whichunderlay guide to carpet underlays + fitting tips

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Do I need a carpet underlay?

If your new carpet is of a secondary backed, jute backed or 'action back' type, the answer is probably yes. These carpets are intended for use with a separate underlay, except in certain commercial installations where the carpet can be glued directly to the sub floor. If your new carpet has a textile or felt backing, these can be laid directly to the sub floor, so saving on cost, but this option will compromise on both comfort and energy efficiency, the latter due to increased heat loss through the floor. Another downside to laying these carpets without an underlay is that carpet gripper cannot be used to stretch the carpet to the shape of the room, often giving a less precise finish to the installation.

Can I re-use my old underlay?

Re-use of old underlay is generally not recommended; it may look fine at this stage, but could fail during the lifetime of the carpet, rendering any guarantee on the carpet as invalid.

How much should I pay for underlay?

The answer to this one is "As much as you can afford to." Underlays do vary in quality and suitability, but generally speaking, when comparing ranges, the more you pay for the underlay, the better the quality it will be, giving extended life to your carpet. That said, before you spend out on that new underlay, do compare prices, as the internet based companies are often just a third of the price that you would pay to one of the 'big' carpet stores.

When checking prices, do compare 'like for like' and ensure that you are aware of the grade of product being offered. 'First Quality' is just that, product being offered that is as perfect as a manufacturer can produce, without flaws or faults. A-grade, however, does have a different meaning, insofar as it refers to a 'graded' product, one which has not been passed as first quality, due to minor defects. These can be a join in the backing, a poorly trimmed edge or similar defects. 'B grade' refers to products with greater defects, so do be aware of just what you are purchasing. 

Carpet Gripper is another product on which you should compare price, a full 500 foot box of the product can be purchased for around £25 online, but the equivalent quantity could cost you a staggering £270 in one of the big stores.

Any tips for laying?

Firstly, make sure you purchase the correct amount of underlay and be aware that unlike purchasing carpet, where you buy to the nearest width to fit your room, underlay can be purchased to a net amount. So if, for example, your rooms total 50 square metres but you are having to buy 54 square metres of carpet to comply with the widths available, you still only need 50 square metres of underlay. No point in buying a product simply to throw it away. Be sure to lay the underlay the correct way up, if it has a printed side, this should be laid uppermost. If it has a cloth, film or paper backing, this should be laid uppermost. Taping the joins is a good idea and most companies will stock a product suitable for this purpose.

PU FOAM UNDERLAY                             

PU Foam underlays are amongst the most popular sold today, mostly in the mid-price brackets. Ranges include Cloud 9, whose domestic qualities are available in thicknesses of 7mm, 9mm and 11mm, all with a stitch-bonded paper backing, however, some members of the trade and the public have found the backing of this product to be a little noisy underfoot, in certain conditions. The makers of Cloud 9 have recently launched a companion range, Blue Heaven, also in 7mm, 9mm and 11mm but with an alternative backing which is proving to be quieter underfoot, so do consider this range as an alternative. 

If sound impact (noise) reduction is important to you, consider Tredaire's Seventh Heaven collection, consisting of Dreamwalk 11mm and Softwalk 9mm. If value-for-money is your priority, consider the Soft as a Cloud collection by AirLuxe, offered in thicknesses of 8mm, 9mm, 10mm, 11mm and 12mm

The best 'tog ratings' are achieved by the High Density products such as the Heavenly and WarmLuxe ranges which help to prevent heat loss and can consequently help reduce your heating bills, so although slightly more expensive, they are well worth considering.

An alternative to the PU foam underlays, Cellular underlays are becoming increasingly popular due to their low cost. AirLuxe Black Diamond and Platinum Plus are in this category.


RUBBER UNDERLAY                             

Rubber underlays are regarded as a more traditional style of underlay than the foam underlays, having a wider spread of quality and prices than the foams. These are split between three main types, namely waffle rubber, sponge rubber and dense rubber. The waffle and sponge rubber underlays are often graded by their roll weight per 15 square metres, typically as 60lb, 80lb, 100lb and so on, up to around 130lb, the greater the weight, the more durable and hardwearing the product is, giving longer life to your carpet. Duralay and Tredaire both offer a number of products of this type ranging from 60lb upwards. AirLuxe offer their comprehensive Colourways range covering weights of 100lb up to 150lb for heavier wear areas, or their Footsteps range for the more price conscious.

Dense Rubber underlays are usually graded by their thickness rather than weight, these underlays being a little firmer underfoot than the waffle and sponge rubber varieties, but giving excellent carpet support, especially in heavy foot traffic areas. Duralay Treadmore and Endurance are excellent value products.


FELT UNDERLAY                             

Regarded by many as an old-fashioned product, this style of product is making a comeback with the environmentally aware section of the buying public. Made from woollen and/or synthetic waste material, which might otherwise end up in landfill sites. For good durability, choose a heavier weight such as AirLuxe Green Label 'Harmonise'


ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY UNDERLAY                             

This terminology is applied to underlays which are often manufactured from recycled products. Felts using woollen and/or synthetic materials (see above), PU foam underlays using granulated offcuts of furniture foam and dense rubber underlays made from granulated rubber made from the recycling of tyres. AirLuxe have recently launched their Green Label range featuring all of these types of product.


SPECIAL PURPOSE UNDERLAYS                             

There are a number of underlays made for specific purposes such as use with underfloor central heating. Tredaire Heatflow is a high quality example, whilst Endurance underlay is a general purpose, lower priced alternative which can be used effectively. There are also underlays made specifically for laminate and wood flooring, so do not use carpet underlay for this purpose, it could be a very costly mistake. One of the most cost effective of the laminate and wood floor underlays is offered by AirLuxe, whilst high quality products are made by Tredaire and Floorwise.

Reproduced by kind permission of whichunderlay.com

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