Carpet Buying Guide | Type | Price | Eco-Friendly Options

Beige carpet in living room
A symbol of luxury decor in the 1950s, carpet provides comfort and cushion beneath your feet while also boosting insulation and absorbing sound. Today’s options focus as much on durability and eco-friendliness as indulgence. So, kick off your shoes and get to know more about carpet styles, fibers and functions, and check out our translation of some of the puzzling showroom lingo you might encounter.
Pick My Match
There are two main factors to consider when purchasing carpet: what fiber material it is made of and how that fiber is woven to create a surface. Each material offers unique characteristics and provides various benefits, including durability and stain resistance. Once you understand what the differences in materials and surfaces are, you can make an informed decision and choose a carpet that will fit your needs.  
All Tied Up
Carpet fibers can be natural, like wool, or they can be synthetic, such as acrylic, nylon, olefin or polyester. A carpet made with wool fibers has a deep, rich appearance and excellent resilience and durability. Acrylic is wool’s closest imitation and is known for a wide color selection and color stability, even in bright sunlight. The most common carpet material, nylon, has the strongest fiber, making it an excellent choice for high-traffic areas. Then there is polyester, which is stain resistant, but is not as durable as nylon—it’s easy to clean and significantly less expensive than other materials. If you need serious moisture resistance, consider olefin (also called polypropylene), which was originally designed for outdoor carpeting and basements.
A newer carpet yarn, triexta (pronounced “tree-X-ta”) is a subclass of polyester. What’s exciting about triexta is that its durability rivals nylon’s; it is colorfast, stain resistant and has a much softer feel than other synthetics. Carpet made of this new fiber also comes in an eco-friendly version, produced partly with corn glucose, a renewable resource, rather than with petroleum. Today, you can find other polyester carpets that are made with up to 100 percent recycled content from items like plastic bottles.
Speaking of “green” options, just like with paint, a carpet’s level of volatile organic compounds (VOC) can be an issue—VOCs are solvents used to produce carpet that eventually evaporate into the air and can have a negative impact on your health. You can choose low-VOC carpets—the Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) Green Label Plus program sets the standard for low-emission carpet products. Look for the CRI label when purchasing carpet to rest assured it has passed stringent tests certifying that it has low VOC emissions. 
Pile It On
A carpet’s pile, the yarn’s height and surface, determines what it feels like underfoot and how it will hold up to daily wear and tear. “Cut pile” describes fibers that are attached to carpet backing and are cut so they stand up. Cut pile types include saxony, which is level and clipped to about half an inch high; textured pile, with two-toned yarn and an uneven surface; and frieze carpets, which have twisted fibers, imparting a more casual, almost disheveled look. Plush carpets have longer pile lengths and shag carpet gives longer piles a twist.
In addition to these and other cut pile options, you’ll also find plenty of “loop pile” carpets, which feature yarns that are looped and fastened to the backing. 
When it comes to creativity, modular carpet can really give you a leg—or maybe a foot—up. Carpet tiles or squares can be arranged in anything from one all-over color to almost any sort of individual pattern or design. They are easy to install and, as a bonus, if a stain or damage occurs, you only need to replace a tile rather than the entire carpet. 
Installation & Maintenance
Call in a professional to handle wall-to-wall carpet installation in order to make sure the carpet stays put and the seams are inconspicuous. While no seam is invisible, some carpets and designs hide them better than others. Ask your retailer about carpet pad options, too—this layer underneath the carpet will greatly affect your carpet’s feel and the insulation it provides. With careful selection and proper maintenance, you’ll be walking on air for years to come.
Expert Tips
Stain-resistant carpets are hydrophobic (do not absorb water), and soil-resistant carpets are oleophobic (do not absorb oil). Some fibers may be one and not the other.
A carpet’s pile cut and shape determine not only its look and feel, but also affect its durability.
For many carpets, a weekly pass with a vacuum with good suction and a
rotating head will keep them looking their best. For delicate carpets, use a vacuum without a rotating head.
All carpets begin as a "loop" carpet—the yarns are looped and fastened to a backing. But if the loops are cut at the top, the carpet is now called a "cut pile" carpet.
Illustration of Level Loop, Multilevel Loop, Saxony, Cut Pile, Plush, Cut and Loop, Level Cut and Loop and Frieze courtesy of City Tile & Floor Covering,
Carpet Type - level loop, cut pile, saxony
Level loops are evenly cut for a smooth finish
Multilevel loops are unevenly cut for a textured finish
Saxony, level piles are clipped to half an inch high
Plush carpet piles are lower and more dense than in saxony carpets
Frieze carpets have twisted fibers, imparting
a more casual, almost disheveled look
Textured with loops and piles of different lengths
Level with loops and piles of the same length
Shag carpet gives longer piles a twist
Low-VOC carpets
Triexta fiber carpets processed with corn glucose
Polyester fiber carpets made from 100% recycled materials
Sisal, jute, coir, bamboo, seagrass or hemp area rugs, all made from plant-based materials
Olefin: $1
Polyester: $1.50
Nylon: $3
Wool: $9
*(Add $1.50/sq. ft. as an estimate for padding and installation.)
Buying a carpet remnant is a good way to save money. Remnants are created when a store cuts carpet off a roll, creating leftovers. The retailer doesn’t want the remaining carpet taking up space, so they sell it at a discount. Remnants can be discounted anywhere between 10 to 90 percent.
Fiber | The carpet material
Pile | The height and surface of the fiber
Density | How closely strands of fiber are packed; a higher density means a stronger carpet
Weight Measured in ounces per square yard; face weight is the amount of fiber on the surface, a higher face weight means a higher quality
Texture | Determined by the ways fibers are cut, looped and twisted
Twist The number of times fibers turn in a one-inch length
Builders Floor Covering & Tile | 
Enhance Floors & More |
Myers Carpet |
MODA Floors & Interiors |
Southern Classic Floors & More |
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