Carpet and Rug Buying Guide

buying-guideCarpeting and rugs remain very popular home flooring for the warmth, comfort and the variety of styles and patterns in which they’re made. Area rugs have graced homes for thousands of years and continue to be in demand for those with hard flooring who want a decorative accent or soft treading under foot.

This buying guide to rugs and carpet will help you decide if the most popular flooring option is a good choice for your home. You’ll learn about,  how carpeting is made, durability of carpet versus other flooring types, trends, pricing and much more. In addition, we have detailed guides to carpet installation, carpet prices, and of course cleaning and maintenance of carpet flooring.

Overview of How Its Made

The first rugs and carpeting were made from wool, and the best ones still are. Synthetic materials such as nylon, olefin, polyester including Triexta and some recycled plastic and polyester are being used in today’s rugs and carpeting. From the ground up, here are the layers you’ll find in most carpeting products:

Primary Backing: The fibers of the rug or carpet are woven into the backing, so the backing must be tough and durable. Most are made from a combination of plastic, rubber and urethane. Jute is used in better carpet and rugs, but is more expensive than a plastic mat.

Secondary Backing: The backing you see is the secondary backing designed to sandwich the carpet threads against the primary backing and hold them more securely. Latex is used in this secondary backing.

Fibers: The fibers are woven into the backing using a mechanized process call tufting that employs 800 to 1,400 needles. It is similar to embroidering.  The fibers are looped through the mesh backing. The more needles the machine has (gauge rate), the denser the carpeting or rug will be.

Some high-end rugs are still made by hand using finer materials such as jute for the backing and wool or even silk for the threads. About 10% of rugs use these materials.

Dye: If the carpet is to be of one color, the thread is usually dyed before-hand. When a carpet or rug has a pattern, the thread may be dyed first and woven, or, in more affordable rugs, the dye is applied after the rug is produced using a silk screening process.

The pile of the carpet refers to the number of threads per square inch, just like with bed sheets. The more dense the pile, the finer the carpeting or area rug is considered to be. Pile height and twist level of the nap are other considerations. Most consumers don’t thing about twist level, but know this: The more twists the pile has per square in, the better the rug or carpet will hold its shape.

Most carpeting and rugs now have a final coat of stain-resistant spray (stainmaster, etc) to help prevent liquids from penetrating the threads.

Wear and Durability

Wool rugs and carpeting are the most durable. Those with a thick pile can last 50 years or more when used in a living area rather than in an area of high traffic. On the other end, today’s cheapest carpeting may need replacing in as little as 3-5 years in living areas and 1-2 years in high-traffic areas.

Quality carpeting and rugs typically last 8-15 years depending on where they are installed and how careful you are about carpet maintenance. learn more by reading the rugs & carpet maintenance and cleaning guide for tips on how to get the greatest longevity from your flooring.

Textures, Lengths and Patterns

Carpet is produced in rolls from 6’ to 15’ in width. This allows you to choose the size that produces the fewest seams in the room along with the least waste. Rugs are made in sizes from a foot or two square to 20’x30’ or greater. Small rugs for in front of the sink, medium rugs for under the coffee table or dining room table, large rugs to fill an entire room and runners for hallways and stairs are all available.

In terms of patterns, the most popular are:

Plush—Made in a variety of styles including velvet, Saxony, textured trackless and standard plush, this remains the most common pattern.

Berber – Now more popular than ever. New manufacturing processes are creating more than just the standard Berbers. You’ll find geometric patterns and a variety of loop options that produce different feels beneath your feet.

Frieze – These carpets have a distinctively woven look. They are produced in solid colors as well as multi-colored styles.

Leading Brands of Rugs & Carpet Flooring and Current Trends

Today’s leading carpet brands include Mohawk, Stainmaster, Shaw, Gulistan, Couristan, Kane, Milliken, Southwind, Beaulieu, Bigelow, Barrett, Anso, Stanton, Philadelphia and Royalty.

And if you want to know where to buy them here is our selection of the best places to buy area rugs, both in store and online.

The leading trends in carpeting are:

New carpet patters: Berbers in new, interesting geometric designs are hot at the moment. Exciting new colors only increase their appeal.

Green – as in Ecofriendly – carpeting: Triexta is a new polymer from DuPont that is made from renewably sourced materials.

Low-VOC carpeting: Carpet made with low-VOC materials has less off-gassing, so that “new carpet” smell dissipates more rapidly – in a few days rather than a few weeks.

Carpet durability: Advances in carpet fiber technology are leading to tougher carpets that look better for a longer period of time.

Rugs & Carpet Flooring FAQs

Q: Is carpet installation a DIY job?
A: If you’re handy with tools and patient, you might consider doing it yourself. See our guide Installation of Rugs & Carpet Flooring for details that will help you decide whether to tackle it or to hire home flooring pros in your area.

Q: Are there carpets and rugs designed for those with allergies or asthma?
A: The best carpets and rugs for those with breathing issues are given the Green Label by the Carpet and Rug Institute. Ask your dealer for options. In addition, vacuum at least twice per week using a machine with a HEPA filter, and have the carpet and rugs cleaned once a year.

Q: What type of carpet is best for areas that get heavy traffic?
A: Dense carpet with a low pile is best for this purpose.

Q: Is buying carpet online a good idea?
A: Prices can be very good online, but take into consideration the possible cost of shipping too. If you know exactly what you want, for example, if you’ve seen it in a local showroom, then buying online can be safe. However, gauging it’s exact color and quality can be difficult when just looking at a web page.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of carpeting and rugs?
A: They are softer to stand on for long periods of time than wood, tile or vinyl. They are warmer under your feet than hard surfaces, and softer to lay on for people and pets. The variety of styles, colors and patterns give you lots of choices.

The disadvantages include the fact that carpet and rugs can trap allergens and dust, possibly making allergies and asthma worse. In addition, wood, laminate and even tile can be more cost-effective flooring choices for the long-term when you consider how often you need to replace carpeting over 25-40 years. On the other hand, some homeowners enjoy getting a new look in their home every 5-10 years.

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