The Secret To Getting What You Want: A Guide to Buying Carpet

Many people go in to the carpet buying process uninformed and make a quick decision based on color, feel, or just a desire to get something on the floor as soon as possible.  With the proper knowledge on basic carpet facts and their relation to your needs, it is far easier to select a carpet and go home with the right one for your space.  Let's get started in looking at the steps that you will take in your carpet buying process in order to get exactly what you want.

It's important that you start by looking at the requirements that you have for your carpet.
  • Consider your needs within the area that will be carpeted.  What is your anticipated level of foot traffic? Is this a heavily used room or one used only for entertaining? Do you have pets? Children? Is this a room where you would only use the carpet for walking? Or does it need to provide a cushion for activities on the floor?
  • How many years do you plan on using this carpet? Is this a short term carpet that you are installing prior to a move? Do you want to have this carpet for years and years to come? Some carpets are meant to last 5 years, while others will stand up to 30 years of use.
  • Establish your budget. You don't want to fall in love with a beautiful new carpet only to find out that it is several times over your price range.
Photo: PointClickHome

Once you have your carpet needs in line, inform yourself of the basics of carpeting and the types of carpet that are available. Learn what factors affect your carpet quality and why.

First, you must learn about the different types of fiber that can make up a carpet.  The fibers are the foundation for your carpet and affect its performance more than anything else. 
  • Polyester is the cheapest fiber available, and while it may look nice for a short period of time, it will likely not last longer than 5 years because it tends to pill or fuzz, therefore looking old and worn more quickly. 
  • Often used in commercial and outdoor applications, olefin is an extremely strong material that performs well when used in small looped carpets. Olefin, as a fiber, can't hold itself up very well so it gets matted down.  To counteract this, it is typically manufactured into looped carpets; not a full-proof solution however, it still has a tendency to flatten.
  • Nylon is the most durable and resilient of carpet fibers. It can stand up to heavy traffic and bounces back easily.  While it is not inexpensive, it will not mat or crush in the same way that polyester does and can be used with a larger loop as opposed to olefin.
  • Wool is the most high-end choice for carpeting because it is a soft, natural fiber. Wool is sometimes blended with nylon to bring the cost down as well as add nylon's positive attributes; wool and wool blends are an excellent choice if you are ready to make an investment.
Photo: Martha Stewart Living

Next, you'll brush up on the basics of carpet quality.
  • Density is how closely the tufts are spaced together.  This creates the feeling of thickness in a carpet. You will want to look for the highest density possible in your budget. Related to density is twist, which tells us how tightly the threads are twisted within each tuft.  The tighter the twist, the more durable the carpet.
  • Pile height is the height of the tufts.  The taller the tufts, the more plush the carpet.  Think of a shag carpet compared to a very short tufted commercial carpet. A deep pile is appropriate when you are looking for a soft rug in a casual application; a lower pile is great for a room where there will be lots of action, such as an office or a playroom.
  • Weight combines both the density and the pile height.  Weight tells you exactly how much fiber is in a carpet.  As a general rule, the heavier the weight, the better.
Photos: Point Click Home

Armed with carpet knowledge, you can move on to the fun part.  What kind of carpet is going to look best in your space?  What fits the mood and look of your decor?  It is a luxurious wool? A textured and beachy sisal?  There are endless choices when it comes to color, pattern, and border.

 Photo: Masland Carpets
There are also practical considerations to be made at this point.  If you have three young children and two dogs, you should probably forgo that beautiful white wool blend and opt for the neutral yet stain resistant berber.
 Photo: Masland Carpets

If you are carpeting your master bedroom, you might splurge on something bold and dramatic or go classic with a patterned wool defined by detailed accent border.
 Photos: Masland Carpets

Narrow down your choices by considering functionality, quality, and the existing aesthetics of your room.  This will help avoid the overwhelmed feeling that can happen when walking into a carpet showroom that is filled to the brim with options.

Now that we know all the necessary information, it's time to go shopping.  If you do not plan on buying your carpet through us, you should ask around and find out which carpet retailer your friends have had luck with or check reviews online.  You will want to find a trustworthy retailer that will not try to sell you a poor quality carpet by assuming that you don't know the basics.  If you have found the right store, then the owner and sales people should be extremely knowledgeable and able to guide you through the carpet buying process.  You should be able to walk in and have the sales person listen to your needs and wants, then show you the options that best suit you while guiding you through the pros and cons of each.

After a successful trip or two to the carpet showroom, you have finally selected the perfect carpet for your room; however, there is one more step to the process that must be taken seriously.  An excellent installation can make a mid-range carpet look fabulous, just as a sub-par installation can ruin a beautiful carpet. It is to your benefit to ask who will be installing your carpet and how long they've been installing, just to be sure that they are sending someone with experience and not a new installer with little experience.  A carpet is a costly investment so you want to be sure your installer is knowledgeable, pleasant to work with and capable. For example, one of the most important considerations to discuss and be aware of upfront is where the seams, if needed, will go.  A good installer will choose the least conspicuous areas for seam placement or he/she will let you know if placement of a seam will present any problems.  A wonderful installer will make the process run smoothly and leave you with a gorgeous new carpet. 

My intent with this short "crash-course" is to prepare you with enough knowledge so you ask the right questions and know what to look for.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to find a beautiful carpet that fits your aesthetic sense and stands up to the wear and tear of your daily life.

Do you feel more prepared for carpet-shopping success? I hope so.
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