Wall-to-wall carpet is a popular flooring choice and can completely change the feel of a house. Not only is carpet comforting to walk on—changing the literal feel of the room, but it also has a huge impact on the look, sound, and functionality of a space. With so many factors to consider, including pile type, material, padding, color, style, and warranties, it is important to do thorough research in order to avoid common carpet buying mistakes.
In this guide, learn the key factors you need to know in order to pick out your carpet with confidence. Read on to get an in-depth look at how you can choose the best wall-to-wall carpet for your home.
Meet the Expert
Hubert Miles is a Certified Master Inspector and the owner of Patriot Home Inspections, LLC. He also writes about home improvement and inspection topics at Home Inspection Insider.
Before Replacing Your Carpet
Carpet can last anywhere from 5 to 20 years, depending on the quality of the carpet and how much foot traffic it experiences. According to Hubert, "the life of carpeting depends on many factors, primarily carpet quality, padding quality, foot traffic, and care." At some point, you will need to replace the carpet in your home.
How do you know when the time has come to replace your carpet? Look for obvious signs of wear and tear, such as worn down paths in high-traffic areas, stains that won’t come out, flattened carpet padding, or smells that can’t be eliminated. Hubert says, "Matted carpeting, ground-in dirt, stains, or an odor caused by poor care or pets should be replaced regardless of age." If you are seeing signs that your carpet is beyond the help of a good carpet cleaner, it is definitely time to replace it.
Buying Considerations for Carpet
Carpet is available in both natural and synthetic materials. Natural materials include wool, silk, cotton, and linen. Synthetic materials include nylon, olefin or polypropylene, polyester, and acrylic. Keep in mind that natural materials are often more expensive than synthetic carpet fiber options.
Choosing a material is more than just choosing what feels the nicest on your feet, however. Each material has strengths and weaknesses. Some are more durable, some are softer, and some are more stain resistant. For example, nylon is a popular choice due to its durability and ease of care. On the other hand, wool is extremely soft but comes with a high price tag and a higher chance of staining due to its natural absorbency. Make sure to do your research on the advantages and drawbacks of each material so you can pick the best option for your particular space.
Density, Face Weight, and Tuft Twist
Each of these factors has a direct bearing on the feel and durability of carpeting. When considered together, they give you a good idea of the quality of a carpet.
- Density refers to how close each carpet fiber is to the next. The higher the density, the more durable a carpet will be.
- Face weight refers to the weight of a carpet per square yard. This unit of measurement is important to consider in tandem with the others mentioned. Face weight alone cannot tell you much when it comes to the quality of the carpet, since it may only indicate that a certain material is heavier than another. On the other hand, if two carpets made from the same material have different face weights, this may indicate that one uses more material or has a higher density.
- Tuft twist refers to the number of times each tuft of fiber is twisted. The higher the tuft twist, the more durable a carpet will be.
Warranties not only can provide you with a feeling of reassurance but can also indicate how well-made a certain type of carpet is. If a carpet only offers a very limited warranty period, you can discern that this carpet is not expected to last long or hold up to heavy use. On the other hand, carpet warranties that span a long period of time indicate that the manufacturer has designed this carpet to last much longer.
Care and Upkeep
While all carpets require frequent vacuuming and the occasional spill clean-up, some carpet types require more upkeep and cleaning than others. Choosing a durable, stain-resistant carpet would be ideal for those with small children or pets. On the other hand, someone who wants to carpet a room that gets lighter traffic could feel free to choose a carpet that is soft and luxurious, but perhaps not as durable. If you choose a carpet material that requires more regular upkeep, be sure you have the time and tools needed to properly maintain it.
Just as important as the carpet itself is the padding underneath. Though you will not see the padding once the carpet is installed, the padding will greatly affect how the carpet feels underfoot, how insulated the room is, and even how sound-absorbent the carpet is. Be sure to do research on your carpet padding options and choose an option that is durable and meets the needs of your space.
Types of Carpet
Loop Pile or Berber
Loop or berber pile refers to carpet whose fibers are not cut, but instead are kept as small loops. These carpets are quite durable and make great choices for rooms with high traffic. They do not show foot or vacuum lines and are often very stain-resistant. However, it is important to note that these carpets can snag or catch. This is especially a concern for pet parents. The looped design of this type of carpet can also trap dirt or other objects.
Cut pile refers to carpet whose fibers are cut, leaving no loops and creating a soft, fuzzy appearance. These carpets show more foot and vacuum lines but are popular for their softness. They are often easy to clean.
A type of cut pile, saxony pile carpets have short, very densely packed fibers that create a thick, soft feel. Saxony carpet adds a touch of luxury, though these carpets show foot and vacuum lines and may shed. This type of carpeting is best for medium to low-traffic areas, such as bedrooms or guest rooms.
Plush pile carpet is very similar to the saxony style, except that it is even shorter than saxony. This gives it a very dense, velvety feel. Because the fibers are so short, however, this carpet can wear down easily. It is best used in low-traffic rooms.
Frieze pile refers to cut pile carpet whose fibers are long and have a high tuft twist count. This allows the tufts to twist and bend in a shaggy, irregular way. Because of this, frieze carpet hides foot and vacuum lines, as well as dirt. This carpet is durable and can be used in high-traffic areas.
Textured Cut Pile
Textured cut pile refers to carpet whose tufts are cut at different lengths, breaking up the uniform appearance and giving it a dappled, textured appearance. This textured surface hides foot and vacuum lines and makes the carpet quite durable. Textured cut pile is a popular choice for high-traffic rooms, such as family rooms.
Cut and Loop Pile
Cut and loop pile carpeting has both cut fibers and looped fibers. These can be at random or in a pattern. The loop and cut tufts may be the same height, creating a smooth pattern, or differing heights, creating a textured or three-dimensional pattern. Because these carpets are a blend of different pile types and may even feature different tuft heights, the pattern is visibly interrupted when worn or used in high-traffic areas.
The cost of any carpet will depend on the type, material, and amount needed for a project. Typically, synthetic fiber carpets average $2 to $8 per square foot. Natural fibers, such as wool, can average $5 to $26 per square foot. Carpet padding can cost around $1 to $2 per square foot. On top of this, labor costs also apply. This will differ depending on the company used and your area, though on average installation costs around $1 to $4 per square foot. Additional costs include furniture moving, removal of old carpet and padding, and cleaning the area. If you are looking to cut down on costs, consider doing these steps yourself.
An additional way to save on carpet is to purchase your carpet during the holiday season or end-of-the-year sales. Carpet companies often run sales this time of year. Sales also often run in the late spring when new styles arrive and demand for carpeting drops as people plan their summers.
How to Choose Carpet
The large array of options to choose from can make carpet shopping a bit intimidating. However, by narrowing down what exactly the carpet needs to accomplish you can streamline your choices quickly and easily. Let’s take a look at some important factors that will help you narrow down your carpet options.
What is the room used for and how much traffic does it get?
Considering this question will narrow down your desired options. For example, rooms that see heavy traffic or are prone to spills, such as living rooms, dining rooms, or kids' rooms, would be best suited for durable, stain-resistant carpet options. A room with light traffic or an area where you want a luxurious feel would be better suited to a carpet that is soft and less durable.
Do you have pets or children?
Pets and children add extra wear and tear to any carpet, including snagging claws or accidental spills. This is an important thing to keep in mind when deciding on carpet. Be sure to check the durability, stain resistance, and even the pile type. Remember that looped pile can catch and snag on pets’ claws or other objects, such as toys.
How large is the room?
The size of the room affects both the overall price of the project as well as what color or carpet style would look best in the space. The larger the space, the more expensive the carpeting will be. Therefore, it is important to get an estimated price to be sure the carpet you choose fits into your budget. Besides price, the size of the room affects how different styles and carpet colors will look. A small space will seem larger with a light-colored carpet, while a dark carpet may make the space feel smaller or cramped. A large space can be made warmer and more inviting with a darker-toned carpet, while a light carpet will emphasize the airiness of the room.
Carpeting vs. Area Rugs
An alternative to wall-to-wall carpeting is the use of a large area rug. This is a great option for those who do not want to replace their flooring but are looking to add the comfort of carpet. Area rugs are easier to wash than carpeting and do not harbor as many allergens since they can be moved and shaken out. When an area rug needs to be replaced, it is much easier than replacing an entire room of carpet. Carpeting, however, adds warmth and comfort to the whole room, not just one spot. Since it covers the entire space, carpeting is not a trip hazard, unlike the edges of a rug. The wall-to-wall coverage also acts as a sound absorber, eliminating echoes and making a space cozier.
Where to Shop
Carpet can be purchased both in-store and online. Both of these options have their advantages but your buying decision will come down to your budget, timeline, and preference to feel and touch carpet fibers ahead of making a purchase.
Buying in-store is preferred by many since this allows you to feel the carpets with your own hands and browse the selections in person. Salespersons are available to walk you through the different carpet selections available and to answer any of your questions.
When shopping in person, be sure to get as much information on the carpet as possible, including the material, pile type, any extra coatings, appropriate padding, durability, and resistance to staining and soiling. You should also inquire about any applicable warranties and installation costs.
Buying online is a great option for those with limited time to browse in person. Browsing online also allows you to see larger selections that may not always be available to see in person. The downside to this is the lack of immediate help from a salesperson, or the ability to feel the carpet first-hand. However, some online carpet stores can send small samples of the carpet for you to see and feel.
When shopping online, be sure to be just as diligent, if not more so, when getting information about the carpet. Whether online or on the phone, be sure to ask everything you would in person. Ask whether it is possible to receive a sample of the carpeting to feel and see in your home. Also inquire about delivery, installation options, and any warranties both for the carpet and shipping.
Where to Buy Carpet
Carpet can be purchased at many home improvement stores, carpet manufacturers, or small, local carpet shops. Popular carpet retailers include Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco, Empire Today, and Carpet Express. Check your local area for any local carpet shops as well. When shopping around for carpet, it is always a good idea to contact multiple stores for estimates. This will help you find the best deal.
How do you know if carpet is good quality?
The quality of carpet is determined by the material used, the pile type, density, face weight, and tuft twist. Different materials offer different levels of durability. Pile type determines how the carpet feels and holds up. Density, face weight, and tuft twist are all important factors that indicate how durable a carpet is. Considering all of these factors together can help you determine whether a carpet is of good or poor quality, and how well it will hold up to daily use.
What type of carpet lasts the longest?
When it comes to durability, wool and nylon carpeting are often noted as the best. Both offer great durability, though wool is much more expensive than nylon.
When should you replace carpet?
Carpet generally lasts anywhere from 5 to 20 years, depending on the durability and the way it is maintained. You should replace your carpet when there are visible signs of wear and tear, stains or smells that won’t come out, or if you’re experiencing an increased amount of allergy symptoms.
Carpets and Healthy Homes. National Center for Healthy Housing.