How to Buy Carpet: What You Need to Know to Make the Perfect Decision

By Mary Hunt

May 22, 2019 5 min read

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 invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question," or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Fran__ at Pixabay

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