Let’s face it: walking into a carpet showroom is a daunting experience.
Whether you’re doing a full-scale remodel or swapping out carpet that’s seen better days, selecting carpet for your home is no small endeavor.
With seemingly endless options of colors, patterns, brands, it can be challenging to try to make the right decision, especially when you get conflicting information from each salesperson.
I’m here to help you make sense of the barrage of information out there, and give it to you straight.
Hi, I’m Amy Farnum, and I’ve been in the flooring industry for six years, with the last two years being under my own company, Inspired Design Inc, where I help homeowners just like you with big decisions just like this!
With this article, you’ll receive all the information you need to make an informed decision on your carpet project. You’ll learn about carpet’s basic components, which all directly relate to how a carpet is priced. You’ll learn many pros and cons of particular aspects of carpet, and sometimes we’ll even get a little scientific.
In this article, I’m going to cover a lot of information about carpet including:
The two main fiber types:
Faceweight - What is it and how it is useful?
Manufacturing details such as
Backing materials - What are they and why do they matter?
Stain-blocking coatings - What are they and why you should care?
Patterns - What to look for in a patterned carpet
Carpet Padding - Is the “best” pad always the right pad?
With this carpet buying guide, you’ll feel confident knowing your carpet purchase will be the right carpet for your home and lifestyle.
Components of Carpet
What carpet is made of and all the details that go into it, influence everything from aesthetics, price and durability. But the three main factors that contribute to what makes one carpet different from an other are:
Because each of these is crucial to understanding how the carpet will perform, it's durability, and it's price point, let's go into detail on each one.
Types of Fiber in Carpet
Let’s first define what fiber and yarn means when it relates to carpet.
Much like yarn for knitting, carpet fibers are twisted together to make carpet yarn. What the yarn is made of, is the fiber. If we stick with the analogy of knitting, it’s like buying cotton yarn vs. alpaca yarn.
What type of fiber you select, has a vast impact on the use, durability, performance and price of the carpet.
There are basically two types of fibers for carpet that I’ll be going into detail here: nylon and polyester.
Let me note that there are other fiber types of carpet fiber such as wool, jute, etc. You will also find branded yarn fibers like Smartstrand Triexta or Stainmaster Nylon.
However, the most common carpet fibers that you will come across, however, are polyester and nylon. So for that reason, I’ll stick with those for this article.
Polyester is a very soft carpet fiber. This is especially the case if you have a higher-end polyester. I mean, it is luxuriously soft.
If you're specifically looking for something soft to wiggle your toes in, polyester carpet is absolutely a great choice.
It also resists staining well. Anything that is organic in matter that is spilled, tends to be released from polyester carpet very easily.
That means red wine spills, dirt, and even blood (hey, kids get nosebleeds, so it’s worth mentioning!) get released from polyester fairly easily.
However, there is one caveat to this: polyester doesn't release oils.
If you've ever had a polyester shirt (I wear them for working out or golfing, for example),and you accidentally have a tiny amount of grease drip from food onto your shirt, well, guess what? That grease (oil) stain is never coming out of that polyester shirt. This is a very similar situation to what happens with polyester carpet.
That being said, a lot of manufacturers have developed a coating they put on their carpet to help prevent this from happening.
With Shaw Flooring carpet, they have what is called R2X coating on all of their carpets, which creates a hydrostatic topcoat. Basically, it tends to make spills stay on top of the carpet, and it takes some time before gravity takes hold and the liquid seeps in. This is great because it allows you to have a minute to go get a towel and sop things up while the liquid rests on top of your carpet before sinking in.
Lastly, polyester carpet is not always going to be the most durable option. Think of it this way: soft does not mean durable. (If you do get a very dense polyester, that means it's going to not fold over, and, therefore, it actually will be a lot more durable. But more on that later.)
The reason that polyester carpet is so soft is because of its molecular structure. Yay science! 🤓
If you look at the structure of polyester underneath a microscope, all the molecules are stacked in a straight line. This creates a much smoother feel because at it’s elemental foundation, the material is all stacked straight.
It's that straight-stack molecular structure that is also making it not as durable and tend to fold over, though. If that structure gets bent, there will be a permanent kink in it. Because of this, polyester is more prone to crushing and matting down.
Nylon is the other main carpet fiber you’ll find out there. This is far more durable than polyester, however, it also tends to feel more rough. They've done a really good job at Shaw making nylon carpet that is softer (called Anso Nylon), but let me tell you a little bit why nylon in general tends to be more durable in the long run over a polyester.
I like science, so let’s go back to looking at our carpet samples underneath a microscope.
Nylon fiber is going to have a completely different shape. Its structure resembles more of a spiral or a spring shape. And just like a spring, when it something presses down on it, it wants to bounce back up. When it gets stepped on, it wants to bounce back. Nylon’s natural tendency is to want to push up, which is different than the polyester that once bent, it stays bent.
In your carpet shopping experience, you may hear someone speak of Smartstrand Triexta or Stainmaster Nylon. Basically, these are branded types of polyester and nylon, respectively.
The way that things are going with manufacturers’ difficulty to access to raw materials, we're seeing more and more manufacturers developing their own branded fibers. For the most part, you are really getting very similar qualities out of each of these branded carpets because elementally they are either a polyester or nylon.
For instance, Smartstrand Triexta is branded as a separate carpet fiber developed by Mohawk. And technically they can say it is a different fiber because molecularly is slightly different.
It looks very similar to a polyester fiber which is all in a straight line, however it zigzags back and forth. I’ve often heard that Smartstrand Triexta is a polyester with an extra kink in it. Still, not the full shape of a spring structure like nylon is, however it does have more bounce-back capability than a regular polyester.