Best Carpet Without Underlay – Become The Carpet Expert!

  • By: homeshacks
  • Date: March 23, 2023
  • Time to read: 11 min.
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There are a lot of benefits to carpet underlay and, of course, we’re not here to deny those benefits in order to convince you that you shouldn’t use it. However, there are times, especially if you have underfloor heating when carpet underlay would not be beneficial.

Underfloor heating and felt-backed carpeting are two reasons that you may consider a carpet underlay to be entirely unnecessary. Despite the popularity and usefulness of carpet underlay, you can purchase carpet without it. You can also find a carpet that isn’t dependent on an underlay as well. 

Since we’re focusing on the best carpets without underlays today, we should also go over the advantages and disadvantages of an underlay. What does it bring to the table and does having an underlay beneath your newly installed carpet really a great idea?

Pros and Cons of Carpet Underlay

The benefits of a carpet underlay far outweigh the drawbacks, however, there are a few lone exceptions and those exceptions are why most people search for carpet that doesn’t have any underlay.

Benefits of Installing Carpet Underlay:

  • An additional layer of insulation
  • Soundproofing
  • Extra padding
  • Longevity
  • An added layer of comfort

If you’ve ever felt concrete in the middle of winter—if you have a concrete garage or shop you can go out and do so now—it’s incredibly cold. It turns out that concrete is a great medium for cold air.

It also turns out that carpet underlay is an effective barrier between your super cold concrete and the ambient air around your house. In short, it serves as an excellent insulation barrier, in addition to your home’s regular insulation. 

It’s also great at reducing sound and echo. If you’ve ever redone the carpet in your home, you’ll notice that by the time you get down to the concrete beneath the original underlay, you almost have to whisper to each other to avoid that weird echo and damage to your eardrum. 

The extra padding also provides an extra layer of comfort, in case you enjoy sleeping on your carpet, or if you have kids. Speaking of kids, it’s far more beneficial to trip and face plant on the carpet with underlay than it is for a single layer of carpet.

Lastly, it adds a level of longevity to your carpet. The extra padding underneath helps as a sort of energy transference whenever you walk, run, fall, or drop items on the carpet. Thin carpet, with no underlay, tends to wear down faster over time.

Drawbacks of Installing Carpet Underlay:

Depending on what your plans are, adding an underlay before installing your carpet may be detrimental in terms of what you’re trying to accomplish. 

  • An existing floor backing is already there
  • Existing underfloor heating in place
  • Good carpet underlay is really expensive

Those drawbacks—outside of the expense of a quality underlay—are largely situational. Adding an underlay, which also functions as a layer of insulation, is a terrible idea if you have underfloor heating.

You also may find that when you tear up the original flooring, there’s already a backing of some form or another down there. And lastly, if you purchase a cheap underlay, you might as well not bother at all, as it will be a cheap but effective way of wasting your money and time. 

A good, quality, effective underlay is really expensive and will drive the overall costs of installing new carpet well into the stratosphere.

What Carpet Does Not Need an Underlay?

There are four types of carpet that you want to focus on if you want to avoid laying down an underlay. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. However, none of them require an underlay, unless you just want to install one for additional comfort and cushioning.

  • Vinyl-backed carpet
  • Rubber-backed carpet
  • Gel-backed carpet
  • Felt-backed carpet

A lot of carpet enthusiasts will recommend hessian-backed carpets for those who don’t want to have an underlay. Unfortunately, that’s incorrect and plenty of people have probably tried based on that advice. 

Hessian-backed carpet definitely requires an overlay since it lacks the features of the above four carpet choices. With that being said, let’s go over the four different carpets that don’t necessitate an underlay.

Vinyl-Backed Carpeting

Vinyl-backed carpet is the strangest one on the list because it essentially lays carpet over laminate flooring which, in this case, is made out of vinyl rather than laminate. But, you get the point. It’s weird but it is effective and it has several benefits.

  • Tough and flexible material
  • Non-slip and moisture resistant surface
  • Prevents moisture from reaching the subfloor
  • Edges and seams won’t unravel
  • Longevity

The good thing about vinyl-backed carpet is that it’s as easy to install as laminate flooring while retaining the durability and longevity of laminate flooring as well. The vinyl material adheres to the back of the carpeting and it’s not going anywhere, no matter what you have that’s constantly walking over it. 

Animals, such as dogs and cats, will find difficulty separating the carpet from the vinyl and this installation process necessitates removing all underlaying materials. Just like laminate flooring, you install it on top of the concrete/subfloor

Since it has the hardened layer beneath it, each piece seating neatly up against the next, you won’t have to worry about moisture reaching the subflooring and the carpet itself is pretty tough, resisting moisture and abrasions caused over time. 

Its as easy to install as laminate flooring and, in many cases, is nearly identical in installation techniques. You don’t hear much about vinyl-backed carpeting because it is traditionally used for commercial and industrial applications. However, there’s nothing wrong with applying it at the residential level, especially if you don’t want to pay the extra costs for an underlay.

Rubber-Backed Carpeting:

Rubber-backed carpeting replaces the above-mentioned vinyl with one of three types of rubber backing. For the most part, these are used as large area rugs, rather than whole-home carpeting, however, they can be installed that way if you wish.

  • Improved quality of breathing air
  • Grips the floor so your carpet won’t curl up
  • Resilient
  • Water-resistant

There are three choices, two of which you can use as carpeting and one that is basically used as a throw rug and nothing else.

  • Natural rubber-backed carpet
  • Synthetic rubber-backed carpet
  • Latex rubber-backed carpet

The natural rubber-backed carpet is the one that you want. Since it is natural rubber, it won’t give off any toxins that are harmful to pets, kids, and yourself to a more limited degree. The synthetic rubber checks all the right boxes except for the fact that its just not that eco-friendly. 

Latex rubber-backed carpeting is almost exclusively found in throw rugs. Of course, if you’re willing to fill your house with throw rugs, that might be an answer for you as the stuff is plenty resilient and very grippy. It’s not going to slip and slide everywhere.

The rubber backing, like the vinyl, is also an effective barrier against moisture that comes from the inevitable spills that are going to happen, especially if you have kids and/or dogs with long noses. 

Rubber-backed carpeting is generally pretty resilient because, while it doesn’t allow the carpet to curl up, it has just enough give and take, in terms of impact, that it’s difficult to separate the carpet from rubber.

Gel-Backed Carpeting

Gel-backed carpeting is another option that is typically found in commercial or industrial applications. Fortunately, it’s perfectly fine in residential applications as well. It’s considered to be highly rated for kitchens, dining rooms, bathrooms, and other high-traffic areas where moisture is prevalent.

  • Fibers are bonded to the gel
  • Water-resistant
  • Stain-resistant polypropylene material
  • Bleach cleanable
  • Very resilient

Since the fibers are bonded to the gel, this kind of carpeting won’t tear up easily and is very resilient to high traffic areas, which is why it’s rated for just about every room in both houses and commercial properties where a high level of foot traffic is pretty typical.

The polypropylene material throughout both the gel and fibers is not only highly resilient but resists stains by wicking the moisture back up to the surface. So unless you just allow the Kool-Aid to sit there for a few hours, the color in the Kool-Aid won’t hold.

For the exact same reason, you get an outstanding level of moisture resistance and this kind of carpeting is highly recommended for areas where moisture is prevalent, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and areas close to the door, where walking in from a hard rain means a lot of moisture and dirt upfront. 

This carpet may not be the most comfortable in the world—think in terms of thousands of fibers made out of paracord—but it is very easy to clean and remove moisture, dirt, mud, and other debris from. 

It’s also bleach cleanable, so you don’t have to worry about it turning pink or some other strange, bleached-out color if you need to involve some bleach in your cleaning methods.

Felt-Backed Carpeting

The last carpet on our list that doesn’t require any sort of underlay, is felt-backed carpet. These are probably the most comfortable carpets on the list, as the materials that go into them have softter fibers that are more conducive to laying around on.

  • Stain resistant
  • Abrasive resistant
  • Budget-friendly
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Doesn’t require spikes
  • Long-term durability

Felt-backed carpeting is great for those who are on a budget and its commonly found in the living spaces of renters and apartments. ITs extremely easy to install and doesn’t require any kind of spikes to hold it down.

In fact, fel-backed carpeting is typically glued down, so it does require a serious amount of surface prep and there can be no underlying debris, dust, or dirt before you install it. This is especailly true for underlying concrete, as it is the most difficult to clean perfectly before laying down carpet. 

Its also very durable and, although there is more comfort to be had from adding an underlay, not much is laost on the abrasive resistance. It costs a lot of extra money to install carpet with an underlay, which makes this the perfect answer for those who currently have a light wallet.

Out of the four types of carpet on this list, the felt-backet carpet option is the softest and most comfortable of them all. Its made of more traditional fibers—rather than polypropylene types of material—however, it is more damage prone than the others.

Can I Lay a Carpet Without Padding?

You can certainly lay carpet without padding, however, if its not a specific type of carpet, its not advisable to install it without any kind of underlay or padding. There are a lot of reasons for this, especially when it comes to the overall look and feel of the carpet.

  • When the carpet settles, you will see all of the lines, bumps, and defects below
  • The spikes around the trim will show
  • Abrasive effects show up quicker
  • The carpet is hard and uncomfortable
  • Lacks insulation

Once you lay carpet, without any kind of padding and/or underlay, you will be able to see all of the defects in the subfloor, through the carpet as that is how it will settle. Of course, we’re talking about standard carpets here, not necessarily felt-backed, gel-backed, vinyl-backed, or rubber-backed.

In fact, if you come across a subfloor that is heavily pitted, cracked, and otherwise not flush across the surface, a vinyl-backed carpet would probably be your best bet, especially if you really don’t want to install an underlay. The vinyl is flexible, but it will still hide the defects. 

Carpet installation that doesn’t involve glue will require thin spike boards all around the perimeter. Without any kind of padding, those spikes will poke through the carpet yet remain nearly invisible, practically begging for a curious child, dog, or cat to come along.

Though you will barely be able to see the spikes, you will definitely be able to see the raised wood strips that hold the spikes, giving the entire carpet a weird, deflated aesthetic that won’t jive well with anything. 

Since the carpet is in direct contact with the subfloor, abrasions will show up quickly over time, since there is no additional material below to help transfer some of the energy from constant footfalls, drops, and anything else that impacts the carpet over time.

Is Felt-Backed Carpet Any Good?

Considering the section we covered above, along with the thousands of customer reviews that you can peruse across countless websites, a felt-backed carpet is definitely a great option, and it’s especially good when you can’t afford to lay down the additional underlay. 

It’s designed to be used without it, which means that it has great durability and, out of all of the carpets that don’t require an underlay, it’s a very soft and comfortable material that you can depend on over the long term. 

The benefits of felt-backed carpets far outweigh the drawbacks and it makes for an exceptional and affordable carpet, which is why it is predominately found in rentals, apartments, condos, and other high-traffic, short-term residency areas.

What’s More Important, Carpet or Underlay?

One thing that carpet has going for it, is that it is usable with or without an underlay, even the carpet types that are no good without an underlay. In terms of the underlay, it’s essentially useless without a carpet. It can’t survive on its own. 

The reality is that the best carpets and underlays are only the best in combination. The above-listed carpet types that use felt, rubber, vinyl, and gel simply don’t require an underlay and are great options to use without an underlay. 

However, with some of those carpets, the addition of an underlay only produces positives in that it increases the comfort level, reduces wear and tear on the carpet, and extends the overall longevity of the carpet. 

Underlay also hides those ugly spikes, even though the spikes are not required for most of the gel, felt, rubber, and vinyl-backed carpets. It helps push the carpet upwards so that it is flush with the bottom of the trim, all the way around the room. 

If underlay had one, major flaw, its that it is often an absorbent material so that spills have to be cleaned up immediately and the moisture removed by constantly squeezing the material with a towel or some other absorbent material. 

So, if you do install an underlay, you’ll want to try and go with something that is relatively moisture resistant, as most of the “backed” options that don’t require an underlay are almost entirely moisture resistant, making clean-ups a breeze.

All Things Considered

Felt-backed, gel-backed, rubber-backed, and vinyl-backed carpeting are the go-to carpets if you are looking to avoid using an underlay. Despite all of the benefits of an underlay, it’s not always suitable, nor is it always affordable. 

The good thing is, if you can’t or don’t want to afford an underlay, there are still plenty of options out there for you and they aren’t bad options either. While felt-backed carpets are probably the most popular, all four will more than serve your purpose and last for a long time.

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