It’s not something you buy every day. But when it’s time to buy carpet, you’ll want to know your stuff. Make a bad decision and you’ll pay a significant price in dissatisfaction and disappointment.
First, decide the style of carpet and type of fiber you want, determined by where it will be installed and how much money you have to spend.
Visit several retail carpet stores that will let you take carpet samples home for a few days. Walk on them. View them in a different light. Set a heavy piece of furniture on them to see if the fibers will rebound once removed.
Styles of carpet
Plush. Usually one solid color with even, smooth pile height. Varies from lightweight (apartment-grade) with fewer tufts per square inch to heavier weights that are very dense. Comes in a vast range of colors. Shows footprints and vacuum marks.
Frieze. Very tightly twisted tufts of yarn. More expensive than plush but wears much longer — five years is not unusual. Comes in a variety of pile heights. Durable, holds up to heavy use without matting or showing traffic patterns. Rebounds well.
Sculptured. Has two types of tufted loops and cut pile in varying heights. Often called “high-low.” Doesn’t show much dirt. Often used in apartments.
Saxony. Very dense-cut pile carpet with well-defined tufts. You can actually see the individual tuft tips, giving it a very textured look. Has a rough, textured appearance, although quite similar in appearance to plush.
Berber. Made of short looped yarn that is aligned in rows for a uniform look. Loops can snag and run easily like a pair of hose. When that happens, it is nearly impossible to repair.
Cut-pile berber. Not really berber, as the loops are all cut to make short pile from fat yarn. The speckled look resembles berber. Looks good when new but wears poorly.
Commercial. Known for small, low-level loops and short-cut pile. Usually glued to the floor. Not typically used in residential areas, as it’s not soft underfoot.
Types of fiber
Nylon. A synthetic fiber that outperforms all other fibers. It wears well, cleans like a dream, resists matting and comes in all colors and styles. And it is inexpensive.
Olefin. A fiber made from polypropylene, a type of plastic. Olefin is quite cheap. Most berber carpets are made of olefin. But it is difficult to clean — more like impossible — so it tends to look dingy in traffic areas. Feels rough underfoot.
Polyester or P.E.T. Feels very soft, but beware — polyester carpet mats terribly and is not resilient.
Wool. Quite expensive but a truly elite fiber for carpet. Requires cleaning by a specialist who deals in wool. Wears well. Lasts for decades. Price can be astronomical.
Paddings under carpet
Each carpet manufacturer recommends a specific pad for a specific style. Don’t go higher or lower than recommended. Go with exactly the type of padding recommended to ensure the best result.
Foam. Will not hold up to traffic. Will flatten quickly and is not recommended for residential use.
Rebond. The most common for residential installations. Made of recycled polyurethane foam, is usually multicolored and looks like lots of little pieces stuck together (they are). Comes in a variety of densities and thicknesses to accommodate all manufacturer specifications.
Fiber. Very dense and more expensive than rebond. Fiber pad will help a berber carpet wear better.
Longevity: The best thing you can do for carpet is to vacuum often and thoroughly — twice weekly if at all possible.
And in conclusion ... Have you figured it out? There is no better carpet for the price than a 100% nylon frieze installed over rebond padding. Nylon frieze resists stains. Spots come up very easily. It does not mat or become crushed. Nylon frieze is reasonably soft underfoot and will bring you many years of enjoyment.
That was easy. Now comes the hard part — selecting a color you will enjoy for 15 years or longer!
Mary Hunt writes this column for Creators Syndicate. She is the founder of www.EverydayCheapskte.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of “Debt-Proof Living. Submit comments or tips or address questions on her website. She will answer questions of general interest via this column, but letters cannot be answered individually.