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What is Carpet Padding?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Carpet padding is a supporting pad that is placed underneath a carpet. While many people associate carpet padding only with wall to wall carpeting, the fact is that a carpet pad or cushion can be cut and trimmed to fit under any type of area rug.

There are different types of carpet pads or cushions available. Most examples of the carpet cushion or pad are intended to accomplish three things: absorb sound, provide a more comfortable surface for walking, and reduce the level of stress placed on the back and legs while walking around the space. This extra cushioning between the floor and the carpet is especially important when the underlying floor is concrete or a similar material that is extremely rigid.

Carpet padding is often grouped into three different classifications. Foam rubber pads are relatively inexpensive and work well in home situations. Sponge padding is somewhat stronger and is ideal for the home and office environments. Fiber pads are very durable and can work very well in high traffic areas, such as in manufacturing plants or other buildings where the floor is likely to be composed of concrete. Within each of these classifications, a wide variety of options are found, varying in thickness and density.

More recently, a fourth category of carpet padding has emerged. With a renewed interest among many people to use natural products, the concept of a green or environmentally friendly pad has gained more attention. These green pads do not contain some of the chemicals found in the other types of carpet padding, such as formaldehyde. Using only natural fibers, these pads wear very well and will easily last for many years with proper care.

Selecting the right carpet padding for a given area can be tricky. While softer pads offer more comfort, they are not necessarily the best option for high traffic areas. For areas such as hallways and stairs, it is often a good idea to go with a thicker pad that has a high-density construction. This combination still provides excellent support and sound minimization, but will not have enough give and take under the carpeting to allow the carpet to flex and stretch a great deal. Softer padding can work very well in bedrooms or other areas where a great deal of traffic is less likely.

Another consideration with carpet padding is to check manufacturer recommendations that come along with the carpet. Often, carpet makers will have suggestions on the type of padding to use based on their own research. If you are not sure about the type of padding to use with your carpet, these guidelines can help take some of the guesswork out of the process and save a great deal of time and money.

As one of the more important carpet accessories, carpet padding is readily available in many retail outlets. Stores that carry area rugs as well as wall-to-wall carpeting often have several types of carpet padding to choose from. In most cases, the padding is sold in rolls with standard widths. The length can often be cut to allow one line of padding to reach from one end of the room to the opposite end.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including HomeQuestionsAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By mobilian33 — On Jan 28, 2015

My parents put down carpet many times when I was growing up, and they never put anything beneath the carpet. They laid it flat on top of the existing floor. However, I have a friend who even puts padding under her area rugs. I can see the benefits of carpet padding after reading this article. Though I would be concerned about water getting in the pad when the carpet was cleaned.

By Animandel — On Jan 27, 2015

I lived in an apartment where we were responsible for putting down our own carpet. Mostly we got away with the cheapest carpet we could find, but everyone above the first floor was required to have a certain level of padding beneath the carpet to reduce the sound. Our upstairs neighbors decided not to use padding once and we could tell a big difference. Carpet padding reduces the noise level more than you would think.

We eventually complained and the apartment manager made them put padding down. We kept our distance from them after that.

By Drentel — On Jan 27, 2015

@Laotionne - Personally, I fall into the category of people mentioned in the article who associate padding with a softer walking surface. I have bad knees. The cartilage in my knees is practically nonexistent, so the softer the floor the better. If you are putting the carpet on a wood floor and you have no issues with not using padding then I say don't use any. As long as you can live with the finished floor that is what matters.

By Laotionne — On Jan 26, 2015

Is carpet padding really necessary for the average room where you are going to place carpet? We are considering putting the carpet in a small bedroom. The floor is currently wood, and it gets really cold, so we are thinking that the carpet will make the floor more comfortable to walk on in the winter time.

Buying the carpet is expensive enough, but we are installing it ourselves to save money. Buying padding is another expense we would rather avoid.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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