Carpet Cushion Problems

Barrier Carpet Cushions

I recently read a post on a flooring message board, the following is that message in its entirety (misspellings and grammatical errors included) - I did take the liberty of separating the paragraphs to make the post a little easier for my readers to follow. To be clear, the original poster refers to carpet cushion as “padding”. While the terms padding and underlay are often used interchangeably with cushion, the industry recognizes cushion as the preferred terminology. See the Carpet Cushion Council website for more info.  

Posted by Mat:

First off I am just a home owner looking for some help.

I recently had my house recarpeted and was sold on buying 1/2 double sided vapor barer foam padding which has turned out to be a nightmare. To make a long story short when it was first installed they glued it down and when I walked on it the padding made sticky noises all over. After much debate back and forth while insisting it was installed correctly the company finally agreed to replace the padding.

When they came and replace it, after pulling up all the carpet they put the new padding right over the tacky glue and started reinstalling the carpet, well of course the padding made the same noise. Then they pulled up all the carpet and padding again and covered the glue spots in power against my wishes. Telling me that the glue cannot be cleaned up at all even after offering to do it myself. They said that they were instructed by the padding manufacturer that anything used to clean the glue would leave a residue behind running the new padding. Then went ahead and installed the padding they just ripped up back down leaving picky size holes in the bottom of the padding everywhere staples were used ruining the bottom vapor barer. 

I have called the company leggett and platt and asked if it is ok to pull up and reinstall this padding without compromising the vapor barer. I also asked if they in fact told the installation company that the glue could not be clean up even by me and they will not answer my questions. In fact they told me that I would have to send a legal subpoena to their legal dept. to get answers to those two questions.

 I am wanting to know if anyone can tell me another company that sells double sided vapor padding that I can talk with. Also I am hopping there might be someone that can answers my questions.

Legett & Platt
Monterey Carpet Cushion


Mat didn’t get much help on his matting problem (pun intended) from the message board pro members, as the general consensus went something like this:

  • “...i personally have never heard of a vapor barrier padding...this sounds like a scam to me” 
  •  “...I'm not sure why they even make it cept for easing peoples concern for their pets urinating on the carpet” 
  • “money”

A simple web search brought me to Leggett & Platt’s website where I was easily able to locate information on their double-sided vapor barrier carpet cushion that they dub, “Monterey”. I know this cushion has been on the market for many years and I have seen it recently offered as an upgraded, special order option at the big orange box store. Personally, I believe this cushion has many advantages over basic rebonded cushions and many of the specific advantages can be read on an informative page posted on the Carpet Cave website. 

What I’d like to address in this blog post is the proper installation of this cushion and barrier carpet cushions in general, that are designed for residential, wall-to-wall, stretch-in installations. 

I couldn’t locate installation specifications for any of Legett & Platt’s carpet cushions on their website or in a deep web search. Nor could I locate any instructions for barrier cushions what-so-ever.  I haven’t installed much Monterey but have installed quite a bit of Mohawk’s SmartCushion that has what they call a “Spill Safe moisture guard”, i.e. a barrier cushion. I like this cushion a lot but again, no product specific installation guidelines are available on their website.

General cushion installation specifications can be found in section 16.3 of the CRI (Carpet & Rug Institute) Carpet Installation Standard 2011 but no mention of specific cushion types other then double-glue and attached cushions. I read the first draft of the new ANSI S600 carpet installation standard that is not yet finalized but has been in the works for a number of years (see below), and to my recollection there was no mention of barrier type cushions. So, I’m wondering what gives? Why the lack of product specific installation guidelines? I would think that if cushion manufacturers were confident that their product would perform as advertised they would do their best to make sure it was properly installed.

Granted, I don’t know that Mat is a real person or if he is, that he’s stating the facts of the matter. You might think that cushion installation should be more a matter of common sense based on what its designed to achieve, and an individual with a reasonable amount of intellect should be able to figure it out. Especially if that person’s trade is carpet installation. Unfortunately, while Mat’s post may very well be fictional in order to generate website traffic, in my experience - Mat’s problem is all too real.

Cushion barrier severely punctured and damaged by the improper use of a knee kicker.

I do carpet repairs and that includes re-stretching - tightening wrinkled, loose carpet. To accomplish this I usually have to turn the carpet back to determine the cause of the problem. Often it is compromised tack strip and the utilization of improper stretching techniques. The photo above is an actual re-stretch that I did where I found kicker damage to the barrier cushion.  You’ll notice a gap between the tack strip and the cushion where I cut away some cushion in preparation of installing a new back-up row of tack strip that is necessary to securely hold the stress of a power stretch. What happened here is that the “contractor grade” (i.e. cheap) tack strip was probably compromised from a previous installation, the pins were bent back, and the installer whaled on his knee kicker in an attempt to pin (place) the carpet.

You might be asking - what’s my point? The point is simple; these types of cushions, in order to perform as designed need to maintain an intact barrier. The very nature of carpet installation involves puncturing the carpet with stretching tools, cutting the carpet on top of the carpet cushion (trimming seams), using stay tacks to align carpet patterns and applying heat to the cushion surface (melting) to bond seams, among other techniques used to fit carpet that might harm the cushion. Add that to the damage caused by the negligent stapling of the cushion to a wood sub-floor and the sometimes unavoidable, accidental damage caused by foot traffic during the installation process. Now imagine if the cushion manufacturer made readily available installation guidelines that specifically stated that an installer should avoid puncturing the cushion barrier. Installers would be forced to change their installation techniques and while some will, most will not…therefore creating an installation with a latent defect. Exactly as what Mat has said happened to him.

Mohawk SmartCushion Installation

At the end of the day there are installation and handling techniques available that avoid cushion damage, there are proper adhesives and tape that can be used to prevent the same and allow for the cushion to perform as designed. There are also the right installers that can be utilized to ensure that installations are successfully completed minus latent defects.  

As of July 2015, “The ANSI Board of Standards Review made the final decision to pass S600 barring any unresolved objections.”

2  According to the IICRC, “The S600 Standard and Reference Guide was approved by ANSI on April 09, 2015. WFCA is expected to publish the Standard in 2018. 

3 The WFCA made this announcement on April 17, 2015.

4 ANSI reported on January 20, 2017 that their Appeals Board has reinstated the approval of S600.

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