6 Signs You Need to Replace Your Carpet

Rips and tears are hard to repair on carpet.  (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Suzanne S. of Florence, S.C.)

Rips and tears are hard to repair on carpet. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Suzanne S. of Florence, S.C.)

Although proper maintenance can dramatically extend the life of your carpet, every carpet that sees regular use will need to be replaced sooner or later. Some of the signs can be obvious, but there are others that may be more subtle.

To determine when you should replace your own carpet, consider the following top six signs that reveal irreversible wear and tear:

1. Stains in carpet

Are you covering up stains with furniture and rugs when cleaning fails to remove them? If your house is starting to resemble a mine field, it’s time to replace the carpet. Most carpets come with a stain-resistant finish, but over time the treatment fades, and eventually leaves the carpet unprotected. Luckily, professional carpet cleaners know tricks to remove tough stains. Dean Leffel, owner of highly rated Home Cleaning Centers of America in Indianapolis, says most carpet cleaners only clean to the base of your carpet, to avoid damaging the glue that binds your carpet to the pad. However, he says this doesn’t get any stains that penetrate deeper than the carpet.

“We have a system of flushing out deep stains with a flood extraction tool,” he says. In this method, Leffel floods the area with cleaning solution and uses a heavy duty extraction tool to remove the stain from the carpet and pad. Sometimes, Leffel says, stubborn stains just won’t go away. Bleach, plant food, tea, wine and mustard are typically the toughest stains to remove, and carpet cleaners say many homeowners make the stains worse by using shoddy DIY stain-removal methods they find on the web, or store-bought carpet-cleaning products that can actually damage carpet with harsh chemicals.

Stains caused by pet urine, feces, vomit, mold and mildew are usually easy to clean if you act fast. But these biological substances eventually will absorb into the carpet padding, leading to mold and mildew buildup under the carpet. If the biological stains are in several places, consider replacing the carpet to avoid health hazards with mold. Leffel says they sometimes get creative with replacing small pieces of stained carpet by removing carpet from a rarely used closet.

MORE: How much should carpet cleaning cost?

2. Wear and tear

Has your carpet seen better days? Are you putting rugs all over it to cover rips and tears, or rearranging furniture to cover defects? Are your kids scared to lay on it? Matted carpet, tears and significant wear on the main walkways are major signs your carpet is on its death bed.

Polyester carpet fibers have a reputation of matting and losing their form. Once it falls down and loses its tuft, it doesn’t return to normal, even with professional cleaning. Nylon carpeting, however, is typically more resilient than polyester and responds well to carpet cleaning, even when matted down.

You might be able to fix small tears and rips yourself, or you can hire a carpet professional to make the repair. However, large rips and tears tend to signal the carpet needs to be replaced, especially if the tears are present on stairs or major walkways.

3. Stinky carpet

If you own a pet or haven't cleaned in a while, you may notice a lingering smell on your carpet, but the odor should be gone or noticeably diminished after a proper cleaning. If it doesn't, this means that the odor has penetrated deep into the carpet fibers, the carpet pad or the subfloor, and it may even indicate mold and mildew growth.

In cases like these, it's often more cost effective to replace the entire carpet completely in order to fully eliminate the odor or odors.

4. Condition of carpet padding

Carpet padding is like the pillow under the case, the carpet is nothing but a layer of fabric without the padding. It helps support the carpet, working as a foundation and making it comfortable to walk and lay on. It buffers sounds and keeps a room quieter and even improves insulation. However, carpet padding also absorbs a lot of spills and cleaning the carpet doesn’t necessarily clean the padding. Signs of aging padding include unevenness, wrinkles and a crinkling sound when someone walks over it.

CHECK OUT: How to choose the right carpet for your home

5. Increased allergy symptoms

Often, older carpets catch and retain more allergens and particulate matter, which may cause your allergies to act up. If you notice an increase in allergies, once source may be your older carpet.

6. Old carpet

Are you still using the 1970s shag carpet that came with your house? Have you had it cleaned several times? Believe it or not, carpet doesn’t last forever, even with good care. Most manufacturers say carpet should last for 10 years with proper care. After 10 years, signs of wear show on the major walkways and the carpet fibers start losing their texture and tuft. If you find yourself cleaning the carpet over and over and not getting the results you want, it might be time to lay the carpet to rest. Signs of old carpet include color loss, fading, matting, ripples, wrinkles and lack of padding support.

Ready to replace your carpet? Check out the Angie's List guide to carpets and rugs first!


Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Dec. 16, 2011.


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Rips and tears are hard to repair on carpet. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Suzanne S. of Florence, S.C.)

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