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How to Choose Carpet

Understand your options before you invest

Buying carpetCourtesy of Stainmaster
To buy the best carpet for your home, learn about different styles, materials and quality to ensure durability and comfort for your long-term satisfaction.

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Carpet Overview: Compare carpeting options before making the investment

Types of carpet and carpeting style

Maslands Broadacre is a sculptured cut pile made of 100 percent
Stainmaster Tactesse nylon and comes in 12 colors (maslandcarpets.com).

Shopping for carpet is a lot like shopping for a car. It involves a huge financial investment; all the different types of carpet, styles, colors and brands can make your head spin; and you often end up dealing with high-pressure salespeople. The experience can be so overwhelming that its tempting to shop with only a basic color and style in mind and rely on salespeople for recommendations.

Carpeting is one of the largest investments youll make in your home. By doing some basic homework, comparison shopping and working with a reputable retailer, youll be able to understand the types of carpet that will work best for your home and buy carpeting that fits your needsand gives you confidence that youre getting a quality product for a good price.

This article will give you a basic background in types of carpet, carpet styles and quality and discuss the primary things to think about when youre shopping for new carpeting, like the best carpet for pets and best carpet prices. Well give you tips on what to look for as well as what to look out for. Were going to concentrate on synthetic fibers in this article. Natural fibers like wool are gorgeous, but theyre out of most peoples price range.

Types of carpet: Choose carpet fiber that best fits your needs

Photo 1: Nylon

Most durable

Photo 2: Triexta

Excellent stain resistance

Photo 3: Polyester

Soft and luxurious

Photo 4: Olefin

Good all-around

Nylon outperforms all other fibers in durability, resilience and easy maintenance. This is a good choice if you want your carpet to last a decade or longer, for high-traffic areas, and in homes with kids and pets (Photo 1). Higher quality nylon fibers are branded, and the carpet label will use terms like 100% Mohawk Nylon or 100% Stainmaster Tactesse. Lower-quality, unbranded nylon fibers are listed simply as 100% nylon. The strongest and softest type (and most expensive) is 6.6 nylon. Nylon carpet cost is $10 to $45 per sq. yd.

Triexta (brands include Smart-Strand and Sorona) is a newly classified fiber derived partly from corn sugar (Photo 2). It has excellent, permanent anti-stain properties (nylon must be treated with stain protectors over its life span). It also has good resilience, but its too soon to tell whether it will match the durability of nylon in high-traffic areas. Because of its superior stain resistance, this is a good choice if you have young kids or pets. Triexta carpet cost is $20 to $45 per sq. yd.

Polyester (also called PET) is stain resistant, very soft and luxurious underfoot, and is available in deep and vibrant colors (Photo 3). However its harder to clean, tends to shed and isnt as durable as nylon. Its best used in low-traffic areas (like bedrooms) and in households without kids or pets. A nice, cushy choice if you like to exercise on the carpet. Polyester carpet cost is $8 to $18 per sq. yd.

Olefin (polypropylene) is an attractive, inexpensive fiber thats strong and resists fading, but its not as resilient as nylon (Photo 4). Its most often made into a looped Berber with a nubby weave that conceals dirt. It has good stain, static and mildew resistance. Olefin carpeting is often selected for high-traffic clean areas such as family rooms and play areas. Olefin carpet costs $8 to $25 per sq. yd.

Types of carpet: Common carpet styles

Saxony

Saxony (also called velvet or plush) is a cut pile that works well in formal dining rooms, living rooms and bedrooms. It shows footprints and vacuum marks and is not a good choice for high-traffic areas and active kids. The basic grade lasts about five years.

Textured

Textured cut pile has more than one color of yarn and varying tuft heights. Its two-toned appearance hides dirt and reduces footprints and vacuum marks, making it one of the best types of carpet for active lifestyles. It’s similar to Saxony in life expectancy and cost.

Frieze

Frieze (“fri-zay”) is the most durable and most expensive of the three cut pile styles. Its tightly twisted tufts give the surface a nubby texture that covers footprints. It wears better than Saxony and textured, can be used in heavy traffic areas and can last 20 years or more if well maintained.

Sculptured

Sculptured, or cut-and-loop, made with looped and non-looped tufts, is economical and durable. The varied shading hides dirt well, but the seams can be more visible. Prices for sculptured carpet start at about $6 per sq. yd. for 26- to 30-oz. face weight. Price and durability increase with higher face-weight yarns.

Looped or Berber

Looped or Berber is popular for its elegant appearance. Berbers with smaller loops wear better than large-looped Berbers, which mat down quickly and are harder to clean. Not good if you have small children or pets (toys and claws) because they snag and run easily and are tough to repair.

The following five photos show general carpet styles or weaves. Keep in mind that they also come in many colors.

The signs of a quality carpet

Check quality

Bend the carpet sample backward. If you can see the backing easily, it’s a low-density (lower quality) carpet that will crush more easily.

A salesperson might tell you that certain types of carpet are a good deal, but dont rely on his or her word alone. Check the label, handle the carpet and ask the salesperson about these signs of quality.

At least a 34- to 40-oz. face weight. This is the number of ounces of fiber per square yard. The range is generally from 20 to 80, and the higher the number, the heavier and more resilient the carpet.

A tuft twist of 5 or higher. Twist is the number of times the tufts are twisted together in a 1-in. length. The higher the number, the more durable the carpet.

A density rating of 2,000 or more. Density is determined by the thickness of the fibers and how tightly packed they are. The thicker and heavier they are, the better quality the carpet and the less susceptible to crushing. Bend the carpet sample backward (Photo). If you can see the backing easily, its a low-density (lower quality) carpet.

Is it BCF or staple fiber construction? Carpet fibers can be either Bulked Continuous Filament (BCF) or staple. Staple fibers shed more than BCF fibers. This doesnt affect the long-term quality of the carpet, but it does mean youll have to vacuum more often until the initial shedding stops (which can take up to a year), and it can also be an issue for allergy sufferers.

At least a 10-year texture retention warranty. This covers how well the fibers return to their original shape after being walked on. Although manufacturers tout their 15- and 25-year warranties, salespeople caution that warranties are seldom honored except in cases of obvious product defects.

How to get the best deal (and avoid being ripped off)

Happy salesman

Salespeople will be glad to take care of all the ordering and installation details, but you might save and get a better installation if you do many of these details yourself.

Salespeople have a tendency to overmeasure your carpet needs. This means you pay for carpet and pad you dont use. Get several estimates, compare the yardage numbers, and consider paying an independent carpet installer to measure your home.

A lot of carpet problems stem from poor installation. Bad seaming, a too-thin pad and inadequate stretching can make a carpet look terrible within a few years. If you or a friend knows a great carpet installer, use that person instead of one provided by the carpet dealer. The installer will measure your house, tell you exactly how much carpet and pad to get, recommend a quality dealer, and pick up the carpet and deliver it on installation day. You can save yourself some money on the installation by removing the old carpet and pad yourself. Ask your installer how much youll save to see if its worthwhile.

Get at least three estimates before settling on the types of carpet that will work best for you. Tell every salesperson that youll be getting several estimates, and dont discuss details about other carpet bids youve received.

Have each carpet estimate include a flooring diagram that shows measurements and seam locations.

Get an individual price quote for each aspect of the job, including carpet, pad, delivery, installation, transition metal pieces, furniture moving, stairs, and old carpet and pad removal and disposal. Its easy to be overcharged if you just get an overall price for the job.

Make sure youre home on installation day. Get a sample of the carpet and pad youve ordered and compare them with the carpet and pad that show up on the truck. In some instances, retailers deliver a lower quality pad or carpet than youve paid for.

In a nutshell

Do your research, and make sure a salesperson doesnt make the decisions for you. Base your carpet and pad decisions on your lifestyle, household occupants (like finding the best carpet for pets and/or kids) and traffic levels. Also consider the desired life span, maintenance requirements, and the looks and price of the carpet. Common sales gimmicks such as free pad with carpet purchase can get you cheap pad that can wreck your carpet.

Take the carpet samples youve selected to at least three stores and compare prices of similar products. Get every item in your carpet bid priced individually. This will make it easier to compare bids.

Buy the Right Carpet Pad

The quality of carpet pad is determined by density, not thickness. The right pad will extend the life of your carpet. The wrong pad can cut the life of your carpet in half. A good-quality pad will be 3/8 to 1/2 in. thick and have a density/weight rating of at least 6 lbs. (the residential standard). In most cases, cheap, low-density pad will only last a few years before it needs to be replaced. For high-traffic areas, get a thinner pad with a density of 8 lbs. or more. Some carpet manufacturers require a specific type of pad in order to maintain your carpet warranty (such as when the carpet is laid over heated floors). Check the carpet warranty before you buy padding.

Where to Buy Carpet

Visit several retailers, including local, family-owned businesses that survive on customer referrals. Choose the one that will give you the best service, price and guarantee. Be aware that $199 basic installation specials often include hundreds of dollars in extra fees for basic installation items like steps, furniture moving, and carpet and pad removal. Carpet retailers located in a mall or other high-rent locations tend to have higher overhead that is passed on to you in higher prices.