Carpet is warm. Carpet is elegant. No home furnishings product can totally change the mood of a room like new carpet can.
There are four main elements to the carpet selection process. Fiber, Brand, Style/Construction and Color. .
As you begin your search for the perfect carpet for your needs, one thing will become immediately apparent to you: that is that price ranges seem to vary all over the board and that carpets that "feel" similar sometimes are priced quite differently from one another. Like almost anything today, an educated shopper will make a better buying decision and end up with a carpet that is more likely to meet their needs if they look beyond the surface and consider just what it is that makes one carpet a better value or more or less expensive than another.
The old adage: "you get what you pay for" is never more appropriately applied than in the case of comparing carpet. That's because there are many things that need to be taken into consideration in determining what it
is that a carpet should cost. How is it constructed? What is it made out of? (nylon, wool or polyester, etc.) Who is the manufacturer?, etc..
The price of carpet can vary greatly, depending on several key factors. You should consider these factors in choosing your carpet, but rest assured, when you select your floor covering, as price goes up or down, so does the quality of materials or the integrity of product construction or the weight of materials in the product itself. The price you pay will be made up from the combination of the following important factors:
WHY IS FIBER IMPORTANT?
The first major factor to consider in a carpet is what it's made out of. The raw material that is sold to a carpet mill to be made into carpet is called fiber. For just about any carpet manufactured in America, the main choices are wool, nylon, polyester, olefin or polypropylene or possibly a blend of 2 of these materials into one carpet. There is a significant difference in not only the costs of each of these materials, but in the fiber's ability to be resilient (to bounce back from repeated wear) and also in the feel or comfort level of these products.
Wool is the only natural fiber used in the construction of today's carpets. It feels soft and warm and has excellent resilience to wear. It is also used in many high fashion styles of carpet, where luxury and warmth are a significant consideration. Anyone who has ever tried on a wool cashmere sweater knows how warm and luxurious wool can be. This is no different in carpet styling. A wool carpet in a room can provide the perfect combination of softness, fashion and luxury like no other fiber. Wool is also the most expensive fiber used in the manufacturing of carpet by a fairly wide margin. Because it is a natural fiber and has no real "built-in" resistance to staining, wool usually has to be treated with a topical stain treatment to ensure resistance to soiling and staining.
Those considering wool as a possible choice will generally do so because of its long lasting appeal (wool has been used in carpet making for hundreds of years) its unparalleled softness, its warmth, and their belief that only wool completely satisfies their need of the "best that money can buy". Furthermore, there are only a few select mills that manufacture wool carpeting any more and those mills generally are more of the high end, high-style variety, whose designs may only be available in wool products.
Nylon is the fiber of choice for the largest percentage of the new carpeting manufactured in America today. Nylon was invented by the DuPont Company and is the most resilient fiber used in the manufacturing of carpet. In side by side tests for resilience and ability to withstand wear, nylon always come out ahead of the other fibers, especially the other man-made fibers, like polyester or olefin and polypropylene. Nylon is more expensive than polyester or olefin/polypropylene, but significantly less expensive than wool.
It has natural stain resistant qualities and is easy for manufacturers to dye, as well. The reason that so much carpet is made with nylon is mainly due to the fact that it really is the only fiber that does everything very well. It bounces back, it resists wear, it colors and styles well and when it's made into carpet it is affordable for just about anyone. There is much more to know about nylon but that will be discussed in greater detail when we get to the section regarding brand names that will prove that not even all nylon carpet is created equal!
Olefin, also known as polypropylene, is the least expensive of all the fibers used to make carpet. It can also be the easiest to clean because the color is added to the yarn during the fiber manufacturing process. This seeming advantage is also one of the biggest disadvantages to olefin however. Olefin products are available in a limited number of colors because of the limitations of this process. You won't ever find the latest "hot" colors in carpets of this fiber. Most importantly though, olefin/polypropylene products are considered the least resilient and most likely to mat and crush in some constructions and are therefore traditionally limited to flat constructions such as level loops and berbers. By doing this, manufacturers can introduce carpet that is more affordable and still offers some protection against crushing and matting due to the type of construction used. When shopping for berbers, you may find yourself wondering why O/P berbers generally cost so much less than "similar looking" nylon berbers. It's in the cost of the materials. What you'll need to decide as a consumer is whether or not the added security of superior crush resistance and resistance to traffic justifies the additional cost of choosing nylon over O/P. In carpet manufacturing today, one of ways that carpet makers try and get the best of both worlds is to blend O/P and nylon together (you'll see a lot of this especially in berbers) so that the finished carpet has the crush resistant qualities of nylon and the affordability of O/P. O/P is naturally resistant to fading and is the easiest for manufacturers to maintain consistent color throughout an entire roll of goods. O/P is not very resistant to oil based stains or heat, but very resistant to water-based stains. O/P is also the least comfortable (to the touch and underfoot) of the
3 main man-made fibers (nylon and polyester being the other 2) as the yarn is generally more rigid or sometimes, even wiry feeling.
First introduced to carpeting in the 1960's. Polyester is actually the largest used synthetic fiber. It is used in everything from apparel, film, bottles, as well as carpet. The fiber cost floats with the price of cotton used in apparel. When cotton is low in price - polyester is more of a value for the carpet industry since capacity for production can then be used for carpets. One of the main benefits in using polyester in carpet construction is that it offers a luxurious "hand" or "feel" to the touch in a finished carpet. Most of the industry will use this fiber in staple form which means that in its raw form this fiber looks similar to a cotton ball. When this ball of yard is manufacturer into a carpet, it is inherently more bulky and soft and results in a finished carpet that will reflect that. This staple form of fiber is also the primary reason why polyester carpets are more susceptible to shedding or fuzzing. This is not a defect, but can be somewhat disconcerting when the
carpet is new. This condition will dissipate with regular vacuuming over time. Polyester is also a great fiber to dye. You'll find some of the nicest and most varied colorations in polyester carpet due to the fact that it accepts dye so well It is not quite as resilient as nylon but will give excellent performance if properly constructed. Look for well-twisted polyesters here. Be smart, here. A carpet with a similar weight and construction made of polyester will almost always be less expensive than a nylon with similar specs. If you
want the same performance as you'll get in a nylon carpet, be prepared to either select a heavier or better constructed polyester.
Polyester is a great choice when you want a heavy handed hunk of carpet for the most affordable price, but you'll always need to be careful if you're looking to use it in an high traffic area or an area where resistance to crushing and matting is a vital concern.
WHAT ABOUT BRAND?
Stainmaster – Anso – Weardated
All of the major branded fiber producers have strict standard requirements of weight, twist levels, resiliency ratings, anti-static and anti-fade ratings and stain-resistance. If the manufacturer of the carpet is the same company that manufactured the fiber, then the consumer has, in effect, a quality assurance from only one company, that may or may not adhere to any manufacturing standards that relate to the long term performance of the carpet.
Many consumers generally don't understand that the wear warranties and anti-crushing and matting warranties you see today are backed up by the manufacturer of the fiber. Fiber companies all have experts on call and available 24 hours a day via 800 telephone access to answer any cleaning, maintenance
and warranty questions. If you ever have a problem with your carpet, the major fiber manufacturers all provide this easily accessible service to the consumer, to ensure the protection of your carpeting investment. Should your carpet ever need to be replaced because it didn't live up to the warranty, the major fiber manufacturers are, far and away, your best assurance that your carpet is fully covered.
The superior performance of STAINMASTER carpet fiber is possible because of an extraordinary combination of technological advances. Proprietary fiber engineering, innovative stain and soil resistance technology, and anti-static protection work together to give STAINMASTER a great combination of performance, style and beauty.
Tactesse is a special fiber developed to give carpet a whole new level of softness. Tactesse is used only in heavier weight constructions to maximize elegance and durability. Although much softer to the touch than other carpets, Tactesse products actually wear better than most conventional products.
An innovative fiber produced by the creative folks Shaw Industries. Look for styles made with Anso
CrushResister nylon which incorporates revolutionary Fusion Technology to maximize beauty and performance. Carpets made with this fiber assure you that you are getting some of the industry's most advanced fiber technology and product quality standards.
Another premium fiber which will assure you that you are buying products that are not only the latest technology, but also carpets that meet rigorous standards for weight, density and twist. Carpets made from this fiber assure you that your new carpets will have the right balance of stain blocking and soil shedding chemistry to ensure excellent resistance.
"Branded" Fiber as a Category
The fiber that goes into the manufacturing of a carpet can come from a variety of sources. It can be manufactured and "branded" by one of the major fiber manufacturers (e.g Stainmaster, Anso, or Wear-Dated or it can be made "unbranded" by less known fiber manufacturers or even by the carpet mill that is making the carpet. You can purchase unbranded or "mill-branded" carpet, which is produced and used by the carpet manufacturer. Often times, unbranded carpet is substantially lesser in quality than branded carpet. Here is where the careful consumer needs to understand an important distinction, namely, that when a carpet manufacturer constructs a carpet made with one of the premium branded fibers, they must conform to that manufacturer's construction standards in the finished product. The fiber producers will only put their logos / endorsements on products that have me their criteria.
WHY IS STYLE AND CONSTRUCTION IMPORTANT?
You can enhance your room and living spaces by using the right carpet. Ask yourself, "is this room formal, recreational, lighthearted, traditional, eclectic, contemporary, etc. You want a carpet choice that fits with what you're trying to accomplish in the room. The next question to ask yourself is "how will this room be used and by whom?- high traffic, infrequent, etc." Almost any carpeting selection you'll make has to take into consideration both the style and feel of the room and whatever maintenance issues may arise as a result of who is using the room and how often. When manufacturers decide what style and construction a carpet is to be made in, they must take into consideration both the design elements of style and construction and the functional aspects, as well. Style and construction of carpet is an important consideration in pulling together all of the design elements in a room together to form a unified look in accomplishing your design goals, while at the same time allowing you to make a good decision with regard to maintenance and wear-ability.
A quick review in the basics of carpet style/construction:
An extremely popular modification of the traditional saxony, this style adds some additional "turns" or "twists" to the individual fibers. This process of twisting the tufts results in a surface finish that has more "texture" to it that greatly reduces the appearance of footprints and vacuum cleaner marks. These can be used in moderate, medium or heavy traffic areas depending on the twist. Heavy traffic should use at least a 4.5 twist and be above 40 oz in Tufted Face Weight. Textured Saxonies are a very middle of the road style that can be dressed up or down---the interior furnishings will determine the aesthetic. This is a great choice for casual to semi-formal rooms where heavier traffic patterns or wear areas are an issue.
Cut Pile Saxony
Another cut pile construction, usually in a thicker yarn size and slightly more loose construction. Footprints and vacuum cleaner marks still show. These are products similar to commercial cut pile or velvet cut pile. With a little more tuft definition they are not as smooth. They are not textured, but have some unevenness to the finish.
A dense tight construction in which the fibers are sheared to present a rich looking, luxurious surface. This style of carpet is frequently used when trying to create a more formal setting. Footprints and vacuum cleaner marks will usually be visible in rooms that are carpeted in a plush. Some people consider these marks as adding to the beauty of the look and others consider them a negative. Plush carpets are usually done in a fine count yarn, which results in a very smooth finish and a relatively low pile height. This classic, elegant style can turn your room into a showplace.
An older style of construction that is extremely popular once again. A variation of the textured look, a frieze consists of fibers that are twisted so much that they literally "curl". This tightly twisted style is especially suitable for the areas of your home that receive the most foot traffic. It is the best performing style in a cut fiber construction for texture retention. This style is becoming very popular today, as customers are demanding performance. They are now available in many different weights, solid colors, fleck colors and multi-tones. Considered casual or informal, this is a great style for high traffic areas of the home.
These are heavier yarns, well twisted that are tufted usually in a more casual construction. They are good for medium traffic. Considered cutting edge style, casual lifestyles where warmth and comfort are essential, are perfect with the softness of cable.
Cut / Uncut
These are products that are both loop pile and cut pile. They can be geometric in pattern or a subtle scroll look. They are great for traffic patterns where you are concerned about traffic lanes. More than the "old Fashioned" look of the 60's today's cut/uncut can be elegant. Due to the quality and capability of today's manufacturing machines, this is the fastest growing segment of styling in the carpet industry. There is truly almost no pattern or style that can't be replicated in carpeting today. Usually made from loops and cut piles of varying heights. There are more and more of these products coming out as the industry offers more selection. Sculpted leaves, flowers and vines have all been popular patterns.
Berber Loop Pile
This is any loop pile construction yarn in either nylon or olefin. Air Entangled they come in solids, heathers, multi-tones, flecks, and patterns. Berbers are not always as durable as some people think. The key is the density of the loops and the denier (diameter).
Cut Pile Berber
These are products that are cut pile with usually a large yarn bundle. They also have a fleck color system, which will help hide traffic. They will give a more comfortable look and feel for the berber customer. For extra heavy traffic, we offer the same looks in many brands using Frieze twisted yarns. Look for the Fleck colors in the Frieze products.
This is a large yarn bundle with a longer tuft in a casual construction. A return from decades past once again it's cutting edge. The casual family room or den will become a quiet retreat with this style.
These are usually twisted yarns in a loop pile construction. Sisals designs are a take-off from the authentic grass/woven sisals of native culture. Usually they are tighter than a berber and are offered in both nylon and olefin. Check out the nylons in this category for heavier traffic. They come in both solid and fleck colorations. These are becoming more popular every year. If you are looking for softness underfoot or comfort first this may not be the style for you.
Cut & Loop
A residential style that combines cut yarns with areas of looped yarn to provide a sculptured or carved surface finish. Frequently this style is used with yarns of more than one color. Residential applications of carpet are changing now more than at any other time in its history. Whereas carpet used to be considered much more for its color and durability properties alone, it has now become more of an integral design element in the decorating spectrum. With the manufacturing capabilities of today's carpet making machines, almost any color or pattern combination that you can dream of can be made. Many of the eclectic looks of exotic patterns and colors in use today in consumer's homes have been borrowed from the commercial contract carpet industry. Patterns, designs and textures once reserved for upscale hotel chains and restaurants are now available for use residentially. Much more so today, consumers are trying to make the rooms in their homes different from one another in an effort to be able to experiment with different design styles and families. In the seventies and eighties, you pretty much decided that your home was traditional or contemporary, etc and your entire design scheme flowed along accordingly. Today's well designed homes can utilize a traditional scheme in the living room, arts and crafts in the family room and eclectic casual in the den.
Commercial Cut Pile
These are usually solid color products with a little more formal look to the carpet. Used primarily in upscale office and professional buildings. Residential applications are increasing due to the durability of the construction and a wider range of colors.
Commercial Level Loop Pile
This is a commercial loop pile construction for heavy traffic. Level loop carpets consist of a continuous uncut surface that is flat so as to resist matting and crushing. Used in some bonus or playrooms, almost every commercial facility in America has some Level Loop carpet.
More on Style and Construction:
This section will attempt to give you a good working knowledge of some of the more technical aspects of selecting carpeting:
Twist - the tighter the twist, the more resilient and the more costly. Look deep into the individual yarns. If it has more turns and the tips of yarns are tighter and less "blossomed" or fluffy, then it's a better constructed carpet which will probably cost more and wear better. Don't make the mistake that many people do and just
feel how "thick" it is. Thickness does not necessarily translate to resilience. Many poorly constructed carpets with "blossomed" tips do not hold up to wear very well.
Heat setting- the twist in fiber is locked in during a process called heat-setting where the fibers are exposed to high heat to lock in the twist. Think or molten plastic or wax which is melted, re-shaped and then hardened again. A yarn that is tighter, more twisted and less-blossomed, bounces back better from foot traffic.
Staple VS. BCF (bulk continuous filament)- When carpet mills buy fiber, they buy it in either staple form (similar to a cotton ball or bundle) or in BCF form (similar to a roll of string or rope). Carpets made from the staple yarns tend to feel heavier and thicker and many times softer than BCF due to the fact that, in it's original form, it's really just a big ball of fuzz. Manufacturers find that making carpet from staple yarn offers the consumer a good feeling heavy carpet that, when tightly packed enough, will offer good wear, as well. Many staple carpets "shed" for a short period of time (this is not a defect) after installation until all of the loose fibers have been vacuumed out. Carpet made with BCF generally feels more resilient, due to the fact that the individual yarns "strings" can be heat-set right in their original form on the yarn spool. There is an ongoing debate in the carpet industry as to which is better, the luxury and big hand feel of staple or the more resilient feeling BCF, but you would do well to understand that how a carpet wears, how much it costs, how long it lasts and how easy it is to clean is truly the product of all of the several different factors that have
Why Padding is Important
Almost everyone shopping for carpeting today has heard that a better pad will make your carpet wear better. Certainly, this is true. However, many consumers are unsure why. Padding serves basically as a foundation for your carpeting. Padding is what absorbs the foot pounding that walking on your carpet causes, similar to a shock absorber in a car. But, padding is only partially a practical choice as a shock absorber. It is also where you get to choose the comfort level that your new carpeting will provide. So, how can padding provide a good firm foundation, act as a shock absorber and provide maximum comfort all at the same time? There are some basic rules of thumb.
A padding's firmness has a lot more to do with how it will wear and feel than its thickness. Generally, in a residential application, the Carpet and Rug Institute recommends a 7/16" thickness for a residential pad. (A berber, looped graphic office carpet or low profile construction would require something less, say 1/4"). There are 7/16" pads that are priced anywhere from .15 a square foot to over .75 a square foot.
The most significant factors in making one pad more expensive than another are its density and the materials that go in to producing it. Generally, the more dense a pad, the better it is as a shock absorber. A common way that you'll hear pad density expressed is in "pounds". For example, an 8 pound pad is twice as dense as a 4 pound pad. So, how many "pounds" should you be looking for in a pad for your carpet? The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends a padding of at least 6 pounds for the medium to heavily trafficked areas in your home. You may want to consider something as much as an 8 pound padding for more heavily
traffic areas, but you'll need to understand, that as the firmness of the pad increases past the 6 pound standard, the less "comfortable" or "cushiony" the pad will feel. Carpet installed over a concrete floor will generally wear better with a denser pad. Concrete has no "give" when stepped on and therefore, requires and even firmer shock absorber than a similar installation over a wood floor.
So, your padding decision should be based on purchasing the densest pad that you can get that still allows for your preference of comfort.
Most carpet padding today is made of urethane foam with a small segment of the market still using rubber pads. Urethane padding is the most widely used due to its resiliency, consistency and cost.
Urethane padding is broken down into 2 main styles:
Bonded and Prime.
Bonded pads are the "speckled" pads that you'll undoubtedly see while shopping for carpet. These pads are manufactured and bonded together with small pieces of urethane foam. The result is a pad that gives great support due to the combined resiliency of all of the little pieces working in conjunction with one another. Think of a piece of plywood. If plywood weren't made in layers, it would be much more brittle and have far less strength than it does when constructed in a "bundle". The one negative of bonded pads is that occasionally you will get a hard chunk in the pad bundle. If not spotted by the carpet installer and cut out during installation, it can feel as if there is a stone or small marble underneath your carpet. This doesn't happen a lot and is easily repairable.
Prime urethane cushion is more similar to the single color foam cushion that you'll see in your furniture. The main reason that you may want to consider a prime urethane cushion for your home is comfort. Nothing offers a more luxurious, cushiony feel than a prime urethane pad. Make sure that you find one that is dense enough to withstand traffic, but doesn't sacrifice the comfortable feel that some bonded pads do.
A final thought regarding padding would be to consider its warranty.
Some pads are warranted for either the entire life of the carpet, or in some cases, the life of the home where the carpet is installed, so you can choose your padding with confidence.
WHY IS COLOR IMPORTANT?
The color that you choose for you carpet is, arguably, the most important part of the selection process. The color you choose will have a profound effect on the overall look, feel and design of your room. The selection of carpet color is a very personal choice.
Carpet comes in almost every color, pattern, and texture you can imagine. You will want to select a color that unites your decorative elements and creates the atmosphere you desire. Ever-popular beige carpet can make a room look spacious, but it could result in a room that looks pretty much like everybody else's. Many times, consumers "settle" for beige because they're afraid to make a mistake and they think that's the safest way to avoid one.
For a bolder statement, look for a common color in your furniture and draperies. Colors and their placement in furniture, wallpaper, draperies and area rugs have usually been selected and coordinated by a designer that has pretty good idea of what colors work well with other colors. Many times, consumers believe that they need to "match" colors in a room and think that most of the room elements need to have the same color and shade in all of them. Actually, this practice leads to very boring rooms. If you like beige or neutrals, try using several different hues and shades of the same color family. A room that incorporates this type of look can be very dramatic and remain "neutral" at the same time
It's important to understand the power of color in two other main areas, as well. One is the color's ability to create a mood or environment and color's effect on the expansion or contraction of space. Warm colors, like reds, golds, and some beiges, create warmth and can make a room inviting and comfortable feeling. Greens and blues have a calming effect and give a room a certain sophistication just by their very presence.
Rooms with a main outside light source (windows) on their southern or western side will naturally be more "warm" feeling, because of the ambient color effect from the sun. A designer could decide, for instance, that a room with too much sunlight might need to be "toned down" and would accomplish this by bringing in greens, blues and cooler neutrals.
Subsequently, rooms with northern or eastern exposures may need to be made more comfortable, warm and inviting. This is when a designer will bring elements and colors in that are warmer to soften up the effect of the light.
It could be significant to consider what time of day, generally, that a room is most utilized, to take maximum advantage of the light sources that effect a room, whether they be natural light or electric.
Lighter colors also make rooms seem larger; darker colors provide coziness or can make a very large room seem less cavernous.
There are also practical considerations in color selection. New stain and soil resistant technology makes today's lighter color carpet much easier to clean, allowing more decorating options. Medium and darker colors, tweeds, and textures will help disguise common soil in your home's high traffic areas.
The bottom line on color is that, while there are some guidelines---there are no "rules".