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Tips for choosing wall

Aug 25, 2023

If you watch enough home improvement shows, you may become convinced that wall-to-wall carpet is as passe as skinny jeans. But experts in the industry say otherwise. Carpet continues to be a popular choice because it is affordable, versatile, generally softer underfoot and can work well in a variety of spaces.

"Hardwood may be more common, but you can't beat the warmth and comfortable feel of a carpeted floor," says Kate McKenna, senior editor for The Spruce. "Durability and stain resistance have come a long way, so much so that we see carpet in spaces with pets, because many brands are built to withstand messes."

Sorting through the many options for materials, patterns, textures and styles, though, can leave consumers with more questions than answers. We spoke with McKenna and other experts about how to find the best fit for you and your home. Here are their top tips on what to consider when shopping for wall-to-wall carpet.

Carpet can work in almost any space, but that doesn't mean you should add it to every room. It isn't recommended in bathrooms or the kitchen, McKenna says, because it's a moisture magnet, creating the perfect environment for mold and mildew (and cleaning product spills can bleach it).

Look at your lifestyle and the room(s) in question to determine the best carpet for that area. How do you use the space? Is this a high-traffic area or a quiet bedroom? Do you host a lot of parties where food or drinks could get spilled? Do you have children who need a soft surface for playing on the floor? Do you have pets? Be armed with the answers before heading to a showroom.

How to choose and care for the flooring in your home

Carpet comes in two broad types: synthetic and natural fiber. Synthetics are durable, stain resistant and affordable. Styles with a low, tight loop and a short pile are less likely to show footprints or vacuum marks. Nylon is the most popular synthetic fiber, followed by olefin, polypropylene and polyester. Within synthetics you’ll find a range of durability and softness. Olefin and polyester, for example, attract oil and dust and will "ugly out" (flatten or mat down) over time, says Kristopher Ayoub, co-owner of Ayoub N&H, a full-service flooring store in Kensington, Md.

Wool is the most common natural fiber, and pretty much the only one used in wall-to-wall carpet. Eco-friendly fibers such as jute, sisal, coir and bamboo are popular in area rugs, but they are too weak or too coarse to be made into carpet. Wool is more expensive and prone to stain than synthetics, but it's more luxurious and the durable, resilient fibers wear well.

"Think about what you really want," Ayoub says. "Some carpet is more durable, but not easy to clean, versus stainproof but doesn't last 20 years." One aesthetic factor to consider: Wool typically comes in neutral hues, whereas synthetics can be dyed almost any color.

Fiber type and quality determine carpet prices. Synthetics can range from $1.50 to as much as $12 per square foot. Wool ranges from $5 to $50 per square foot. Ayoub points out that you can get a lower grade wool for about the same price as a higher-grade synthetic.

Another budget-friendly option is a wool-nylon blend. "You get the softness of wool, but the durability and stain-resistance of a synthetic," says McKenna.

You also need to budget for padding, which provides a barrier between carpet and floor, impacts how carpet feels underfoot and helps prolong carpet life. Typical padding materials include rubber, memory foam or rebond (scraps of high-density foam bonded together). Costs range from 60 cents to $1 per square foot. Thicker padding will be more expensive, but Ayoub says if you invest in a durable carpet, you shouldn't scrimp on the quality of the padding.

Professional installation, provided by flooring retailers, includes removing old carpet, then stretching and tacking down the new carpet. Installers charge either by the square foot or the room. There may be additional fees for moving furniture, putting in transition strips from the carpet to a wood floor or installation on steps.

You can ease the installation process by removing small objects from the room. "And I tell clients to take photos before the installation just in case you have to prove that something was damaged," says Kelly Kuehn, an interior designer and Design Studio manager at Floor360 in Milwaukee. Be prepared to touch up any painted baseboards after installation, as they often get dinged during the process. If your current flooring is wood, you may need to shave down entry or closet doors so they open and close over the thicker carpet.

A manufacturer's warranty runs 10 to 25 years and covers stains, texture retention and maybe premature wear, Ayoub says. Most carpet samples list the warranty term and conditions on the label. It's also important to get a warranty at installation to cover buckles or ripples that may develop over time. That coverage can last from one year to a lifetime, depending on the installer.

"If you clean and vacuum a carpet, it will hold up a long time," Kuehn says. Vacuum regularly and spot-clean spills or stains. But, Kuehn says, avoid using vacuum cleaners with aggressive suction, which is bad for the fibers. Also steer clear of models with stiff bristles; they can be abrasive and create a fuzz that can't be fixed.

Have carpets professionally cleaned every 18 to 24 months and keep the receipts as proof to maintain your manufacturer's warranty. DIY rental machines don't count, says Kuehn.