Ultimate Carpet Guide: Piles, Materials, Types, and More
Looking into getting a new carpet or installing carpet for the first time? There’s a ton of info, and some of it can be really confusing. We put together this ultimate carpet guide with you in mind. Below, you can find everything that you need to know about carpets: the different types and materials, the difference between a pile and a loop, and all the pros and cons of having carpeting in your home or business. Stay tuned till the end where we answer a bunch of common questions, too. If it’s important and it’s about carpets, it’s right here in our ultimate carpet guide!
Different Types of Carpet
Depending on whom you ask, there are as many as a dozen different types of carpeting, and at least that many things to consider when buying carpet. Some varieties are more durable, while others tend to be easier to clean. Some are made from natural materials, while others are synthetic.
Here’s a way to boil it all down and make it simple and easy to remember, with a series of questions to ask yourself as you look at different carpets:
- Do you prefer natural or synthetic materials?
- Do you prefer carpet that’s more durable or more soft?
- Will it be in high or low traffic areas?
- Is ease of cleaning a major factor or not?
To put it another way: if you can answer these four questions, then you narrow down your carpeting search simply and effortlessly. Of course, we also recognize that cost can play an important role here as well. However, if you start with these four questions, they can help to guide you through the carpet buying experience easily at any price point or budget.
What Makes a Carpet a Carpet
After you answer the four questions above, you’ll be able to narrow down your carpet search to just a few categories: carpet fiber, construction, and pile.
Carpet fiber is just the material used in the carpet’s construction, which comes in either natural or synthetic varieties. Examples of common carpet fiber materials are wool and nylon.
You will often see that a particular carpet fiber is referred to as a loop, because the material is frequently shaped like a literal loop. They do this in order to sew it through the carpet backing (the part underneath that you don’t see). In addition to loop, there are three other ways that carpet can be constructed: texture, twist, and pattern. Here’s a breakdown of all four types:
- Loop carpet (there are several kinds, level loop / “Berber” being a popular choice) is a great option for high-traffic areas because it’s highly durable.
- Texture carpet is usually smooth and traditional in appearance, and works well in high-traffic areas as well.
- Twist carpet looks cozy yet stylish for contemporary homes, so it easily complements bedrooms and bedroom furnishings.
- Pattern carpet is the most customizable of all the styles, and tends to complement formal or upscale interior design settings.
Finally, there’s the carpet pile, which is really two things: 1) how the loops of the carpet material (such as wool) are finished, and 2) how they get attached to the backing of the carpet. In fact, if you were to pull on a single thread in a looped carpet, you could see that both ends are sewn into the backing. (We don’t recommend tugging on your carpet loops, so just take our word for it on this one!)
Finally, the primary difference from one pile to another comes in the way it’s treated and used in the manufacturing process. The main types are:
- Cut — soft
- Twist — soft and durable
- Frieze — soft and shaggy
- Level loop — extra durable
- Multi-level loop — durable, with visual shapes and patterns
- Sisal/cord — very firm, with visual shapes and patterns
- Cut and loop — combination resulting in sculptured patterns
- Level cut and loop — soft and stylish, hides dirt easily
- Textured cut and loop — varying pile length results in a textured finish
These are the most common types of carpet that you’re likely to find in a carpeting warehouse or home improvement store.
Different Materials for Carpet
Now that we have a solid understanding of pile types, let’s talk about different types of materials you might find in a carpet. The material you choose will be a major factor in the cost, comfortability, and durability of your carpet.
Wool is a classic option when it comes to carpeting, and despite its relatively steep cost, it’s actually one of the most popular as well. Since wool comes from the fur of sheep, it’s an incredibly soft material that’s perfect for your carpet. Wool carpeting can last a very long time and does a good job resisting stains, too. The primary issue people have with wool carpets is the difficulty level required for regular cleaning. Because of this, many people opt for professional carpet cleaners for their wool carpeting.
Where: Bedroom, office, or living room
Who: Everyday homeowners or business owners
Polyester is commonly thought of as a cost-effective version of wool. It looks great, feels soft, lasts a long time, and does a pretty job resisting stains. The downside is that it tends to wear down a bit faster than its wool counterpart. Since the fibers in a polyester carpet can be dyed, you’ll be able to find a wide range of color options that can exhibit a deeper level of color saturation than wool, since wool fibers are harder to dye. A lot of polyester carpets are made with recycled materials, so it’s an eco-friendly option as well.
Where: Stairs, living room, bedroom, or an office
Who: Everyday homeowners or business owners
Triexta is a very family-friendly material for carpets. It’s easy to clean, it restores through vacuuming, it’s durable, and it has pretty solid dirt resistance. Like polyester, Triexta features impressive color saturation in its fibers. The material offers a great combination of usability and looks. While it is less expensive than wool, it also tends to be less comfortable.
Where: Any living spaces
Who: Homeowners with kids or pets
Polypropylene (also known as Olefin) is a material very similar to polyester. It’s an affordable carpeting option, but at the same time doesn’t quite have the durability that other materials offer, and it tends to hold in dirt and stains. While it can be a great option in the right room, Olefin is known to wear out more quickly than others, so it probably shouldn’t be used in areas with heavy traffic, or in homes with kids or pets.
Where: Low-traffic areas in homes without kids or pets
Who: Budget-conscious homeowners
Nylon can be made into a number of different carpet piles, but it’s a little more expensive than polyester. The material holds color well and it’s easy to maintain. Nylon is also one of the most versatile material options for a carpet. It cleans well, lasts a long time, and feels soft to the touch. While nylon is incredibly durable, if you happen to feel like your nylon carpet is wearing down, a steam cleaning can give it new life.
Where: Anywhere in the house (especially high-traffic areas)
Who: People who want long-lasting carpets that look really nice
As professional carpet cleaners, we’ve heard all types of questions in our 35 years in the business. Take a look below at some of the most common questions we hear on the job.
What Is a Good Carpet Made Of?
Good carpeting can be made of any material on this list. That being said, certain situations may call for a specific version of carpeting.
For instance, if you want the strongest and best performing option, you might opt for a carpet made of a wool mix. Specifically, some of the strongest carpets come in around 80% wool and 20% man-made fiber, such as polyester, polypropylene, or Triexta.
On the other hand, for carpeting in high-traffic areas where durability is the single most important factor, a nylon carpet might be the right choice.
Working within a strict budget, you’ll find that using a 100% polyester, Olefin, or Triexta carpet are all great options for saving money while still getting a great looking carpet, though they may not last quite as long as other varieties.
How Can You Tell the Quality of Carpet?
There’s a term that us carpet geeks use a lot called face weight. The “face weight” of a carpet more or less coincides with the carpet’s overall quality. Even carpets with the same material and pile can have vastly different levels of quality if their face weight is different.
By definition, face weight is how many carpet piles there are per square yard (and measured in ounces). Look closely at any carpet to see how dense the carpet piles are. You can even run your hand over it to feel the difference. If one option has more piles per square yard (AKA, a higher face weight), it’s generally considered a higher quality carpet.
What Carpet Wears the Best?
If you want minimal wear and tear on your carpet, nylon and wool are both great options. They have strong fibers that can really take a beating. As far as pile types, you should consider a Berber / level loop. Remember, a loop is a type of pile where both sides are sewn into the carpet. The result is often a carpet that’s densely packed and wears really well.
What Is the Most Durable Type of Carpet?
Nylon is typically the most durable carpeting material, while Berber is the most durable loop and pile type.
How Bad Is a Carpet for Your Health?
Carpet is known to trap pollutants, dirt, and dust in its fibers. An additional problem is that toxic gases can also get tangled up in your carpets. Over time, enough dangerous particles can get stuck in your carpet that it may start to pose a risk to your health (and that of your family or customers, depending on where the carpet is installed).
One of the best ways to get rid of these harmful pollutants is by using a professional carpet cleaner. A professional has the right tools to perform a deep clean on your carpets that will make your carpets clean and safe to use again.
With a good understanding of the different types of pile and material that’s available, you can make a more informed decision on your next carpet installation. If you still have questions, don’t worry. Our local team is here to help you. With more than 35 years of experience right here in South Carolina, we can answer any question you might have. Give us a call or email today.