When it comes to choosing flooring for your home, don't overlook the types of carpet that are available. A high-quality product can last for up to 20 years, in addition to acting as an excellent heat and sound insulator. It can be cosy, comforting and soft underfoot; patterned, practical and luxurious, too. It’s a great all-rounder and there’s a style and type of carpet suitable for most rooms and homes.
(MORE: The complete guide to flooring)
Choosing the Right Type of Carpet
There are many types of carpet available, from your choice of colour and pattern, through to material and pile type. With so many options on the market, dedicate plenty of time to research so you have a strong idea of what you want before heading into any flooring showrooms.
Once you’re ready to begin browsing, it’s smart to take some approximate measurements with you so you’re armed with all the basic information. Most retailers are happy to provide a selection of swatches free of charge, so you can take them home and double check whether various styles and shades complement your home’s décor. Remember to place each swatch in both the darkest and brightest areas of the room so you can be sure how light affects the colour of the carpet’s surface.
Consider Wear and Tear When Choosing Carpet
The first step is to consider where in your house the carpet is going to be laid and the purpose it’s going to serve. This is a good starting point in determining how durable it needs to be. “For heavy traffic areas, wool is a good option due to its durability,” says Joanna Ramsden, creative director at Grosvenor Wilton. “Consider a loop pile carpet which is very durable and track resistant, making it a sensible choice for hallways and stairs.” In the bedroom, however, you can treat yourself to a softer pile with a more luxurious finish — more on pile types and finishes later.
Assessing the durability of carpet is all about the thickness, the material it’s made from and the weight of the pile. One way to test how well the carpet will wear and tear is to press your thumb firmly into the pile. The quicker it springs back and recovers, the more resilient it will be once laid.
Materials Used for Different Types of Carpet
If you’re keen to fit a carpet made from natural fibres, wool is probably a main contender. This resilient and highly durable material results in a high-quality carpet that will last for years. It’s also sustainable, not to mention the fact that it’s super-soft underfoot and is a good insulating material. “The protective, waxy coating on the fibres makes wool products resistant to staining, too,” says Lisa Conway, residential marketing manager at Brintons. “A wool carpet will also pick up less dust as the material is naturally anti-static.”
For an all-purpose carpet, a wool blend solution offers a durable alternative.
There are numerous manmade options for your carpet too, all of which tend to be highly stain resistant. “Some manmade fibres like nylon 6.6 offer the same benefits as wool carpets but with better cleaning and maintenance properties,” says Gregory Powley-Lynch, operations director at Elements London.
Nylon is a good all-rounder for family homes as it offers good wearability. Polypropylene is another option, as it’s both durable and resistant to stains. “However, it’s not advisable to go for a polypropylene carpet in heavy traffic areas as this will cause flattening very quickly,” advises Gregory.
If you’re keen to boost your home’s green credentials, natural fibres such as sisal, coir, jute and seagrass offer an attractive and sustainable alternative. Plus, they contain fewer chemicals than manmade products.
Looped or Tuft Carpet Types
The term ‘pile’ essentially refers to how the loops or tufts of fibre are attached to the material backing of the carpet. In broad terms, carpet can be divided into two categories: tufted and woven, and there are numerous variations of each. Bear in mind, not all pile types are suitable for every application.
Made by weaving the front and back of the carpet at the same time using traditional looming methods, woven products tend to be more time-consuming to produce and are typically more expensive as a result. However, you’ll get a high-quality finish and a carpet that will hold its appearance well over time. Axminster and Wilton are both examples of woven carpets.
Tufted carpets are less labour intensive to produce, so tend to be cheaper. A row of needles is used to punch the yarn into a backing fabric, before a secondary backing material is applied. Twist products are probably the most popular type of carpet in the tufted category, offering an effective all-round performance. This solution is a good choice for areas of the home with high footfall, like hallways and stairs.
Berber or looped pile products are made from continuous uncut loops on the surface of the carpet, resulting in a distinctive knotted appearance.
For busy areas, choose a Berber carpet with small, tight loops that can bounce back easily. For the bedroom, a Saxony carpet offers an opulent deep pile with long tufts, making for a beautifully soft feeling underfoot. Velvet varieties are also a good choice for the bedroom, thanks to the smooth feel of the cut pile finish.
Choosing the Right Type of Carpet If You Have Pets
Remember, if you have any furry friends at home then loop pile carpets aren’t an ideal solution for your floor covering.
“If you have a cat or another pet with sharp claws, your new carpet has the capacity to become the ultimate playground for them. It will more than likely end in tears — for you, not the pet!” says Charles Barraclough, operations director at Wools of Cumbria Carpets. “Cut pile carpets are absolutely fine though. What’s more, they will hold onto moulted fur until you’re ready to vacuum, rather than harder surfaces which let it float around the edges of the room.”
Measuring for Carpet
While it’s handy to visit showrooms with a set of approximate measurements for the room you’re carpeting, it often pays to bring in the experts to measure up before you place your order. For peace of mind when it comes to choosing your retailer, look out for suppliers registered with The Carpet Foundation for an assurance on quality. Fitting the carpet yourself isn’t beyond the realms of possibility if you’re a competent DIYer. However, many retailers will throw in the fitting for free if you spend over a certain amount.
Before your carpet is installed, ensure the subfloor has been adequately prepared. “All subfloors should be as level as possible, and any loose floorboards screwed down — but do check for pipes under floorboards,” says Michael McHugh from M&L Carpets.
Gaps between the floor and skirting should be sealed, too.
Carpet Types: Tog Rating
When you buy a carpet it’ll come with a tog rating, just like a duvet. The tog rating is a measure of how much heat can pass through the material, effectively an indication of how insulating it is. Carpet togs range from around 0.7 to 3.0. The higher the tog rating, the more insulating it is. A higher carpet tog would therefore be ideal for a cold, draughty room.
And if you’re laying underfloor heating (UFH), research carried out by The Carpet Foundation and the Underfloor Heating Manufacturers Association showed that most carpets can be used with UFH without hindering the performance of the system.
“The research demonstrated that a carpet/underlay with a combined thermal resistance of less than 2.5 togs allows underfloor systems to operate efficiently,” explains Lisa Conway from Brintons.
Selecting the Right Underlay for Your Carpet Type
As well as helping your carpet to sit evenly across the floor surface, underlay adds additional insulation and will help keep heat inside the room. Choosing a good quality product makes all the difference when it comes to the longevity of your carpet, as it will be able to reduce the compression of the carpet and ensure it lasts longer.
“A good quality underlay is very important for comfort and the life of the carpet,” says Charles Barraclough. “It should be comparable in thickness to the carpet over it. Too thin and the carpet will wear quicker, too thick and the carpet is liable to move around.”
There are numerous options for your underlay, which typically fall into one of two material categories: rubber or foam. As with the carpet itself, various underlay specification options are available depending on your budget and the finish you want to achieve. You can pick up a roll of 6mm underlay suitable for use with UFH online for as little as £3.85.
Environmentally friendly underlay options are available, too (check out Springbond). They can be made from recycled carpet waste or plastics.
Maintenance Requirements for Different Carpet Types
A good carpet can last for years — providing it is properly maintained and regularly vacuumed. As a rule of thumb, aim to vacuum at least once a week.
“Regularly vacuuming not only helps to prevent unwanted dirt from working its way into the carpet fibres but also helps to keep the tufts of the surface upright, maintaining the soft, brand new look for longer,” says Joanna Ramsden from Grosvenor Wilton.
“Opt for a vacuum cleaner that has brushes or a beater if you have a cut pile carpet. Or, for loop pile products, these should be maintained using a suction only cleaner.”
Don’t be afraid to vacuum the carpet soon after it’s been fitted, either, as new carpets tend to shed fibres once they’ve been laid. Regardless of your carpet’s material or pile, any spillages should be dealt with as soon as possible. “The spillage should be gently mopped and blotted or scooped up with a spoon,” says Joanna. “The carpet should never be rubbed as this can cause the fibres to burst, causing a fuzzy appearance.”
For a deep clean, special carpet shampoos can be used — but always consult your manufacturer’s guidance on cleaning before applying any products to the floor. Some cleaners contain bleach, which isn’t suitable for all materials. For a deep clean with best results, employ a professional carpet cleaning company.
How Much Do Different Carpet Types Cost?
Prices vary enormously, depending on the material and pile you go for. “Most budget options will see you paying around £10-£25/m2,” says Gregory from Elements London. “For a high quality carpet you’re looking at the £30- £60/m2 mark. This will last you much longer and will actually save you money in the long run.”
When placing your order for the carpet, double check what is included in the price. Admin fees for extras, such as the removal of old carpet, can be tagged onto your bill so it’s important to factor these in to your overall outlay for new flooring. Also factor in installation.
Rebecca is an experienced homes and interiors writer with a passion for Victorian architecture. Her dream is to extend an 1800s house
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