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Article is courtesy of the Carpet and Rug Institute

Carpet - nothing looks like it, feels like it or performs like it. And because carpet is a key decorative element in the home and a major purchase, you must keep several factors in mind during your selection process. This informative section was created to help you make a selection that best suits your home and your budget.

Location/ Use
Before purchasing carpet, you need to answer the following questions: How is the room going to be used? Will it have heavy or light traffic? Will the room be the center of activity for family and entertaining? Is there direct access from outside, or will the carpet be away from entrances? Will the carpet receive direct sunlight?

Where there is to be heavy traffic (usually the family room, hallways and stairways), choose the best carpet you can afford. When shopping for carpet, look for performance rating guidelines with various brands of carpet. This rating system offers guidance on choosing the carpet that will perform best for various traffic needs. Most will be based on a five point scale, with the number 4 or 5 rating being best for the highest traffic areas. A 2 to 3 rating is good for areas with less traffic.

The selection of carpet color is a very personal choice. You will want to select a color that unites your decorative elements and creates the atmosphere you desire. Lighter colors make the room seem larger; darker colors provide coziness. There are also practical considerations in color selection. New stain and soil resistant technology makes today's lighter color carpet much easier to clean, allowing more decorating options. Medium and darker colors, tweeds, and textures will help disguise common soil in your home's high traffic areas.

Your budget and your needs are two key elements in selecting carpet and rugs. There are a wide range of choices and costs from which to make your selection. Ask yourself how long you expect to keep your carpet before replacing it. A better grade of carpet will give you a greater length of service than one of lesser quality. Buy the best carpet you can afford for the heavy traffic areas of your home -- halls, stairs, family rooms. A medium grade will provide good service in rooms with less traffic -- bedrooms and guest rooms.

Ask your retailer to give you a complete cost estimate -- one that includes cushion, installation, moving of furniture, hauling off old flooring materials and any special needs that you may have. Keep in mind that a high-quality, professional installation can extend the life of your purchase.

Construction: Textures and patterns
Carpet construction - Describes how the yarn is "tufted" or locked into a backing. The method used in tufting affects its texture and ultimately, the long-term durability and appearance of the carpet.

Cut pile: Loops are cut, leaving individual yarn tufts. Still one of today's most popular constructions, its durability is achieved with factors including the type of fiber, density of tufts, and the amount of twist in the yarn.

  • Plush / Velvet -- Smooth, level surfaces; formal atmosphere, "velvet."plush velvet carpet
  • Saxony -- Smooth, level finish, but pile yarns have more twist so that the yarn ends are visible and create a less formal look. Minimizes foot prints.saxony carpet
  • Friezé -- In this cut pile, the yarns are extremely twisted, forming a "curly" textured surface.  This informal look also minimizes foot prints and vacuum marks.frieze carpet

Level loop: Loops are the same height, creating an informal look.

level loop carpet

Multi-level loop pile: Usually has two to three different loop heights to create pattern effects. Provides good durability and a more casual look.

multi level loop pile


Cut and loop pile: Combination of cut and looped yarns. Provides variety of surface textures, including sculptured effects of squares, chevrons, swirls, etc.

Approximately 97 percent of all carpet is produced using synthetic fibers that are designed to feature style, easy maintenance, and outstanding value. There are five basic types of carpet pile fibers.

Nylon: Represents two-thirds of the pile fibers used in the United States. Wear-resistant, resilient, withstands the weight and movement of furniture, and provides brilliant color. Ability to conceal and resist soils and stains. Generally good for all traffic areas. Solution-dyed nylon is colorfast because color is added in the fiber production.


Olefin (polypropylene): Strong, resists wear and permanent stains, and is easily cleaned. Notably colorfast because color is added in the fiber production. Resists static electricity and is often used in both indoor and outdoor installations because of its resistance to moisture and mildew. Used in synthetic turf for sports surfaces, and in the home for patios and game rooms. Many Berbers are made of olefin.


Polyester: Noted for luxurious, soft "hand" when used in thick, cut pile textures. Has excellent color clarity and retention. Easily cleaned, and resistant to water-soluble stains.


Acrylic: Offers the appearance and feel of wool without the cost. Has low static level and is moisture and mildew-resistant. Commonly used in velvet and level-loop constructions, and often in bath and scatter rugs.


Wool: Noted for its luxury and performance, wool is soft, has high bulk, and is available in many colors. Generally, wool is somewhat more expensive than synthetic fibers.


Blends: Today you will find many blends, such as wool/nylon and acrylic/olefin.

Measurement: square yard/ square foot comparison
To determine the approximate quantity of carpet you will need, multiply the length (feet) of the room by its width (feet) for the square footage. To obtain the square yardage, divide that figure by 9. Your retailer may figure the amount in square feet or square yards. Add 10 percent to account for room irregularities and pattern match. It is best to have your retailer or installer make final measurements to ensure that you purchase the correct amount. As professionals, they know how to include hallways and closets, match patterns, plan seam placement, work with room irregularities, and account for rooms with widths greater than 12 feet. (Most carpet is produced in 12 foot widths.) Dealers may sell by the square foot or the square yard.

Quality Factors
The type of fiber used and the way the carpet is constructed determines the basic performance of the carpet. Quality can be enhanced by the way the fibers, or yarns, are twisted and heat set, and by the density of the tufts.

Performance Glossary

  • Density - refers to the amount of pile yarn in the carpet and the closeness of the tufts. The denser, the better.
  • Twist - the winding of the yarn around itself. Should be neat and well-defined. A tighter twist provides enhanced durability.
  • Heat-setting - the process that sets the twist by heat or steam, enabling yarns to hold their twist over time. Important in cut pile carpet. Most nylon, olefin and polyester cut pile carpets are heat-set.
  • Performance - Some manufacturers have a rating scale for choosing carpet for various traffic areas . high, moderate or low.



Styling Revolution Pushes Carpet to Center Stage Carpet and rugs have stepped to center stage as the focal point for interior design. Today's distinctive textures and patterns are pushing carpet and rugs to the forefront as an integral focus of an overall design scheme rather than as a neutral backdrop for other furnishings.

"Today's shopper is looking for freshness and innovation," said Pam O' Toole, carpet fashion coordinator for Shaw Industries. "The perception of carpet is changing as more styling options with unique textures, patterns and colors are available. There are literally thousands of different 'looks' on the market today."

Carpet with texture or soft patterns offers more fashion appeal and distinctive styling. Layered color and texture mark a major shift in developing unique products for the future. Texture and pattern are most popular in style because they minimize soil and vacuum marks.

"When combined with chenille and velvet fabrics, styles like nubby loops and tonal patterns bring softness and comfort to the home," said O' Toole.

Distinctive applied and woven patterns are gaining a wider audience. Soft layered patterns in designs of leaves, trellises and flowers are important because they are organic shapes that coordinate easily with other interior patterns. Today's weaving technology allows woven patterns to be rendered economically.

Multicolored loops, cut/loop surfaces and Berber-flecked styles feature strong colors borrowed from commercial palettes that become flecks or accent tufts. Traditional saxonies and textured saxonies offer the broadest selection of colors for consumers who prefer to make a "wall-to-wall color statement."

 Neutral carpet doesn't have to be "middle of the road" While some consumers are choosing more "daring" carpet and rugs with floral, plaid, even houndstooth patterns, neutral carpet, especially Berber, is still a popular decorative floor covering choice. However, unlike the more simple, subdued Berbers of the early '90s, traditionally neutral carpet is stepping out with more pizzazz.

The carpet styles of today have evolved to be in keeping with consumers' interest in neutral design while addressing their growing love for texture and pattern. These modern textures are allowing for height variation and sculptured effects once only associated with plush or velvet carpet.

For those not comfortable choosing a bold, colorful floor pattern, today's Berbers can provide visual interest underfoot with more extreme differences in pile cut and thicker, deeper loop textures. Geometric squares featured at multiple levels, diamond shapes and even waves create surfaces that are pleasing to the eye and softer than ever.

And color does not have to be so subtle to still be neutral. Many carpet manufacturers are producing Berbers and sisal look-alikes with the added flair of color sprinkled against a neutral background to add more dimension and help mask spots and spills. Carpet even is being flecked with many different colors to create a tweed-like appearance that is practical yet stylish. These flecks of color are not only being found in tan, beige and cream backgrounds, but also in "new neutrals" such as soft greens, pale yellows and shades of blue.


Soft, Liveable, Comfortable, Texture - the Decorating Focus for Today With optimism in a strong economy, we are expressing ourselves in our homes more than ever before. Americans, at last, are not primarily thinking about resale value in their homes when they decorate. We are yearning for simplicity and casualness and want to make our homes softer and more livable and to express our own individuality in color and texture. This yearning will translate into both neutral colors for a calming effect, and into strong accents of red, blue, and purple. It will also translate into heavier textures for casual looks to counterbalance smooth textures on other surfaces.

Because carpet is a foundation of decorating, it is an important consideration in the overall scheme of color and texture. Carpet can be one of the easiest ways to personalize an environment, and yet, it can still be flexible and versatile, allowing a gentle blending with fabrics and other surfaces. Its color can be a neutral foundation or a vibrant focal point. Neutral beige can have a yellow or pink tint and blend with many fabrics. A more vibrant color, such as the blues or greens of water and the environment, can tie together many different decorating styles and be an exciting personal statement.

Currently, neutrals may appear as a peach or other softened ethnic skin tones, such as browned orange. "Interest in colors of various skin tones is evidence of increased acceptance of cultural blending resulting from globalization," states the Color Marketing Group in their Year 2000 Consumer Color Directions. The Color Marketing Group interprets trends they see in consumer behavior and in economic and political climates, predicting color direction one to three or more years in advance.

Customizing your home with carpet may seem easier to accomplish by using a textural pattern rather than a bold color. Soft, comfortable colors can offer excitement with a dimensional texture tufted or woven into the carpet. In addition to conventional loop pile construction, new machines produce remarkable multi-level loop and cut and loop patterns.

Today's advanced technology has produced beautiful offerings: bows, swirls, lattices, plaids, pin dots, and fleur de lis that "pop out" in carpet constructed with cut and loop yarns and in high and low loop yarns. The textural interest on the floor does not detract from florals, stripes, and other patterns desired in fabrics on the furniture and at the windows. Visual texture in carpet increases the perception of quality and value and offers a delightful contrast to smoother elements, such as furniture surfaces, walls and counters. When considering a change in your home, think about the carpet early in the planning. It may be the most effective way to change the entire look of a room, whether you want bold color or a soft, neutral color with pizzazz in the texture.

For more information on carpet go to

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