Carpet buying guide

There are many things to consider when choosing the wright flooring for your home. Some of the criteria may be obvious, such as the feel of the floor underfoot, the appearance and the cost involved. Beside all this, you could also be concerned about other aspects, such as environmental issues, as well as longevity and maintenance. Does the flooring release chemicals in the air, is it created in a green manner, or will it be recyclable someday when it is time to replace it? While all these questions might be confusing, most of the time the decision goes down to carpet vs non-carpet.

  1. Is carpet the right choice for my house?
  2. Types of carpets
  3. Carpet materials
  4. Carpet quality indicators
  5. Carpet maintenance

Is carpet the right choice for my house?

Is carpet the right choice for my house

Before making any decisions in buying new flooring, you need to think about few aspects, such as how you use each room, are kids running around, do you have any pets, or are you entertaining a lot? Depending on your answers, you could opt for carpet in some areas and hard flooring in others. Carpets look vibrant and inviting in your home, complementing the rest of the décor, while hard floor gives a modern, minimal vibe.

While the aesthetics weight a lot in your decision, there are also some other things to consider. For example, thermal insulation and sound dampening. Carpeting, combined with a good-quality pad, can insulate a floor against heat loss, ensuring that the room will remain cosy and warm. Carpets will also absorb noise, making your home a quieter place. They’re easier to lay over uneven surfaces and can do a better job of disguising the problem.

Price is another factor that makes carpeting so popular. In the recent decades, the manufacturing process became so efficient, that the carpets are considerable cheaper than other flooring options. However, the price for high end specialty materials, such as wool, is not that low.  In terms of safety, carpet is great for houses with kids or elderly people. A fall on carpeting is unlikely to cause injury the way that a hardwood floor or other rigid surface can do. A good-quality pad beneath the carpet can increase the cushion. Moreover, objects dropped on a carpet are less likely to break than those dropped on a wooden floor.

One of the major cons for carpeting, is the difficulty to keep it clean. Spills and stains are almost impossible to avoid, and removing them from your carpet might be a daunting task. Add to that, the dust, pollen and other allergens that will get trapped within the fibres over time. No amount of vacuuming will completely remove the built up of debris, however, having your carpets professionally cleaned at least once per year, will keep them looking good and sanitized.

Although carpeting manufacturing processes are much better than they once were, some carpeting can still off-gas chemicals such as formaldehyde, especially when the carpeting is new. For people with chemical sensitivities, this can be a serious health concern. Also, although some installers will haul away old carpet when they install new flooring, this carpeting—and the synthetic materials used in its manufacture—are usually not recyclable.

There are many pros and cons on each side, carpet or non-carpet flooring. Therefore, is totally up to you to decide what is best for your home. This article is only meant to give a better view of all the aspects that you should consider, before taking the decision.

In terms of what is the best option for each room, the general rule is hard floor for high traffic areas, such as kitchen, living rooms or dining rooms, and carpet for any other room in the house. If you want to add some colour to a hard floor area, you could lay a mat.

Carpet is a great decision for bedrooms. It is comfortable, sound proofing and feels great on bare foot in the morning. You should go for a premium plush, super-soft carpet. If you already have hardwood, you can still create that intimate and luxurious vibe, by adding an alpaca or silk-and-wool rug.

For kids’ room or play room, you should choose a soft carpet, so children could sit, lay or play on it. Either a wall to wall carpet, or a low, tightly woven loop or cut area rug, look for something with an easy to clean fibre, such as polypropylene or nylon.

If you entertain a lot and often use your dining room/ living room, hardwood flooring is your best bet. You can also consider a dense area rug for under the table. They’re durable and easy to clean when spills happen. If you’re desperate for the most stylish option in a high-traffic area, you can go for low-pile carpets/rugs, as they hold up better than the plush ones. Also, a stain resistant carpet, might be a great idea.

In houses with pets that shed, you could also be mindful about the colour choice. You can opt for a hue that coordinates with their fur. Wall-to-wall carpeting can be more of a headache, while area rugs are easier to clean/ replace. If you decide to go for hard floors, bamboo flooring or tiles are your best options. For carpet, choose a cut pile versus a loop pile, so your pet’s nails don’t snag the loops, damaging them.

Almost every expert will agree that the bathroom is no place for wall-to-wall carpet. There is too much moisture, water gets trapped under the carpet causing mould, and the opportunities for stains are endless.  If you want a bathroom that feels like a spa, you can look into heated tile. Things are pretty much the same when comes to the kitchen. If you want something different, you can forget about the classical light or dark wood, and go for a grey hardwood flooring option.

Types of carpets

carpet types

Depending on how they’re made, there are two main types of carpet: woven and tufted carpet. Woven carpets are labour intensive and therefore more expensive, while tufted carpets are easier to produce, which makes them more affordable, and therefore more popular.

Woven carpets are made using traditional loomed methods that date back to the 16th century. They are recognized for the high quality and rich colours, and also for their durability. They are very popular for well-trodden areas that are regularly on show, such as hallways and living rooms.

There are two types of woven carpets:

  • Axminster– this type of carpet is made with fibres woven in and out through the surface backing on a Axminster machine. Axminster carpets are known for their rather grand, intricately patterned designs, quality and durability – and they are expensive. Until recently, these type of carpets came in a velvet finish. However, to avoid shading, the manufactures are now using a twisted yarn as well.
  • Wilton– the name derives from the type of loom used, which weaves the yarn in a continuous strand. Available in a wide range of patterns, Wilton carpets have a smooth, velvety, woven surface.

Tufted is the most popular carpet type and is made by a row of needles punching the pile yarn into a base material. The manufacturing process is easier, and can be done using all types of yarns with a variety of finishes. The type of pile and the fibres will determine the carpet texture.

Carpets are made by looping the fibres yarns through the backing material in a manner similar to how a button is sewed onto a shirt. These loops of fibres can then be left either intact, or cut at various angles and lengths. How the fibres loops are treated is known as the carpet pile. Based on the type of pile, there are two main carpet categories: loop pile and cut pile.

Loop pile carpets:

  • Berber-  originally named after carpets made by the Berber tribe in Africa, a Berber or looped pile carpet is made from uncut continuous loops on the surface and has a distinctive knot appearance. Is the most common type of loop pile carpets, as they are durable and stain resistant. A good all-rounder, however, not a great choice if you have pets, as they may pull up the loops with their claws.
  • Level loop- the perfect choice for high traffic areas, where durability and toughness are the most important. This type of design uses short loops that are carefully measured to be of the same length. Although it’s looped, it gives the impression of being completely flat and feels firm underfoot.
  • Multi- level loop- the tops of the loops will be varied by height, offering a more appealing design with series of visual flourishes. This is different from a patterned carpet in that all the threads are made into loops instead of just with cuts.

Cut pile carpets:

  • Saxony– the fibres are cut as evenly as possible, are about half an inch long and tightly packed together. It is a very popular choice for bedrooms, due to its softness and luxurious look. The individual fibres in a Saxony carpet can tear up quickly, so be careful when moving furniture!
  • Textured- hardwearing carpets with yarn which has been twisted tightly together, creating a one-way pile direction. The twists are tight enough to offer stain resistance, meaning there is more durability and easier cleaning. Also, the individual fibres bend a little faster than those of a Saxony carpet but it can add a nice tone when used well.
  • Frieze- uses short fibres that can curl in many directions. It has extra-long tufts to give it its super shaggy look. Not ideal for areas with high-traffic, but a fantastic choice for bedrooms!
  • Velvet– a short, dense pile and a good choice for a luxurious floor covering in a bedroom. Has a smooth, cut pile finish and is usually available in solid colours. Unfortunately, this carpet style is fairly temperamental. Prone to wearing down, scuffing, and showing footprints, velvet carpet pile should only be used in luxurious, low-traffic settings.

Carpet materials

carpet materials

The main appeal of carpet as a flooring material is its ability to provide a cushiony, warm surface underfoot. These characterises are determine by the type of pile and fibres used in the construction of the carpet.

Natural fibres

  • Wool– sustainable and gorgeous to look at, wool is the most resilient fibre. Wool carpets are soft, durable, easy to clean and are available in a 100% pure form or in a blend with at least 50%. Colour looks richer on wool and it provides natural heat and sound insulation and is flame retardant. Although it can be more expensive than man-made fibres, wool carpet is so long-lasting it’s seen as an investment by many.
  • Sisal– tough and natural, Sisal carpets are hard-wearing, comfortable underfoot and have a contemporary, almost organic appearance. A traditional weave gives Sisal carpets their distinctive texture.

Man-made fibres

  • Polyamide (Nylon)- tough and durable, polyamide carpets are easy to clean. An ideal choice for a family home, polyamide doesn’t flatten easily and springs back into shape, keeping the carpet looking sumptuous and beautiful.  It is the most popular of carpet fibres by a large measure—by some estimates, about 90% of all residential carpets are made of nylon.
  • Polypropylene- soft to the touch but stain-resistant and incredibly hard wearing, polypropylene carpets offer excellent value for money and are ideal for pretty much anywhere in the home. Easy to clean, a bleach mix can be used on particularly tough stains. Also known as olefin, polypropylene fibres are similar to natural wool and are often used as a synthetic wool substitute. 
  • Polyester- another popular option for those seeking toughness and durability in their floor coverings, without compromising on style. A prominent synthetic material, polyester can resist stains, moisture and is easy to clean off. However, it could clump up into piles if you don’t maintain it well enough. One type of polyester carpet, known as polyester/PET, is made from recycled plastic bottles, making it eco-friendly.
  • Acrylic- made with a wool-like body that has a level of static and stain resistance, this variety is particularly appealing for areas that might be susceptible to stains, and general wear and tear. It is not likely to fade as much as other options.
  • Triexta- very popular for homes with kids and pets as fibres are strong and not as likely to tear apart like others.

Carpet quality indicators

Carpet Quality Indicators

It is quite hard to assess the quality of a carpet just by looking at it. Most people choose based on the price and appearance of the carpet. However, there are many other characteristics to consider, and if you don’t know what to look for, you might take a “bad decision”.

  • Face weight– the weight of the carpet pile per square yard is its face weight. A heavier carpet indicates more fibres per square foot, however heavier face weight doesn’t necessarily mean better durability. Unfortunately, face weight has been so heavily marketed that many consumers are given the impression that it is the best way to determine a carpet’s quality. While this a good indicator, it shouldn’t be the only one you take under consideration when buying a new carpet.
  • Carpet density– refers to how close together the fibres are stitched into the carpet backing. The denser the pile, the higher quality of the carpet. Run your hand over the upside of the carpet. If you can feel the backing material, this means it is a low quality carpet.
  • Fibre twist– indicates the number of times the strands are twisted together within the one-inch length of the fibre. The result is known as a carpet’s twist number and at times referred to as turns-per-inch. When the fibre twist number is higher, the carpet can withstand high traffic.
  • Fibre type– this is a huge factor in the carpet’s quality. Different fibres have different characteristics, and some fibre types work better in certain situations than others. Common synthetic carpet fibres are known for their high durability and resistance to mildew and germs, while natural fibres for their beautiful and luxurious appearance.
  • Carpet texture– each texture has its unique appearance and characteristics. While some (berber), are more suited for well trotted areas as they are very durable, others(frieze), are the perfect choice for low traffic, as they hide footprints well.
  • Manufacturer’s warranty- all carpets come with manufacturers’ warranties. Thoroughly go through the warranty to get an idea of the carpet quality, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You should be aware of the warranty period along with the return and exchange policies. 
  • Padding material- in addition to your carpet pile, you also need quality padding material. It is a soft material that is flexible and designed to go in between the subfloor and the base of the carpet where the fibres are attached. Test the padding used on your carpet before choosing it, so you could get an idea of how it feels under your feet.
  • Baseboard material- this is a trim that is attached to the ends of your carpet. The baseboard will use a series of nails and wood pieces that link the carpet to the edges of the walls. This is to create a better overall appearance where the carpet is smoothed out and carefully arranged. You have to ensure that the baseboard links to the carpet after everything is measured and stretched out.

Carpet maintenance

carpet maintenance

Buying new carpet is not something that you want to do on regularly basis. Therefore, consistent carpet maintenance is vital for sustaining its appearance, as well as a healthy indoor environment. Cleaning your carpet regularly will save you money as is prolonging its life span, as well as preventing any nasty smells, allergens and bacteria.

Selecting the right type of carpet along with the right colours for specific areas, can assist greatly in maintaining carpet appearance. Medium colours, tweeds and patterned carpets hide soil, while lighter colours mask fading. Patterned carpets are the most effective at soil hiding with random designs being particularly useful.

Barrier mats are an integral part of any maintenance programme as they are designed to capture inbound soil at threshold points i.e. entrances. For optimum effect, make sure the mats are large enough to cover the distance of several footsteps. Don’t forget to clean them daily and replace regularly to prevent the built up of dirt, as otherwise they become ineffective.

Vacuuming is one of the most effective and easy way to care for your carpet. The frequency of vacuuming is determined by traffic. Heavy traffic areas may require daily cleaning, while others only when necessary, though not less than once a week. For thorough cleaning be sure movements are slow and methodical when vacuuming.

In case of any spills, these should be addressed immediately. The difference between a spill and a permanent stain, is time; therefore, take immediate action where practically possible to avoid permanent staining. Remove as much of the spill as possible by scooping or blotting, and then add a small amount of water and blot with a towel. Only use a stain remover if necessary, and only use one that’s approved for use with your type of carpeting. Always work the outer edge of the spot towards the centre. Never rub across a wet spill in a manner that causes the stain or contamination to be spread from the original area.

Despite regular vacuum and spot cleaning, in time, your carpets will look dull, due to an accumulation of dirt and stains that regular cleaning cannot remove. It then becomes necessary to avail of professional carpet cleaning services. Deep cleaning your carpets periodically, using the hot water extraction method, will maintain their good look as well as improve the indoor air quality. This method is highly efficient, because reaches deep inside, removing the build-up of dirt from within the fibres. Therefore, your carpets will look clean, fresh, and most important, will be sanitized. Depending on the traffic, professional carpet cleaning is recommended every 6 to 8 months, or at least once per year.

In case of any snags in the carpet, don’t pull them. Instead, use a pair of sharp scissors to clip the snag even with the rest of the fibres. Carpet tiles that have become badly stained or damaged can be replaced from spare stock. A damaged tile can be removed by slipping a knife edge under one corner and peeling it from the floor, if they have been installed using traditional glues or tackifiers.

Your carpet is designed to last for many years, but it will not do so if not well maintained. Use these tips to properly care for it, so your carpet will look and perform at its best for a longer period of time.