Angie's LIST Guide to
Carpet and rugs

Wood or tile floors are good in some rooms, but most homeowners prefer to install carpeting in living rooms and family rooms, especially when children are small. Here are tips on the types of carpeting available and how to pick the right one for your home.
 

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Why choose carpeting?

Whether it’s used in the construction of a brand-new home or in the remodeling of an existing one, carpet is one of the most prevalent choices for floor coverings used in the United States today.

Pick a high-quality carpet with good padding for living areas where children play on the floor.

There are several good reasons for using carpeting in your home. Carpeting keeps your feet warm, it provides insulating properties, and it can provide a non-slip, cushioned surface, which can be an important safety consideration for very young children and elderly inhabitants.

Carpeting also has excellent sound reduction properties and can actually dampen noise in three ways: noise reduction of foot traffic, reduction of sound transmission between floors and the absorption of airborne sound, such as talking. Along with some other factors, these benefits are important in your carpeting choice.

Carpet types and uses

While color schemes and designs are important as you plan your home, these other considerations should be used first when choosing the carpet for your home.

The pile of the carpet is the visible surface of the carpet; it is also called the nap or the face. The nap comes in two basic styles: loop pile, where both ends are anchored to the carpet back to form a loop, and cut pile, where only one end is anchored. Other styles are variations of the cut and loop. These may range from a short, tight loop to long, luxurious naps. Each style has special characteristics and uses.

While carpet can be woven, the most common method of manufacture is tufting. The ends of the yarn are pushed though the backing, creating the pile surface, either cut or looped. The backing is often composed of two layers. The layer in which the yarn is inserted may be of woven or nonwoven fabric and is called the primary backing. A secondary backing is laminated onto the back of the primary layer to reinforce it, which increased dimensional stability, the ability to keep its shape.

Yarn materials may be composed of wool, nylon, olefin, polyester or acrylic. About 97% of the carpet in the United States is a synthetic yarn; wool is rarely used except for high-end, expensive carpeting. However, yarn is often a blend of two or more of these materials and wool is sometimes blended with nylon to take advantage of the benefits of the combined materials, such as soil resistance and strength.

Matching carpet types with intended uses

These differing characteristics can assist you in making your choices when purchasing carpet. A soft, velvety pile looks luxurious; however, it will show every footprint. Therefore, it is probably not a choice for a high traffic area, but excellent for formal sitting rooms.

A casual area, such as a living room or bedroom, might be served better by a relaxed shag carpet. It will be harder to vacuum or clean, but there is not much dirt accumulation in those areas. High-traffic areas, such as hallways and entryways, should be covered with a shorter, more tightly woven carpet. They are good choices for basement recreation rooms as well. These carpets will catch a majority of the dirt carried into the home, but they are much easier to clean.

The frieze (pronounced “free-zay”) nap has a tightly twisted yarn, giving it a rough, nubby appearance. While not as comfortable to walk on, this carpet nap is often used in entryways to remove dirt from outdoor footwear. It can be installed as a carpet, a small area rug or mat.

Carpeting may be purchased for full room installations, area rugs or even as carpet squares or tiles. The tiles are often used in children’s rooms to create fanciful patterns of color and design. They are sturdy, close-pile carpets that resist stains and area easy to clean. This is definitely a plus where active children are playing.

Stain resistance

Stain and soil resistance is another consideration when purchasing carpet. Higher quality carpeting will already be treated with some formula of stain resistant chemical. Some cheaper brands may not have stain resistance included; however, that can often be added for an additional fee. Cheaper carpets will not have as much density as better quality carpets. Density is the amount of yarn in the product and the closeness of the tufts. Density can be checked by picking up a corner of the carpet and bending it backwards, toward the backing. If you can see very little of the backing through the yarn tufts, the carpeting has a better density. Low-density carpets show more of the backing and wear out sooner.

It is one thing to buy discounted carpet and quite another to buy cheap carpet. Discounted carpets are often end-of-the-run pieces of a discontinued model. They are still quality products, however. Cheap carpet is not as sturdy. The product will not last as long and will need to be replaced sooner. A good rule of thumb is to buy the best quality product that you can afford. This will save on expensive replacement costs in the end.

Padding

Another component of carpet installation is the cushion or padding. Cushions also come in various qualities, usually related to density and material composition. Don’t confuse density with thickness. Thickness is the depth of the cushion. Density refers to the amount of material per square inch or foot. Denser cushions are firmer and more resilient. It will also last longer and keep the carpet in better condition. Cheap padding will allow the carpet to flex too much, putting stress on the backing and causing premature breakdown.

A thicker padding is not always the best match for a particular application. Different styles and grades of carpeting work better with the intended cushion thickness and density. High traffic areas will usually have a thinner cushion than the more casual areas. This prevents premature failure of the carpet from excessive use. The same goes for commercial Berber carpeting, a choice often used in home offices. Thick padding is good for areas where comfort is the main concern.

Installation

Because of seams and stretching, installing wall-to-wall carpeting is best done by professionals.

When buying your carpet, consider professional installation as well. This adds to the cost; however, the professionals will have the necessary, specialized tools and skills for proper installation. When installed with tack strips, the carpeting must be stretched evenly and fastened to the strips.

The excess is then carefully trimmed away, leaving an even, clean edge. Improper stretching will cause sags and wrinkles, shortening the life of the carpet. Glue can also be used to adhere either the padding or both the padding and carpeting. If using glue for installation, the carpet must be properly smoothed, as there is no adjustment possible after the glue has dried.

Join Angie's List to find carpet installers in your geographic area who have received the best ratings from past customers.

Comments

As noted on subject, require carpet stretching.

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