Carpet Types: What Is The Best Carpet For Your Home
Finding the best carpet for your home starts out simple and quickly becomes complicated. You know you want something that will look good in your home, feel great, and most importantly, stay that way for years to come. So you go to the local carpet store or home center and that's when it gets complicated.
Unlike shopping for cars or clothes, a lot of different carpet styles look very similar, yet prices vary and there's a reason for that. The fiber that is used to make the yarn that is then made into carpet is where the difference starts. How that fiber is made into yarn is the second determining factor and how it is then tufted (sewn) into carpet is the next key difference.
More than 90 percent of today's carpet is made of synthetic fiber—nylon, polyester, triexta, or polypropylene. While each fiber has somewhat different characteristics, they are all made basically the same way. (This also includes carpets made from "Natural" fibers, such as wool and sisal.)
Once the fiber has been extruded it is bundled together and twisted into a yarn and then heat set to lock in the carpet fiber's shape. Hundreds of needles arrayed across a machine sew the yarn into a backing. Later, a second backing will be attached to give it additional strength and stability.
How well the carpet will perform depends on how well the yarn is made and how densely the carpet is tufted. The general rule is that the more filaments twisted into a yarn, the stronger it will be and the denser the carpet is (more tufts per square inch), the better it will perform. Keep in mind though that the longer the pile height, the more likely a carpet is to crush (think of traffic paths or marks where furniture has been placed on top of the carpeting).
You’ve decided on buying new carpet, but you want to shop smart. You already know how carpet is made and the difference between carpet styles, but what else is there to know before you buy? Lots. See below also Choosing The Best Carpet For Each Room Of Your Home?
Here are some buying carpet tips to give you the upper hand on what will soon be under your feet!
Unless your room is narrower than 15 feet, you’re going to have seams. Most carpet comes in widths of 12 feet and 15 feet — and on occasion, 13 feet. The degree of visibility of your seams depends on the texture and color you choose, as well as the lighting and furniture placement in your room.
When you carpet your stairs, its backing may show on the bends. And if it’s a looped carpet, it can snag — especially at the seams or transitions. Check our Carpet Care section for information on how to properly care for looped carpet.
Nap (Pile Shading)
A carpet’s nap runs in a single direction, making pile reversal or the shading you see from a vacuum trail, completely normal for most cut pile styles. If you’re not a fan of this, window treatments and furniture placement can minimize the effect.
Let’s face it. You get what you pay for. If you want your carpet to have a great pile density and tighter twist construction (which leads to improved durability), then you’re going to want to go with a higher quality (and more expensive) product. New carpet adds value to any home, so it’s an investment worth making.
Carpet covers a large part of any room, so it’s vital that you consider some basic rules when selecting its color. First off, know that once your carpet is installed, it’s going to look lighter in color than the sample you saw in the store. Don’t ask us why, that’s just the way it is — kinda like losing a sock in the dryer.
Next, recognize that color can affect the apparent size of a room. Call it a visual illusion or a trick of the light, but lighter carpet makes a room look larger and darker colors make a room look smaller and more intimate.
If you like to redecorate often or plan to move soon, go neutral. It’s much easier to imagine furniture in a room that is decorated with neutral colors.
It’s going to happen, no matter how long you hold out from sipping wine or munching on chips and salsa in your freshly carpeted room. Stain protection is an important consideration when buying carpet. Products come with various levels of protection and warranties. As the quality of a carpet increases, so does its stain protection level and warranty coverage.
Padding or cushion is the layer of spongy material between carpet and floor. It’s the padding — not the carpet — that determines whether the carpet feels good or great under your feet.
A quality padding can help preserve a carpet’s look and can extend its life and comfort by providing tougher protection against wear and tear.
Padding is sold using quality specifications, not color specifications. The color of the sample you see in the store may not be the same color as what’s installed in your home. But as long as it feels good, who cares?!
It’s a good idea to read the product specs and warranty coverage on the back labels of your carpet prior to purchasing. Doing so will give you the information you need to protect your investment — and eliminate any surprises down the road.
“Cost per square foot” is just one component of the overall price tag for new carpet. Ask your retailer to calculate the total cost of your floor covering project. Here’s what he or she may include beyond the cost of the carpet, itself:
- Furniture removal/replacement
- Some retailers or installers may charge to remove (and then replace) furniture in the room to be carpeted.
- Demolition/disposal of old floor covering
- Unless your home is brand new, there’s probably an old floor covering that is going to need to be removed and properly disposed of.
- Sub-floor preparation
- Depending on its condition (after removal of the old floor covering), your subfloor may need to be prepped for carpet installation.
- Product delivery
- Delivering your carpet and padding may not be included in the “cost per square foot” price.
- There will most likely be a “cost per square foot” or “square yard” to install your new carpet and padding.
- Materials required to complete the installation
- Additional materials, like adhesives, moisture barriers, stairnosings and baseboards may be required to properly install your carpet.
- Many retailers offer financing as an option of payment. Be sure to check the interest rate, minimum payment due and any finance charges if you choose to pay your purchase off over time.
- In addition to your total project cost, annual cleanings are also recommended to maintain the beauty and life of your new carpet. Ask your retailer and/or consult the manufacturer’s warranty and care guide for directions on cleaning and maintenance.
See the WFCA's dealer locator for your local carpet stores near you that can help you select the best carpet for your situation and give you a free carpet estimate.
So you’ve decided to add new carpet to your home or office. Once you’ve settled on the perfect style to match your decorating tastes and needs, the next big step is preparing for your carpet installation.
In most cases, your local carpet retailer will either have professional carpet installers on staff, or if not, they will recommend reputable independent installers in your area. In either case, the carpet retailer will typically begin by having a professional estimator come to your home or office to measure your floors and determine exactly how much carpet you will need. To offer consumers a competitive price, some retailers may suggest that you purchase less square feet of carpet. But keep in mind that less carpet could result in installations with more exposed carpet seams. Therefore, during the estimator’s visit, it’s important to ask where the seams of the carpet will be placed and find out the intended direction of the seams. If you prefer fewer seams, or want them placed in less visible areas, it may be worth ordering more carpet to get the custom look you desire.
Questions to Ask BEFORE Installation Day
Prior to installation day, it’s important to ask your carpet retailer or installer about specific installation procedures and any related charges. Following are a few important questions to discuss:
Who will move heavy furniture?
In most cases, carpet installers will move furniture as needed. Most retailers will include this service as part of the installation charge, but not always. So it’s important to ask. There may also be additional charges for moving unusually heavy or cumbersome objects such as pianos or oversized furniture. Also remember that most installers are not certified electricians or plumbers. Generally, they will not be responsible for moving any appliances that involve connecting or disconnecting gas lines, water lines, or electrical wiring.
Who is responsible for removal and disposal of the old carpet and padding?
Removal of the old carpet and padding is often included in the installation fee. But again, it’s always important to confirm this. Be sure to also find out if they will haul old flooring away. Some installers tack on an extra charge for this service.
What if the subfloor is damaged?
For proper installation, carpet must be installed over a structurally sound subfloor. If removal of the old flooring reveals a subfloor that has been damaged by insects, water, or other sources, in almost all cases, it is your responsibility to have the subfloor repaired or replaced prior to the carpet installation.
What if moldings or baseboards are damaged during installation?
During installation, it may be necessary for the installer to remove and then reattach moldings. If so, breakage may occur, particularly when removing fragile quarter round moldings. Scratches and nicks to baseboards are also possible. In most cases, you will be responsible for repairing any such minor damages.
What if doors won’t close after installation?
The thickness of your new carpet may prevent doors from opening and closing properly. In this case, it is almost always your responsibility to have doors cut and rehung.
Preparing for Installation Day
So you have gotten all your questions resolved and scheduled your installation. Following are a few things you should do to prepare for installation day:
- Complete all remodeling projects in the room being covered, including sanding, painting, wallpapering, etc.
- Remove all breakable items such as lamps, mirrors, pictures, and collectibles and other items from tables and bookshelves.
- Remove any light furniture such as chairs or end tables.
- Disconnect any electronics in the room, including appliances, TVs, stereos, computers, etc.
- If possible, check the subfloor to ensure there is no damage that could impact installation.
- Clear a path that allows enough room for installers to unload carpet and carry it to the installation site.
On installation day be sure to:
- Open windows and doors or run a fan to provide fresh air. This will help reduce the new carpet smell.
- Vacuum old carpet to reduce airborne dust and dirt when carpet is removed.
- After carpet and cushion removal, vacuum subfloor to remove any debris.
- Inspect new carpet to ensure that it is the correct texture, color, and style and that there are no visible defects.
- Remind installer to place seams as previously agreed upon.
- Ensure carpet installer followers the carpet manufacturer’s installation guidelines. Standard requirements include power-stretching the carpet to minimize wrinkling and rippling and sealing seam edges with an appropriate adhesive to prevent edges from unraveling.
- Vacuum newly installed carpet to remove loose fibers and normal shedding.
The proper installation is critical to the overall performance of your carpet. Ensure you are prepared for your next carpet installation by asking the right questions ahead of time. To find the best carpet for your needs or to schedule a professional carpet installation, contact your local flooring retailer.
Each room in your home serves a different purpose and will thus have different practical requirements to consider when it comes to selecting the best carpet. Following are some carpet suggestions for each room.
The best carpet for a bedroom depends on whose bedroom it is. Carpet in a master suite or a guest room, for example, is less likely to become soiled and stained than carpet in a room used by a child or teen.
For an adult bedroom, softness and comfort underfoot are most often top of the list. In this low-traffic room, just about any fiber in a plush or texture style will work well. Wool is an ideal option for adding a soft, luxurious look and feel to a bedroom. But as a natural fiber, it can be bit pricey. Synthetic carpets are usually more budget-friendly, and may be a more realistic option if you have a large bedroom. Nylon, a highly durable synthetic option with the softest feel, is typically the most costly synthetic option. Polyester carpeting is usually less expensive than nylon, and, like most natural fibers, it is also non-allergenic, making it an ideal choice for allergy sufferers. However, as an inexpensive material, polyester carpeting can shed or pill.
A good choice for a child's bedroom is a soft, nylon or an inherently stain-resistant polyester carpet.
Your lifestyle and personal taste are key factors in choosing the best carpet for living rooms. In busy families with children and pets, where the living room gets daily use, stain resistance and wear are of top concern. A solution-dyed or stain-treated product, possibly one with some type of added odor treatment, is a good option.
If your living room is for formal use only, consider a classic cut pile saxony or a sophisticated cut and loop patterned carpet. A textured plush or a frieze will work well for a more casual lifestyle.
Family rooms in active households with kids and pets demand carpets that are stain and soil resistant and constructions that can stand up to a lot of traffic. Dense textures, loop piles, as well as many patterned carpet styles tend to show less matting and traffic patterns.
A multi-colored, textured looped carpet, such as a berber made from wool or nylon, will likely be more forgiving of tracked in debris and everyday mess.
Want to give your dining room an elegant look? A plush saxony carpet can be a great choice. Triexta or P.E.T. polyester carpets with inherent stain resistance, solution-dyed nylon carpets, or nylons with advanced stain resistance are all safe bets for dining rooms, where occasional soiling from spilled food and beverages is a concern. Products that feature anti-microbial and other topical treatments will also help protect against spills.
Hallways and Stairs
For stairs and other high-traffic areas such as hallways, a low-profile, densely packed carpet can add to the life expectancy of carpet. Because of its resilience, nylon carpet is often recommended in pulled-down textures or level-loop constructions.
For stairs, the direction of the pile should run from the top of the stairs to the bottom (not sideways). This ensures better wear and also prevents noticeable gaps between fibers where the carpet bends over each step. Stairways that are open on one or both sides require the carpet to wrap around the outside edge of the staircase, presenting the possibility of a portion of the backing to show. Here, a higher-grade berber will work much better than a lower-grade option. Seams are also a concern on stairs, particularly where the carpet joins around posts. A longer pile such as frieze, tends to hide seams better than short or looped piles.
A big concern in basements is most often moisture. Carpets made from man-made fibers, such as olefin (polypropylene), and polyester, do a good job at standing up to moisture and tend to dry more quickly than natural fibers such as wool. A lower pile will also dry quicker. A dense, multi-color loop or level loop construction is a good choice for basements. If concerned about the possibility of flooding, carpet squares may be a better option than wall-to-wall carpeting, as soaked squares can be more easily replaced.
A Word on Carpet Cushion
Carpet cushion serves a vital purpose, acting as both a shock and spring to help improve carpet’s overall wear. Without the use of the appropriate carpet cushion, even the highest-quality carpet will surely flatten and quickly look worn. Prior to purchasing carpet, be sure to review the carpet manufacturer's cushion recommendations with your carpet retailer.
The Final Choice
With any carpet selection, it’s always important to ask your local, specialty carpet retailer for recommendations for your specific use. Remember to ask about any special care requirements and installation considerations. See the WFCA's Dealer Locator for highly trained local carpet retailers who have the experience and industry knowledge to help you select the best carpet for your home.
Here’s some advice on cleaning and caring for your new carpet:
Need carpet cleaning products, or help from a local carpet professional? See the WFCA's Dealer Locator to find a professional carpet cleaning company in your area.
“Wipe your feet on the mat! Leave your shoes at the door! Walk on the plastic liner!”
People can be so fussy about preserving their carpet. Some demand that freshly “mown” look with perfectly parallel vacuum lines across the room. Others lose their heads over a single crumb. Assuming you’re not one of “those,” here’s some tips on keeping your carpets just as clean and cozy as they were the day they were installed.
Wipe Your Feet
Mom’s three favorite words ring true after all. By placing a mat at the doors that lead to and from backyards and garages — and enforcing their use —mud, dirt and other yuckiness can stay outside and not get tracked across the carpet.
Suck It Up
Regardless of your militaristic skills when it comes to keeping dirty feet off the carpet, dust, food and other everyday grime is going to make its way onto your precious pile. That’s where a good vacuum comes in. Buy one and use it often. You can choose between the old fashioned upright, or one of those fancy robotic models that requires little more than the push of a button and the occasional emptying of the filter. Frequent vacuuming sucks up the dust and loose dirt, refreshing your rugs and extending the life of your investment.
If you choose a vacuum that uses bags, make sure you change the bag frequently to allow maximum cleaning efficiency — and to avoid all that dust blowing back out onto your carpets! Newer bagless models may save time and make the effort even easier!
Watch Your Weight
Heavy furniture, potted plants and other home décor can crush carpet pile and leave compressions that you may not notice until you redecorate or move. It’s a good idea to shake things up every once in a while — rearrange the furniture and your carpet will thank you.
Stay Out of The Sun
Those large picture windows invite the sunlight in, casting a beautiful glow across your home. But in the same way the sun damages our skin, its ultraviolet rays can also damage the color of your carpet over time. To avoid sun lightening to your carpets, shut the curtain or blinds when the sun is most intense or use UV glass or film in your windows.
Snip the Snags
Looped carpets tend to snag over time — especially at the seams. It’s best not to vacuum over lose yarn or pull at the snags. Instead, treat every loose thread like you would on an expensive suit. Grab a pair of scissors and carefully snip the snag flush with the plush.
Watch the Spills
“To eat or drink on the carpet? That is the question.” Long before Shakespeare might have contemplated that line, everything from cracker crumbs to red wine has found its way onto and into costly carpets. When these events occur (and they will occur), begin the clean up process by using a dry cloth to blot up as much debris or liquid as possible. The longer you wait, the more the fibers will absorb the stain. Warm water should then be used to rinse the stained area. Press the cloth into the carpet to soak up the moisture until the stain is gone. Don’t scrub and don’t use hot water. You’ll damage the fibers. Finally, rinse the area with warm water and absorb the wetness with a dry cloth. After your carpet is dry, vacuum it to restore its texture and appearance. There are some carpet cleaners that do actually work. Ask your retailer about cleaning products that have earned the Carpet & Rug Institute’s (CRI) Seal of Approval.
Like a fine piece of clothing, carpet is a textile. Though it doesn’t come with a little white tag on the back of the neckline, it does come with maintenance literature provided by the manufacturer. Different fibers, styles and finishes require specific care. In the same way you wouldn’t throw a silk blouse in the washing machine, you don’t want to make a similar mistake with your carpet. Read up and follow the suggested guidelines. You’ll be glad you did.
Call the Pros
Time and traffic take their toll. It’s just a fact of life. Carpet manufacturer warranties have very specific instructions on the type of professional cleaning necessary to keep that warranty in force. Refer to that material. Then, when necessary, call on a reputable carpet cleaning service to restore your rugs to their original luster. The knowledge, commercial equipment and experience of a professional can go a long way towards removing stubborn stains and keeping your home beautiful.