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With carpets, every single step is soft. Nothing compares with landing the feet on fluffy fibers! We’d all agree with that. But not all carpets are created equal. In other words, one doesn’t meet all requirements. You need to consider many factors before you actually buy a new carpet. From your maintenance expectations to moisture levels in the room, every single thing plays an important role in your decision about fibers, piles, style, padding, or even the carpet’s color.
Before you buy, it’s good to know the differences between carpets. After all, this is not a cheap investment. And the new carpeting will stay with you for plenty of years.
What’s the first thing to think about?
- Is this a carpet for a high traffic area?
- Is it going to be installed in a high-moisture room, like the bathroom?
- Do you intend to install a carpet in the basement?
- Is it meant for the kitchen floor?
- Do you just want to make the living room more elegant?
Why are all these factors important?
There is always the disturbing factor of indoor air quality. And what follows is the everlasting debate of whether or not carpets can negatively affect your health.
- Indoor air quality is worse than outdoor quality.
- Carpets do entrap all sort of microorganisms and allergens and so the number of airborne ones is restricted.
- The indoor air quality is not affected only by carpets. And then again, it will be affected by carpets only when they are filthy.
- Since carpets entrap allergens, they become reservoirs of various microbes. All it will take to release them in the air is a simple walk from your sofa to the fridge.
- And one more thing: some of these ‘stealth’ microbes are true survivors. They can last for a very long period of time right there under your feet.
On the other hand…
Allergens and bacteria are there only when you allow them to grow and expand. In other words, there is a need for proper carpet cleaning here and there. Don’t forget that carpets are absorbent. They will ‘swallow’ anything you feed them – from macaroni & cheese to wine spills. Simply put, they are easily stained. And they easily get dirty by muddy shoes, grease, crayons – you name it! When carpets are dirty, microorganisms have ‘a field day’. They find the perfect shelter to breed and expand contaminating the carpet area.
If finding the right products is a headache, check this review about the best carpet cleaners.
And then there is always the risk of water damage…
No wonder why you should be sure all plumping pipes are in good condition, appliances are maintained, and the drainage system is fine! The worst enemy of carpets is water (and moisture for that matter). If they get wet or even damp, bacteria will grow even faster and it won’t be long before you find mold infestations too.
Courage, folks! We don’t try to disappoint you or get to change your mind and don’t buy carpets. This has been a long introduction to make you cautious when choosing a new carpet. It’s important for you to know such things so that you will know what to look for and what to avoid especially in rooms, where humidity can cause problems.
Back to our initial purpose of helping you choose a carpet
Understanding the differences between fibers
There are 5 main carpet fibers:
- Olefin or else polypropylene
It’s popular because it is inexpensive and moisture/stain resistant. It’s also anti-static. The downside of these type of synthetic fibers is that they flatten easily and are not very easy to clean. So, they are best for low traffic areas
This is another cost-effective fiber for low traffic areas. It’s resistant to stains but not very durable either. They crush easily and won’t gain their initial position.
This is the best choice you can make. Nylon fibers are durable and resilient. This is also a synthetic fiber with the capacity to return to its original position once it is compressed and crushed. Since it is long-lasting and stain resistant, it is also one of the most expensive choices. But it will last for many years and is excellent for high traffic areas.
As a natural fiber, wool is the most expensive option. It’s very soft, a great insulator, and even fire resistant. But it’s harder to clean. To keep wool fibers beautiful and soft, you will need the help of a carpet cleaning company. Pay attention when buying carpets with wool fibers. Some of them are a blend of nylon and wool, which is good for you because the fibers will combine the beauty of wool with the resilience of nylon. But the price should be lower than the price of 100% wool fibers.
This is a very special polyester fiber. It’s different than other polyesters because it has excellent properties. It’s soft and resistant to stains. This type of fiber was developed by DuPont with the brand DuPont Sorona. The flooring manufacturer, Mohawk is also using this fiber with the brand SmartStrand.
Main Carpet Types
The piles of the carpet determine how the surface feels. Some carpets have short piles and some have longer ones. Some are looped and some are twisted.
- Saxony carpets have twisted yarns and are extremely soft. They are excellent for bedrooms and living rooms but should be avoided in dining rooms and kitchens since they are hard to vacuum.
- Frieze or Twist carpets have a well-twisted yarn, which enhances resistance. Since these carpets are very strong, they are great for high traffic areas.
- Berber carpets are extremely durable. Their fibers are uncut and their loops are cut at the same height. They are resistant to stains and easy to clean and that’s why they are ideal for all high traffic areas.
- Pattern/cut & loop carpets have loops shorter than the pile to create a multi-leveled surface, which makes the carpet sculptured. These carpets are soft, hide well dirt and footprints, and are relatively stain resistant. They are good for any room in the house.
- Textured carpets have twisted and cut piles but not as much as frieze carpets. Their slightly twisted piles help hiding footprints. This type is one of the most popular ones for most family rooms.
Finding the right carpet depends on your lifestyle, room traffic, special home requirements, and maintenance expectations.
So, it’s important to know the main carpet terms
- When talking about the fiber, we actually mean the carpet itself and how it feels. Fibers are spun together to create the yarn before it is woven.
- The pile has to do with the way the fibers are cut.
- The loop piles have to do with the way the piles are manufactured. Looped piles are either tufted or woven.
- The density of the carpet relates to how close the strands of fibers are. When carpets have high density, they are stronger.
- The weight of the carpet is determined by the fibers and is usually measured by ounces in each sq. yard. But it will also include the latex and backing as well.
- The texture of the carpet has to do with the style of the fiber and whether the piles are looped, twisted or cut.
- If you come across the term PAR rating, it has to do with the performance, appearance, and retention of the carpet measured on a scale of 1 to 5. The higher the number, the better.
- Carpet padding is the cushion placed under the carpet to ensure its soft feeling and comfort.
Most likely, such information gives birth to more questions, like:
- Long or short piles?
- Twisted or looped piles?
It all depends on the room you are about to dress with a carpet, whether or not you have pets, and the traffic.
So, which carpet for which room?
As a rule of thumb…
- Bedrooms don’t necessarily need expensive carpets. From nylon to wool and polyester, any carpet will do. Long piles will usually offer a softer feeling underfoot but they are usually harder to clean. So, if we are talking about a kid’s room, it’s perhaps best to choose short piles.
- Dining room and kitchen floors get stained. In such high traffic family rooms, it’s best to install Berber, nylon, level looped carpets with rather short piles.
- Since recreation rooms and halls are also susceptible to stains, it’s best to use the same resistant carpets.
- For living rooms, Saxony carpets will fit well.
- If you decide to cover the bathroom floor with carpet, prefer high resistant options like nylon, Triexta, polyester, or olefin and NOT wool. And get carpets with low piles.
The importance of carpet padding
This special cushion is installed under the carpet and provides:
- Sound absorption
- Carpet longevity
- Soft feeling
- Better insulation
- Coverage of bumps
- Greater support
Padding is made of rubber or foam and also helps to conceal any imperfections of the subfloor. So, make sure you install one. It will support better carpeting and help fibers to keep intact over the years. It’s also important to choose the right padding for each carpet. Cut pile or loop carpets often require a 7/16 inch and 6 pounds density padding. Berber carpets would require a 3/8 inch and 8 pounds density padding. As an overall, bedrooms will need thicker cushions whereas high traffic areas would need thinner ones.
There is about a zillion of choices but it goes without saying that light colors are not often recommended in high traffic areas. On the other hand, light colors make a room look bigger.
Of course, it all has to do with the home style but also your maintenance expectations. Stain resistant carpets with low and evenly cut piles are easier to maintain. Even so, a room with a carpet must be well-ventilated, regularly vacuumed, and immediately cleaned should they are stained.
So, before you buy, ask…
- If the carpet is stain resistant
- The maintenance requirements
- If there is a warranty for unexpected crushing or faulty installation
- What’s included in the final price (carpet, pad, installation, removal of old carpet, an estimate, moving furniture)
And never forget to ask yourself whether you want the new carpet to last for long, if this is a high traffic room, if there are pets in the house, and similar questions which will affect your final decision. Everything is important when you select a new carpet and since this is a big project, you don’t want to pick the wrong product. The good news is that there are choices for every room and the harshest conditions. So, have a nice carpet hunting!