Carpet Guide

How to buy new carpet for your home

By Rachel Hulan, IIDA, CID

Walking into a carpet showroom can feel intimidating for a consumer met with a variety of styles, colors, and salespeople bandying around words such as "twist" and "polypropylene." The good news? Arming yourself with a little knowledge about new flooring can turn a potentially frustrating experience into a positive one. Use the helpful carpet primer below to educate yourself before you shop.

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Important Considerations When Choosing Carpet

Budget - Determine a budget before shopping for new carpeting. Sharing this information with sales staff at the start of your search will help them narrow your choices to those you can comfortably afford.

Location - Where you live can significantly impact the type of carpet you choose—and not just because certain styles are more popular in certain regions. For instance, constant humidity can cause some wool carpets to develop mildew, whereas dry air can create problems with static electricity in untreated nylon carpets.

Lifestyle - A busy family of four, with kids running inside and out, would quickly regret purchasing a lush, expensive Saxony carpet. Likewise, a single person who likes to practice yoga in the living room might find a tough-as-nails sisal carpet far too scratchy for bare feet.

Quality - Quality counts, and it is often worth budgeting your savings to afford higher quality flooring. Carpet is intended to last seven to twelve years, but an inferior quality carpet may only look good for a year or two, after which you're stuck with something you hate until you can afford to replace it.

To determine if a sample is from a quality carpet, first see if the yarn is tightly twisted. The tighter the twist, the longer the yarn will keep its shape and not fray. Next, bend the sample to determine how much backing shows through. The less backing that shows through the crease, the more densely the yarn has been tufted. Dense tufting helps carpet keep its shape, but the extra material increases the cost of the carpet.

Here's a guide to find flooring options for every space in your home.

Lee Jofa Carpet
Lee Jofa

Carpet Fibers

Nylon is the dominant fiber found in modern carpet. Nylon 6 and its more upscale cousin, nylon 6,6, are the most common types. Both are very resilient fibers with good soil and stain resistance, and a large color range. Nylon takes dyeing very well, and nylon 6,6 in particular will remain colorfast for some time. Nylon 6,6 has built-in static protection, while nylon 6 must be specially treated to avoid problems with static.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate, polyester), a less expensive alternative to nylon, is increasingly derived from recycled plastic bottles. PET is known for being more resistant to acid-based stains and static than nylon. Downsides include the fibers being prone to crushing and a limited range of available colors.

Acrylic is recognized for its ability to mimic the look of wool, though it isn't durable enough to withstand heavy use. It is generally used only in conjunction with other fibers. Acrylic is stain, soil and static resistant.

Polypropylene (olefin) is an inexpensive fiber most often found in modern Berber carpeting. Its excellent resistance to moisture damage makes it ideal for basement and outdoor applications; however, it also crushes easily, which is why it is rarely used for cut-loop carpet. Polypropylene is colorfast, which means that stains can often be removed with stronger cleaners, including bleach. This fiber must be mixed with dye as it is being made, which means there are a limited number of colors available.

Wool, the most popular natural fiber for carpeting, is gaining ground on its synthetic rivals. Known for having great crush resistance and an ability to take dyes beautifully, wool is also naturally fire retardant, making the use of chemical fire retardants unnecessary. As with any natural fiber, staining and soiling can be an issue.

Plant-based fibers (jute, sisal, seagrass, cotton, hemp) are more susceptible to staining than any other fibers used in carpeting. It is recommended that the homeowner apply a spray sealant when the carpet is new and then reapply as needed. Plant fiber's natural texture, particularly in the case of sisal carpet, can be rough, so this type of carpeting works best in areas where people are not likely to walk barefoot. Plant-based fibers are quite durable, anti-static, and give a casual feel to any room.

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