Making the Best Choice When Purchasing Carpet for Your Home
Plan ahead and make an informed choice.
People are doing home renovations for a variety of reasons. First time home buyers are fixing up their new purchase; empty nesters trying to fix up, sell, and downsize; or homeowners are just needing to do some updating in their home.
Often times the renovation becomes lengthy with the carpeting being the final choice. People rush to the carpet store and make a quick decision, not realizing all of the things that they need to know to make an informed decision. The outcome? Many times it is less than desirable! The key here is to plan ahead and take some time here.
When carpet fails, many people tend to boycott a whole carpet manufacturer or the carpet store where the purchase is made. You can save yourself lots of grief and disappointment by just knowing a few things. Read on!
Not all carpet is created equal!
I will say that again, "Not all carpet is created equal!" Carpet mills make many different styles of carpet. They also make each style out of different fibers and face weights for all of the different markets and demands. This is where it pays to know something.
Builders and most landlords do not want to spend much on a carpet. They want something inexpensive, (I am avoiding using the word "cheap" here). They want something to look good enough and not necessarily be long lasting. For this reason nearly every carpet mill will make several carpets that are not very high quality but look decent. This is a huge market for carpet mills and carpet stores. There's plenty of it out there so beware!
Many consumers are lured in by price alone, only to be disappointed after a year or two when their carpet crushes in high traffic paths. What happens next? The consumer makes the second trip to the carpet store and pays for more carpet and another installation. Is it cheap anymore? I think not!
Mid Quality - Something good that won't break the bank.
If you are a new home owner or an live in a home where there are only a couple of people, this might be what you are looking for. Mid grade carpets are usually made of a fiber such as polyester, (more on carpet fibers later), that will perform well with lighter traffic. This range of carpet is also suitable for young families who would be looking for a replacement or upgrade in about 10 years, depending on how you care for your carpet. These carpets are often purchased by "empty nesters" just wanting to make a home improvement as well.
Many texture styles are available as well as the twist style. Twist is similar to texture carpet but has yarns at different heights, causing a coarse look to the carpet. Most twist styles are made of polyester fibers. This style is sometimes referred to as "California Shag."
This level of carpet usually opens up to a wide spectrum of colors and carpet face weights. These carpets will nearly always work well in low traffic rooms such as bedrooms. The twist style of carpet will show less wear when put in higher traffic areas.
Berber or loop carpet could fit into this category as well. It will withstand very high traffic. The only downfall with this style of carpet is that if a homeowner has pets, the animals claws can snag the carpet yarns and create runs.
Berber or Loop style
Installing the good stuff
The better carpets have the best quality and warranties, and they should. Carpets in this category are nearly always made of fibers such as nylon, or triexta. These are very high wearing fibers.
Consumers that purchase this grade of carpet can expect many years of use if their carpet is properly maintained. Purchasing a carpet such as this is putting a good investment in your home. There is always some sort of trade off though. With carpets in this range the intensity of color choices will tend to wane. That is because with nylon and triexta it is more difficult for carpet manufacturers to get the fibers to take the dye colors in production.
In the picture below you will see a pattern style carpet. These carpets wear very well. Texture carpets made of nylon or treixta are also in the high quality range. Carpets in this category will last for many years if cared for properly.
Pattern or Cut Pile carpet
Carpet fibers - Choosing what works
Most carpet on the market today is made of one of these fibers:
Nylon was invented by the Dupont company many years ago and was considered as the king of carpet fibers. Carpets made of this fiber will hold up very well, even under heavy foot traffic. Nylon is naturally stain resistant and as mentioned earlier, is more difficult to color during production because of this tendency. Nylon is typically found on a texture style of carpet and a small percentage of berber carpet. Nylon will hold up well even in carpets with very low face weights. I have a nylon runner in the stairway of my home that was made from 17 ounce face weight carpet. After 7 years it is still in great shape.
Triexta is the new kid on the block and is also made by Dupont. It seems to be equal to nylon in performance. During the testing of this fiber, pieces of carpet were put on the floor in the rhinoceros pen at the Birmingham zoo. After two weeks it was removed and cleaned. The carpet resumed its original appearance! If you want a long wearing carpet, I would look for this fiber as well.
Polyester is going to be found as a stock carpet in big box stores, most mid-grade carpets, and high face weight carpets of 50 ounce or better. Nearly all builder grade or landlord special is made up of the lighter face weights. A face weights of 35 to 50 ounces will get you in to the mid grade carpets. The fiber is very soft to the touch. Polyester takes a dye very well and will offer a wider color pallet. It is usually coated with a protective coating when produced to make it more stain resistant.
Polyester carpets will sometimes work the loose fibers that were trapped in the carpet, up to the surface. This "shedding" can occur up to a year after they have been installed. You will notice the extra fibers when you vacuum. Your carpet is not falling apart when these fibers come to the top and it won't happen with every carpet.
Installing lighter face weights of polyester carpet on stairs, in hallways, or other high traffic areas, will create a "matted down" appearance when the yarns lay over and no longer stand up. This usually happens after one to two years depending on foot traffic. This is usually a disappointment for uninformed purchasers. You will want to select a higher face weight for stairways and hall ways or any other high traffic area. Just pay a little more attention to face weights with this fiber and you should be fine.
Olefin is a fiber made up of recycled plastics and is often used as a "filler" fiber in berber carpet. Most berber carpet is 80 to 90 percent olefin and the remainder will be made up of nylon. It creates a very high wearing carpet in berber while keeping the price of the carpet down.
Olefin is also found in indoor/outdoor carpeting as well as many rugs.
Putting face weights into perspective
When someone asks me, "What is a good face weight for carpet?", I will respond with, "What type of carpet and where will it be installed?" Lets clarify a few things.
When dealing with a berber type carpet, I usually pay very little attention to face weight. Berber is woven into the back and you are actually walking on the sides of the fibers. When dealing with a twist style of carpet, it becomes a little more important and even more so with a texture style.
The stock grades of carpet that the big box stores carry is usually less than 30 ounces of face weight. The ounces represent the weight of yarn fibers in a square yard of carpet. The higher the number in weight, the more fibers in your carpet. I like to use 35 ounces as a break over point . If you want to make a room look good to sell a house, then you could accomplish this with a carpet of around 30 ounces. If you dip down too much to, say a 25 ounce carpet, you most likely will be able to see the back of the carpet in some spots. If you find a carpet with a face weight of over 35, you will immediately begin to notice a huge difference. These numbers play a key performance role with a polyester carpet.
When looking at a polyester carpet for a bedroom or a den that isn't exposed to high traffic, you can have success with anything within the range of 40 to 70 ounces. Run your fingers through it to see how it feels to the touch. If you are running the same carpet down a stairway then I would recommend a 50 ounce or higher. If you don't, you stand a chance of the yarns having that matted appearance after a few years. As I mentioned earlier, the carpet on my stairs is only 17 ounces, but it is made of nylon.
If you are selecting a nylon or triexta carpet you can go to a much lower face weight and the carpet will perform well.
Putting it all together
My goal here is to make you an informed consumer. I want you to be happy with your decision years from now. When visiting stores to shop for carpeting, you will encounter salespeople. Some want to sell you something. Others want to assist you in making the right choice. Go for the latter! If you find a knowledgeable salesperson, hang on to them. They can usually give you volumes of good information.
Happy carpet shopping!