Berber is a very versatile carpet style, and can work in many types of décor. While it was once thought of only for basement rec rooms and home offices, it is now a popular choice for all areas of the home.
Traditionally speaking, the term berber referred to carpet that was light in color with flecks of darker colors in it (usually brown or gray). This was in reference to the style of weaving done by the Berber tribes of North Africa.
Typically, the berber fleck was found most often in looped styles of carpeting, and the term berber began to be associated with looped carpet. As looped styles became more popular, the color choices became more varied, so that instead of being offered only in flecked or multi-colors, looped carpet came to be available in solid colors as well. However, the name berber stuck, and so today the name most commonly refers to the looped style and not the color.
One of the reasons that berber has become increasingly popular is that it has a reputation for being less expensive than other residential carpet styles. In fact, berber is available in many different price points, some of which could be comparable in price to other cut-pile styles.
It is true, however, that berber tends to offer more ‘bang for your buck’ compared to other styles, meaning that for the same price, you will likely get more durability from the berber than from the cut pile.
There are several reasons for this.
The first reason is that many berbers are made from olefin fiber. Olefin is much less costly than other fibers such as nylon or wool.
Another reason that berbers tend to be lower priced than their cut-pile counterparts is that they are less expensive to manufacture.
All carpets begin as looped styles. To make cut piles such as saxonies and friezes, the top of the loops are sheared off. Obviously, berbers stay looped, so this part of the manufacturing process can therefore be skipped.
Another reason for berber's popularity is the belief that berber is more durable than other styles of residential carpet. It is true that a fiber is generally stronger in looped form than it is in cut form, but that doesn’t mean that all berbers are more durable than other styles.
A lower-quality berber is not going to be as durable as a mid-quality saxony. As with anything else, in order to truly compare the value of a berber to another style of residential carpet, you must be comparing two products of the same level. However, as mentioned above, you will usually be able to get better durability for the same money.
In addition to the relatively low cost, a big advantage of berber carpet is that it is fairly easy to clean spills and stains. Because of the looped construction, spills tend to sit on the surface of the carpet, so if you can get to them early, you will likely be able to prevent them from sinking into the fiber.
Many berbers are multi-colored or have the traditional color fleck, which makes them great for hiding soiling and any stains that do occur.
One disadvantage of berber is the possibility of snagging and/or running. With a loop construction, it is possible for things to get caught in the loop and pull it out. It does require a lot of force to actually snag a berber. It could happen by dragging a piece of furniture across the carpet; it is not likely to happen by driving a toy car on the carpet.
Berber and Pets
The biggest concern I hear is whether pets' claws will damage the carpet, or whether the carpet will hurt the pet by catching its claws. I wouldn't worry about the carpet hurting the pet; it is highly improbable that an animal running across the carpet will snag its claw in a loop. However, if you have a cat that loves to sharpen its claws, it may find the berber texture appealing, and can very definitely cause some damage by repeatedly kneading the carpet. If your cat tends to look for places to scratch and doesn't use a scratching post or board reliably, you may want to reconsider a berber.
Many wonder whether, in the event that something does snag a loop, it will cause a 'run' in the berber and cause the carpet to unravel. This will partly depend on the quality of the carpet, but generally, this scenario is not very likely. As mentioned above, it takes a lot of force to tear out one loop, never mind an entire row.
One instance in which a run could actually happen is the use of a power head or beater bar vacuum on a berber carpet. If there is already a snag in the carpet, the power head could easily get hold of the loose strand and wrap it around the rotating bar, and is powerful enough to cause the strand to unravel. For this reason, beater bar attachments should not be used when vacuuming berbers. Your vacuum will likely have an option to replace the vacuum head or simply turn off the beater bar.
Another drawback of berber is that it's just not as soft on your feet as a cut pile carpet. Some berbers, especially those made from olefin, can even be rough. Manufacturers have been working hard to address this problem. Soft-fiber carpets, such as the Mohawk SmartStrand collection, will provide a much more comfortable feel underfoot.
Berber has definitely moved out of the basement and is now commonly found in all areas of the home. Berber can even be used on stairs and around railing posts -- when properly installed you will not be able to see the carpet backing between the rows of loops as it bends around the edge of the stairs. Just be sure to choose an appropriate quality of carpet for the amount of traffic it will receive.
For more formal areas such as living rooms, opt for a solid color to reduce the casual feel that a multi-colored berber can have.