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Carpet Buying Guide

This guide is designed to give you the facts you need to choose the right carpet for your lifestyle and your decor.

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Carpet Terms
Fiber is the carpet material itself. Single fibers are spun together to create two-, three- or four-ply yarn, which is then attached to a woven backing.
Pile refers to the height of the fiber.
Density is the measure of how closely packed the strands of fiber are to one another. The higher the density, the stronger the carpet.
Carpet weight is measured in ounces per square yard. Face weight refers to the amount of fiber on the surface of the carpet, while total weight includes the backing and latex as well. High face weight is a good indication of quality.
Texture comes from the style in which fibers are looped, twisted or cut. This determines the look and feel of the carpet, and plays a large role in its durability.

Good to Know
When using weight to compare carpets, make sure you’re comparing similar materials, like nylon to nylon, not nylon to polyester.
Carpet Fibers
Carpet fibers are made from either natural materials, like wool, or synthetic materials, like nylon, olefin, acrylic and polyester. Each material brings unique characteristics to carpet.

Wool offers a deep, rich look and feel with excellent resilience and durability. It’s naturally stain resistant and also resists soil and dirt due to how tightly packed the fibers are. For these reasons, wool carpet tends to be more expensive than the synthetic options.
Nylon is the most common carpet material. It’s the strongest fiber, making it an excellent choice for heavy traffic areas. It’s also the most durable of the synthetics, easy to clean and maintain. Nylon is soil- and mildew-resistant, resilient and non-allergenic. However, some nylon may pill and be prone to static.
Olefin (Polypropylene) was originally for outdoor carpeting and basements due to its resistance to moisture, mildew, water damage, staining, pilling, shedding and static. Now it’s more widely used for its durability and wool-like feel and appearance. Olefin is dyed before it’s made into a fiber and therefore is colorfast, though some olefin can flatten and fade in direct sunlight.
Polyester is not as durable as nylon, but it is stain-resistant. Polyester offers a wide selection of textures and colors and, while it’s susceptible to pilling and shedding, it’s non-allergenic, sheds moisture, resists moths and mildew, and cleans easily.
Acrylic is the closest to wool of any of the synthetics. Acrylic is manufactured primarily for commercial use. It offers soil resistance, excellent cleanability, and resistance to static, moths and mildew. Acrylic is available in a wide choice of colors and is less likely to fade in bright sunlight than nylon or polyester.
Treatments for Carpet
Carpet is available with stain-resistant fibers and finishes, which is ideal for homes with children and pets. Treatments are supplemental to the natural resistance of your carpet fibers. The most effective treatments are integrated as part of the manufacturing process; finishes applied later are not as long-lasting. One example of an effective carpet treatment is heat setting, which is a manufacturing process that reinforces the twists of the yarn plies to add durability.

Carpet Pile

Cut pile fiber ends are cut evenly. There are several types of cut pile:

Saxony is a popular carpet of dense, level-cut pile clipped to about 1/2-inch high. The closely packed yarns give a soft smooth surface which is perfect in formal settings. A smooth-finished saxony is often referred to as plush. Saxony carpet is highly susceptible to showing seams, footprints and vacuum marks.
Textured isn’t as densely tufted as a saxony, but is equally known for its very soft feel. Two-toned yarn and an uneven surface give it a casual look suited for any room. Its tight-twist construction helps resist soil, so it’s a good choice for family rooms. This is the most popular carpet option and the one you see most often in homes.
Frieze carpets have a short, durable, twisted pile fiber well suited for busy areas, often used for commercial purposes. The fibers of a frieze carpet curl in different directions, so they hide footprints and other common carpet marks. Frieze yields a somewhat informal look.
Loop pile yarns are looped and fastened to the backing. These are very durable carpets and usually a good choice for high traffic areas. There are two types of loop pile carpeting:

Berber features large, uncut loops of natural-tone fibers, varying in size and usually made from wool, nylon or olefin. It’s denser than most other carpets and highly stain resistant. This is not a good choice for houses with animals, though, as their claws can snag on the fibers.
Level loop refers to tufted, uncut loops of equal height, resulting in a very smooth surface. It’s durable, easy to maintain, and a great carpet for high traffic areas and informal rooms. Level loop is, however, known to be harder and stiffer than the other carpet options.
Cut and Loop offers a combination of the above, allowing more options of textures and patterns. Cut and loop achieves a sculptured pattern with varied levels of uncut low loops and sheared top loops. The pattern looks as if it’s been cut into the carpet and usually features several tones from the same color family. The change in color helps disguise wear and soiling. Cut and loop doesn’t necessarily hold up as well as loop pile, but is considerably softer.

Carpet Padding

Padding is just as important as the carpet itself – in some ways even more so. Although it’s not visible, the cushioning layer is critical to carpet installation. Installing the proper backing cushions the foot, insulates from cold and noise, and increases the life of the carpet.

Remember that thicker is not always better. A floor that’s too soft can be dangerous, especially to those whose steps may be a bit unstable at times. When foot testing a carpet in the showroom, test it with a padding sample underneath. Also be sure to follow the manufacturer guidelines as to which padding to choose. Different kinds of carpet require different padding and carpet will not wear properly with the wrong kind of padding.

Carpet Tiles
Peel-and-stick carpet tiles are a good do-it-yourself flooring option. The adhesive system keeps the carpet in place and eliminates curling. Another benefit is that you can mix and match colors and patterns to suit your décor.