How to Choose the Right Type of Carpet

What feels better than digging your toes into a soft carpet?

After a hard day's work, there's nothing like going home, kicking off your shoes, and digging your toes into a nice, soft carpet. This association with comfort and luxury has appealed to people ever since central and western Asian nomads first wove carpets in the fifth or fourth millennium B.C. [source: Eiland]. These people used their handiwork to cover earthen floors, or as blankets, saddle covers, storage bags, tent doorways, and tomb covers. Today, carpet is used almost exclusively as a floor covering, with numerous colors and textures from which to choose.

Because there are so many options, choosing a wall-to-wall carpet for your home can seem overwhelming -- but it doesn't have to be. A careful consideration of style, comfort, durability, and cost will help you pick a carpet that both you and your bare feet love. So, if you're ready to save yourself from the shock of a cold, hard floor when you step out of bed in the morning, read on to figure out which carpet is best for you.



Choosing Carpet: Style

When you install wall-to-wall carpet, it becomes one of the room's focal points, so it is important that you pick a color and texture that fit your style. Perhaps the most difficult decision of all is choosing the carpet's color. People often choose neutral tones, which works out well if the focus of the room is on bold wall paint, colorful artwork, or funky furniture. If you feel your room is a little boring, you might consider a more colorful carpet to avoid a monotone décor. Remember that darker shades tend to make a room feel warmer and cozier while lighter shades can brighten a room, making it seem larger.

Texture is created by variation in the carpet's pile, or the height of its fibers. Shaggy or twisted fibers create a more informal and contemporary look, while smooth, even fibers suggest a more proper setting. The use of multi-toned fibers can further enhance the carpet's texture, making the style a popular choice for casual spaces. If you find a carpet with a color and texture that you like, ask the salesperson for the biggest samples available. Take them home and examine them next to your walls and furniture, observing how they look in both artificial and natural light.


Choosing Carpet: Comfort

If you're looking for a carpet on which you can take a nap or roll around with the kids, it's important that it be soft, not scratchy. That's why you should carefully consider comfort when choosing carpet for your home. The feel of carpet depends mainly on the style of the carpet and the fiber from which it is made. Generally speaking, cut pile carpets are softer than loop pile carpets, with plush being the softest of all styles. Wool is perhaps the softest fiber, but it can be very expensive, so you might look into nylon or polyester as a gentle alternative.

Comfort isn't just about how carpet feels; it's also about how it affects your health. You've probably been in a home or business with recently-installed carpet and noticed that distinctive "new" smell. While the odor may seem harmless, it's actually caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde, which are emitted from the carpet and padding. VOCs contribute to poor indoor air quality and are known cause numerous health problems, including asthma and allergies. If your budget allows, check out carpet made from natural products, like wool and jute, as well as organic or chemical-free dyes.


Choosing Carpet: Durability

If you're going to put a lot of money into carpeting your home, you want it to last. That's why you should choose a carpet that's durable enough to handle a room's intended use and possible foot traffic. Like comfort, durability is dependent on the style of carpet and the fiber with which it is manufactured. Loop pile carpets are the most durable because there are no open ends, making it less likely to pull or shed. Nylon, Olefin (polypropylene), and wool resist wear and tear much better than other fibers, like acrylic and polyester.

Although it's an afterthought for many buyers, padding is actually an important part of your carpet's durability. In addition to cushioning your feet and insulating your house from cold and noise, this sub-layer can increase the life of your carpet, if installed properly. Different carpets call for different padding thicknesses, so be sure to check the manufacturer's recommendation before tacking anything to the floor.


Choosing Carpet: Cost

As with many things, you can spend as much or as little as you want to on carpet. A quick glance at a major carpet manufacturer's price list shows a range of $4 to $33 per square yard. That means that for a small room, you could spend as little as $70 or as much as $500 on carpet, excluding the cost of padding, installation and other expenses [source: Shaw Carpet]. Chances are good that you'll find a carpet priced somewhere between these extremes that meets your needs. Just be careful not to skimp too much, or you'll end up replacing your carpet sooner than you might have otherwise, therefore costing yourself more money in the long run.

Carpet can be a big expense, but there are some ways you can trim the cost. The first thing you should do is shop around. There are numerous brands of carpet, each offering seemingly endless combinations of color, style, texture and fiber. If you're willing to do the legwork, you'll probably find several companies that manufacture the carpet you want, some at lower prices than others. Once you narrow down your options, ask your salesperson for an itemized estimate. Then see if you can get padding, tack strips and installation more cheaply from another supplier. It's usually not a good idea to install it yourself. Laying carpet can be a very frustrating process if you don't know what you're doing!


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Carpet and Rug Institute. Organization Website. 2010. (Oct. 7, 2010)
  • "Carpet Buying Guide." 2010. (Oct. 7, 2010)
  • "Shaw Carpet Delivers Style for Any Application." Carpet Express. 2010. (Oct. 7, 2010)
  • Dunn, Collin. "Carpet Tiles Flooring Guide." June 23, 2009. (Oct. 7, 2010)
  • Eiland, Murray L. "Rug and Carpet." Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2010. (Oct. 7, 2010)
  • "How to Choose Carpet." 2010. (October 3, 2010)
  • Leona Hawks. "Choosing a Carpet and Pad." Utah State University. 1987. (Oct. 3, 2010)
  • Lockley, Marc. "How to Take Carpet Costs Down to the Floor." The Guardian. February 24, 2010. (Oct. 7, 2010)
  • Stewart, Martha. "Choosing Rugs and Carpets." December 2009. (Oct. 7, 2010)
  • Turner, Bambi. "5 Tips for Choosing Carpet." 2010. (Oct. 3, 2010)
  • Vila, Bob. "Choosing Carpet: What to Look for before You Buy." 2001. (Oct. 3, 2010)
  • "Wall-to-Wall Carpet." 2010. (Oct. 3, 2010)
  • Xiong, Nzong. "Carpets 101." 2010. (Oct. 3, 2010)