The Difference Between Underlayment and Underpads for your Floors

The Difference Between Underlayment and Underpads for your Floors

The estimated reading time for this post is 4 minutes

If something sounds too good to be true, it?s probably not true. Remember visiting your friends who were all excited to show off their new flooring and carpet installations? The carpet looked better on the brochure compared to how it felt under the feet. And it?s only been 10 years and the floor is already squeaking. The man cave in the basement is no longer a haven for peace and serenity because of all the noise that seeps in from upstairs.

Yes, it is reasonable to think that the new floor or carpet did not live up to its expectations. But could it be that this conclusion is misinformed? A wise man had wisely said ? half knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge.

So, we?re writing this post to provide you with crucial information that should help you make well informed decisions when buying a carpet or getting a new floor installed.

Let?s dive right in and tell you about two things ? Underlayment and Underpads. These are extra materials that you will need to buy along with the new carpet or floor. They are essential, they will increase your budget, but you will find them to be a good investment which creates value and is cost effective in the long run.


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underlay under laminate flooring

Underlay is what goes between your flooring and the sub-floor. It is an important component of any new floor, especially laminate floors.

Why do you need it?

The right underlay fitted properly can increase the life of your floor and provide you additional benefits like extra comfort and insulation. In the long run, a good underlay will help you avoid problems such as floor squeaks, cracking, irregular surfaces, seam failures/open seams and other such issues.

What are your choices of underlayment?

Underlays are made of a variety of different materials. Soft underlays are made from cork, foam, felt, fibre, rubber, and other various products. Harder varieties are made from plywood or recycled wood. There are also options available which are made from 100 percent recycled and recyclable material.

How do you decide?

You choice will primarily depend on your choice of flooring material ? laminate, hardwood, engineered or vinyl. The kind of heating system you have installed in your home will also influence the decision.

Other factors to consider will be the general levels of humidity, the level of insulation you wish to achieve and the expected load that your floor will carry every day.

Many flooring manufacturers provide specific recommendations on the underlay that you should install with their product. Their recommendations are based on the results of numerous product testing. It is generally wise to listen to them. It is also best to consult a flooring expert.


wine spilling on carpet that has underpads

The way underlays are for floors, underpads are for carpet. Just like underlays, the underpads are installed on top of the sub-floor and they act as a layer between the subfloor and the new carpet.

Why do you need it?

Underpads extend the life of a carpet by reducing stress. They also make the carpet feel softer, reduce sound, and provide insulation. Additionally, they can also help reduce stains and odour by not allowing dirt or spills to seep into the sub-floor and inhibit formation of mold, mildew and bacteria.

What are your choices?

Carpet pads come in a variety of choices. Different material types have their distinct features, advantages and limitations.

  • Waffle or Sponge rubber pads made from a combination of natural and synthetic rubber. They are mold, mildew, insect proof and non-allergic. But they lose resilience with age.
  • Foam rubber made from a form of latex is a common choice for kitchen carpets. They are thin and they resist damage from insects and mildew.
  • Flat rubber pads are most durable but also more expensive.
  • Felt pads made from combining hair and other fibres like jute. Their advantage is that they wear well but they are infamous for shedding, collecting dust and stretching out of shape.
  • Bonded Urethane made from scraps of dense urethane foam pressed into padding. These are available in a range of density and thickness.
  • Bonded Urethane combined with Memory foam which is also pressed into padding. These can be more resilient, range in a variety of densities and thickness. These can add life to your carpet and offer further comfort underfoot.
When exploring your choices, be sure to ask your flooring expert about underpadding that offers moisture barriers and odor control.

Consider Mohawk?s SmartCushion underpad. Its foam construction softens every step you take and improves room insulation. It further offers a barrier against liquid spills that once it enters your underpad you cannot get it out. This is where bacteria, mold and mildew can form, as well as odours. These all add up to poor indoor air quality.

How do you decide?

Thickness, density, moisture barrier, no moisture barrier, and odour control will be among some of the considerations when making your choice. The best choice will be based on the quality of your carpet, expected every day traffic, and the section of the house.

Many consumers make the mistake of buying pads which are either too soft or too thick. It is best to look for recommendations from the carpet manufacturer and consult an expert.


Underlay is installed under new flooring while underpad is installed under carpets. They are both vital in extending the life and comfort of a floor or carpet. Make an informed decision and purchase the right material for your home.

A good choice professionally installed will help prevent moisture damage, create better insulation and help you avoid many longer term issues.

Floors and carpets will last you a long time. It is best to consult an expert and let professionals make recommendations and handle installations.

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