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Buying Carpeting

Before shopping for carpeting, determine the amount of traffic it will receive. Then decide on your preferences and limitations, such as color, pattern and budget. Check the following carpet facts to make sure your investment pays off in years of comfort, durability and beauty.


The most important decision you make is the choice of fiber, which is critical to the price and performance of the carpet. When comparing carpets, always compare carpeting of the same fiber. The major carpet fibers are nylon, polypropylene, polyester and acrylic. The chart on the bottom of this page explains the traits of many of the current carpet fibers.


In judging quality of construction, density, or the number of fibers per square inch, is most important. The deeper and denser the pile, the better. Closely packed pile that is firmly secured to the backing indicates a good, long-wearing carpet. The higher the number listed for the density, the better the carpet quality.


Texture of a carpet determines surface appearance and resistance to wear and soil. The most common carpet textures are:

Velvet or Plush Pile carpets have all the fibers cut at the same height. It tends to show footprints and soil faster than other types of textures.

Saxony texture is similar to plush, but each yarn has a set twist which minimizes yarn flaring. The heat-set twist improves thickness retention, thereby reducing crushing.

Level Loop Pile carpet is made with tufted loops of the same height. It can take hard wear, hiding footprints and furniture marks. Soil tends to stay on the surface making it easy to clean.

Multi-Level Loop Pile carpet is made with different height loops, creating a sculptured or patterned surface. Dust and dirt are easily hidden, but it is not as wear resistant as the level loop pile.

Cut and Loop textures combine cut-pile and loop-pile yarns. Cut and loop carpets are slightly less durable than multi-level loop carpets.


Carpet padding should be used unless the carpet is foam backed. Padding is the cushion that creates a softer walking surface, insulates cold floors, absorbs noise, and prevents carpet from slipping and shifting. For most areas of a home, 40- ounce padding is usually adequate; in high traffic areas and stairs, 50-ounce padding may be a better choice. Padding is priced according to weight per square yard, except urethane which is priced by thickness. Different types of padding include:

Felted may be all animal hair or a combination of felt and fibers.

Foam Rubber is firm, dense, non-allergenic, and mildew and moth resistant. In moist areas it will deteriorate.

Sponge Rubber comes in both flat and waffle finish; some types may be too soft for adequate support. Should be at least ½-inch thick.

Urethane Foam is very durable, resilient and will not crumble; moisture and heat resistant. Should be ½-inch or less with a density of 2-4 pounds per cubic foot.

Questions To Ask Your Salesperson

  • Does the price of the carpet include padding and installation?
  • If not, how much extra is the charge for padding and installation?
  • Is there a guarantee or warranty on the carpet/padding/installation?
  • Will the salesperson come out to the home to do an accurate room measurement at no charge?
  • Can you borrow large samples of several different carpets to take home to analyze colors?
  • Where will the seams fall? Avoid seams against the traffic direction.
  • Does the price include metal stripping at the thresholds and wrapping the carpet around each stair step?
  • What is the charge for removing old carpet and padding and hauling it away?
  • Will it be possible to reverse carpet on stair treads and risers for extra wear?
  • What is the charge (if any) for moving furniture?

Check The Following In The Store Before You Buy

  • Select a neutral color if furniture has a distinctive pattern.
  • Tweeds and medium colors show less soil.
  • Patterned carpets will show less staining.
Check the color in both store light and daylight, then at home in lamplight. Each time place carpet on the floor, not at eye level.

  • Put the sample on the floor over the padding you have selected and step on it very hard. It should spring back when you lift your foot.
  • Check pile density by bending back a corner of the carpet to see how much of the backing shows. The more backing seen, the less fiber to walk on and the less durable the carpet.
  • Make an estimate of the amount of carpet you will need before you go to the store. Is the store's measurement similar to yours?

Before Signing On The Dotted Line Always Get

  • A written estimate of the total price and a complete description of carpet.
  • A written copy of the guarantee for the carpet, the installation and the stain resistant finish, if present.
  • A sample of both the carpet and padding ordered to compare when the carpet is delivered.


Carter, P., & Fuchsen, C. (1985).Carpetingand rugs (Home Furnishings Fact Sheet). Urbana: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.

Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.(1990) The Better Business Bureau A to Z buying guide. New York: Henry Holt.

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