How to Buy Carpet for Your Home

Sally Painter
Home Interiors

Learning how to buy carpet wisely only takes a few minutes. Once you're armed with a few tips on the different carpet attributes, you can make an informed decision.

Carpet Terminology

There are specific terms used in the carpeting industry. Before you set out to explore carpets, you need to familiarize yourself with a few of these so you can compare carpets.

Tufted and Woven

A carpet is either tufted or woven. In tuft construction, a machine punches the carpet tuft through a backing, often plastic to create a loop. A second backing is glued onto the main one to secure the tuft. The tuft either remains as a loop carpet or is cut for pile carpeting. A woven carpeting is woven on a loom similar to a rug and more expensive than a tufted carpet.

Fiber, Pile and Texture

The carpet fiber refer to the material it's made from. The fibers are spun into a yarn that will be either a two, three or four ply yarn. The pile, also known as nap or face, is the height of the fiber. It can be long, medium or short. Texture refers to the feel of the pile based on the style of cut pile, looped pile or a combination of cut and looped.

Yarn Twist

The twist of a yarn represents the number of times the yarns are twisted. This is based on a one-inch length of yarn prior to the finish. The higher the twist count, the more durable and resistant the yarn is to springing back underneath foot traffic.

PAR Rating

You can use the PAR rating to gauge the overall performance of the carpet. The rating is 1 through 5 with 5 being the highest rating indicative of good performance in retaining resilience, color and appearance.

Carpet Density

The carpet density refers to how close the yarn strands are to each other. A high density of carpet features a very tight tufting where the yarns are so close together, you can't push your finger through the fibers to the carpet backing. If you fold a carpet sample, you can see how close the yarn strands are. This makes the carpet highly durable and resilient.

Carpet Weight

The carpet weight is given in ounces. This represents the weight per square yard. The amount of fiber in the carpet surface is called face weight. When the fiber, backing and latex (if any) are combined, this is known as the total weight of the carpet. This information is useful if you want to compare carpets made of the same fiber.

Types of Carpet Fibers

Before you choose the type of carpet construction you want, you should consider the type of fibers used to make carpets. Each has its positives and negatives. You need to consider your lifestyle and the demands of daily living. There are two carpet fiber categories, natural and synthetic. The synthetic materials are manmade and cheaper than natural fibers. While you can find several natural fibers in the construction of rugs, wool is the main natural fiber used in carpets.

Wool Carpet

Wool is the most commonly used natural fiber in carpets. It is often used as a blend with synthetic fibers as a marketing tool for cheaper carpets that have some wool properties. Wool is a prized fiber for its durability and color saturation and has the highest price tag.

  • Wool carpeting sheds more than other fibers as a natural part of its fiber makeup.
  • Wool carpet exposed to direct sunlight can cause the color to fade.
  • Wool is susceptible moth damage.
  • As a natural fiber, wool can absorb moisture that can potentially cause issues, such as mold and mildew, especially in damp regions.

Acrylic

The synthetic fiber, acrylic, comes the closest of all synethic fibers to looking like wool. It is a favorite for commercial carpets. It's natural soil resistance makes it an easy fiber to clean. Unlike nylon, acrylic doesn't conduct static. It is naturally resistant to mildew and moths. The color choices are vast and can withstand direct sunlight with little to no fading.

Nylon

A common carpet fiber is nylon. It's non-allergenic and is a very strong fiber that holds up under heavy foot traffic. Nylon doesn't require a lot of care and very easy to clean. It takes color very nicely and can provide vibrant color choices other carpet fibers can't.

  • Nylon is naturally resistant to mildew and a good choice if mildew is a problem in your home.
  • It's a good choice for an active family since it wears well and is resistant to dirt and soil.
  • Nylon can fade under direct sunlight.

Triexta

The newest synthetic carpet fiber is Triexta. It's very durable and stain resistant. These qualities make it a popular choice for active households, especially for families with pets.

Olefin

Olefin (polypropylene) is the original outdoor carpet fiber and was introduced to address mildew and moisture problems often found in basements. Many rec rooms in basements were ideal candidates for this fiber carpet in the late 1960s.

  • Olefin can withstand water damage and stains. advances have popularized this fiber as a wool alternative due to its appearance and colorfast properties.
  • Olefin carpets can fade in direct sunlight.
  • Olefin isn't resilient, but can be used for loop carpets, such as Berber since compacted fibers isn't an issue with loop carpet.

Polyester

Polyester carpeting is stain resistant, easy to clean, non-allergenic, and less expensive than wool and nylon. It isn't as tough as nylon. However, polyester can be dyed in a large range of colors and offers a nice selection of textures. This fiber isn't very resilient and will compact under foot traffic, causing it to wear and yarns to breakdown. It is a good choice for bedrooms and cost-effective

  • Polyester carpeting can shed and even show pilling.
  • It is resistant to mildew, moisture and moths.
  • Some polyester carpets can fade in direct sunlight.

Types of Carpets

Once you understand the different types of carpet fibers, you can determine the one best for your lifestyle. It is then time to consider the type of carpet you want.

Loop Carpet

Unlike a pile carpet, the loops of a loop carpet aren't cut. The loops are consistent and the same size. Loops allow the carpet face to be tight and smooth. The type of fiber and how tightly the loop construction is determines the price. Fibers used for uncut loop carpets include nylon, wool and olefin.

  • Loop carpet is used in many commercial buildings as well as homes.
  • Loop carpet stands up to high foot traffic and resists dirt and stain since they can't penetrate beyond the loops.
  • There are many grade qualities of loop carpets.
Texture of a carpet

Berber Carpet

Berber carpet is a popular loop pile. Unlike other loop piles, it has large and small alternate tufts. Berber carpets feature a tight weave. Unlike a loosely woven loop, you can push your fingertip between Berber carpet loops or easily see the backing when the sample is bent. This carpet has a few drawbacks. High heels can get caught in the loops and make it dangerous to use on stairs. Pets, especially cats, can get caught in the loops.

Berber Carpet In Neutral Colors

You don't want a loosely woven loop weave for a high traffic area. A loosely woven loop can be discovered when you bend the carpet sample (back to back). If you can easily place your fingertip between the loops or can see and touch the backing, then the loop is loosely woven and this type of carpet won't wear well. You may put this type of carpeting in a bedroom or areas that are infrequently used.

Cut and Loop

A carpet that combines cut pile and loop pile is used to create patterned carpets and sculpted carpets. The uneven pile often features different colors. This carpet serves to hide dirt, footprints and wear. This is a good choice for main foot traffic areas, such as a game room, family room, hall, or stairs.

patterned beige carpet

Texture

A texture pile is created by tightly twisted yarns but has a soft nap. The texture is created by using two-toned yarns. The yarns are cut uneven to aid it in durability and soil resistance. This is an excellent choice for a family room or game room.

Girl reading book in bedroom

Freize

Freize is a short, tightly twisted yarn that produces a resilient pile. You can use this type of carpet in a high traffic area. The overall look is a curly pile. This is a great choice for halls, stairs, family room and any area where there is a lot of activity.

Gray Fluffy Carpet

Plush

A plush pile features densely packed strands of yarn that create a soft and plush surface. This pile is considered highly luxurious and is considered a formal carpet. The beauty of this pile is the velvet appearance created from footprints and trails left behind by a vacuum cleaner. A good example of a plush pile is a Saxony carpet. This is a great choice for a dining room, bedroom, living room, or a formal home design.

Dining Room

Shag

This retro style revived for modern use features long yarn strands in a deep pile. The overall look is shaggy, hence the name. Shag carpet is high maintenance and accumulates dirt easily, although it also hides dirt well. This is a fun carpet for a city, retro or modern theme.

white shaggy carpet

Tips for Choosing Carpets for Different Spaces

You need to consider the purpose of the room where you intend to lay carpet. What activities take place in the room? Is there a lot of moving in and out of the room? Do kids play in the room and have lots of spills?

Cheaper Carpets in Low Traffic Rooms

You can safely choose a cheaper carpet for low traffic rooms, such as bedrooms. There is a significant difference in the foot traffic of a bedroom and a hallway or staircase. Sink your dollars into these high traffic areas with a high-quality carpet that will last a long time.

Blown Yarns

One thing to pay close attention to is the twist on the yarn. The surface of the pile may look full. To determine if this is a faux impression, separate the yarn and see if the twist is tight or what is called a blown yarn. This is created during manufacturing by a burst of hot air the fluff up the twist to make it appear fuller. Within a few months, the carpet will begin to have a packed look. That's because the yarn fiber isn't resilient under foot traffic and is literally unable to bounce back. You can usually get by with a blown yarn in a bedroom as long as it doesn't receive constant traffic like other rooms.

Choosing the Right Carpet Padding

The pad you use underneath the carpet can lengthen or shorten the life of the carpet. The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) recommends a cushion of at least 5 lbs and 3/8" thickness for light traffic areas, and 6.5 lbs. and 3/8" for heavy traffic areas.

Carpet Padding for Homes

A general rule for carpet pads for residential installations is a maximum of 7/16" thickness with a minimum of ¼" with six pounds per cubic feet density. For low profile carpets, such as Berber, the institute recommends a pad that's no more than 3/8" thick with 8 pounds density.

Polyurethane Carpet Pad

A polyurethane (PU) foam pad is a popular type of padding and can be used in bedrooms and other low traffic rooms. It will absorb the impact and reduce the wear and tear on the carpet. For high traffic areas, such as living rooms, hallways and stairs, you need a firmer and higher density type of cushion.

Other Types of Carpet Pads and Underlays

Carpet pads and underlays come in other types of materials, such as felt, rubber, jute and various combinations of these. Felt is often used on concrete floors since it can insulate and prevent heat loss.

Cleaning Carpets

Vacuum your carpet once a week. Use a vacuum with a beater bar for cut piles but not for looped since the bar can snag at loop and unravel or otherwise damage your carpet. If you decide to clean your carpet, opt for steam cleaning instead of shampooing.

Easiest Carpets to Clean

Some fiber and weave make for easier cleaning. For instance, nylon and polyester are two of the easiest carpet fibers to clean while wool carpet is the most difficult. A Berber carpet is very easy to clean since the loop construction prevents spills from getting deep into the fibers. Spills on a cut pile carpet, like a Saxony, will filter down to the back of the carpeting, making it more difficult to remove. However, most carpets are treated to be stain resistant.

Spilled wine on white carpet

Why Carpet Shampooing Makes Carpets Dirtier

A shampooed carpet will look great for the first month or so, but it will eventually become dirty again, only worse. That's because the shampoo/soap clings to the base of the fibers and even the backing. This serves as a magnet for dirt, dust and grime.

Carpets Treated to Resist Stains and Spills

Many modern carpets are treated with Scotchgard or other inhibitors to stains and spills. You want to always clean up spills or stains immediately.

How to Clean Spills on Carpet

You never want to rub a carpet spill in an effort to mop it up. This will damage the fibers and push the liquid deeper into the carpet pile.

  1. Place a towel over the spill and step on it with your foot, placing your weight on your foot.
  2. Repeat, rearranging the towel so a dry area covers the spill each time. Replace the towel if it becomes saturated. For small spills, use paper towels. Keep blotting until the liquid is absorbed.
  3. For sugary spills, you can use clean water over the blotted area. Be careful not to saturate the carpet. Blot with paper towels until there is only water and no discoloration. Spills such as wine may can be removed with club soda.
  4. For greasy or solidified spills/stains, there are many cleaning options, but the best may be to consult a professional carpet cleaner.

Understanding How to Buy Carpet

There are many factors to consider when you decide to buy carpet for your home. Once you understand the types of fibers, carpets and pads, you can make an informed decision about the best carpet for your home.

How to Buy Carpet for Your Home