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Carpet Flooring Buying Guide Basics

At first glance, carpet may seem like a simple floor covering, but a lot of detail goes into its construction. In this section, you will find primary information on carpet construction and terminology, things to consider in your home environment, room–by–room practicality, lifestyle considerations, and caring for your carpet.

About Carpet

Have you ever wondered about how carpet is constructed? Essentially, carpet is made from yarn and the yarn is made from fiber. This fiber can be either a natural or "staple" material, like wool, or a synthetic material, like nylon. Both the cut of the yarn and the composition of the fiber create the different choices of textures and styles available for carpet.

As you read this guide and learn more about the various types of fibers and styles, you will often come across the following carpeting terms:

  • Pile – the surface of carpeting that is created from the cut or uncut style of the yarn.
  • Pile Height (also called "nap") – the height of the yarn from the backing of the carpet to the tip of the yarn.
  • Tuft or Tufting – first manufacturing process of weaving fibers into backing to create the carpet.
  • Shearing – process to remove loose or frayed yarn tips and create the final, finished style.
  • Knowing these terms can make understanding carpet and planning your project a little easier. As you read more on the varieties of fibers and styles in the "types" section of this guide, you will become even more informed and prepared to select your ideal carpet.

Your Home Environment

Carpet is an excellent flooring choice for many people because it's comfortable and affordable. In order to determine whether or not carpeting is right for your home, consider two factors: foot traffic and sunlight.

Foot Traffic

Walking from your living room to your upstairs bedroom contributes to the wear and tear on your carpet with each and every step. In order to determine what carpet to select, it's important to consider how much traffic each area of your home receives.

Recommendation: Choose a dense carpet construction with a low pile height. This carpet won't easily fray or show wear and will have the most durability for heavy household traffic. Consider carpet styles with loop construction as the ends of the yarn are not exposed, and traffic wears on the tougher edges of the yarn instead of the tips.

Sunlight

Just like sunlight will burn or tan skin, most carpet fibers and dyes are also susceptible to sunlight. Overexposure to sunlight can fade carpet over time. When planning your carpet project, take sun exposure into consideration. While it would seem only darker carpets may be susceptible to fading, lighter colors can actually fade more rapidly than darker carpeting because less dye has gone into the color.

Recommendation: Consider purchasing window coverings or a coating treatment for the windows to block out the sun's UV rays.

Room–by–Room Practicality

While carpeting is a personal choice in every home, consider a few recommendations for installing different carpet styles in specific rooms.

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General Rooms

Living Room/ Family Room/ Dining room

The living room or family room is often the central gathering place of the home, so be sure to choose a carpet that can stand up to a lot of wear and tear. Stain resistance is also important, since people may eat and drink in these rooms. For dining rooms, stain resistance is very important.

Recommendation: A loop style carpet with dense construction will hold up to traffic, and a stain resistant fiber type can provide added protection against spills and stains. In the dining room, add an area rug or large plastic mat under the dining table for the likelihood of more frequent spills.

Bedroom/ Office/ Den

Carpet is ideal for bedrooms. You may choose more a comfortable plush carpet for the bedrooms in your home if there is less possibility of excessive wear and tear.

Recommendation: In bedrooms that don't have a lot of foot traffic, a plush carpet style is ideal for extra comfort and luxury on bare feet. In spare bedrooms that see little use, maybe consider installing less expensive, lower–density carpets.

Stairs and Hallways

Carpets in these high–traffic spaces must be able to handle a lot of wear and tear, and high durability is vital to maintaining a clean appearance.

Recommendation: Carpeting with tight construction or loops works especially well for these spaces. Denser carpets will absorb noise, and sheared carpets will be less likely to show wear and tear from high traffic. Also, consider using hallway rugs to lessen the affects of frequent foot traffic.

Wet Area Rooms

Bathroom/ Kitchen/ Outdoor

Carpeting is not generally recommended for kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas prone to spills or excess water. For outdoor entertaining spaces, carpet made up of moisture/ mildew–resistant fiber (like polypropylene) can be used.

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Lifestyle Elements

Once you've assessed the foot traffic in your home, consider the additional needs of any pets, young children and individuals using mobility aids in selecting the ideal carpet for your lifestyle.

Allergies

Contrary to popular belief, carpet can actually be a good choice for those with allergies and asthma. When dust mites, pet dander, and other allergens settle in carpet fibers, they are likely to stay put until they are vacuumed up. As long as you vacuum your carpets thoroughly with a HEPA filter vacuum, you can remove the majority of these allergens before they circulate in the air and into your lungs. With hard surface flooring, these allergens are much easier to stir into the air and can cause symptoms to worsen.

Recommendation: For allergy friendly carpet, choose carpet that is certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus to promote a healthy Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and carpet that is mold and mildew resistant.

Pets

Pets can generate traffic in your home just like people. They can add to natural wear and tear just living in the home. Sharp claws and dirty paws can create additional damage, and any accidents in the home may lead to serious stains and odors.

Recommendation: Your pet's nails should be trimmed regularly, and accidents need to be treated immediately. Also consider placing rugs in high–traffic pet areas and using protective mats under food and water dishes or choosing dishes with a wide base to prevent spilling. It is best to avoid loop constructed carpets when you have pets. Their nails can snag on the loops and pull carpet fibers out which causes fraying.

Children

Carpet can be an ideal choice for homes with children because of the cushioning, durability, and natural noise insulation it has over hard floor surfaces. Keep in mind that children are more likely to cause stains and contribute to daily wear and tear.

Recommendation: When buying carpet for a home with children, focus on stain–resistant, dense carpets that won't show footprints or markings as easily. Area rugs throughout your home can provide added protection.

Special Mobility Needs

For people in your home who may require the use of a mobility aid, it is important to consider the firmness factors of the carpet padding, as well as pile height.

Recommendation: Look for carpeting with a lower pile height and firmer cushion; these considerations can provide additional stability for the use of walkers, canes, crutches, etc. Lower pile carpeting is also easier for wheelchair mobility.

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Basic Care

Before purchasing and installing carpet, knowing what is required to maintain its appearance and quality is an important factor to consider. We all know that vacuuming your carpet regularly is the most important thing you can do to keep it looking clean. There are also other basic care suggestions for your new carpet flooring project.

Vacuuming

Vacuuming is one of the most important things you can do to keep your carpet clean by removing dirt and debris before it settles and is forced deeper by foot traffic. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter not only cleans carpet fibers, but removes dust mites and other allergens before they become trapped in the carpet’s pile.

Recommendation: A good, high–quality vacuum can be a smart investment. Vacuums can offer great additional cleaning perks like attachments to clean stairs and tight areas, chamber receptacles instead of bags, and built–in filters that can help remove dust and allergens from the air while you vacuum.

Deep Cleaning

For occasional deep cleaning or to remove set–in stains, steam cleaning or shampooing your carpeting can provide a thorough cleanse to the carpet fibers and bring new life back to a tired looking carpet. Vacuum–sized steam cleaners are available for household purchase, and professional cleaning services are also available. Many people hire professional carpet cleaners for their ability to move necessary furniture, provide a thorough cleaning with their machines, and even pre–treat spots and heavily soiled areas.

NOTE: Please keep in mind that excessive deep cleaning will remove the stain resistance chemicals from your carpet.

Stain Prevention & Treatment

Accidents happen, but don't let them ruin your carpet. Avoid serious, set–in stains by treating any spills and accidents immediately. Here are some quick tips:

  • Always blot wet stains to remove excess liquid, and then use a stain remover as directed.
  • Club soda is known to be a quick home solution for many dark stains.
  • For scent removal from pet accident stains, use an enzyme product; this can be found in most pet stores.

Floor Mats

Dirt tracked in from outdoors will immediately transfer to your carpeting, whether visible or not. Place mats at entrances and encourage family and guests to wipe their feet before entering.

Care Basics

DOs

  • DO vacuum your carpet regularly; daily if you suffer from allergies or live with pets that shed.
  • DO place floor mats at entry ways.
  • DO rotate heavy furniture that can crush carpet fibers over time.
  • DO use area rugs or floor mats in high traffic areas.
  • DO clean or remove shoes that may track–in debris.

DON'Ts

  • DON'T rub accidents or spills, blot gently and treat appropriately.
  • DON'T let dirt settle as this can cause staining.
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