rug pad guide

Guide on Padding for Area Rugs

You bought a new rug, but now you need a pad for it.

Maybe it’s because you noticed your rug damaging the floor it lies on. Maybe it’s because the rug is slipping all over the place. Or maybe it’s because you’re planning ahead and want to protect your new rug.

All of these are good reasons, and in most cases, if you have a rug, you need a rug pad. I’ll cover everything I can think of about rug pads, and hopefully give you some ideas on what to buy.

If there are any questions I don’t answer that you have on padding for area rugs, let me know in the comments at the end of the article.

Benefits of rug padding

Rug pads are not just an upsell for the rug sellers. They bring several benefits to both your floor and your area rug.

The most important benefit is that the rug pad will keep your rug from slipping and getting bunched up. Bunched up or sliding rugs are a safety issue and potential tripping hazard for everyone, but especially kids, pets, and people with limited mobility. With the right rug pad, the rug will stay flat even on a smooth surface.

Did I say reducing slipping was the biggest benefit? On second thought, maybe it’s the fact that it protects your floor and rug. This is especially true if you have an expensive rug. The padding will give a cushion, just like carpet pad does to carpet, that keeps the rug from wearing out prematurely. But it also protects the floor. Some rug backings are abrasive to the floor beneath it. A good rug pad should prevent this.

And there’s also the benefit of insulation. This is a smaller benefit since the rug usually isn’t over your whole home, but it provides insulation against cold floors (so your feet stay warm) and sound.

What size rug pad do I need?

The first question you’ll come across is what size rug pad do you need.

As you can guess, it’s based on the size of your rug. Here are some common rug sizes, and the size of the rug pad you’ll need:

Rug Size Pad Size
9×12 8’10″x11’10”
8×11 7’10″x10’10”
8×10 7’10″x9’10”
5×8 4’10″x7’10”
5×7 4’10″x6’10”

Side note: Amazon can actually be a pretty good resource for area rug padding. In particular, there is a “rug store” on Amazon I like. They let you filter by size, and you can see what other owners think of them, and what rugs they’ve had success with–click here to check them out. (note: I receive a small commission if you buy through Amazon, but this doesn’t affect the price you pay).

See the general trend?

The rug pad needed is 2″ shorter in the length and width. This makes a rug pad that is 1″ shorter on all 4 sides. Of course, you can always cut a rug pad that is bigger than your rug, and then trim it down, but definitely don’t go with shorter than the guidelines above!

Materials for rug pads and how they perform

The material you choose for your rug pad makes a big difference in performance. You’ll

  1. PVC
  2. Felt
  3. Rubber
  4. Felt/Rubber combo
  5. Polyester and/or vinyl

Let’s talk about each briefly, so you can be familiar with their pros and cons:

PVC rug pads are generally less expensive than others, but can cause some problems with the floor. The plastic chemicals do not interact well with vinyl or hardwood floors, causing discoloration or voiding the floor’s warranty. They do make cheap non-slip surfaces. In most cases, I’d avoid PVC pads.

Felt pads are excellent for at extra cushion and support but do not do well at keeping the rug in one place. With larger, heavier rugs this will not be so much of a problem. Their thickness gives some added protection to your floor and more insulation under your feet. Felt pads are considered higher quality since they are great “shock absorbers” to give your rug protection. Here’s a 100% felt pad on Amazon that comes in multiple sizes.

Rubber pads are the best at keeping small area rugs in one place. They create a cushioned, protective barrier, but one that grips the floor rather than simply providing an extra layer beneath the rug. Here’s a rubber pad on Amazon in multiple sizes that has good reviews and is fairly cheap.

Rug pads made out of both felt and rubber are able to combine those qualities. They give more grip like a rubber pad, but also the comfort and protection of a felt one. Combined pads place felt on the top, to prevent abrasions on the rug’s underside and rubber on the bottom to keep the rug from slipping. For most people with decent quality or better rugs, I think felt and rubber is the way to go. An excellent rug pad at a great price is this felt and rubber pad on Amazon in multiple sizes.

Polyester and vinyl are usually used for rug to carpet padding. This material does well for preventing the rug from bunching on the carpet but also not damaging the carpet beneath.


Captain’s warning! If you’re getting a rug for a carpeted floor, it’s important to look for a pad that is specifically a “rug to carpet pad.” Other rug padding designed for hard flooring may not work as well as it should on carpet, but worse, there’s a good chance it will cause your carpet to blossom or fray.

Rug size makes a difference in the pad material you should choose

The last section gave you an overview of each material. And hopefully, it let you narrow down what you want.

There is one more consideration:

The size of your rug can help determine what material you should choose. Different sized rugs have different problems that the rug pad can fix. And depending on the problem to be fixed, different materials will be best:

Small rugs

The smaller the rug, the harder it will be to keep it in one place without some sort of weight or padding. You will also want to keep the pad as thin and lightweight as possible since thicker pads would bring too much bulk underneath a small rug.

For these, a rubber pad is best, but it should allow air to flow freely or it can trap stale odors. The pad should be able to grip both the rug and the floor without sticking to your floor’s finish. That way, the rug will be kept from bunching together or sliding when you walk on it.

Medium rugs

Medium rugs, loosely defined as those 4-5 feet wide and up to 9 feet long, are more stable than small rugs and therefore do not need as much grip to keep them in one place.

A blended material will do the job best, with the felt side able to grip the rug and the rubber side keeping it together. Usually, a medium rug pad will be between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch thick.

Large rugs

Large area rugs frequently take up most of a room and often have furniture such as couches and chairs placed on top of them. Those will help to hold it in one place, but even then the pads are necessary to keep the rug and the floor in their best condition.

A felt pad is ideal for large rugs that are heavy or bulky enough not to move on their own. They add extra comfort and provide a layer between the floor and the rug so neither of the more valuable items becomes damaged by constantly grating against each other.

If your large rug is in a high traffic area, is thinner, or tends to slide or bunch up to one side, then you would be better off using a combined felt and rubber pad to keep it in one place.

Floor compatibility

We’ve covered materials of rug pads and choosing your rug pad by size, but there one more thing that may be the most important:

Compatibility.

The main thing is before you buy a rug pad, you should check your flooring type to make sure it is not sensitive to any chemicals or materials. For example, some area rug pads are made out of PVC, a plastic chemical, which may cause discoloration on vinyl or certain hardwood floors.

But Captain, I’m not a chemist. How will I know how the materials in my floor and the materials in my rug pad will interact?

A good place to look would be your floor’s warranty information. Those usually list out the products that would void the warranty. Take note of any materials and check those against the list of materials in the area rug pad.

Rug pad thickness

Another decision you’re going to make is how thick of a rug pad you want.

Some people like to go with the “squish test”: pinch the pad between your fingers and figure out more comfortable.

But there’s more to it than that. The thickness can affect the performance, functionality, and safety.

You’ll find rugs pads anywhere from 1/16″ to ½”. That’s an 8x difference in thickness! Usually, people tend toward thicker pad, but there are times where thick may NOT be better:

  • with a thin rug
  • the rug has to be cleared by a doorway
  • with too thick of a rug

Shameless advertisement that I stand by: Want to shop for rug padding? Click here to check out a rug pad store on Amazon that has great quality and lets you choose by about any size.

Thicker pads are going to cost a little more, and give your rugs more protection. If you have a nice, thick oriental rug, you’ll want to protect it with a thick pad. However, if you have a thinner less expensive rug, you may just want your pad to keep it from slipping. You only need a thin pad to do that.


Captain’s warning! Don’t forget about your surroundings! While thicker pads are often preferred, be sure that you don’t have a door that opens over the rug, or that the rug is in an area that potentially could be a tripping hazard. These cases a little thinner may be better.

Captain’s parting words!

Rug pads bring several direct benefits. They keep smaller rugs from bunching or sliding around underfoot and add an extra layer of protection between heavy larger rugs and the floor. They also are comfortable and give extra padding when you walk on the rugs.

When you are buying pads for your rugs, you will want to pay close attention to the materials. Felt, rubber or a combination of the two work with almost any kind of floor or rug but you may want to check your flooring warranty to make sure before you purchase it. The size of the rug is also a factor for which type is the best for you to choose.

Anything else you want to know about rug pads? Let me know in the comments below… I usually get back within 24-48 hours.

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Sandra

I just purchased a 9′ x 12′ area rug for our engineered hardwood floor and am looking for a pad to go under the rug. The warranty information for the engineered hardwood floor specifies “Do not use area rug cushions constructed of rubber or PVC. Instead use urethane backed products.” What exactly is a urethane backed product? Does this mean I cannot use a 100% felt pad? Thank you for your expertise and time.

Jean Gardner Brown

Hi,
I’m looking at rugs that are 1/4 inch thick. I think this is way to thin but I love the colors and design. Can I use a rug pad that’s an inch thick ? The rug size is 6×9. This is for my bedroom and it’s going over cork. I’m looking for comfort since I do floor exercises.
Thank You

Eva

What is the best rug pad to get to cancel noise? The people below me always blast their music. I need a rug pad ASAP. Please help!!!

Scott

Greetings, I am looking at purchasing an 8×10 shag style area rug for a room that has a tile floor. I am thinking of a pad for this carpet as we like to sit on the carpet so we would want some comfort but not sure what kind of padding we should get. I added a link to the carpet we are looking at. The carpet we are looking at is https://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/Safavieh-Cozy-Plush-Dark-Grey-Charcoal-Shag-Rug/20602811/product.html?TID=Cart:Link:ProductLink:CartItems Product info: Features: Plush, luxurious shag style Extra thick high pile height of 2 inches Dark grey color with silver flecks Sturdy polypropylene backing Virtually non-shedding polypropylene fibers… Read more »

Elaine

Can I combine two rug pads for one large carpet? I am looking for a 10X14 pad and found out that it is cheaper to buy 2 5X7 pads.