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Carpet Padding - Moisture Barrier Pad

By Alan Fletcher - Carpet Expert and Consumer Advocate


Should I Use a Moisture Barrier Padding?


Some carpet salespeople recommend a moisture barrier pad to every customer that walks into their store. Why? Because it helps them make more profits.  


Moisture barrier pads are more costly than a standard Rebond type padding and may be a wise option for some homeowners in some certain circumstances. 


However, I have found that in most situations homeowners are mislead into assuming that a moisture barrier pad can do more than they are actually designed to do. Here is what I mean...


Some claim that a Moisture Barrier Pad will prevent spills from soaking into the pad. 


While this is true, what benefit does that provide? When you have your carpets cleaned, they don't suck up spills that have landed and dried on top of the moisture barrier padding. Steam cleaning is designed to clean the carpet from the carpet backing up. If they were to soak your carpet, the backing AND force hot water deep into your carpet padding, that would cause damage to your carpet backing and potentially cause mold and mildew to form under your carpet and pad.



Installing Carpet Over Hardwood Floors


Some folks think that a moisture barrier pad will help protect their beautiful hardwood floors from being ruined from any potential liquid spills when carpet and a moisture barrier pad is installed over the top of the hardwood floors.


Any large quantity of liquid that is spilled and soaks through the carpet will quickly spread out on top of a moisture barrier pad. If any spills fall near the pad seams or near the walls, it can easily get underneath the pad and become trapped underneath. 


This prolonged exposure to moisture under the pad can cause serious damage to the hardwoods and not be discovered until the carpet and pad is removed years later. Potted plants and pet accidents are the moist common cause of damage to hardwood floors with a moisture barrier pad carpet installed over the top. 


Some say that if the pad seams are sealed with duct tape, that liquids will not be able to soak through. From all my experience in the flooring business I've learned one thing for sure; that water (or any source of moisture) is always somehow able to find a way to soak through any moisture barrier and can cause significant damage if trapped underneath without any way to evaporate off. 


Using a regular pad without a moisture barrier would be my suggestion because most liquid spills would be able to dry in a short period of time and evaporate long before causing serious damage to the hardwoods below.



Moisture Barrier Padding for Pet Accidents


Some homeowners think that a moisture barrier pad will help with pet urine problems, perhaps making it easier to clean up the accident and reduce urine odors. This is not true because any liquid that soaks through the carpet backing will spread out on top surface of the moisture barrier padding. 


While the entrance spot on top of the carpet may appear be just 2 inches in diameter, under the carpet it could have spread out to be 8 to 12 inches in diameter or more on the top surface of the moisture barrier padding. This makes the pet accident or spill much more difficult to clean up since the size and scope of the accident is misleading. Again, carpet cleaning methods are not designed to suck up spills that soak through the carpet backing and spread out and dry onto the surface of a moisture barrier padding.


Once the urine dries on top of the padding the odor will be more evident as foot traffic and vacuuming will continue to disturb the affected area. Every time you clean your carpets it will "reactivate" the dried urine on top of the pad and the odor will magnify. Since some pets tend to have accidents in the same spot over and over again the problem becomes magnified and compounded.



Beyond the Moisture Barrier Pad


In the end, some folks spend a significant amount of money on specialty pads hoping for the best and end up not getting the results or benefits they expect. I don't generally recommend using any specialty pads because overall I think they are overpriced, have limited benefits and may cause more problems then they solve.


Some carpet manufacturers are offering a warranty extension if you buy their specialty padding. Most homeowners never file a carpet warranty claim so if you consider the increased price of the pad against the limited benefits from an extended carpet warranty you might find that it is not worth the added expense. I don't recommend buying any padding that will increase your new carpet warranty limits.


Any good quality Rebond type padding with sufficient density (minimum 6 to 8 pound density) can likely do the job just fine and save you money. Selecting the right carpet, choosing the right pad, getting qualified installation and buying from a reputable dealer are the four most critical factors in buying new carpet. Read through my website for more information and insight about how to buy new carpet wisely!



Moisture Problems in Basements


Some homeowners have a serious moisture problem in their basement and might think that a moisture barrier pad will be beneficial by preventing moisture from coming up through the pad and carpet. 


Unfortunately, because concrete is porous it can allow moisture to evaporate upward.  A moisture barrier pad can trap moisture under the pad and can promote the growth of mold and mildew, potentially causing a hidden health hazard. 



The Carpet Professor Says...


If you suspect you have a moisture problem in your basement you need to fix the problem before you install any flooring product. There are many simple ways for you to test your concrete basement for moisture problems. I suggest you research this further to make sure your basement does not have a moisture problem before you install any flooring products.


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