It’s fun choosing new carpet. Decorating your home with the latest styles and colors is exciting. But your decorating job isn’t finished until you buy the appropriate carpet cushion – the unsung hero of floor covering.

Choosing the right cushion is just as important as selecting the right carpet. A quality cushion not only protects your investment, but helps keep your carpet feeling and looking better for a long time. A good cushion creates softness underfoot, reduces muscle strain and enhances the acoustical properties of carpet through noise reduction. But perhaps the most important element of cushion is that it extends carpet life.

Carpet is seldom replaced because it “wears” out. It is usually changed because it “uglies” out – or loses its fresh, new appearance. By absorbing shock from foot traffic, a cushion helps prevent carpet fibers from matting and crushing, improves your comfort by reducing walking fatigue and keeps your carpet looking fresh and new.

Carpet cushion offers many other benefits. Some carpets with cushion remain thicker, and can appear more luxurious for a longer period of time. Cushion makes a carpet easier to maintain. Vacuum cleaning is more efficient because most machines “lift” the carpet to provide air circulation, thus ensuring maximum cleaning power.

There are three primary types of residential carpet cushions: urethane, fiber and rubber. Each type of carpet cushion offers specific benefits. For example, rubber,prime urethane and bonded urethane foams are available in various densities for light-, medium- and heavy-traffic areas.

Your retailer can explain the various cushion options and provide literature and samples to help you understand the benefits of better-quality cushion. You will pay more money for a good cushion, but the up-front investment is well worth it because your carpet will stay looking fresh and new longer.

Each category of cushion is available in various grades for use in different residential traffic conditions. Ask your retailer to help you choose a cushion made to perform properly in the room you are carpeting. There are cushions available for use in light-, moderate- and heavy-traffic areas.

Each cushion also gives you a different type of feel. The best way to determine which type of feeling you want underfoot is to walk over carpet with cushion samples underneath it. This enables you to experience the difference in underfoot feel between low- and high-quality cushions. For instance, fiber and sponge rubber cushions tend to have a firm “walk” or “feel.”

Choosing the Right Cushion

Choosing the right cushion is not only based on feel, but on the recommendation of the carpet manufacturer. Many performance and wear warranties from fiber and carpet producers specify certain cushion types and thicknesses to be used with their products. In addition, some carpets require certain cushions to be used to safeguard against stretching problems, delamination and “creeping.”

With so many features to weigh and compare, how do you choose the right cushion? Generally speaking, the heavier the traffic, the thinner the cushion is. In high-traffic areas such as hallways, stairs, rooms with lots of activity and/or heavy furniture, thinner (3/4” and less) and heavier cushion better protect the carpet. Softer cushion may be used in bedrooms and lounge areas where use is lighter and a plusher “feel” is desired.

For bedrooms, dens and areas where a more luxurious feel is desired, thicker and more resilient cushion can be used. Higher-ounce weight or higher-density products will help the carpet last longer.

Visual appearances of cushion are nice, but remember, once it’s installed, you’ll never see it again. Pay more attention to ounce weights, densities, thicknessesand other value-add features such as odor and stain mitigation treatments, when buying.

When selecting your cushion, look for one supported by a comprehensive lifetime warranty. Most quality cushion brands are backed by a warranty that replaces both cushion and carpet if the cushion fails. Ask for this warranty in writing; it is easy for the store and cushion company to forget about it.