Carpet vs. Rugs: How To Know What’s Best for You

Updated: Jun. 05, 2024

See where our experts stand on the rug vs. carpet debate. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages, and how to choose the right option.

Carpet Vs RugFamily Handyman, Getty Images (2)

Rugs or carpets? Which flooring option should you go with?

As someone who has spent a fair amount of time pondering over the perfect floor covering for my home, I understand the dilemma you’re facing. And I’m old enough to remember the days when carpeted bathrooms and kitchens were all the rage. How was that ever a thing?

Being a strange and unconventional soul, I went against the grain and chose both: High-quality neutral wall-to-wall carpets, with funky, bold patterned rugs strategically placed over them.

Why? I have dogs, worry about the health of their joints, and rugs don’t give me the same level of coverage as carpets. In my mind, the rugs add color, interest, texture and extra protection in high-traffic areas, while the carpets provide full flooring coverage that’s safe for my dogs’ long-term skeletal health. Not in the bathroom or the kitchen, though.

Interior designer Colette Shelton had this to say about rugs vs. carpet debate:

“While renovating the CocoCozy Design House living room, I layered area rugs for a modern design look. I didn’t want to add wall-to-wall carpeting because it will make the living room look dated. I decided to layer area rugs to add a combination of color and texture to the neutral space. You can also explore these tips to make your rugs cozy for comfort!

“One of the benefits of using area rugs is that you can always easily swap them out later if you want to change the design of any space.”

Wall-To-Wall Carpet

When we talk about carpets in this context, we’re referring to wall-to-wall carpeting. It’s installed across the entire floor of a room from one wall to another, held in place with tack strips and stretched to fit perfectly. It’s a permanent or semi-permanent fixture that can dramatically change the look and feel of a space.

“Quick builder flips and cheap apartments give wall-to-wall carpet a lousy name, but not all carpet is created equal,” says design expert Beth Martin. “Luxury carpet is a phenomenal material, but it’s costly and not what is typically seen in most homes. If you have the budget for high-quality carpet, this is a fantastic and lavish option for bedrooms and family rooms.

“Most carpet is seen as a budget solution because it’s easy to install and rip out, but the inexpensive versions are terrible. Cheap carpet off-gasses forever, is almost impossible to keep clean, and feels awful because it’s just plastic.”

Advantages of Wall-to-Wall Carpet

  • Cost: Available to suit every budget, from super-affordable to high-end luxury.
  • Variety: Carpet comes in a wide range of colors, patterns and materials, allowing you to customize your space to your liking.
  • Comfort: Provides a soft, warm surface underfoot that’s comfortable to walk on.
  • Insulation: Carpet helps regulate the internal temperature year-round.
  • Durability: High-end products will last for many years.

Disadvantages of Wall-to-Wall Carpet

  • Maintenance: Requires regular vacuuming and occasional deep cleaning to look its best.
  • Durability: Budget carpets tend to wear out quickly.
  • Allergies: Can trap allergens like dust and pet dander, a concern for people with allergies.
  • Resale value: Some buyers may view wall-to-wall carpeting as a drawback.

Rugs

A rug, in the context of home decor, is a piece of heavy fabric used as a floor covering. Unlike carpet, a rug doesn’t cover the entire floor and isn’t attached to the floor. It’s a versatile and movable option. Indoor rugs can add color, pattern and warmth inside a room while outdoor rugs for wood decks are a perfect way to cozy up or add life to a drab area.( Don’t forget to discover tips to get rug under bed.)

Advantages of Rugs

  • Versatility: Easy to move, replace or rotate, allowing you to change the look of your room without a significant investment.
  • Easy to clean: Most rugs can be cleaned with a standard vacuum. Some smaller rugs can even be washed in a machine.
  • Protection: Rugs can protect hard floors¬†from scratches and dents.
  • Variety: Available in a wider range of colors and patterns than carpets.
  • Cost: While high-quality rugs are costly, more affordable options can quickly transform a space without breaking the bank.

Disadvantages of Rugs

  • Slipping hazard: Without the right underlay, rugs can slide around or bunch up.
  • Size limitations: Rugs come in standard sizes, which may not fit your space perfectly.
  • Coverage: Rugs don’t usually cover the entire floor, so they don’t insulate quite as well as carpet.

Choose Carpet If…

  • You want a soft, warm surface underfoot.
  • You prefer a uniform look across your room or home.
  • You’re not planning to change your decor frequently.

Choose a Rug If…

  • You want the flexibility to change your decor easily.
  • You have beautiful floors you’d like to show off.
  • You’re looking for a way to add color and pattern to your room. For example, throwing a kitchen rug can bring visual interest and character to the kitchen.
  • You want to protect your hard floors from damage.

Next: Learn how to get creases out of rugs.