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
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 and cutting.
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.