The Do's and Don'ts of Choosing a Carpet

Designer showing carpet samples to client.
Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy / Getty Images

Buying new carpet can feel overwhelming because there are so many choices and decisions to be made. Taking your time, doing the proper research, and finding the right retailer will make the job manageable and enable you to select a carpet you'll be happy to live with for years to come.

Understanding Fibers and Warranties

Do learn about the fiber types and figure out which one would work best for you. Not all carpet fibers are created equal; for example, there are natural fibers, such as wool, and synthetic fibers, which are more commonly used in wall-to-wall carpet. Understand the characteristics of each fiber type so that when you go shopping, you can almost immediately narrow down your selection.

Don’t assume that one fiber is always better than another. Each fiber type has its strengths, but the other components of the carpet have an equally big impact on how the carpet will perform.

Do learn about the manufacturer’s ratings and warranties. Carpet is typically a big investment for most people, so make sure that you're buying a product that is covered for your particular situation. For example, many warranties don’t cover stairs, so if you are buying carpeting for your stairs, look for a warranty that includes stairs. Even if you never plan to use them, the warranties demonstrate the faith that the manufacturer has in its product. If a warranty doesn't provide long or comprehensive coverage, then that is a good indication the manufacturer doesn't expect the carpet to stand up well for a long period of time.

Determining Quality

Do learn how to tell the quality of a carpet. You don’t have to become an expert on the subject, but if you have an overall sense of the various factors that contribute to a carpet’s quality and how well it will perform, then you can avoid choosing the wrong carpet.

Don’t pay too much attention to the face weight—the weight of the carpet pile (so the backing isn't included) per square yard, measured in ounces. Unfortunately, too many salespeople use the face weight as an important selling feature and have led customers to believe that a higher face weight equals a better carpet. This is not always the case, and buying a carpet based on its face weight alone can result in buying a carpet that does not meet your needs.

Finding a Retailer

Do shop around and find a retailer you are comfortable with. Many people feel vulnerable when shopping for carpeting because the quality of the carpet isn't always immediately apparent, so customers often have to trust the salesperson. Make sure that you deal with a salesperson you feel you can trust, at a store where you can expect to have a positive experience. To be sure your retailer and salesperson are right for you, ask the following five questions:

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. What is included in the price?
  3. Who does the installations?
  4. Are you/your installers bonded and insured?
  5. Do you have references?/Can I see your work?

Don’t assume that a big box store or national chain will always be the best option. They spend big money on advertising campaigns designed to make you believe that they are the least expensive or the most knowledgeable, but that is not always the case. Compare carpet dealers to help you decide where to buy your carpet.

Don’t allow yourself to be talked into something you don’t feel comfortable with. Welcome your salesperson’s input, but if you feel like they are pushing you to buy a product that you’re not completely sold on, then walk away. They may not have your best interests at heart.

Do get several quotes. You may find that prices vary significantly from retailer to retailer, so once you've selected a carpet, get a price from two or three retailers. Make sure that the price is inclusive of everything you will need: If you are having your carpet installed, make sure that all installation charges and taxes are included; if you're buying only the carpet, make sure that the underpad and any other materials you will need are included, as well as taxes.

Don’t try to compare quotes on different products. If you're getting quotes from Company A and Company B, make sure they're providing them on the same carpet, or at least the same quality of carpet. Otherwise, you're not giving the retailers a fair chance at winning your business and you're not giving yourself the benefit of knowing for certain which retailer can offer the best price.

Deciding What You Like With Confidence

Do decide on a style that works for you. While there are hundreds of carpets available, they can all be narrowed down into one of only a few style categories. Learn about the benefits and drawbacks of each carpet style, so that you'll know whether it will work in your home.

Don’t base your decision solely on appearance. Choosing a carpet without considering the details of its construction could mean that the carpet won’t look the same in a few years’ time, due to poor performance or staining and soiling.

Do take samples home! The color of the carpet will appear different under various lighting conditions, so the way it looks at the store may not be how it will look in your home. Ask the salesperson for a sample of the carpet that you can borrow, even if it is just a small piece.

Don’t make an impulse buy you might regret. If you aren't confident you've done all the necessary research and asked all the important questions, hold off on making your purchase until you are.