How to Buy Carpet for Your Family Home

If you have kids, consider darker shades of stain-resistant carpet to camouflage spills.
If you have kids, consider darker shades of stain-resistant carpet to camouflage spills.
Lifesize/Thinkstock

Flooring isn't just another element of home d├ęcor. It's the one you'll actually have the most interaction with. Unless you can levitate, you'll be touching your floor from the time you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night.

For many rooms, the most comfortable choice of flooring is carpet. It puts warmth and softness under your feet. It brings beauty to your rooms and helps with both sound and temperature insulation. It cushions falls, can recover from most spills and is designed to hold up for years, even under the stress of kids and pets. Plus, research by The Carpet and Rug Institute, along with independently gathered data, shows that new carpet has the lowest level of volatile organic compound emissions (which can cause eye, nose and throat irritation) as compared to other types of flooring, which makes it one of the best choices for minimizing indoor air pollution.

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Before you head out the door to shop for new carpet, there are a few things you should know. The following pages clue you in on the language of carpet, the types available and how to figure the quantity you'll need.

Carpet Lingo

Like many other specialized products, carpet has its own language. Following are some common terms you'll see when shopping:

  • Pile -- the vertical yarn fibers that make the carpet's surface
  • Cut pile -- the equal or unequal height that carpet fibers are cut to
  • Loop pile -- carpet fibers that are looped over and attached to the carpet backing. Loops can have equal or unequal heights.
  • Cut and Loop -- carpet that contains both cut and looped fibers. The shadowed effect helps hide dirt.
  • Density -- how tightly fibers are packed in the carpet. Higher density carpets look newer longer than lower density carpets.
  • Pad or cushion -- polyurethane foam laid under carpet to protect it from wear and tear. It also provides comfort and insulation.
  • Tufted -- carpet fibers that looped into a premade woven backing that is coated and covered to keep fibers in place.
  • Twist -- the number of turns in an inch of yarn. Fibers with lots of turns hold up under heavy traffic.

Types of Carpet

Long ago, carpets were woven in intricate patterns with many colors of wool. Today, most homeowners buy tufted pile made of synthetic fibers. These durable, affordable carpets feature a wide variety of styles:

  • Plush is the softest carpet. Unfortunately, it's the worst for showing footprints.
  • Textured plush has fibers cut to different lengths, which is better at hiding footprints and dirt.
  • Velvet or velour carpets have a smooth, close-cut pile.
  • Sculptured carpets feature both high and low piles.
  • Saxony has long, shaggy fibers and a textured look.
  • Frieze is also known as hard-twist pile. The fibers are so twisted they curl.
  • StainMaster carpets have a neutral electric charge that resists dirt, static electricity and dyes from spilled liquids.

Carpet comes in a variety of materials. Wool is the softest and most expensive choice. Moisture- and fade-resistant olefin is best for indoor/outdoor carpet. Other synthetic materials are soft to the touch and colorfast. Nylon lasts a long time. Polyester is bright and easy to clean. Triexta is a new polyester-type fiber that's engineered to be stain-resistant. PET carpets, made from recycled plastic bottles, offer strength, rich colors, stain-resistance and low static.

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Now that you know the types of carpet and their lingo, on the next page, learn how to measure your rooms for carpet.

Measuring Your Rooms for Carpet

With just a few measurements and quick calculations, you can easily estimate how much carpet you'll need for your home.
With just a few measurements and quick calculations, you can easily estimate how much carpet you'll need for your home.
Stockbyte/Thinkstock

If you're on a budget, the amount of flooring space you want to cover can influence your selection. Carpet is sold in square yards, and most carpets come in 12-foot wide rolls. Follow these steps to estimate square yardage for your home's rooms:

  • Measure the length and width of each room in feet. Don't forget closets and hallways if you want them covered.
  • Multiply length by width of each room to get square feet. So if the room is 10 feet by 12 feet, multiply 10 by 12, for an area of 120 square feet.
  • Add together the square footage for each room.
  • Divide that total by nine to get square yards. For example, if the total area is 444 square feet, 444 divided by nine is 49.3 square yards.
  • Next, add 10 percent to the square yards for a total amount. The extra helps keep patterns and nap (the fiber tuft orientation) matched up since carpet must be laid in one direction for a uniform appearance, and it allows for room irregularities and hiding seams.

The above steps are merely for an estimate when you're shopping for carpet; a professional installer should take more precise measurements before you make a final purchase.

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Tips for Buying Carpet for Your Family Home

These tips can help you get the most from your purchase and avoid hidden costs:

  • Some carpets carry a durability rating from one to five. The scale measures how much the carpet's surface appearance changes over time. For heavy traffic areas, look for a rating of 4 or 5.
  • Low pile, sculptured and frieze styles are best at hiding the wear of heavy traffic areas.
  • Thick, plush piles feel luxurious, but they're best reserved for low-traffic areas like bedrooms.
  • Carpet padding and installation costs usually are not included in the carpet price.
  • Sometimes retailers run promotions offering a flat-fee installation when you buy a certain amount of carpet.
  • Ask about hidden fees, like delivery charges, charges for removing and hauling away old carpet and charges for moving your furniture. Find out if you can avoid those fees by doing some work yourself.
  • Measure the clearance between your existing flooring and doors. You may need to trim the bottom of some doors after the new carpet installation.

It's is a big investment, but the right carpet will bring years of comfort and beauty to your home. Find more useful information on the next page.

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Sources

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  • Carpet and Rug Institute. "Carpet and Rug Construction." (Nov. 17. 2011) http://www.carpet-rug.org/residential-customers/selecting-the-right-carpet-or-rug/carpet-and-rug-construction.cfm
  • Carpet and Rug Institute. "Carpet and Rug Industry." (Nov. 16, 2011) http://www.carpet-rug.org/carpet-and-rug-industry/carpet-and-rug-industry-statistics.cfm
  • Carpet and Rug Institute. "Carpet Performance Rating." (Nov. 18, 2011) http://www.carpet-rug.org/residential-customers/selecting-the-right-carpet-or-rug/quality-and-performance/carpet-performance-rating.cfm
  • Carpet and Rug Institute. "Selecting the Right Cushion." (Nov. 18, 2011) http://www.carpet-rug.org/residential-customers/selecting-the-right-carpet-or-rug/selecting-the-right-cushion.cfm
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  • Georgia Carpet Industries. "Frequently Asked Questions." (Nov. 16, 2011) http://georgiacarpet.reachlocal.net/faqs.htm
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  • Hilton, Michael. "StainMaster Carpet." The Carpet Buyers Handbook. (Nov. 21, 2011) http://www.carpetbuyershandbook.com/carpet-basics/topical-treatments/dupont-stainmaster.php
  • Mohawk. "Triexta Is the New Standard in Carpet Fiber." 2011. (Nov. 21, 2011) http://www.mohawkflooring.com/smartstrand/triexta.aspx
  • National Association for PET Container Resources. "What is PET?" 2009. (Nov. 28, 2011) http://www.napcor.com/PET/whatispet.html
  • The Carpet Buyer's Handbook. "Carpet Glossary." (Nov. 29, 2011) http://www.carpetbuyershandbook.com/carpet-glossary/
  • Tremblay, K.R., Jr., and K. Williams. "Selecting Carpet for Your Home." Colorado State University Extension. Dec. 2007. (Nov. 28, 2011) http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/consumer/09535.html
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Cut Pile Carpet Made from Polyester Filament Yarn." July 12, 2007. Reviewed July 12, 2010. (Nov. 21, 2011) http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/bulletins/matr/1295cMATR.pdf