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Carpet Buying Guide

Shopping for new carpet can be overwhelming. Get the facts on everything from carpet types to carpet fiber and choose the best carpet for your home.

Carpet in room scene.

Set the Expectation

kids on a carpet with the family dog

Before you shop for new carpet, create a set of expectations for yourself to ease the buying process.

  1. When do you need it? In-stock and Special Order carpets are available depending on your timeframe.
  2. How long do you want the carpet to last? Different fibers offer different performance with foot traffic in the home. If you're making a short-term investment, polyester fiber will sustain you. If you need something longer-lasting, explore nylon.
  3. What's your budget? A smart carpet budget accounts for all three pieces of the carpet puzzle: carpet, pad and installation.

Carpet Types

illustration with description of carpet types

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 that is perfect in formal settings. A smooth-finished saxony is often referred to as plush. Saxony carpet can show seams, footprints and vacuum marks.
  • Textured isn't as densely tufted as saxony, but also has a 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.
  • Frieze carpets have a short, durable, twisted pile fiber well-suited for busy areas -- it's 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 homes with pets, though, as their claws can snag on the fibers.
  • Level loop contains 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, however, is known to be harder and stiffer than the other carpet options.

Cut and Loop or Pattern 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 Terms

carpet with furniture in the background
  • 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. Pile is also referred to as "face" or "nap."
  • Density is the measure of how closely packed the strands of fiber are to one another. The higher the density, the stronger the 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.
  • Twist refers to the number of time fibers turn in a 1-inch length. Higher twist counts are typically more resilient and better resist traffic and crushing.
  • PAR rating is a 1-5 rating scale for Performance, Appearance and Retention; the higher the number, the more easily it retains its appearance.
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

close up of 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.

  • 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 designed 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.
  • Triexta is a newer carpet yarn noted for its durability and stain resistance. It's another good carpet option for households with children or pets.
  • 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.
  • Wool offers a deep, rich look and feel with excellent resilience and durability. It's naturally stain resistant and its tightly packed fibers resist dirt. For these reasons, wool carpet tends to be more expensive than the synthetic options.

Treatments for Carpet

dog on a carpet

Carpet is available with stain-resistant fibers and finishes that are ideal for high-traffic homes and pet owners. Treatments are supplemental to the natural resistance of your carpet fibers. The most effective treatments are integrated as part of the manufacturing process.

Carpet Padding

pet protect carpet pad

Although it's not visible, carpet padding - or the cushioning layer - is critical to carpet installation. The proper backing cushions the foot, insulates from cold and noise and increases the life of the carpet. However, thicker is not always better. A less cushiony floor may be preferable to those whose steps may be a bit unstable at times. When foot testing a carpet, test it with a padding sample underneath.

Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for which padding to choose, as different kinds of carpet require different padding. Purchasing corresponding pad and carpet may lengthen your carpet warranty without additional cost.

Carpet Tiles

Glue-down or peel-and-stick carpet tiles are a good do-it-yourself flooring option. The adhesive system keeps the carpet in place and eliminates curling. And, since the tiles are all-in-one, a separate carpet padding purchase isn't necessary.

Caring for Carpet

Proper care extends the life of every carpet. Vacuum often, rearrange furniture regularly to avoid traffic paths and close curtains / blinds during peak daylight hours to avoid exposure to direct sunlight.

Yearly professional cleaning is recommended - even if you clean the carpet yourself in between.