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Carpet Selection Guide View all Articles

Carpet Selection Guide

Carpet Construction Basics

Tufted carpet makes up the vast majority of broadloom or wall-to-wall carpet produced in America. Tufted carpet has proved itself for decades as the most efficient and effective way to produce broadloom carpet. From high-end corporate buildings to comfy homes, tufted carpet covers the entire spectrum of the flooring market.

Woven represents a small fraction of the broadloom market in the United States. Woven carpet takes longer to manufacture than tufted carpet, but it can achieve a stunning detail. That's why woven carpet is the standard for area rugs. However, weaving produces beautiful broadloom carpet as well. Most of these styles are imported from Europe.

Choosing the Right Carpet Fiber

Carpet fiber and how the carpet is constructed (see Carpet Styles and Textures, above and to the right) affect the appearance, performance, and value of your carpet. During manufacturing, fiber is converted into yarn, which is tufted or woven to form the pile - the surface you see and walk on.

Retailers' carpet samples are labeled to identify fiber content. Most carpet styles are made entirely of one fiber type - nylon, polyester, smartstrand, or olefin. Some styles may contain blends of these fibers.

There are two fiber classes - natural, such as wool, and man-made, such as nylon, olefin, and polyester. Each fiber has different characteristics. The following information can help you make the right choice for your needs.

Nylon continues as the ideal carpet fiber. Its many attributes combine to provide outstanding durability, performance, resilience (the ability to spring back), and appearance. Nylon lends itself to an unlimited variety of styles and colors at reasonable prices, and it is available in very soft styles.

Polyester fiber produces beautiful carpets that are similar in many ways to nylon carpet. Polyester is more stain resistant than nylon, but it is less resilient. This means it does not retain its texture or bounce as well as nylon. Like nylon, polyester is available in a variety of soft styles.

Smartstrand is a new carpet fiber developed by Dupont and Mohawk, and it is exclusive to Mohawk Industries. Orginally considered a polyester, Smartstrand is now its own category. This fiber is known for its ultra soft feel (like Silk) and being stain resistant.

Olefin (also called polypropylene) is often used in indoor/outdoor carpet and in loop-pile carpets. Despite its relatively low resilience and lower tensile strength, it performs excellent in commercial styles with low loops and dense berber styles.

Wool, of course, is a natural fiber and presents a beautiful appearance in carpeting. However, wool may not be as resilient as man-made carpet fibers and it is quite a bit more expensive. Quality wools lke New Zealand wool can be much more expesive.

Judging Carpet Construction and Durability

A knowledgeable salesperson can explain the relative merits of different carpets. There are also some general guidelines to help you determine the durability of a carpet and how well it will keep its original good looks.

Durability depends on three important factors: the type of fiber, the yarn twist, and the pile density. Choosing a carpet based on any one of these factors can be misleading. It's important to select the right balance of all three.

First, choose a strong, resilient carpet fiber such as nylon; this is the strongest, most resilient carpet fiber used today (see Choosing the Right Carpet Fiber for more information). Second, carpet with a tight yarn twist will resist changes in appearance and texture. And third, the density of the pile is important for good resiliency and appearance.

Look at the twist. Yarn twist, particularly in cut-pile, is critical to carpet performance. All pile yarns in cut-pile carpets have been heat set for permanence. The tighter the twist, the better the carpet will retain its appearance. Look to see that the cut ends of the carpet pile are neat and tight.

Check pile density. Press on the carpet with your fingers to see how easily you push through to the backing. Then, with tufts facing outward, bend the carpet into a "U" shape and see how much of the backing shows. The less backing you see, the denser the carpet.

Some practical guidelines. Light-colored carpets will show soil more than dark colors, and dark colors will show lint more than light colors. The appropriate color carpet can help disguise soil tracked in from the outside since the colors of dirt, sand, and clay vary widely.

Tweeds, pebbled textures, and patterns are good choices for rooms where spills and soiling are likely to be a problem.

Final color selection. In selecting your final color, it's wise to look at large carpet samples in your home - both by daylight and by lamplight in the evening. The color you choose in the store may appear completely different in the room with your furnishings and under different light sources.

Carpet Installation

Proper installation is critical to beautiful appearance and carpet performance. A quality carpet installer will follow these guidelines.

Measure the yardage needed for each room or area, and determine the position of seams and how the edges will be finished in doorways. For more information on this see our how to measure diagram.

For patterned carpet, consider proper matching of the design. In cut-pile carpets, make sure the pile direction is the same between the two seamed pieces.

Inspect the actual carpet prior to installation for any defects.

Power stretching is strongly recommended to avoid wrinkles or buckles cause by traffic, humidity, and temperature.

Carpet Styles and Textures

Trackless Carpet is the most popular style of residential carpet. It is made with curled or twisted tufts that lay in random directions. This makes a textured surface that helps mask footprints. Especially suitable for less formal decors.
Frieze Carpet is a type of textured carpet with highly twisted tufts that curl at the pile surface. It is especially suitable for higher traffic areas. This is a very durable style and has a very curly appearance.
Loop Pile is made with tufts of equal height or multi-level loops. Multi-level loops form beautiful patterns using solid colors. It has a broad application with durable wear in either construction.
Pattern Cut Pile creates a sophisticated look made using saxony yarn, but generating a pattern look by tufting cut pile and loop pile with a level pile height. It is appropriate for formal or informal room schemes.
Cut Pile is a casual cut pile construction using a combination of big tufts and small tufts. This type of carpet usually contains small flecks of dark color on lighter shade background colors. It is informal in construction but adds excitement to any room.
Saxony or Plush is a dense level-cut pile with tufts going the same direction. Yarn tufts are closely packed, presenting a smooth, luxurious surface. It is generally for formal settings.
Cut-Loop yarns are tufted into large islands of high cut tufts and lower loop tufts to form a sculpted pattern. Suits more informal settings, and usually at a lower price point.
Berber Carpet is a loop-pile carpet style tufted with thick yarn, such as wool, nylon or olefin. Often having random specks of color in contrast to a base hue, this carpet style has a full, comfortable feel, while maintaining an informal, casual look. Currently, this term has expanded to describe many level or multilevel loop carpeting styles.
Shag Carpet is a style of fiber based carpeting that features piles that are somewhat less dense and are composed of longer individual strands than those found in other carpet designs. Developed as a deep pile style of carpet during the middle of the 20th century, shag carpet and rugs were considered to be essential components of contemporary decorating schemes in the 1960's and early 1970's.

Ideas on Carpet Color and Design

The interior of your home should be designed as an interrelated unit. Think of it as a whole rather than a series of unrelated spaces. Rooms open into other rooms. The textures, colors, and patterns of your carpets can create a pleasing, harmonious effect - or one that is jumbled and visually disturbing.

Pedemonte Room

Your floors are the "fifth wall" of a room, connecting all the design elements. When choosing a color scheme, consider the walls, window treatments, and other furnishings, as well as any special effects you wish to create.

For example, wall-to-wall carpet tends to expand the space of a room. An unbroken sweep of color, especially a light color with a smooth texture, fools the eye into seeing more space than what really exists. In very small rooms, paint the walls the same light color as the carpet. Cover the sofa or bed in fabrics of the same hue, varying the texture for visual interest.

Conversely, larger rooms can seem more intimate with a rich, deep-color carpet in a sculptured texture. Upholstered pieces can be covered in contrasting or bolder colors or patterns that a large area can accommodate.

Color dynamics. The right color carpet in a room can affect its character. A room that lacks sunlight can be warmed by sunny, bright yellows, oranges, and reds. On the other hand, cool colors, such as blues and greens, can create a serene feeling in a room that's too sunny.

Vibrant, lively colors are good for family rooms or kitchens. More formal rooms are enhanced by elegant pastels or traditional, old-world colors.

Padding

Don't skimp on padding. Quality carpeting needs quality padding (or "cushion") for maximum durability, comfort, and beauty retention. That's because the padding helps absorb foot traffic pressure. Its primary purpose is to provide a firm support for the carpet; thus, a dense, resilient pad is usually recommended, because it performs better than a thick, soft pad.

Padding is available in rebond, foam rubber, and urethane foam. It is also manufactured in a variety of densities, thickness, and weights, to meet light, medium, or heavy traffic conditions.

A good recommedation is a 7/16" 8lb rebond pad for a nice cut pile carpet, a 3/8" 8lb rebond pad for berber, and a 1/4" 8 lb for commercial carpet.

As you go through the process of selecting carpet, look at it as an investment in your home's value and appearance and your family's comfort and well-being. You want to make the best choice for your family, so remember these important factors to assure that your new carpet gives you the performance and years of beauty that you expect.