Outdoor Carpet Buying Guide

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Give your patio or deck a cozy living-room feel, rain or shine, with durable yet soft outdoor carpeting. This isn't your grandparents' outdoor carpet!

If you hear outdoor carpet and think rough plastic shag that resembles synthetic turf, think again. Softer, more stylish and longer lasting than in the past, outdoor carpet is increasingly popular with homeowners who want to transform their patio or deck into an inviting space for relaxing or entertaining.

Like its indoor counterpart, outdoor carpet is a versatile decorative feature that can brighten an open-air living space with a splash of color or eye-catching pattern while providing a comfortable surface for padding around in bare feet.

“There are many decorative options, so you can find one that’s cohesive with your home’s interiors,” notes interior designer and HGTV host Arlene Gibbs. Unlike indoor carpet, however, you won’t have to worry about dirt, rain or sun ruining this hardy fade-resistant floor covering.

Read our buying guide below to help you choose the ideal outdoor carpet for your space and budget.

What Is Outdoor Carpet?

Made with fade-resistant synthetic or natural fibers that don’t trap dirt and moisture, outdoor carpet is designed to weather the elements without losing its color or developing mold and mildew.

This durable floor covering is usually made with an easy-to-clean low pile or flat weave. It comes in broadloom rolls or tiles and planks that can be installed wall-to-wall or cut into smaller pieces and finished around the edges to form a partial floor covering or an area rug.

Types of Outdoor Carpet

Outdoor carpets are generally made of synthetic fibers that are UV-stable to retain their color, resistant to mold and mildew and durable enough to stand up to long summers of barbecues and outdoor gatherings. Always opt for marine backing for extra water resistance, especially in exposed areas or damp climates. The choices:

  • Polypropylene (a.k.a. olefin): Most synthetic outdoor carpets are made from this colorfast fiber that resists stains and mildew. Its durability and UV treatment make it ideal for exposed and often-used outdoor living areas, including open-air dining and play spaces. It can be cleaned with bleach and a hose, making it a sanitary choice for families with babies and toddlers as well.

  • Nylon: Able to withstand the rigors of the great outdoors almost as well as polypropylene, nylon is an excellent choice for heavily-trafficked patios and decks. This synthetic material tends to heat up under direct sunlight, however, so is best for shaded outdoor living spaces.

  • Polyester: Less resilient to daily wear than polypropylene or nylon and susceptible to oil-based stains, polyester is a solid option for quieter outdoor spaces that are not dedicated to cooking or dining.

  • Acrylic: One of the softest synthetic fibers, colorfast acrylic resists mold, mildew and stains with the best of them. But its poor durability makes it unsuitable for outdoor living areas that draw heavy foot traffic.

  • Natural fibers: Seagrass, jute, bamboo, hemp and sisal are used primarily to make outdoor area rugs rather than carpet, but their lusciously soft feel and eco-friendly production warrant a mention. Unfortunately, they are significantly less durable than synthetic fibers and prone to fading, mold and mildew.

Pros and Cons of Outdoor Carpet

Pros:

  • UV-stable, mold- and mildew-resistant and durable;

  • Easy to clean and maintain;

  • Choice of colors, styles and price points;

  • Protects deck or patio flooring from wear.

Cons:

  • Must be installed using carpet adhesive or tape;

  • Can develop mold or mildew in humid conditions;

  • Not as cushiony underfoot as indoor carpet.

How Much Does Outdoor Carpet Cost?

Compared to other outdoor flooring options, outdoor carpet is a budget-friendly choice. The average price of materials is about $1.45 per square foot, although prices range from 50 cents per square foot on the low end for broadloom rolls to $2.50 per square foot on the high end for tiles or planks. Consider that ceramic tile begins at around $1.75 per square foot, whereas the average cost of wood per square foot is about $3.85, aluminum about $11.25 and composite decking about $12.

Where to Buy Outdoor Carpet?

Outdoor carpet is sold at many home improvement stores and some indoor carpet retailers. For low- to mid-range outdoor carpet options, browse the selection at The Home Depot and Menards. Flooring Inc. offers a wide array of rolls, tiles and planks from mid-range to high-end, as well as outdoor area rugs. If you want to splurge, Gibbs suggests the gorgeous luxury brand Stark Carpet’s Eternal collection.

How to Install Outdoor Carpet

The easiest type of outdoor carpet to install is tile or plank, especially those with a hassle-free self-adhesive backing. But even installing broadloom carpet rolls is relatively simple. A DIYer with intermediate skills can cover a deck or patio in a day with a few essential tools, including a tape measure and straight edge for marking the carpet, and scissors and a utility knife for cutting and trimming. You’ll also need a 100-pound roller (available to rent) and carpet adhesive or special double-sided tape.

Once you have gathered your materials and tools, installation is essentially a process of cutting, fitting and gluing the carpet pieces to the surface beneath, then finishing it off with the roller to smooth out any irregularities.

Outdoor Carpet Maintenance and Cleaning

Outdoor carpeting needs almost no maintenance, although there are a few precautions you should take to maintain it over the years. To avoid stains, spot-clean spilled food or beverages immediately. Place grills or smokers far away so escaped embers don’t melt a hole in your carpet. After a heavy rain, use a push broom to remove standing water to discourage mold and mildew from growing.

Cleaning outdoor carpeting is a breeze. Remove dirt and dust from your carpet with a broom or vacuum fitted with the regular floor head (not the rotating brush), then mix dish detergent with lukewarm water and scrub out mud or stains with a brush or push broom. End by rinsing the soapy water with a sponge or garden hose.

Rebecca Winke
Rebecca Winke moved to Italy from Chicago in 1993 and shortly thereafter took a deep dive into country living by renovating a sprawling medieval stone farmhouse and running it as a B&B for 20 years. Today, she spends her time writing about travel, culture, and food (it's Italy, after all!) for publications like The Telegraph and Italy Magazine, as well as pondering the strange winds that blew an urban vegetarian to a farm in Umbria.