The majority of us give a lot of thought and time to choosing a carpet for our homes. Color, size, design, texture, and cost are all given due thought before making the decision. Unfortunately, not many of us give the same time and thought when it comes to deciding on the carpet underlay. It is worth remembering that purchasing a premium underlay and a slightly cheaper carpet is more beneficial than purchasing a cheap underlay and covering it with an expensive carpet.
What is an Underlay?
You do know what an underlay is, don’t you? Well, for those unfamiliar with the term, an underlay is something that you lay under the carpet to act as a buffer between the floor and the carpet. A slightly springy and spongy layer, the underlay adds ‘give’ and increases the lifespan of the carpet by taking away most of the pressure exerted on the carpet. An underlay also acts as an insulator, absorbing impact sound and trapping heat. It also makes the carpet more comfortable to walk or sit on. All these factors make an underlay a good investment. However, you will need to decide which type of underlay would best suit your requirements.
Different Types of Underlay for Carpets
Carpet underlay is available in many different materials. Each of these features their unique traits and purposes. Given below are some of the more common types of underlay that you will find.
Sponge Rubber – This is the traditional underlay material. Known to be a good conductor of heat, it is also heavy, thus allowing it to be laid flat on the floor easily. While it is cheaper than other types of underlay, it does tend to lose its sponginess and springiness faster than the other types.
Crumb Rubber – Made from recycled tires, crumb rubber underlay is firm and very durable. However, it is expensive and there is a school of thought that believes the material may be toxic or carcinogenic.
Polyurethane – Polyurethane or PU is recycled foam that has been shredded and then bound together again with adhesive. This underlay is relatively cheap, environment-friendly, light in weight and has excellent springiness, is long-lasting, a very good insulator and sound absorber.
Felt – Used mostly under carpets that are laid in sections, felt underlay features a texture that hides the seams of the carpet sections rather well. The flip side is that they tend to lose nearly fifty percent of their thickness over their lifetime.
Combinations – There are many different types of underlay that are made by combining two or more different materials. You can visit Underlay4u.co.uk they provide you more information on them along with further information on the different types of underlay and their qualities.
Underlay for Natural Floor Coverings
Natural floor coverings are very popular due to their numerous advantages. However, natural floor coverings are made with material that contracts and expands due to change in temperature. This makes their fitting and the fitting of underlay to be used with them different than those with carpets. While many natural floor coverings feature a latex backing that allows them to be laid out directly on the floor, an underlay does increase their life.
Generally, the natural floor covering is glued to the underlay and together they are glued to the floor. Crumb rubber and PU underlay are preferred as rubber and sponge underlay tend to absorb the glue.
Under-Floor Heating and Underlay
This requires a little bit of understanding of the thermal resistance of different materials, indicated by their tog rating. A low tog value means that the material allows heat to pass through, while a high tog value indicates that the material will resist allowing heat to pass through. Hence, if your room has under-floor heating, you will need to ensure that your carpet and underlay are both suitable. A high tog value will cause the heat to be trapped under them and would result in the heating system switching off prematurely.
Experts indicate that for an under-floor heating system to operate efficiently when covered with a carpet and underlay, he combined tog value of both should be below 2.5. To find the tog value of both, add the individual tog value of carpet and underlay and subtract one from it. Sponge rubber is the most favored underlay material for this purpose as it is a better conductor of heat than the others. However, it is recommended to speak to a heating engineer before making your decision on the carpet and underlay.
The Bottom Line
While the thickness of the underlay is important, even more, important is the density, as this will ensure longevity and shape retention of the underlay over the years.