Mar 31, 2011

Pile it on...a primer on how to pick the best carpet!

When you need a new carpet, you should get maximum return for your money. The range of products, colors and textures can be overwhelming so here are a few tips to get you started. Please recycle your old carpet and pad so they don't end up in a landfill.

1) Know your use. What conditions is your carpet subjected to? Do you have pets? Will you be eating in the carpeted room? If your rooms don't have much traffic, and you won't subject them to pet stains and food, you can opt for less durable carpet in lighter colors. On stairways and other high-use,  high-traffic areas you will need durability and higher stain resistance.

2) Understand the materials. Cost may be a factor in the fiber you select. (A) Wool, a natural fiber, is known for resistance to soiling, durability and good cleanability. It is cushiony and has excellent resilience but is the most expensive fiber. You should not use wool in damp areas. (B) Nylon is a synthetic fiber and is the strongest and most popular. It generally has high stain resistance and its longevity is 10-12 years with affordable pricing. The fibers can be compressed and bounce back which makes it ideal for high-traffic areas. (C) Polyester is second in popularity since it bends more than nylon making it less durable. It is less expensive and easier to clean than nylon,  comes in more color options and tends to maintain color longer. However, with the lowest durability, it won't last as long as nylon or wool and frequent replacement is expensive. (D) Olefin is a great outdoor and wet area carpet, durable and colorfast, but is not a soft surface for walking on.  Check out the blends and new fibers - often with recycled content - which are highly stain resistant, extremely durable, and include anti-bacterial and other resilient properties.. 

3) Select the right color. This seems like an easy choice, however, once carpet is installed you will live with it for a long time; the wrong color can negatively impact the entire space. Pattern, and texture, along with color, make a difference in the appearance. Shades that work with your existing or planned color theme is smart. Beige or light brown carpeting are safe choices for white walls and work with most color schemes.   Neutral color choices tend to be timeless whereas bold colors might be trendy.  For example: if your walls are a light shade of taupe, choose a slightly darker shade of taupe for your carpeting for a warm, cohesive background. With dark-colored walls such as cranberry or dark green, using a lighter colored carpet will keep the space from looking small. If you can bring samples home, do, since colors may look very different in the light present in your home.

4) Pile height is key. Here are the four pile types, with sub-categories you may be familiar with.

Cut Pile
    Cut pile and textured cut pile carpet is the most popular height. Cut pile carpet is manufactured by cutting all of the looped fibers at the top of the bundles. This creates a carpet with yarn bundles that stand straight. To create a luxurious appearance the cut pile is pre-sheared several times. Cut pile carpet, as compared to other styles is the least resistant to crushing. Saxony is the softest cut pile. The fibers are twisted tightly, cut and then straightened using heat. The texture is soft but will show all foot prints and tracks from a vacuum. Textures are a great cut pile that work very well because of their soft feel under foot. Textures are produced with tightly twisted fibers and are set with heat creating a medium durability carpet. Textured carpets have a multi-color appearance that hide footprints. Velvets and Plush carpeting are manufactured with a uniform color and a light twist. Because of their visual luxury and feel, Velvet and Plush carpeting are perfect for formal areas. For high traffic areas, a Frieze carpet is recommended. Perfect for informal areas, the fibers are made of a highly twisted cut pile carpet. They are made with short fibers that tend to curl in different directions at the surface to hide footprints and vacuum marks. 
Cut and Loop Pile

    Cut and Loop pile carpet combines cut and looped fibers. Of medium density, this carpeting is available in sculpted patterns. Because of the different levels of yarn the carpet hides dirt, stains and footprints exceptionally well. Berber is a very popular loop pile that have a very high durability because of their thick yarns. They do retain dirt and are easily damaged by snags to the loops. 
Level Loop Pile

    Level Loop and Multi-Level Loop pile is ideal for high traffic areas and resistance to marks. These carpets are made by weaving even loops of yarn through both ends of the carpet’s backing. By using higher loops the carpet has a more luxurious appearance. Level Loop carpet with short and densely packed loops is easy to clean since loops prevent dirt from filtering into the carpet. In Level Loop Pile all of the loops of yarn are at the same height and with the Multi-Level Loop the heights of the yarn varies. The Multi-Level Loop creates a random texture making it a good choice for high traffic areas although the small loops have a tendency to hold more dirt and dust.