Carpet cushion is material placed underneath an area rug or a carpet. Placing a carpet cushion underneath a carpet became popular in the early 20th century, and most early cushions weren’t so cushiony as they are today. They did provide a little more comfort and plushness to the carpet, were helpful in keeping area rugs in place, and were often made of cattle hair.
Popularity of the carpet soon exceeded cattle hair available to make such cushions, resulting in cushions that might be made of jute and hair. Another method evolved by using poorer grade carpet fibers to create a protective layer underneath carpet, called carpet underlay, which added more comfort to walking on carpet. All methods tended to help insulate homes a little better and create warmth.
After World War II, a common type of carpet cushion was made of sponge rubber, which many people loved because stepping on the carpet had a springy effect that felt even more comfortable to the feet. Though this was once popular, as was using poorer grade carpet fibers as a cushion, today carpet cushions made of these materials account for less than 10% of the carpet cushions on the market.
More typically, today’s carpet cushion is made from polyurethane foam, and like rubber, provides that pleasant springy feel to carpet. When laying out wall-to-wall carpeting, polyurethane foam carpet cushion is normally layered onto the floor first, and attached via staples. Next, wall-to-wall carpeting is laid over the foam. Using foam does provide extra insulation in a house and it also helps reduce noise by absorbing sound. It’s certainly easier on the feet than are other flooring choices like stone tile.
When you purchase carpet, you’ll generally have to purchase carpet cushion too, though sometimes carpet stores will include foam in the price if they’re also installing the carpet. If you don’t like the spring of foam, you can certainly look for carpet cushion like that made of jute and hair. It is usually harder to find and much more expensive.
For area rugs, it isn’t always necessary to put down a thick cushion or mat, especially on flooring like hardwood, which is pretty easy on the feet. You can get cut to size foam, but an alternate is simply a thin carpet pad that prevents the carpet from slipping, particularly on sometimes slippery floors like linoleum or wood. When you do plan to clean area rugs, don’t forget pads should also be cleaned or replaced, so the back portion of the carpet remains clean longer and doesn’t stain from the bottom up.