September 2010 Edition

How To Buy Carpet 

Shopping for carpet is a lot like shopping for a car. It involves a huge financial investment. All the different 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 it's tempting to shop with only a basic color and style in mind and rely on salespeople for recommendations. Don't. Carpeting is one of the largest investments you'll make in your home. By doing some basic homework, comparison shopping and working with a reputable retailer, you'll be able to buy carpeting that fits your needs-and gives you confidence that you're getting a quality product for a good price. This article will give you a basic background in carpet styles and quality and discuss the primary things to think about when you're shopping for new carpeting. We'll give you tips on what to look for as well as what to look out for. We're going to concentrate on synthetic fibers in this article. Natural fibers like wool are gorgeous, but they're out of most people's price range.


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. 


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 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 a better choice for active lifestyles. It's similar to Saxony in life expectancy and cost.


Frieze (fri-zay) is the most durable and most expensive of the three cut pile styles. Its tightly twisted tufts give the smooth 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 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.  Price and durability increase with higher face-weight yarns.


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



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. 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. Cost is $10 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. However it's harder to clean, tends to shed and isn't as durable as nylon. It's 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. The cost is $8 to $18 per sq. yd.

Triexta (brands include Smart-Strand and Sorona) is a newly classified fiber derived partly from corn sugar. It has excellent, permanent anti-stain properties (nylon must be treated with stain protectors over its life span). It also has good resilience, but it's 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. Expect to pay $20 to $45 per sq. yd.

Olefin (polypropylene) is· an attractive, inexpensive fiber that's strong and resists fading, but it's not as resilient as nylon. It's 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. It costs $8 to $25 per sq. yd. 

Buying The Right 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 112 in. thick and have a density/weight rating of at least 6 lbs. (the residential standard). In most cases a 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. 


• Base your carpet and pad decisions on your lifestyle, household occupants (kids and/or pets) and traffic levels. Also consider the desired life span, maintenance requirements, and the look and price of the carpet.

• Common sales gimmicks such as "free pad with carpet purchase" can get you a cheap pad that can wreck your carpet.

• Take the carpet samples you've 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.

Source: The Family Handyman April 2010

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