Looking to spruce up your floor with fresh carpet? We’ve got you covered, with our pick of the best carpet underlays
Wooden and laminate floors might have replaced carpet in many homes over recent years, but carpet is still a popular choice in the bedroom and on the stairs. To get the most out of it, though, choosing the best carpet underlay is essential.
There are many benefits to choosing carpet. It’s softer underfoot, quieter than echoing wooden floors, and feels luxurious and comfortable in areas where we like to feel more relaxed. Carpet next to bare feet is much nicer than wood or tiled floors, as your trips to the bathroom at night might attest to. What’s more, when fitted with the best carpet underlay, it’s also a good insulator and helps to reduce noise.
No matter how much you spend on carpet, it’s only as good as its underlay. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the very best carpet underlay you can buy right now, as well as an in-depth buying guide to choosing underlay that fits your needs and budget.
Read on to find out all you need to know about carpet underlay buying.
Best carpet underlay: At a glance
How to choose the best carpet underlay for you
Can I just buy the cheapest underlay?
Our top tip? Don’t penny-pinch on underlay.
Because it won’t be on show, you might be tempted to pay little attention to dull underlay and focus on the more exciting carpet itself. But this can be a foolish move, as underlay works in tandem with the carpet on top to give a better overall experience. Moreover, poor-quality underlay can actually reduce the life of your carpet by increasing the amount of wear and tear it sustains.
What does carpet tog rating mean?
If you thought tog ratings were just for duvets, think again. Much like a duvet, carpet underlay tog ratings are a measure of the insulation properties. We recommend a tog rating of around 2.5 as a minimum if you don’t want to end up with cold feet. However, if you have underfloor heating, you should actually opt for a low tog, around 1, because you need the heat to come through the carpet.
What about carpet underlay thickness?
To get that lovely, cushioned feel, we suggest choosing a thickness of around 11mm. The only exception to this is if you are fitting carpet on stairs, where you should usually go a bit thinner – say 8 to 9mm – to cope with the contours. Some thicker ones might still suit, though, so check with the manufacturer.
READ NEXT: The best cordless vacuum cleaners to buy
Can I fit the carpet and underlay myself?
Unless you are a carpet fitter yourself, we would advise leaving it to the professionals. It’s a skill the average person doesn’t have and professional fitters are quick and efficient. You should also get your carpet supplier to check your measurements for you to avoid errors. If you want to find a fitter yourself, we recommend visiting the National Institute of Carpet and Floorlayers.
What is carpet underlay made from?
Carpet underlay is made from a range of different materials, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Although carpet underlay’s main job is to protect the carpet, it usually has other properties too, such as temperature insulation, sound insulation and softness. Below are some of the most common types of carpet underlay material you’ll find.
Foam: The carpet underlay runaway success story
PU (polyurethane) foam, popular in the USA and now dominating the UK market too, is today’s top choice for most carpet buyers. It’s made from recycled furniture foam, so it ticks the environmental box, and is often quite cheap to buy.
It does have some disadvantages, though. It can flatten over time and won’t recover well from heavy furniture pressure. But it’s suitable in the bedroom as it’s soft underfoot, and since most of us don’t move our beds around, the possible impressions on the carpet are not as much of a concern.
Sponge rubber: The former favourite
Sponge rubber has been around for decades and sometimes has a waffle-like appearance. It’s perfect for low traffic areas such as the bedroom, but can be used in other rooms too. It’s almost as soft as foam but with less springiness. For those who don’t like the bounciness of foam, it’s a good alternative.
Crumb rubber: For commercial and heavy traffic
Made from recycled car tyres, crumb rubber carpet underlay is super strong and hard-wearing, shrugging off furniture impressions with ease. It’s a bit harder underfoot but is a smart choice for high traffic areas such as stairs and hallways.
Wool felt: An eco-friendly, natural choice
Wool felt is another eco-friendly option as it’s often made from 100% recycled materials. It offers good comfort and sound insulation and is perfect if you’re eco-conscious. One downside is that it can take longer to fit, so that’s something to bear in mind.
Combination felt and rubber carpet underlay: The “best of both worlds” choice
With this combination underlay, the base is made from recycled rubber tyres and the top from recycled fibres. This makes it an eco-friendly choice, as well as a practical one. The rubber provides some structure while the fibres on top add a plush softness. It’s a sensible choice for every room.
READ NEXT: The best vacuum cleaners to buy
The best carpet underlay you can buy in 2023
1. Plushwalk 12mm: Best luxury carpet underlay for bedrooms
Price when reviewed: £8.33/m² | Check price at AmazonPlushwalk is a decent all-rounder. It’s easy to fit, soft underfoot and made from recycled furniture foam. With a tog rating of around 3.3, it’s warm as toast and perfect for going barefoot in the bedroom. It also improves impact sound (48dB reduction levels), so your teen’s stomping might not grate quite so much.
It doesn’t suit everyone, though. Some might not like its “memory foam” behaviour, as it does take a while for heavy furniture impressions to recover. This can be forgiven somewhat due to its excellent performance in other areas, though, and its attractive price.
Key specs – Thickness: 12mm; Tog rating: 3.3; Sound reduction: 48dB
2. Duralay Treadmore sponge waffle: Best carpet underlay for all rooms
Price when reviewed: £8.54/m² | Check price at Carpet UnderlayIf you’re carpeting a whole house or several rooms, you may want one underlay that covers all bases. This traditional carpet underlay ticks plenty of boxes, including making the carpet on top feel extra luxurious. It’s praised for its sound reduction in particular, offering an impressive 44dB of attenuation. In practice, it means any room it’s laid in will benefit from good noise-cancelling properties.
The only downside we could find is its tog rating. It’s only 1.04 and means it might not feel as warm as some other underlays on this list. All in all, though, it’s a sensible choice for anyone who prefers traditional-style underlay.
Key specs – Thickness: 7.95mm; Tog rating: 1.03; Sound reduction: 44dB
3. Wilsons Underlay Luxury Wool: Best natural, inexpensive all-room carpet underlay
Price when reviewed: From £4/m² | Check price at Carpet UnderlayThis British-made wool underlay is a good choice for budget-conscious homeowners who want a natural product at an affordable price. The thickness is generous at 15mm, as is its plush 3.6 tog rating. It offers good comfort as well as solid heat insulation, and sound reduction is good, too, at 37dB. Its thickness means it’s also suitable for high traffic areas, which is ideal if you have young children or animals.
If you want a natural fibre that’s as good for the planet as it is for your wallet and feet, this is an ideal choice.
Key specs – Thickness: 15mm; Tog rating: 3.6; Sound reduction: 37dB
4. Sterling Royale Luxury carpet underlay: Best ‘ticks all boxes’ eco-friendly carpet underlay
Price when reviewed: From £9/m² | Check price at Carpet UnderlayMade from 100% recycled materials, this is a luxurious underlay with a fantastic tog rating of 2.48. It has a high comfort rating, meaning it feels supremely comfortable and bouncy to walk on. What’s more, this underlay is suitable for all rooms, including those with high footfall.
It’s perfect for anyone who likes natural recycled products and wool in particular. And while it’s a little pricer than some other wool underlays, you’ll feel the difference between this and a cheaper option for years to come.
Key specs – Thickness: 11.5mm; Tog rating: 2.48; Sound reduction: N/A
5. Super Velvet Felt and Rubber Crumb Carpet Underlay: Best carpet underlay for heavy traffic and noise reduction
Price when reviewed: £8.97/m² | Check price at AmazonMade in the UK, this felt and rubber hybrid underlay is a great choice if you want high impact noise reduction – Flooring Online suggests around 46dB. It has a tog rating of 3.0, and at 12mm it’s pretty thick, too. However, it can still be laid successfully on stairs by a competent, professional fitter.
As a hybrid, it’s a “best of both worlds” choice, offering the durability of rubber and the softness of felt. This makes it a good all-rounder for most rooms, and with a decent price point, it’s well worth your consideration.
Key specs – Thickness: 12mm; Tog rating: 3; Sound reduction: 46dB
6. ThermalStream underfloor heating underlay: Best carpet underlay for underfloor heating
Price when reviewed: £10/m² | Check price at AmazonIf you’ve got underfloor heating, the choice of underlay is generally a bit on the thin side, with most coming in a maximum thickness of around 8mm – not ideal for those of us that want plushness underfoot. Thankfully, choosing between comfort and heat flow is not an issue with ThermalStream’s underfloor heating.
The underlay is made from 10mm of thick, flame-retardant foam, which has punched holes to allow for efficient air circulation. This means there’s no trade-off between heat and comfort. In fact, ThermalStream underlay transfers heat much quicker than standard underlay for underfloor heating, so you might just save money on heating bills too.
Key specs – Thickness: 10mm; Tog rating: N/A (thermal air pockets); Sound reduction: 36dB