Choosing Builder Carpet

Couple choosing carpet sample with blueprints
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When buying a new home, there are a lot of decisions to make about the finishes. One of the most important decisions that you will have to make is what to have installed on your floor. The standard builder offering will vary depending on the builder and the price point of the home – some builders offer standard carpet with an option to upgrade; others offer standard hardwood. Let’s take a look at carpet options when buying a new home.

Standard Builder’s Carpet

Most builders will have a ‘standard’ broadloom that is included in the price of the home. Again, the exact offering will vary between builders, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll consider what the majority of builders offer at the entry-level to mid-price point.

Typically in these scenarios, the broadloom that comes standard is somewhere around a 30 ounce cut pile saxony, or perhaps a low-end looped berber style.

The problem with these offerings is that they are not durable enough for most people, especially for families with a number of people sharing the home. This is just what the builder wants: to offer you a sub-par carpet, in order to entice you into the ‘upgrade’.

Upgraded Builder’s Carpet

Upgraded options may include a boost to approximately a 35-40 ounce saxony, or 28 ounce berber – not what I would typically deem as high-grade carpets.

With the builder’s upgrades, often more than just the weight of the carpet will change.

The upgrade is rarely the same carpet style with just an increased weight. Usually, the upgrade is an entirely different collection of carpet, which means that the appearance of the carpet may be slightly different, and sometimes, even the fiber type may change – a polyester fiber may be offered as the standard, with an upgrade to nylon fiber.

See the comparison of nylon and polyester carpet fibers.

Most noticeably, however, is usually the increase in color selection when you move up to the carpet available at an additional cost. You may have a selection of three or four colors in the standard offering, but upgrading can open the doors to a choice of eight or even ten colors. Again, this is part of the enticement to upgrade: the more money you spend, the better selection you have.

Should You Upgrade?

The big question, then, is should you upgrade the builder’s carpet, or accept the standard? The answer to this question depends on what your plans are for the home you are purchasing.

If you don’t want to have the hassle of replacing your carpet in a couple years’ time, then I recommend upgrading to the highest offering possible. I know this takes a lot of your budget that you have for doing all of the upgrades in the home (floor covering is certainly not the only place that builders try to get more money out of you). However, keep in mind that everyone in your home will be walking on the carpet every day for the next few years, so if you don’t want to have to replace it any time soon, then you will need the highest grade the builder offers.

However, if you plan to replace the carpet within the next couple of years – maybe you want to get a higher-grade carpet of your own choosing, or you would like to put in hardwood – then I would suggest that you do not upgrade the carpet. If you’re sure of your plans to rip out the carpet in the near future, then your money is better saved to be put towards the floor covering that you ultimately want.

How to Upgrade

I’m not a fan of judging a carpet by its weight, however when it comes to builder’s carpet, that may be virtually all you have to go by. If possible, ask the builder for the carpet’s specifications (the face weight, the twist level, the manufacturer’s performance rating, etc.). That way, you will know what you are actually buying, and what you can expect from the carpet.

If you choose to upgrade the carpet, then go with the highest upgrade the builder has, or the highest one that you can afford.

Likely, their top choice is not what would be considered as top quality by most carpet professionals, but it will give you more durability and better performance than the standard offering.

Don’t Forget the Pad

The carpet cushion, or underpad, is easily overlooked, because it is not a feature that is visible once it is installed. Most of the underpad offered by builders as standard is, to put it bluntly, junk. It is not something that I would ever install in my home, or recommend to my customers. In fact, often the grade of underpad that is included in the price of the home is so low that I don’t even carry a similar offering in my store.

If you are planning to keep the builder’s carpet for longer than six months, then upgrade the underpad to the highest that the builder offers. If your budget is stretched thin, then I recommend upgrading the pad, and not the carpet. A higher grade pad will help a carpet to feel and perform much better.

There are many different types of carpet cushion, and each builder likely offers something different. See what the builder is offering, and then have a look at the recommended minimum specifications for each type of pad.

Opt Out Completely

If you intend to change the builder’s carpet very soon after purchasing your home, then talk to your builder about the option of foregoing the carpet altogether. Not every builder will allow you to do this, but some will let you install the floor covering of your choice, and therefore avoid the builder’s carpet.

If the builder does allow you to opt out of the standard carpet, check if it offers a credit, which you can use to buy your own high-quality carpet or hardwood, or which you can put towards other upgrades in your home.