If you’ve been researching buying carpet for your home, I’m sure that there’s one word that keeps cropping up: Berber. In recent years Berber carpet has reached almost Holy Grail status in carpeting – admired and loved for its durability and versatility, and its usually neutral tones that provide a warm background to any home decor aesthetic.
But the modern Berber carpet has evolved quite dramatically from the traditional hand-woven wool rugs made by the Berber people of North Africa for which it is named. Today’s manufactured Berber comes in all kinds of innovative synthetic materials, as well as wool, and can have different finishes applied to make them more stain-resistant and so on. Whilst all these developments are in many ways very helpful for modern life, they are also cause for a lot of confusion for potential buyers. So read on for definitive guide to Berber carpet to make sure you choose the best one for your home. If you’re not sure if Berber is right for you then please see our post on finding the best carpet for your home.
Are Berber carpets the same as Loop carpets?
In a nutshell: yes!
The modern Berber refers to a style of carpet construction that involves looping the carpet fiber before fixing it onto the backing. Having said that, there are different types of loop carpeting, such as patterned loops and uneven loops. What would usually distinguish a carpet as specifically Berber would be that the loops are even and the overall fiber color is a light neutral tone sometimes with flecks of darker color as well.
But buyers beware – the carpet industry is forever evolving and lately we have seen that some large-scale manufacturers, such as Shaw Floors for example, are now moving away from having a distinct Berber carpet section. Instead they are presenting their Berber carpets in with their full loop carpet range; or doing away entirely with using the name Berber and just offering loop carpets – so essentially, today loop and Berber are pretty much the same thing!
What Fibers are Used to Make Berber?
As mentioned above, modern Berber carpets come in all kinds of different materials. Read on to find out which are the best and which to avoid at all costs!
Wool – Wool Berber is the absolutely best option, if you can afford it! As wool fibers are totally natural, they are non-toxic and hypoallergenic; they are also very soft and by far the most comfortable fibers to walk on; added to this is the natural ability for wool fibers to retain their shape and resist most liquids, thus avoiding staining and crushing issues (see below). There’s also a kind of undefined aspect to wool fibers that just gives off a feel of total luxury. But all these great advantages come with a price: wool fiber Berber carpets tend to be the most expensive on the market at around $6-$10 per square foot.
Nylon – Berber carpets made with nylon fibers are the most readily available type of Berber and offer a good balance between affordability, durability and versatility. Like wool fibers, nylon fibers are virtually un-crushable, meaning that your carpet will resist everyday wear and tear a lot longer than with other fibers. Nylon also has a higher flash point (see below), which makes it more resistant to damage, and it is easy to keep clean, especially since many branded nylon fibers have propriety stain repellent treatments added to them (think Stainmaster Carpets). At $3-$4 per square foot nylon Berbers tend to be a fair bit cheaper than wool Berbers, but the disadvantage is that they are not a natural fiber and not quite as soft as wool.
Triexta (PTT) – Also known under various brand names such as SmartStrand (from Mohawk) and Sorona (from DuPont), triexta is a chemical compound fiber that, whilst on the face of it seems similar to polyester, has actually been proven to perform just as well as nylon. Triexta is very durable, has a super high level of stain resistance (because it simply doesn’t absorb moisture), and is actually softer than nylon. Plus triexta has a great environmentally friendly advantage as, like wool, it is made using renewable resources. Retailing at around $3-$4 per square foot, triexta is just as good (possibly better) than nylon and a good choice for families. However, as this fiber is very new to the market, it has not yet had the full benefit of years of reviews and testing.
Olefin/ Polyester (PET) – If you’re on a very tight budget you might be tempted to opt for a Berber carpet made with either olefin fibers or polyester fibers (also known as PET fibers). DON’T! Yes, priced at around $1-$2 per square foot these carpets are the least likely to break the bank, but they have a major disadvantage. Both of these fibers have a terrible reputation for attracting dirt and for crushing, meaning that repetitive walking (think hallways) will end up leaving irreparable flattened dents which also make the carpet look dirtier than it is because of how light reflects off these flattened fibers; olefin and polyester also have low flash points which means that heavy friction will cause scuff marks. On the plus side olefin and polyester are great at resisting stains and spills, and PET fiber is made from recycling bottle caps and tires.
Blends – Some manufacturers also offer Berber carpets made of blended fibers (typically wool and nylon blend), in which case you will get the best of both worlds!
Note about pricing: Once you have decided on the fiber, you will also have to factor in the cost of under carpet padding, extra carpet allowance for stretching and patterns, and installations costs. Make sure you use a trusted carpet installer who will advise you on exactly how much carpet you will need for your space, and always opt for the manufacturer recommended carpet padding for best performance.
For other types of carpets and rugs we have a dedicated carpet prices page.
Pros & Cons of Berber Carpet?
As you can see from the section above, the advantages of a Berber carpet depend to some extent on the type of fiber it is made from. Generally speaking, though, because of the way the loops are attached to the backing, Berbers are very durable and aren’t usually prone to fraying. However, as noted by Brandon at Carpet Captain Berber carpet “is one of the most durable carpets in the right conditions, but it can be a disaster in the wrong situations.”
Because it is possible to snag the loops of a Berber carpet and cause a row of loops to unravel, some critics advise against this style of carpet it you have pets of kids – but again, if you have older kids and pets whose claws are trimmed often this needn’t be a problem. For this reason too it is extremely important not to use rotating brushes on your vacuum cleaner! On the other hand, the loop construction makes for a better anti-slip surface, so Berber carpet is a great choice for stairs.
How well your carpet stands up to everyday wear and tear will also have much to do with what carpet padding you choose, who installs it and how well you look after it. To this end, we strongly suggest that you follow the manufacturers directions and only purchase your carpet from a trusted retailer who is able (and willing!) to answer all your questions.
Design-wise Berber carpets give a more formal and elegant look, as opposed to the more informal and comfortable look of a textured, shag or frieze carpet. Find out more about carpet styles and fibers here.
Horror Stories: When Berber Goes Bad!
As with all things, and especially so with carpeting, you often get what you pay for, and the cheaper options are often just costly disasters waiting to happen. This is especially true for low-cost olefin and PET fiber Berber carpets. As detailed in great length by the team at the Carpet Dyeing Company, these fibers are poor quality and the cause of much anger for many who have invested in them not realizing their poor performance.
One of the biggest issues with olefin and PET fibers is how difficult they are to keep clean:
“the same stains come back shortly after being cleaned. The high pH residue left in the carpet (used by almost all carpet cleaners) is a magnet to dirt. Now I grant you that this can happen with other carpets as well but not nearly as often as with [olefin and PET] Berber. And it’s easily corrected on nylon or wool but not on the other Berber.”
As mentioned before these fibers are also more prone to crushing, shading, scorching and snagging.
Some would go so far as saying that all Berbers, because of the very nature of its construction, are ultimately not as easy to clean as other styles of carpet. However there is no need to over-egg the issue as long as you are prepared to take the necessary measures to avoid tracking dirt into your home (such as making sure that there are doormats at exterior doors, rugs and runners in high traffic areas, and going barefoot or using slippers indoors).
Having said that, all Berbers – even wool ones, triexta and nylons treated with stain protection – are at risk of permanent staining if the stain is bleach, oil or tar based.
It pays, therefore, to check the fine print in the warranty as many policies will only cover certain kinds of damage and will specify what kind of carpet padding and cleaning products to use. If you don’t comply, then your warranty is likely to be null and void. Decent Berber carpets should have a warranty of at least 10 years and cover both wear and stain damage.
What is Crushing? Understanding Berber Carpet Terminology
Apart from which fiber to choose, it also pays to understand some of the terminology that manufacturers use in Berber carpet descriptions. So here’s a quick list of some of the terms that will come up:
Crushing or matting – Caused by traffic, especially in high traffic areas like hallways, where people are using the same route over and over, crushing is where the carpet fiber is pressed down over time making it less attractive. When carpet fibers are crushed the way the light reflects off it will generally make the crushed areas look darker, which is often mistaken for dirt!
Scorching – Carpet fibers with low flash points can literally get scorched (burnt) if heavy furniture is pulled or dragged along them, leaving ugly scuff marks. Avoid this by opting for wool, triexta or nylon fibers.
Fading – Most carpet fibers will fade over time if exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods. This is especially true for wool fibers, so consider keeping carpeted rooms shaded in the summer time.
Face weight – This refers to the amount of fiber used per square yard, the higher the better for quality and performance. Anything around 40 oz is good; 63 oz or over is best! But, as warned by Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk on the This Old House website you should only compare like for like: “an olefin sample may weigh more than a nylon, but it has entirely different performance qualities.”
Total weight – This refers to the total weight of fibers plus backing per square yard. It is a fairly meaningless factor given the different variables of the backing!
Density – Theoretically carpets that have great density will be more durable, but, as the Berber carpet construction is already quite packed, you might be confused to see lower density ratings on Berbers. So, don’t let the density be the deciding factor, but rather be guided by the overall technical details and the warranty.
Stain Treatment – Modern technology has created lots of amazing chemical compounds to help avoid the many potential household disasters. And that is a beautiful thing and they do indeed help but, as eloquently put by the Carpet Guru “there are no miracle stain treatments”, especially if your carpet is light colored, or if bleach is spilled! However, pre-dyed nylon fiber and triexta fiber are actually completely stain resistant, so those are the best option for avoiding stains altogether.
Berber Carpet Design Ideas
The classic modern Berber carpet aesthetic is a simple block of neutral color, sometimes with flecks of a slightly different tone that gives the fiber a more “natural” look. But many manufacturers are now offering Berber or looped carpets that are essentially one block of color but with added texture or patterns created by different size loops. You can also now get Berber style carpets in bolder colors or ones that have an integral pattern in the design created by weaving loops of different colored fibers.
Here is a selection of images to show the great diversity in today’s Berber loop carpets design.
Best Berber Carpet Brands Reviewed
Mohawk Flooring – It’s no surprise that “the world’s largest flooring company” has one the largest ranges of Berber and loop pile carpets: in fact when you go on their website and search for loop style carpets you get 15,439 matches! Drilling down on their site by choosing color, type of integrated protection, and features such as eco-friendly or premium soft will give you a more reasonable amount of options – but still it’s very, very extensive! Mind you, if you search just for the keyword Berber, you’ll get 23 results; but then that also includes a range called Berber Bay that is actually a frieze pile carpet, not a loop one… So it’s all rather a muddle, but rest assured that if you’re looking for a decent loop/ Berber style carpet, you will find a pretty vast selection of them at Mohawk! Mohawk is also at the cutting edge of fiber technology and is one of the few manufacturers offering a side range of triexta fiber carpets (marketed as SmartStrand).
Stainmaster – If Mohawk’s vast output is just a little too scary, but you still want lots to choose from, then check out the range of Berber/ loop carpets at Stainmaster: there are 400 of them! Made with their propriety stain-resistant “premium nylon 6,6 polymer” fiber and offering one of the largest choices in terms of color (including reds, blues, greens and four rather dramatic black loop carpets), there’s more than enough choice, but not so much that it becomes impossible. Widely available from retailers across the country and with a good reputation and limited lifetime warranties, Stainmaster is a trusted brand that’s worth exploring.
Shaw Flooring – Another well-known all-round flooring company is Shaw, though their carpeting collection is rather more manageable than the two brands above. They have a selection of 42 carpets in their Berber/ loop carpet ranges that come in numerous colorways, and we particularly like the good range of patterned loop carpets such as the Twist of Fate one pictured here which is available in 18 colorways. Be aware though that Shaw’s carpets are made either from nylon, polyester (PET) or olefin; so be sure to check that the one you fall in love with is a nylon one (currently 39 of their loop pile carpets are nylon so there’s still plenty of choice)!
Nature’s Carpet – If you’re set on a wool Berber carpet then this rather interesting, eco-friendly company offers 100% wool carpets with a good range of Berber style loop ones in a fairly affordable range of around $7 per square foot. Based in Canada, but retailing throughout Northern America, they have a neat way of classifying their carpets depending on how environmentally friendly they are ranging from Dark Green (“derived from fully sustainable sources, and can be absorbed into the earth in their existing form once their flooring lives are completed”) to Light Green (not quite so thoroughly eco-friendly, but still good). But quite apart from their green credentials, what we like is the gorgeous quality of their products – as you can see from this close up of their beautiful Aureg carpet pictured above.
Top Tips for Berber Carpet Maintenance
Finally a quick recap of our top tips to ensure your Berber carpet lasts a long time:
- Use doormats, runners and rugs in high traffic areas.
- Wear slippers indoors.
- LIFT furniture, don’t drag it!
- Act quickly to deal with spills and stains.
- Check out this helpful guide for tips on repairing snags, crushing, burns and some stains.
- Keep pet claws trimmed.
- NEVER use a vacuum cleaner with a rotating brush!
- Read the warranty!
Click here for more on carpet and rug care and cleaning.