Your Guide to Different Types of Carpet

Carpet is a good thermal and acoustic insulator. It's slip-resistant, easy underfoot and great for children to play on. Plus, it's available in a wide variety of colors, patterns and textures.

By: John Riha and Jacquelyn McGilvray

Related To:

Buying new carpeting can be confusing. There are a lot of options to research and terms you need to know, such as: What carpet material is best? Which one is the most durable and easy to clean? What do pile, density and face-weight all mean? Which type of carpet is best for bedrooms and living rooms, and what about high-traffic areas? Read on to find the answer to all these questions.

In This Article

Safari Nursery With Teepee

Neutral Safari Nursery With Teepee

The curved sofa was one of the design starting points for this adorable, safari-themed nursery. It's the anchor for a sitting area in the middle of the room, then was added onto with a kid table and a teepee.

Photo by: Alexis Alana Photography

Alexis Alana Photography

Carpet Construction: What is Pile?

Pile refers to the carpet's individual fibers — how it is cut (format) and its height. Pile is categorized by the height of its fiber — low, medium or high. Low-pile carpet (under 1/4") is good for high-traffic rooms because its short fibers are already flat and dense, plus the shallower depth makes low-pile carpet easier to clean. High-pile carpet (1/2" to 3/4") has long fibers. It's soft and fluffy (think shag) and is good for bedrooms and playrooms — anywhere you're likely to be barefoot or sitting on the floor. High pile may require more maintenance and will likely leave marks or indents from furniture. Medium pile carpet (1/4" to 1/2"), as you probably guessed, is in between low and high.

Pile comes in three formats: cut fibers, loop fibers and a combo of the two, a cut-and-loop.

Loop Pile Carpeting

Loop pile means the fibers are bent into little loops. It’s a very durable, stain-resistant carpeting but has a low profile and limited cushioning.

Within the loop pile family are:

  • Level loop is also called Berber. This type of carpet features short loops that stand up well in high-traffic areas.
  • Multi-level loops mean the tops of the loops vary in height to give a carpet a patterned texture.

Cut Pile Carpeting

Cut pile carpets have had the tops sheared off so there aren’t any loops. Cut pile carpets tend to be denser and softer than loop pile.

There are a variety of cut-pile styles:

  • Plush/Velvet has an even, smooth texture with a formal appearance. It's the type of carpet that you see lines in after vacuuming. It's good for low-traffic areas like bedrooms.
  • Saxony has a smooth finish, but the fibers are longer and twisted to give each fiber more body. It’s popular, but the longer fibers mean footprints linger and furniture creates dents.
  • Textured cut pile has fibers of uneven lengths to create a rougher surface texture.
  • Frieze carpet has long fibers and isn’t recommended for high-traffic areas.
  • Shag is a tall version of frieze. Shag's thick texture hides flaws and is extra comfortable for lounging on. However, its thick fibers require a heavy-duty vacuum.
  • Cable has fibers of varied length and width. It is similar to frieze and comfortable underfoot.

Cut and Loop

Cut and loop is yet another type of carpet that has both cut pile and loop pile fibers and combines the best qualities of both. It’s good for hiding dirt and stains.

Types of Carpet Fibers: The Pros + Cons of Each

Fiber (carpet yarn) is the basic material in a carpet. Fiber is either manmade (nylon, polyester, polypropylene/Olefin, acrylics, Triexta) or natural (wool, sisal). Each has different characteristics when it comes to feel, wear, longevity and the ability to clean.

Nylon

  • Pros: Nylon carpet is the most common and popular carpet fiber. It is durable and resistant to stains and static electricity. It can be used almost anywhere including high-traffic areas. Nylon can be made into a variety of styles including shag, Berber and frieze. It's a great alternative to wool and a good choice for homes with pets.
  • Cons: It’s not naturally good at fighting stains, so make sure it has been given a stain-resistant treatment.

Polyester

  • Pros: Colorfast, soil resistant and often hypoallergenic, polyester carpeting is often manufactured from recycled materials.
  • Cons: Polyester is not always as durable as other man-made fibers, so it may not be the best choice for high-traffic areas. It can also fade in the sun, so keep it out of rooms with direct sunlight.

Olefin/Polypropylene

  • Pros: It is resistant to moisture, mold and mildew and makes a good carpet for basements and outdoors. It is usually only used in low-pile carpeting. It's often the most inexpensive option.
  • Cons: It’s not as tough as other synthetic fibers and not as comfortable to walk on.

Acrylic

  • Pros: It is often used as an inexpensive alternative to wool. Acrylic is color-fast and resists stains and sun bleaching.
  • Cons: Acrylic can pill and fuzz just like wool.

Wool

  • Pros: Wool is the premier carpeting and the only natural fiber made into carpets. It’s durable and stain-resistant, and is considered an eco-friendly floor covering.
  • Cons: It’s not hypoallergenic, which means you might sneeze a bit if allergic to wool. Mohair is known for its tendency to shed, so it may require more maintenance. Its color can fade in direct sunlight.

Triexta

  • Pros: Eco-friendly Triexta is a new synthetic fiber that is made from corn. It is durable, extremely stain- and fade-resistant, as well as easy to clean.

  • Cons: Can be more expensive than other synthetics.

Also See

The Best Carpet Cleaners, Tested by HGTV Editors

From deep cleaning to spot cleaning, our editors share the best carpet cleaners for every lifestyle after testing top-rated machines.

Carpet Quality: What is Weight, Twist + Density?

There’s no universal grading for carpet quality, so beware of manufacturers' claims to offer one. Instead, consider weight, twist and density.

Weight (or face weight) indicates how many fibers are present in the carpet. The more fibers, the heavier the weight and the higher the quality of the carpet.

Density is the amount of fibers in the pile and how closely they're packed together. The denser, the better. There are two ways you can field-test density. Run your fingers through the fiber — if you predominately feel the carpet backing, the carpet won’t be very dense. The other way to check is by doing the fold test. With the tufts facing outward, bend the carpet sample into a U shape to see how much of the carpet backing shows. The less backing you see, the more dense the carpet.

Twist level indicates the number of twists given to each carpet pile. The tighter the twist, the better the carpet will stand up to crushing and indentations. It is important in high pile carpets because they're more likely to untwist under high traffic.

Average Cost to Install Carpet Per Square Foot

Knowing the average cost of installing carpet can help you dial in your remodeling budget.

Why is Underlayment Important

Proper underlayment (also called cushion, pad or underlay) is a thin foam, fiber or rubber layer installed beneath the carpet. Certain underlayments work best with certain types of carpeting, so it's vital to get the right match. It will extend the carpet's longevity, add cushioning, insulate and keep your carpet cleaner. Check with your manufacturer to determine which is best for your carpet.

Choosing Carpet: What's Best for Each Room?

High-traffic areas, hallways, spaces with direct access to the outdoors will require a carpet that wears well and can easily and often be cleaned. Level loop and multilevel loop carpets like Berber are a good choice because the tips of yarn aren’t exposed to dirt and wear. With a cut loop, the dirt can work its way into the carpet, while a loop will stand up better than a cut fiber. Nylon, wool, olefin and polyester are good choices for heavy foot traffic or dining rooms, however, wool can be harder to clean and remove odors. Also, go for a heavier face weight because it will be sturdier and last longer.

Bedrooms and playrooms or any space where shoes are rarely worn and people may sit on the floor can go with a medium to high-pile carpet that is warm and comfortable. Polyester and nylon are good choices if you’re concerned about allergens and shedding. If that’s not a concern, natural wool is a good choice. For style underfoot try a cut pile like shag, frieze, velvet or saxony.

Home with pets will do well with man-made fibers such as nylon, olefin or Triexta due to their durability and low maintenance. These synthetic fibers are easier to clean and don’t absorb odors as much as natural fibers such as wool or sisal. Cut-and-loop carpet is not ideal for homes with pets since claws and paws tend to snag on the loops.

Gray Transitional Living Room and Dog

Gray Transitional Living Room With Dog

This living room gets its polished feel from a monotone palette and clean-lined furnishings. A few hints of blue bring in a little depth. Materials are durable enough to stand up to kids and pets.

Photo by: Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home

Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home

Is Carpeting Eco-Friendly?

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. Fun fact: About 90% of the US carpet market is supplied by mills in Georgia.

Popular Misnomers

Two types of area rugs that are commonly called “carpets” are Persian carpet and sisal carpet. Both have loop pile construction.

Next Up

Your Guide to the Different Types of Hardwood Flooring

The enduring good looks of hardwood flooring come in many types and styles to fit different needs and budgets.

How to Remove Wall-to-Wall Carpet

Removing old yucky carpeting can be one of the most satisfying DIY jobs. Plus, doing it yourself will save money. You’ll need just a few basic tools and less than half a day to complete the job.

How to Get Stains Out of Carpet

A good quality carpet could last for many years with proper care and maintenance. Learn how to remove stains from wine, nail polish, coffee and more.

How to Remove Pet Stains From Carpet

Urine or vomit on carpet can be a pet owner's worst nightmare. Here's how you can clean some of the most common pet messes without too much stress.

How to Pick the Perfect Area Rug for Your Living Space

Scale. Style. Function. Let us help you select the perfect area rug for your living space with these helpful tips, and find some great options to shop, below.

Flooring Trends

Check out some of the newest technologies and reclaimed materials that are becoming the hottest products in flooring.

How to Repair Carpet

Learn how to fix damaged carpet with these step-by-step instructions so the repair blends in seamlessly.

How to Install Carpet Tiles

Installing carpet squares, or carpet tiles, is not only easy but it is a simple way to add bold colors and patterns to a room. Best of all, the colors and patterns are easily customized to fit the decor of any home.

How to Install Wall-to-Wall Carpet Yourself

Installing new carpet not only enhances the beauty of a room but provides insulation, sound control, and a comfortable surface to walk on.

How to Install a Carpet Runner on Stairs

A runner can add a splash of color to any room and make stairs more comfortable to walk on.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.