A Guide to Choosing New Carpet

There are many styles of carpet to choose from to reflect your personal preference and decorating style. Each type of carpet offers varying degrees of durability, stain-resistance and insulation value. In addition to researching such aspects of carpeting, it also pays to ask yourself a few questions before making the investment in new carpet.

For example, how much of traffic your carpet will experience? Do you have active kids or pets? Do you frequently entertain? If so, you may want to choose high durability products perhaps even paying a bit more for commercial grade. The choice of carpet also varies depending on where it will be used in your home. For example, a luxurious wool carpet may be fine for the bedroom but may not offer adequate stain protection in a dining area.

Another important consideration before buying carpet is the amount of time you can devote to cleaning. Do you have time for a thorough vacuuming once or twice a week? Are you willing to rent a steam cleaner twice a year to give your carpets a thorough cleaning? Carpets tend to trap dirt, mold, dander, pet hair and other potential allergens. They can also host fleas brought in by a pet. Regular cleaning not only keeps your carpets looking good, it also keeps allergens to a minimum. Choose a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to trap microscopic particles. Non-HEPA vacuums can actually worse the problem by making allergens airborne. Dust can also accumulate in carpet so it is a good idea to vacuum upholstery and wipe any dust-laden area with a damp cloth.

Sound and Heat

One thing you may notice in auditoriums, churches or other large meeting halls is the prevalence of hard materials: wood, concrete, plastic. These surfaces reflect sound without muting it. Soft materials such as fabric and carpet tend to absorb and reduce noise levels. This can be a benefit in large rooms in which the sound of radio, television computer and other modern appliances can become bothersome.

Another benefit of carpet is the warmth that it provides both in terms of ambiance and insulation properties. Carpet helps prevent the exchange of cold air up through the floor and warm air leaving the room. Some carpets and carpet pads are labeled with their R-value - the standardized insulation value. The higher the R-value, the more insulation the product provides.

Fibres

You will find a vast selection of fibres, styles and prices. Years ago, wool was the only option. Today, 98% of carpets are made from synthetic materials. There are five fibre types. They are nylon, polypropolene, polyester, acrylic and wool.

  • Nylon is strong, scuff resistant and easily cleaned. It retains colour well and resists mildew. Most nylon carpets are stain-resistant to protect against household spills and stains.
  • Polypropolene, also called olefin, wears well and resists stains and mildew better than most other fibres. It is also economical. However, it scores low on luxury, flattens easily and is rough to the touch.
  • Polyester has a luxurious feel, rich colour and is one of the most effective fibres for resisting stains. However, it is a softer fibre that tends to mat and crush more easily than nylon.
  • Acrylic has the look and feel of wool at a lower price. It has a low static level and stands up well to sunlight and mildew however it attracts and holds oily stains.
  • Wool is the most expensive and the most luxurious choice. It offers moderate stain resistance however it is easy to clean because the bulky fibres hold dirt high in the pile.

Resistance

The majority of carpets on the market today are either naturally stain-resistant, or have had some treatment to prevent stains from penetrating the fibre. Most food and beverage stains can be wiped off with cold water.

If you wish to carpet the bathroom, select a carpet that has been given an antimicrobial chemical treatment to reduce the growth of common bacteria, fungi, yeast, mold and mildew.

Pile

Pile refers to the way yarn is attached to the backing of the carpet and also to the shape of the yarn. The following piles types are good for high traffic areas. Frieze has twisted yarn tufts, which curl at the carpet surface, hiding footprints and making it suitable for high traffic areas. Textured carpet is made from a cut pile of twisted yarn tufts, creating a surface that masks footprints. Loop pile, such as Berber, has evenly cut yarn. It generally lasts a long time in high-traffic areas.

If you are replacing old carpet, it is advisable to replace your underlay at the same time. A carefully selected carpet cushion can extend the life of your carpet. It can help absorb the shock from foot traffic, thus preventing the carpet fibres from matting and crushing.

A well-informed sales person can help you with your selection and discuss such issues as density, twist level and choosing the proper carpet pad.

Most stores use fluorescent lighting, which tends to cast a blue hue that interferes with the ability to accurately judge colours. Remember, when choosing a carpet, ask to take samples home so that you can look at them next to your furnishings in both natural and artificial light.

Finding the right carpet for your home can be a complex process of choosing the best colours, textures and materials to suit your style. A good choice can complement your home for years to come. Not to mention, on winter mornings bare feet will appreciate the warmth of carpet!

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