Choosing Carpet: What to Look For Before You Buy
Once you decide to purchase carpeting for your home, let common sense
be your guide. Select a carpet that is made for the traffic and activity level
of your home, set it on padding that works, keep it clean and soil-free,
and you will have a product that will enhance your home for years to come.
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The look, feel, and tone of new carpeting can change the whole
personality of your home. Before you buy a product that will likely be with
you for seven years or more, you may want to consider some of the
features that distinguish one carpet from another, affect its service life,
and determine its overall cost.
Carpet Composition and Durability
Carpet is made up of fibers, mesh backing, an attached cushion, and the
latex adhesive to hold the pile of twisted fibers in place. Better carpets
have better latex adhesive. As for fibers, they may be nylon, olefin,
polyester, acrylic or wool. By far, the majority of carpets sold in the United
States are nylon, thanks to its durability, colorfastness, stain and soil
resistance, and resilience to matting.
Cut pile carpet
In fact, nylon carpet will never wear out, it will just wear. When the twisted
fibers known as pile begin to relax, the carpet begins to look tired. This
tendency to relax, or "blossom out," is common in cut-pile carpeting. The
brightness and color of cut pile also tend to fade over time. Mid-range
and high-end carpets can be expected to last and look good for 12 to 15
years. This level of wearability and durability comes at a price, however:
Mid-range carpets vary in price from $25 to $35 per yard, while high-end
carpet typically costs upwards of $45 per yard.
Carpet quality is judged by density and pile. Density is the thickness and
closeness of the pile yarn. High density is considered an advantage. The
very densest carpets are so packed with fiber per square inch, that it is
difficult to wiggle a finger all the way down to the mesh. So, the denser
the pile, the better the carpet.
All carpet starts out as loop, but machine-cutting turns loop into cut pile.
While pile may not be a factor in carpet performance, it is the key factor
in carpet preference. The industry recognizes three textures of cut pile:
plush, Saxony, and frieze. Plush, also called velvet because of its smooth
face, is both dense and uniform. Carpet buyers choose plush for a formal
look. Saxony is less formal, with individual strands of yard twisted
together and heat set. Saxony's texture is varied and irregular, in
contrast to plush's uniform appearance. Frieze is the most durable and
least formal of the three pile styles. Frieze has a nubby texture and a
characteristic curl that come from tightly twisting the yarn before looping
Loop pile carpet
When purchasing carpeting, you should buy the best-quality carpet you
can afford, coupled with the highest quality padding. In fact, the padding
that goes between the carpeting and the subflooring is as important as
the choice of carpeting itself. Padding provides softness and support, cuts
down on noise and insulates the floor. Often referred to as "underlay" or
"cushion," padding thickness depends on the pile of the carpet above it.
Padding should be no thicker than 7/16 inch, even for a very deep pile
carpet. Too much cushion can actually void a manufacturer's warranty; so,
take the time to find the padding that is right for your new carpet.
All carpet begins as loop pile. Those that remain uncut are called loop
carpets. Within the loop carpet family, there are several combinations:
level loop, cut and loop, and multi-level loop. Level loop is all one height,
and is usually made of olefin. Cut and loop is a combination of the two
tuft styles, which adds a chiseled look to the carpeting. Multi-level loop
carpet is similar in that it has high and low patterns flowing throughout
Berber is loop-pile carpet constructed of bulky wool, nylon or olefin.
Berbers come in level loop or multi-level loop styles. Berbers, because of
their pile, do not hide seams like dense cut pile does. If a Berber is
burned, torn or badly stained, the entire section of damaged carpet must
be replaced. Unlike cut pile, Berber cannot be repaired.
The Bottom Line
Carpet prices begin at about $8 per square yard and go on up from there.
Padding and installation will cost another $5 to $10 per square yard, while
the brand name, pile weight and stain- and water-resistance features add
even more to the final price. According to manufacturers, all carpet is
manufactured to resist staining, crushing, fading, and wear. Additional
treatments are available at a price, however.