durable.
The Pros and Cons of Flat Rubber Carpet Padding
Flat (or slab) rubber is widely regarded as the best carpet padding available and usually weighs between 18 and 22lbs per cubic foot.
It’s comfortable, and so long as your home isn’t often subjected to huge temperature swings (if you have functional A/C, this shouldn’t be an issue); plus, it’ll last for decades regardless of how much traffic your home or commercial space sees.
The only real downside of flat rubber carpet padding is that it tends to be the most expensive option.
The Pros and Cons of Waffle Rubber Carpet Padding
Waffle rubber carpet padding sacrifices a lot of the perks of flat rubber carpet padding in an effort to save on costs.
Unfortunately, this also means that it’s not the best carpet pad option in terms of value or durability. Waffle rubber carpet padding is objectively better than prime foam carpet padding, but you can find rebond padding that offers similar performance at a better price.
An exception: if you can find a heavier option (at least 5 or 6lbs per cubic foot), waffle rubber padding isn’t a bad choice.
The Best Carpet Pad: FAQs
Before we finish up, let’s answer some frequently asked questions about choosing the best carpet padding.
What Is the Best Carpet Pad for Basement Moisture?
Flat rubber carpet pad is the best carpet padding for moisture. Rubber is naturally waterproof, so it’ll prevent moisture from seeping through your subfloor or during a spill.
That said, carpet really isn’t the best flooring for basements (or the best flooring for bathrooms) unless temperature and moisture are well controlled.
Waterproof vinyl flooring products like those made by Proximity Mills or Doma are much safer.
What Is the Best Carpet Padding for Pets?
Again, carpet isn’t the best flooring for dogs and other pets but there are plenty of carpets that will at least survive frequent pet accidents and resulting wear and tear.
As such, the best carpet for pets is made of waterproof or water-resistant synthetic fibers with a medium-length cut pile (as loop carpets may snag on claws). The best carpet pad for pets needs to be durable and moisture-proof, so flat rubber padding again makes the most sense (plus it won’t hold odors like foam padding can).
LVP products like COREtec flooring—or waterproof laminate flooring products from Newton and RevWood—are arguably better for pets, though.
Can You Reuse Carpet Padding?
Generally speaking, we don’t recommend reusing even the best carpet pads. And if your carpet pad fails, it could doom your new carpet.
That said, flat rubber carpet padding is designed for decades of use so you can probably reuse it without worry. The same goes for frothed foam padding; however, its life expectancy is much shorter in comparison.
A big however: don’t reuse carpet padding if it’s forbidden in your new carpet’s warranty.
How Much Does the Best Carpet Padding Cost?
On average, the very best carpet pad costs around $2 per square foot (e.g. premium flat rubber carpet pad). However, you can find low-to-medium-end carpet pads for less than $1 per square foot.
Even with this assumed extra cost for carpet padding, this still makes carpet relatively affordable compared to high-end floors like hardwood (compare all the differences between carpet vs. hardwood here).
What Is the Best Padding for Berber Carpet?
The best carpet pad for berber carpet will be around 6/16” thick and made from either rubber (ideally, the flat kind) or frothed foam. Synthetic fiber carpet pad also works well for berber carpet and may save you on costs.
Can You Use Radiant Heating with Carpet Padding?
Unfortunately, this is determined on a case-by-case basis so you’ll need to consult with both the maker of your radiant heating system, your carpet brand, and the manufacturer of your carpet padding.
Are VOCs a Concern With the Best Carpet Padding? Is Carpet Pad Toxic?
They can be. But first, what are VOCs?
Volatile organic compounds are harmful chemicals commonly found in flooring and other products that can cause organ damage and/or cancer in sensitive groups, usually after long-term, heavy exposure.
Don’t worry too much though—most flooring companies make low-VOC flooring products nowadays, including low-VOC carpet. And of course, the best carpet pad products are low-VOC.
One thing of note: low-VOC is not the same thing as eco-friendly flooring, which is flooring made with sustainable and Earth-friendly resources (though, a given product can certainly be eco-friendly and low-VOC).
Does the Best Carpet Pad Come Have a Warranty?
With few exceptions, the best flooring products offer some sort of warranty. Expect nothing different from the best carpet pad products.
Is 25oz Carpet Pad Good?
Generally speaking: no.
The best carpet pads weigh at least 6.5lbs, which is 104oz.
Is 8lb Carpet Pad Good?
Absolutely! In fact, the best carpet brands typically recommend buying a carpet pad that weighs 8lbs or more.
Is There a Difference Between 6 and 8lb Carpet Padding?
Aside from the obvious numerical difference, yes. The heavier a carpet pad is, the denser and therefore more durable it will be.
How Do You Install Carpet Padding?
While carpet isn’t really the easiest flooring to install, and certainly isn’t a DIY flooring option, carpet padding isn’t too hard to install.
Most of the time, all you have to do is lay out sheets of carpet pad over your subflooring while making sure there are no air pockets beneath them.
What Is the Most Comfortable Carpet Pad?
Memory foam carpet pad is the comfiest, and arguably the best carpet pad for bedroom flooring since bedrooms typically see limited foot traffic.
However, flat rubber padding offers significantly more durability and longevity than memory foam padding and is only moderately less comfortable. It is more expensive, though.
What’s the Best Carpet Pad for Concrete Subfloors?
Once again, flat rubber padding wins out. It’s the best carpet pad for concrete subfloors (what are subfloors, anyway?) because it seals out moisture well and offers enough give to be comfortable (but not enough to make the carpet feel loose).
Frothed foam carpet pad is worth a mention too.
What’s the Best Carpet Padding for Stairs?
The best carpet for stairs is supremely durable and needs to be able to handle rigorous wear and tear. Loop carpets are usually the best choice, so a thinner carpet pad makes the most sense.
Flat rubber padding that’s 6/16” thick is ideal, though frothed foam carpet padding is a good runner up that may cost less.
Note: spongy carpet pads like memory foam are objectively unsafe on stairs as this cushion can throw people off balance.
Conclusion: The Best Carpet Pad Enhances Your Carpet in Nearly Every Way!
Seriously. If you’re going to invest in a quality carpet, you need to make a similar investment in the best carpet pad. Without it, your new floors won’t be at their best (and likely won’t last very long).
The best carpet brands tend to package carpet padding with their products, but it may still be worth it to invest in flat rubber or frothed foam carpet padding if the accompanying product is made of a lesser material like prime foam.
You’ll Find the Best Carpet Padding at Local Flooring Stores
One more thing before we sign off: while you’ll likely be able to find good or decent carpet padding at big box stores like Lowes or Home Depot, the best carpet padding is found at local flooring stores.
Big box stores rarely carry a wide variety of flooring products, and worse, they don’t hire experts that can adequately discuss your flooring ideas with you. But local stores do!
And with that, we wish you the best of luck finding the best carpet pad for your new carpet!
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