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The Ultimate Guide to Carpet

Learn more about all the options you have when choosing carpet for your home.

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In the world of flooring, carpets' color, texture, and softness makes it a popular choice. It's also affordable and can be installed over a variety of subfloors, but how do you know what style is right for you? I'm Lacy Howard and today I'm gonna make you a savvy carpet shopper. To shop smart, you must first understand how carpet is constructed. Fiber is the basic material and the vast majority of fibers are synthetic. Nylon is the overall performance leader. It retains its appearance, resist fading and stains, and offers the widest range of colors and styles. If you want the top performing fiber, look for type 6.6 nylon. Polypropylene is also called olefin and it's inherently stain and fade resistant, but it's only available in a limited range of colors. Polyester is a relatively new carpet fiber. It's best for low traffic rooms but it gets bonus points for good stain and fade resistance. Some polyester is being made from recycled plastic bottles. Wool is the original carpet fiber and the most expensive. It should be treated to increase its moisture resistance, but it's resilient, it cleans well and it's known to age gracefully. There are three basic steps to constructing carpet. First, tufting. That's the process of weaving the fiber to the backing. Next, the small loops of yarn are trimmed to create cut pile or patterned loop and pile. For loop constructions, the tufts are not cut. Then the carpet is dyed. Finally, latex and secondary backing are heat pressed to the backside of the product. Knowing a few keywords will help you shop smart. Pile height is the length of the fiber from the backing to the tip of the yarn. Stitch rate is the number of tufts per inch of carpet length. A stitch rate of 7 or 8 is good, 3 or 4 is poor. Face weight is the number of ounces of fiber used per square yard. Thirty-five to forty-five ounces is a typical face weight. Density is how tightly the yarn is sewn to the backing. Higher density products wear best. With both density and face weight, don't compare apples to oranges. Use these measurements to rate selections with the same fiber or weave. Twist refers to how the fiber is turned into yarn. The tighter the twist, the stronger the yarn and the more durable the carpet. Now that you have the basics, let's talk about the six styles of carpet. Textured cut pile carpet has a two-tone appearance that hides footprints. It also gives a casual atmosphere and is a good choice for active households. Saxony offers a uniform twist and finish of each yarn, giving it a smooth, velvety look. Saxony styles are best used in less traveled areas of the home. Frieze's cut pile, high-twist construction gives it high durability alongside a stylish knobby texture. Cable carpet is made from long, thick yarns that although comfortable will matt and crush in heavy traffic. Cable is a great choice for the bedroom. Cut and loop offers texture in the form of pattern created from a combination of cut and looped yarns. This low-profile choice performs well under traffic and its subtle pattern can hide stains. When you're making carpet selections, here are a few things to remember. First, thicker is not always better. Look at the construction of the carpet. Each yarn should be tightly twisted, not frayed at the end. Check the pile density by doing the smile test. Bend the sample like this. The less backing you see, the more durable the product. I hope this overview of carpet has helped you narrow down what might work best in your home.