Carpet 101

Cozy to walk on, this flooring comes in a rainbow of colors and can actually lower heating bills
Carpet Samples

Plush Carpet Samples

Choosing wall to wall carpet is a challenge with samples of this size.

Photo by: iStockphoto


By: Kim Hildenbrand

Like your favorite sweater, carpet is soft, cozy and practical. Because carpet fibers hold heat, this floor surface insulates up to 17 times better than other surfaces, reducing energy bills. It's quiet to walk on, durable, nonslip, and overall a great value. Carpet comes in so many colors and surfaces that it can fit most any design style. Not ready to commit to wall-to-wall carpet? Add a rug for a dose of color, pattern, and softness. Rugs are also ideal for defining certain spaces, such as seating areas, and covering worn or damaged spots.

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Carpet Glossary

Frieze and pile and loop, oh my! We decode common carpet terms.

Density. The closeness of the yarns in a carpet. Denser pile translates into better quality.

Fiber. The basic material in a carpet, fiber is either manmade (nylon, polyester, polypropylene/Olefin, acrylics) or natural (wool, sisal). There are five fiber types:

  1. Nylon. The most common fiber, nylon is durable and resilient. When treated, it offers good stain resistance and camouflages dirt. It is prone to static, however.
  2. Polyester. This hypoallergenic fiber is resists fading, withstands stains, and offers a variety of textures and colors. Some fibers are recycled from plastic bottles. However, it is susceptible to crushing.
  3. Poypropylene/Olefin. This carpet stands up to sunlight, bleach, and stains, but it is less resilient, which can cause crushing. Color selection tends to be limited.
  4. Wool. Along with lending a luxurious look and feel, wool purifies indoor air, inhibits dust mite and bacteria growth, and possesses inherent hypoallergenic properties. It is the most expensive type of carpet.
  5. Acrylics. Known as man-made wool, acrylic fiber offers the look and feel of wool at a lower cost. It resists static, moisture, mildew crushing, and stains. However, it is not durable enough to withstand heavy traffic.

Pad. Also called "cushion" or "underlay," carpet pad is the thin foam, fiber, or rubber layer beneath carpets. It prolongs the life of a carpet, serves as an insulator, and adds comfort.

Pile. The visible surface of a carpet, pile consists of fiber tufts in loops that are either cut or uncut. Also called "nap." There are four general types:

  1. Cut and Loop Pile. This style combines lower loops and higher cut piles on one surface, producing pattern, textures, and sculpting.
  2. Level Loop Pile. Short, even, densely packed loops create a durable, easy to clean surface. Berber, one type of level loop pile, typically contains flecks of dark color on a light background.
  3. Multilevel Loop Pile.Two or three varying levels of loops produce patterns both geometric and abstract.
  4. Cut Pile. Featuring loops cut to the same height, this common construction encompasses five styles:
    1. Saxony features tightly twisted cut piles standing straight up.
    2. Plush has closely packed tufts all the same length (longer than Saxony) for a smooth, luxurious surface. Also called "velvet."
    3. Textured carpet mixes twisted and straight piles for a nubby look.
    4. Frieze is highly twisted with fibers curling in different directions for a highly textured look.
    5. Shag is a deep pile carpet with long strands that are slightly twisted and set farther apart for a shaggy appearance.


Before choosing a carpet, consider these factors.

How To Clean. Carpet requires regular vacuuming and occasional deep cleaning. Choose a stain- and soil-resistant style to simplify cleanup.

Best for: Bedrooms, living and family rooms, playrooms, and dining rooms.

Pet Friendly? Moderate. Carpet is most prone to damage from messes and traffic, so choose a style that is durable and stain treated, won't snag claws, and disguises pet hair. One benefit: Carpet can actually trap allergens to prevent them from circulating in the air.

Underlayment. Proper underlayment is vital to extend carpet longevity, add cushioning, keep your home quieter, and keep carpet cleaner. Three basic types exist: foam, rubber, and fiber. Check with your manufacturer to determine which is best for your carpet.

The Lowdown

When it comes to the environment, carpet manufacturing has come a long way. Consider this: Some manufacturers are making carpet fibers from recycled soda and water bottles. The bottles are sorted, ground into chips, and cleaned; the chips are then melted, extruded into fiber, and spun into carpet yarn. Other carpet fibers are crafted from corn sugar. Plus, manufacturers are taking steps toward greener production, from reducing greenhouse emissions to extending carpets' longevity to reduce waste. The industry is also minimizing environmental impact by recycling carpet at the end of its life, whether into new carpet or other products, such as roofing shingles and automotive parts. Ninety percent of the U.S. carpet market is supplied by mills in Georgia.

Carpet is a good thermal and acoustic insulator. It's slip-resistant, easy to stand on, and great for children to play on. It's available in a wide variety of colors, patterns and textures. Carpet can help trap allergens, and some styles are eco-friendly. Be aware, though, that some carpets can soil easily, and loops can be snagged. Carpet is a relatively high-maintenance floor covering, and it doesn't last as long as hard surfaces. You should try to avoid carpets that release volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Carpet prices typically range from $1 to $10 per square foot, uninstalled. Installation is generally best left to professionals.

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