Overview: Compare carpeting options before making the investment
Shopping for carpet is a lot like shopping
for a car. It involves a huge
financial investment; all the different
styles, colors and brands can make your
head spin; and you often end up dealing
with high-pressure salespeople. The
experience can be so overwhelming that
it’s tempting to shop with only a basic
color and style in mind and rely on
salespeople for recommendations.
Carpeting is one of the largest
investments you’ll make in your home.
By doing some basic homework, comparison
shopping and working with a
reputable retailer, you’ll be able to buy
carpeting that fits your needs—and
gives you confidence that you’re getting
a quality product for a good price.
This article will give you a basic
background in carpet styles and quality
and discuss the primary things to think
about when you’re shopping for new
carpeting. We’ll give you tips on what
to look for as well as what to look out
for. We’re going to concentrate on synthetic
fibers in this article. Natural
fibers like wool are gorgeous, but they’re out of most people’s price range.
Choose carpet fiber that best fits your needs
Nylon outperforms all other fibers in
durability, resilience and easy maintenance.
This is a good choice if you
want your carpet to last a decade or
longer, for high-traffic areas, and in
homes with kids and pets (Photo 1). Higher quality
nylon fibers are “branded,”
and the carpet label will use terms
like “100% Mohawk Nylon” or
“100% Stainmaster Tactesse.” Lower-quality,
“unbranded” nylon fibers are
listed simply as “100% nylon.” The
strongest and softest type (and most
expensive) is 6.6 nylon. Cost is $10 to
$45 per sq. yd.
Triexta (brands include Smart-Strand and Sorona) is a newly classified
fiber derived partly from corn
sugar (Photo 2). It has excellent, permanent
anti-stain properties (nylon must be
treated with stain protectors over its
life span). It also has good resilience,
but it’s too soon to tell whether it
will match the durability of nylon in
high-traffic areas. Because of its
superior stain resistance, this is a
good choice if you have young kids
or pets. Expect to pay $20 to $45 per
Polyester (also called PET) is stain
resistant, very soft and luxurious
underfoot, and is available in deep
and vibrant colors (Photo 3). However it’s
harder to clean, tends to shed and
isn’t as durable as nylon. It’s best
used in low-traffic areas (like bedrooms)
and in households without
kids or pets. A nice, cushy choice if
you like to exercise on the carpet.
The cost is $8 to $18 per sq. yd.
Olefin (polypropylene) is an attractive,
inexpensive fiber that’s strong
and resists fading, but it’s not as
resilient as nylon (Photo 4). It’s most often
made into a looped Berber with a
nubby weave that conceals dirt. It
has good stain, static and mildew
resistance. Olefin carpeting is often
selected for high-traffic “clean” areas
such as family rooms and play areas.
It costs $8 to $25 per sq. yd.
Common carpet styles
The following five photos show general carpet styles or weaves. Keep in mind that they also come in many colors.
The signs of a quality carpet
A salesperson might tell you that a certain carpet is
a good deal, but don’t rely on his or her word alone.
Check the label, handle the carpet and ask the salesperson
about these signs of quality.
At least a 34- to 40-oz. face weight. This is the
number of ounces of fiber per square yard. The
range is generally from 20 to 80, and the higher the
number, the heavier and more resilient the carpet.
A tuft twist of 5 or higher. Twist is the number of
times the tufts are twisted together in a 1-in.
length. The higher the number, the more durable
A density rating of 2,000 or more. Density is
determined by the thickness of the fibers and how
tightly packed they are. The thicker and heavier
they are, the better quality the carpet and the less
susceptible to crushing. Bend the carpet sample
backward (Photo). If you can see the backing easily, it’s a
low-density (lower quality) carpet.
Is it BCF or staple fiber construction? Carpet
fibers can be either Bulked Continuous Filament
(BCF) or “staple.” Staple fibers shed more than BCF
fibers. This doesn’t affect the long-term quality of
the carpet, but it does mean you’ll have to vacuum
more often until the initial shedding stops (which
can take up to a year), and it can also be an issue for
At least a 10-year “texture retention” warranty.
This covers how well the fibers return to their original
shape after being walked on. Although manufacturers
tout their 15- and 25-year warranties,
salespeople caution that warranties are seldom honored
except in cases of obvious product defects.
How to get the best deal (and avoid being ripped off)
Salespeople have a tendency to “overmeasure” your carpet
needs. This means you pay for carpet and pad you don’t use.
Get several estimates, compare the yardage numbers, and
consider paying an independent carpet installer to measure your home.
A lot of carpet problems stem from
poor installation. Bad seaming, a too-thin
pad and inadequate stretching
can make a carpet look terrible within
a few years. If you or a friend knows a
great carpet installer, use that
person instead of one provided
by the carpet dealer.
The installer will measure
your house, tell you
exactly how much carpet
and pad to get, recommend
dealer, and pick up
the carpet and
deliver it on
You can save yourself some money on the installation by
removing the old carpet and pad yourself. Ask your installer
how much you’ll save to see if it’s worthwhile.
Get at least three estimates. Tell every salesperson that
you’ll be getting several estimates, and don’t discuss details
about other carpet bids you’ve received.
Have each carpet estimate include a flooring diagram that
shows measurements and seam locations.
Get an individual price quote for each aspect of the job,
including carpet, pad, delivery, installation, transition
metal pieces, furniture moving, stairs, and old carpet and
pad removal and disposal. It’s easy to be overcharged if
you just get an overall price for the job.
Make sure you’re home on
installation day. Get a sample of
the carpet and pad you’ve
ordered and compare them
with the carpet and pad that
show up on the truck. In some
instances, retailers deliver a
lower quality pad or carpet than
you’ve paid for.
Back to Top
In a nutshell
Do your research, and make sure a salesperson
doesn’t make the decisions for you. Base your carpet and pad decisions
on your lifestyle, household occupants
(kids and/or pets) and traffic levels.
Also consider the desired life span,
maintenance requirements, and the
looks and price of the carpet. Common sales gimmicks such as “free
pad with carpet purchase” can get you
cheap pad that can wreck your carpet.
Take the carpet samples you’ve selected
to at least three stores and compare
prices of similar products.
Get every item in your carpet bid priced
individually. This will make it easier to
Buy the Right Carpet Pad
The quality of carpet pad is determined
by density, not thickness.
The right pad will extend the life of
your carpet. The wrong pad can cut
the life of your carpet in half. A good-quality
pad will be 3/8 to 1/2 in. thick
and have a density/weight rating
of at least 6 lbs. (the residential
standard). In most cases, cheap,
low-density pad will only last a few
years before it needs to be replaced.
For high-traffic areas, get a thinner
pad with a density of 8 lbs. or more.
Some carpet manufacturers require
a specific type of pad in order to
maintain your carpet warranty
(such as when the carpet is laid over
heated floors). Check the carpet
warranty before you buy padding.
Where to Buy Carpet
Visit several retailers, including local,
family-owned businesses that survive
on customer referrals. Choose
the one that will give you the best
service, price and guarantee. Be
aware that $199 “basic installation
specials” often include hundreds of
dollars in extra fees for basic installation
items like steps, furniture
moving, and carpet and pad
removal. Carpet retailers located in a
mall or other high-rent locations
tend to have higher overhead that is
passed on to you in higher prices.