Do I Need A Rug Pad Under My Rug?

by | Feb 2, 2016

Keeping a rug pad past its prime may save a few dollars now, but may cost you much more later.

Most consumers don’t realize that rug pads have a life expectancy of only 1-3 years if rubberized, and 5-8 years if heat-bonded synthetic – depending on the use, temperature, and relative humidity in your home.  Rubberized pads begin to break down almost immediately.  They become tacky and will stick to your floors, or they will dry out and become slick creating a slippery “skating rink” in your home. Synthetic pads spread and buckle or become “squished thin” in the highest traffic areas.

So what’s the big deal?  Why even use a pad at all?

When I was younger and used to complain to my dentist about having to floss, he said to me “You don’t HAVE to floss… Only floss the teeth you want to keep!”  The same rings true here.  Only put padding under the rugs you want to keep.  Besides adding a bouncy feel, rug padding actually provides an important function – it absorbs most of the grinding action caused by footsteps and works to protect the rug itself from wear.  Conversely, it also may help protect your floors from scratches by partially preventing the heaviest tracked-on grit from outside shoes from filtering through to the floor. Non-slip rubber rug pads also provide the additional function of helping to keep your rugs in place. Sudden shifting rugs under foot create many slip and fall injuries.

How many different kinds of rug pads are there?  What kind of rug pad is the best kind to use?
There are several basic types of rug padding.  The proper rug pad for you will depend on a couple of factors: rug size, the way you use your rug, and rug construction. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular types and their intended uses:

Non-Slip

About 1/8” thick rubber pad used to keep rugs from sliding and shifting under foot.
Not meant to provide much cushion or support.
Used under small rugs and runners, flatweaves, or lightweight rugs. (under 5’ x 8’)
Used on a hard-floor surface.
Replace often – every 1-2 years, after pet urine contamination or flooding, or as needed.

PROS: Comes pre-cut in several different sizes or off a larger roll. Easy to pick up and move.

CONS: If not replaced often enough, it will likely cause damage to the floor beneath or may stick to the back of the rug.

Synthetic

Between 1/4” and 1/3” thick heat-set synthetic composite pad, sometimes with a rubberized backing.
Meant to provide cushion and wear protection.
Used under larger rugs. (5’ x 8’ and larger)
Used on hard-floor surface.
Replace every 2-3 years if rubberized, every 5-8 years if not rubberized, after pet urine contamination or flooding, or as needed.

PROS: Best possible way to extend the life of your rug. Easy to find at rug stores.

CONS: Cut from 6’ or 12’ rolls, often needing seaming to fit your rug size. Can be expensive.

Adhesive

Almost completely flat – similar to a thick double-sided tape.
Meant to keep rugs from creeping and bunching up.
Used under any rug that sits on top of carpeting.
Used between an area rug and wall-to-wall carpet.
Replace every time you move the area rug, when it no longer feels sticky, or after pet urine contamination or flooding.
PROS: Fairly inexpensive.  Sticky residue cleans up easily with professional cleaning.
CONS: My former employer once likened this stuff to “Human Flypaper”.  Can be difficult to use on larger rugs.

Foam Composite

Between 1/3” and 1/2” thick
Meant to give “bounce” under wall-to-wall carpet.
Used on hard-floor surface under wall-to-wall carpet.
Replace if you notice disintegration, when necessary, or after pet urine contamination or flooding.
PROS: Feels spongy and cushiony under foot.  Inexpensive.
CONS: While it feels cushiony, it does not actually provide any support under area rugs. Breaks down quickly.

Now that you have a new perspective on rug padding, I’m hopeful that you will start your new year off right by assessing the rug padding in your own home.  When it’s time to clean your rugs, rather than ball up the rug pad in the closet until your rug returns, take a good look at it and determine what kind of condition it’s in.  If it looks worn around the edges, or feels tacky, it’s probably time to replace it.

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