Even if, like me, you want hardwood, tile and/or vinyl flooring throughout most of your house, many of us love the warmth, style and soft surface that carpet provides, especially in bedrooms. Carpeting also muffles sound, so it can be especially practical in kids bedrooms or playrooms.
This week’s episode will give you a better understanding how to choose quality carpeting. Carpeting that should last you at least 15 or 20 years.
Historically carpets and rugs were woven by hand. But most carpeting today is machine made. First, natural or synthetic fibers are converted into yarn, and then that yarn is woven into the carpet backing.
The majority of carpet on the market today is made of synthetic yarn, most commonly nylon, polyester, olefin and triexta, which a relatively new fiber that’s similar to polyester.
Natural fiber carpets are most commonly made of wool, but silk, cotton or bamboo are also used. Natural carpets are obviously a greener choice, but they are also typically more expensive and more high maintenance that synthetic carpets.
How durable, or long lasting, a carpet is depends characteristics of the pile. The pile is the surface of the carpet with the yarn. In other words, the pile is the top surface of the carpet— the surface you walk on.
There are 3 characteristics of the pile that determine the durability of carpet— the twist, the density, the type of fiber.
Let’s start by going over twist
The twist is determined by how the fibers are spun into yarn, and how the yarn is twisted upon itself. The tighter the twist, the more the carpet will resist changes in appearance and texture and the better it will resist wear and tear. The twist is usually locked into the fiber with a steam or heat. Typically, carpets that feature yarns with 7 or more twists per inch are very durable. So you’re looking for 7 or more twists per inch.
Density denotes how densely, or closely the fibers are stitched together. The closer the pieces of yarn are to one another, the denser the carpet. In general, the more dense the carpet, the better the quality.
You can compare the density of different carpet choices by looking for the carpet pile weight. The weight can vary from 20 to 100 ounces per square foot. Durable carpet is at least 50 ounces per square foot.
You can also check the density of carpet by pressing your fingers into the pile (again that’s the top of the carpet). The more difficult it is to reach the backing material, the denser the carpet.
You can also check the carpet density by folding it. With the carpet pile facing you, bend the carpet into a U shape to see how much of the backing you can see through the yarn. The less backing you see, the more dense the carpet.
The most commonly sold carpet on the market today is nylon. In fact, about 50% of carpet purchased is nylon carpet.
Nylon carpet is long wearing and good for high-traffic areas. It resists pilling and fuzzing. Nylon carpet is also abrasion resistant, good for kids and pets who roll around on the floor.
But nylon carpet is only stain resistant if it has been specially treated. StainMaster is a well-known nylon that has been treated for stain resistance.
Triexta carpet, like nylon carpet, is long wearing and resistant to pilling and fuzzing. And triexta fibers are inherently stain resistant, plus they’re soft to the touch. Although triexta is thought to be equally, or even more durable than nylon, it is relatively new on the market so we don’t exactly know how well triexta will perform over time.
Polyester carpet is soft to the touch, it resists fading and it resists water-based stains, but can be stained with oil based substances. Polyester is typically less durable than nylon, so polyester carpets are better suited for low-traffic areas.
Olefin carpet resists fading, stains and moisture and mildew, so it’s suitable for both indoor and outdoor areas, but it generates static electricity and it comes in only a limited number of colors.
And the last fiber we’ll talk about today is wool.
The most popular natural fiber carpet on the market is wool carpeting. It has a soft, luxurious feel, but may be less durable than synthetic carpets. Wool stains and wool carpet usually costs more.
Next, let’s briefly go over how a carpet is dyed because that can contribute to how readily its color will fade.
Post-dyed, or stock-dyed, carpet is dyed after the yarn is tufted (tufted just means stitched into the backing material). Most residential carpets are post-dyed. The dye is on the surface of the yarn and doesn’t deeply penetrate the fibers, so it could be prone to fading. But dye additives used in modern carpeting provide relatively good color retention, so the color stands up to sunlight and regular cleaning with less fading.
Solution-dyed, or pre-dyed, carpets are made with yarns that are dyed before the yarn is stitched to the backing. Color is deposited throughout the thickness of the fiber, producing an extremely colorfast carpet, meaning it is highly resistant to fading. As you might imagine, pre-dyed carpets tend to be more expensive than post-dyed carpets.
The last thing that we’ll talk about that contributes to the longevity of carpet is the pile height. The shorter the pile height, or nap, the more the carpet resists crushing and matting. With less crushing and matting, the carpet will look newer for longer.
Now, a quick word about the carpet padding or cushion.
Selecting a good quality cushion for your carpet improves your carpet’s appearance, comfort and durability. It also helps buffer sound and provides increased insulation, making a room quieter and warmer.
You’ll want to check the carpet manufacturer's recommendations for cushion thickness and density. Typically, though, in bedrooms and other areas with light or moderate traffic, you’ll can get away with a thicker, softer cushion. These thicker, plusher cushions are super comfortable underfoot.
But In high traffic areas like family rooms, hallways, and stairs, you’ll need a thinner, firmer cushion.
If you choose the wrong carpet cushion, you could experience wrinkling and buckling of your carpet, separation of the carpet seams and breakdown of the carpet structure itself. And if you don’t follow the carpet manufacturer’s cushion recommendations, you may void the carpet’s warranty.
So in summary:
Choose nylon carpet if you want a durable, tried and true favorite. But for stain resistance, it needs to be treated.
Select polyester if you want carpet that’s soft to the touch, but know that you’ll be sacrificing some durability, so it’s best to limit polyester carpet to low or moderate traffic areas.
Try Triexta if you want the best of all worlds— luxurious feel, durability and stain resistance, but realize it’s a newcomer to the market, so data on its long term performance is not available.
And look for wool carpet if making the greenest choice is most important to you, but be ready to sacrifice durability and stain resistance.
Before I go, I want to thank EBW for your itunes 5 star rating and review. EBW, you’re an absolute gem too, for taking time out to let me and potential listeners know that you enjoy the podcast. I appreciate you for doing that.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Well, that’s it for this week. I hope you learned as much as I did. Hope you'll come back next week.