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Comfort priority for cushion, underlayment manufacturers

September 2/9 2013; Volume 27/number 10

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 4.57.16 PMToday’s underlayment and cushion manufacturers are currently focused more than ever on comfort. Whether it’s cushion for broadloom or underlayment for hard surface flooring, mills are producing quality product using state-of-the-art technology with end users’ comfort being top of mind.

For example, the company Leggett & Platt manufactures nearly every type of carpet cushion currently on the market. Executives within the group have found through consumer re-search that today’s shopper is looking for a reliable cushion that will offer the best protection for her family while also providing optimal comfort underfoot and extending the overall life and aesthetic appeal.

“In the spring of 2013, we introduced our Advanced Comfort System (ACS) level carpet cushion,” said Randy Dye, product/marketing manager. “There are three families of products in ACS differentiated by innovative and proprietary technologies yielding the most comfortable and durable cushions.

“Dealers who program one or more products from ACS,” he explained, “have found consumers’ concerns and needs are easily met when they experience the cushion underfoot. A retailer can complete the sale by recommending the best.”

MP Global Products also manufactures products that feature attributes to help create positive consumer response. Duane Reimer, technical director, said the company offers specifiers a “stellar line-up” of fiber acoustic underlayments for hard surface flooring. “Made in the USA and featuring the easy-to-install rollout design, each option is engineered for optimized performance under specific types of finished flooring. All of our fiber underlayments are constructed using pre-consumer recycled fibers and meet the most rigorous indoor air quality standards.”

One of the newer innovations developed in the underlayment/ cushion business are products intended for use under luxury vinyl flooring (LVF). “The underlayments are used to get the necessary sound ratings when LVF is applied in multifamily dwellings.

“Our fiber acoustic underlayments feature randomly air-laid filaments that create a capillary effect to cushion the floor as well as absorb sound,” he added. “All MP Global Products premium fiber acoustic underlayments meet or exceed the sound ratings commonly specified by architects in condominiums, high-rise apartment buildings, and other multi-family housing.”

The company’s product portfolio is highlighted by QuietWalk, an environmentally friendly, acoustic and insulating laminate and floating wood floor underlayment in addition to VersaWalk, a universal underlayment engineered for use under wood, laminate and LVT. Also featured is Insulayment, an underlayment for glue-down and nail-down wood floors made with 100% recycled pre-consumer materials and UltraLayer, a product designed for ceramic, porcelain tile floors and natural stone tiles;  UltraLayer Peel & Stick is an additional option. MP Global has also developed a radiant heat/underlayment system called QuietWarmth for floating wood floors, laminate floors and SnapStone or Avaire tiles.

At Royalty Carpet Mills, in addition to producing broadloom, the company offers cushion products in multiple thicknesses and weights with various features that include moisture barriers, memory foam, or an anti-microbial additive, depending on the selection. All cushions are made with prime recycled scrap material and are rebond in nature, noted Paul Engle, vice president of marketing.

According to Engle, one of the latest technologies to come about in rebond is “the fine grind and memory foam. It feels great while maintaining its integrity and will last for the life of the carpet. Underlayment is extremely important when choosing broadloom as it will have a lot to do with its performance. When you consider the relative small expense of an upgraded cushion in the overall flooring purchase and how much better your investment will look and perform, I believe you have to give it strong consideration.”

Selling points

Underlayment can be a key component in a high performing floor assembly, improving comfort in many ways, Engle continued. For example, “underlayment with good compression resistance contributes to more comfortable walking and standing. Underlayment can also help compensate for an uneven subfloor and other imperfections, helping create a smooth, even-finished floor surface.

When it comes to making the sale, he noted, salespeople should always point out that an underlayment which adds “an R-value enables it to act as a thermal break,” helping make the floor warmer in winter and cooler in summer, another attribute contributing to greater comfort. “Before making a purchase, the consumer should know all the specific talking points of the underlayment options for the type of flooring she is purchasing.”

Leggett & Platt helps promote awareness of the benefits of a good carpet cushion, noted Dye. “Cushion was often the last part of the conversation and typically amounted to ‘the pad being thrown in as part of the carpet deal’ when, in reality, there weren’t many features and benefits being explained to the consumer. Our research proved that point.”

The consumer relies heavily on the RSA for helping her select the most appropriate cushion for her carpet, he added. In fact, “we found that 80% of consumers will go with what is recommended from the RSA.”

Regarding what the consumer should know before making a purchase, Dye said, “We found there’s very inaccurate information on the Internet regarding carpet cushion. The best source for learning about it should be from the retailer. This, of course, leads to the next most important point: The retail salesperson must become familiar with the cushion products and their features and benefits so as to make the best recommendation.”