Pick the best floor covering for your home with our guide to types of carpet, pile, materials, and more.
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Few home features create a welcoming sense of warmth and homey comfort like a good-quality carpet. Walking barefoot across cold stone tiles or hard wooden planks just can't compare to the feel of the soft, cushiony fibers of various types of carpet underfoot. Comfort preferences aside, carpet's padded surface is also a practical flooring option, offering unbeatable thermal and acoustic insulation. Carpeting is also slip-resistant and providesa soft landing for accidental falls.

Collection of different types of carpet samples
Credit: smerindo_schultzpax / Getty Images

With an extensive range of colors, textures, and styles and new trends in carpeting, there's a carpet type to suit every decor. With so many options to choose from, though, it can be difficult to know where to start when carpet shopping. Here's what you need to know about carpeting and carpet types to take a smooth step in the right direction.

Must-Know Carpet Terms

Start learning about different carpet options by becoming familiar with key vocabulary.

  • Fiber: The principal material of a carpet that is seen and felt on the visible surface.
  • Pile: The surface of the carpet, made up of looped carpet fibers.
  • Weight: The number of fibers in a carpet. The more fibers, the heavier the weight, and the better the carpet quality.
  • Density: The number of fibers in a pile. The more fibers, the denser the pile, and the higher the carpet quality.
  • Height: The length of the wear layer of the carpet, measured from the top of the pile to the top of the backing.
  • Durability: The carpet's lifespan.
  • Resistance: A fiber's ability to withstand rubbing, abrasion, and everyday usage.
  • Resilience: A carpet's ability to recover from crushing.

The key features to consider when choosing a carpet are the pile and type of fiber, as these will determine how it looks and feels and whether it will stand the test of time.

Understanding Carpet Piles

There are two main types of carpet piles: loop pile and cut pile. The difference between them is how the loops of fiber that make up the pile are treated once the yarns are passed through the carpet backing during manufacturing.

Loop Pile Carpets

Commonly referred to as uncut pile or Berber pile, loop pile carpets leave the yarn loop intact. They are available as level loops, where the fiber loops are the same height and create a level surface, or multi-level loops, where the loops vary in height for a textured, patterned effect. A popular example of a multi-level loop pile is Sisal carpet, featuring loops of different colors and heights arranged in rows to create a subtle pattern and textured look. Loop pile carpet is perfect for high-traffic spaces, as it is durable and resilient.

Cut Pile Carpets

As the name implies, cut pile carpets have the tops of the yarn loops cut off. They are sheared at different lengths and angles for different types of carpet, resulting in a wide variety of styles, heights, and thicknesses. Cut pile carpets are the most popular carpet pile type, even though they are less durable than loop pile and more prone to crushing.

Saxony Cut: Saxony carpet consists of densely weaved, twisted carpet fibers that are closely packed and stand up straight. The fibers are evenly cut, creating a uniform look and smooth, velvety surface. However, they have little resilience and don't bounce back quickly, making Saxony suitable for low-traffic areas.

Plush Cut: Also referred to as velvet-cut, plush carpet consists of short, densely packed fibers with a smooth, even surface that is soft to the touch and has a formal and luxurious look. However, it is not very durable or resistant, making it a better option for elegant and formal low-traffic areas, like a guest bedroom or dining room.

Texture Cut: This informal style consists of uneven, twisted, and kinked fibers that create a fuller textured surface. This pile type is durable and has the added benefit of concealing dirt and footprints, making it a great option for a busy household and mid- to high-traffic areas, like a hallway or playroom.

Frieze Cut: Frieze carpet is distinguished by its long fibers that are twisted together and kinked, resulting in a curly, knobby-looking surface often compared to a shag carpet. The long strands create an informal yet inviting look and offer great insulating properties. They are also highly durable and stain-resistant, making them suitable for high-traffic areas. Bear in mind that frieze carpets are not the easiest carpets to clean.

Sculpted Cut: Often referred to as cut-and-loop, or patterned carpet, sculpted carpet combines the best of both worlds with looped and cut-pile fibers. They can either be level or multi-level and are sometimes arranged in geometric patterns, creating a textured and layered-looking carpet design. This carpet type is best suited to low- to moderate-traffic areas, as it tends to appear worn out quickly.

Different Carpet Fibers

Carpet fibers can be divided into two broad categories: natural and synthetic.

Natural Fiber Carpets

Natural fibers have been used to make floor coverings for centuries. They are a reliable and trusted option for providing warmth and comfort underfoot.

Wool Carpets: Today, wool is the only natural fiber used to make carpets. Wool is popular for its durability and luxuriously soft feel underfoot. It is a natural flame-, abrasion-, and stain-resistant material, though it is damaged by alkaline detergents. Wool is also a sustainable resource, making it an excellent option for an eco-friendly household. Keep wool carpets away from high-humidity areas, as they are prone to damage from mold and mildew, and always treat them for moths as they feast on natural fibers. High-grade pure woolen carpets are expensive. For a more affordable option with many of the same benefits, consider a wool and synthetic blend.

Synthetic Fiber Carpets

The majority of carpets today are fabricated with synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers provide better quality and cost control and supply and production consistency. Unlike natural fibers, synthetic materials are not affected by climate conditions or disease, and they are hypoallergenic and moth-resistant.

Nylon Carpets: Nylon is the most popular carpet fiber on the market today. It is resilient, versatile, and considered the most durable synthetic carpet, lasting up to 15 years when well cared for. The fiber has high resistance to everyday wear and moisture, excellent abrasion and crush resistance, a reliable yarn memory to hold twist, and good stain resistance when a stain treatment has been applied. The strong, resilient fiber is the perfect choice for heavy traffic areas and commercial facilities. Thanks to the fiber's excellent ability to hold color, nylon carpets are available in a wide range of colors and styles to suit all decors. While nylon is less expensive than wool, it is pricier than other synthetic carpets.

Olefin Carpets: Olefin (polypropylene) carpets are popular for their natural stain and moisture resistance. They are the go-to carpet for interior spaces subject to potential water damage, like bathrooms and basements, or even outdoor areas. Though olefin is one of the most resistant synthetics, it is the least resilient, so it is best installed in low-traffic areas to avoid it quickly looking worn out. As the fiber is solution-dyed, it is the most colorfast fiber, so no amount of sunlight, bleach, or harsh chemicals will alter the carpet's color. Thanks to its low production costs, olefin is a budget-friendly type of carpet.

Polyester Carpets: Polyester is known for its ability to take on dyes with luxurious, vibrant, and fade-resistant colors. A hydrophobic fiber, it naturally repels liquid, giving it its notable stain-resistant qualities and making it a good pick for environments prone to moisture, mildew, and mold. Polyester carpets should be treated, as they are not resistant to oil stains, which are hard to remove. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is a common polyester carpet type made from recycled plastic bottles, making it an eco-friendly carpet that can also be recycled post-use. Since polyester has low resilience, it quickly shows signs of wear in high-traffic areas. However, polyester carpet is one of the most economical options, making it a great carpet type for anyone on a budget or looking for temporary flooring for a rental property.

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