Carpet 101

Kathryn Wise of the Carpet & Rug Institute gives tips on buying and installing carpet.

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  • When you're ready to have carpet installed in your home, first get a general idea of how much you will need; it's a good idea to make a floor plan to scale on paper and use it as a guide. Measure the length and width of your rooms, being sure to measure from the center of doorframes and in closets. (The retailer will come to your house and do an exact measurement when the time comes, but it's wise to have an idea in advance of how much you need to buy and spend.)
  • The retailer can suggest installers, or you can find someone on your own. But whomever installs the carpet, make certain beforehand that they will follow Institute guidelines for proper installation and ventilation; also know in advance whether the installer will move furniture (which is usually the case) or if that is your responsibility.
  • On the day of installation, remove all breakables. Then thoroughly vacuum the old carpet to cut down on dust as much as possible.
  • When the installers arrive, be sure the area is well ventilated; this will help get rid of the new carpet's smell. The installers should power-stretch the carpet to get the best fit, and their work should be guaranteed (you should have a verbal agreement with the retailer or the installer). After all, if they don't do a good job, they'll have to come back and redo it, and nobody wants that.
  • To care for the new carpet, invest in a good vacuum cleaner. There are many things to consider when vacuum shopping: air flow; adjustability of brushes (they should adjust up and down); whether the vacuum bag is enclosed (it should be in either a casing or a strong bag); and the degree of filtration offered (the higher the filtration level, the better; a vacuum cleaner with 99.99 percent filtration will remove just about all particles of dirt from the air and not put them back). Once you have bought the vacuum cleaner, use it often, even if the carpet doesn't look dirty. (In fact, the Carpet and Rug Institute recommends having your carpeting cleaned professionally every 12 to 18 months, regardless of whether it seems to need it. Cleaning carpet before it's too soiled helps extend its life.) You might also consider getting carpet that has been treated to release stains; if it suffers a spill, clean it as soon as possible, blotting (not rubbing) with a few drops of detergent in water on a white towel to help avoid staining.
  • Speaking of stains, if a pet has an accident on the carpet, the Carpet and Rug Institute has some helpful brochures about removing pet stains. Get them before you need them; your carpet will thank you.
  • If you get a dent in the carpet (from heavy furniture, for example), moisten the area, hold a steam iron above it (not touching the carpet!), and brush with a comb, fork or your fingernail until the dent is filled in. You might also contact the manufacturer to find out whether you need protectors for the new carpet before it gets dented.

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