CSI: Carpet Scene Investigation

CSI: Carpet Scene Investigation

If you’ve ever been in the market for carpeting, you know what a daunting job it can be. Besides color and style, there’s a whole carpet lexicon that only makes matters worse. By identifying and defining these individual terms, we might be able to get to the bottom of the conundrum of choosing the perfect carpeting.

Carpet Anatomy

There are three terms that describe the construction of a carpet’s surface. They are weight, density and twist.

Weight, also called face weight, is the number of ounces of fiber in a square yard of carpet. Generally speaking, the higher the face weight number, the better. This is not to be confused with Total Weight, which takes into consideration the fibers AND all the backings.

Density is defined by the amount of fiber per square inch of carpet. The more carpet yarn that’s packed together per square inch the better the performance of the carpet itself. Not only do carpets with high density wear well, they prevent soil and spills from leaching into the fibers themselves and into the carpet backing.

Twist refers to the number of twists made within a one inch length of carpet yarn. The more twists in the individual yarn lengths, the better the carpet will look over the long haul. It will crush less and hold its crisp look. Generally, the higher the twist level, the less dense the carpet has to be to achieve the same durability as a more dense carpet.

The Usual Suspects

The selection of carpets out there is vast, but each start out the same way, that is yarn being punched through carpet backing with a series of needles. What is done to the yarn next is what gives us the three basic carpet types available. They are cut, loop and a combination of cut and loop. The confusion comes within the subcategories of each.

Cut, or sheared, carpeting is the best selling type of carpet. Basically, after the carpet yarn is attached to the backing, the tops of the yarn loops are sheared, creating a plushy look. Within this category are Saxonies and velvets–which show all footprints and vacuum cleaner lines– and Textured and Friezes, which are highly twisted and better disguise tracks and vacuum marks.

Loop carpeting is just as it sounds; the loops in the first step of production are left intact. Level loop is very durable, easy-to-clean carpet that is ideal for high-traffic areas. The lower loops in a multi-level variety, however, can hold dirt. Also within this group falls Berber, which is simply looped carpet with flecks in it. Berber is oftentimes made with thicker yarn than ordinary loop.

Cut and loop carpet consists of a combination of sheared and looped yarn. Also called patterned cuts, these carpets are gaining popularity.

Carpet DNA

The majority of carpeting on the market is made of either olefin, polyester, nylon or wool. There are costs and benefits of each of them. Here’s a quick breakdown.

Olefin or polypropylene is the cheapest kind of carpet available. It works best as a Berber. Olefin resists mildew and moisture and is easy to clean. On the down side, it tends to crush and it feels ‘crunchy’ which isn’t terribly comfortable on the tootsies.

Polyester generally costs more than olefin but less than nylon. It’s much softer to the touch than olefin, but I’ve heard contradictory things about its stain resistance and durability. The majority of salespeople I talked to think poorly of the polyester currently on the market; however, there are some manufacturers coming out with polyester carpeting equivalent in performance–and price–to nylon.

Nylon is the most popular fiber for carpets. According to carpet.org 90% of all residential carpets are nylon. Why? Nylon is durable so it’s great for high traffic areas. It’s static free, resists crushing, soiling and mildew. On the down side, it costs more than olefin and polyester.

Wool carpeting is the most luxurious choice in carpet construction. On the plus side, wool is strong and supposedly stain resistant, although I have a sister that would probably disagree with that. On the negative side, wool can hold static and moisture and it’s CRAZY expensive.

Disposing of the Remains

Before your new carpeting can be laid, you’ll have to get rid of the old stuff, if you have it. You can remove it yourself, of course, or your installer can. Around here, pros charge about 5 bucks a square yard to remove and dispose of old carpeting and padding. On a green note, there are some facilities that will take used carpet for recycling. Ask your carpet dealer or installer if such facilities are available in your area.

Crime Scene Clean Up

Okay, now that we’ve done our homework, have picked out carpet and have forked out a ton of dough for it and its installation, because, really, laying carpet isn’t the easiest DIY project, how do we keep it clean? In talking with experts, the one product that came up in conversation more than once was something called Capture. It is a dry cleaning technique that uses no harsh chemicals and has anti-allergen qualities. For some great cleaning guides, check out the offerings from Fabric Link and 3M. Of course any cleaning technique suggested by any one other than your carpet’s manufacturer should be tested on a scrap piece of carpet leftover from the installation or in a very inconspicuous area, just in case. Carpeting is a big expense in the home improvement game; you don’t want to ruin it with some iffy cleaning technique.

Carpet Case Closed

Ultimately, there is no one good carpet for everybody. Your application and budget will help narrow down your choice greatly. Arming yourself with a little info will further help you find the carpet most appropriate for you, your family and your pocketbook.

For more information on carpeting and carpeting terms, check out the excellent Carpet Guru or carpet.org.

'Carpet Castoffs' by Voxphoto via flickr.





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relawson on Aug 30, 2007:

we have berber in the house, its 5 years old now and still holding strong. even after 3.5 years of kid abuse. best of all, NO PILLING!

i've done surface cleaning with the Kirby shampoo attachment, it works for the most part, a nice extraction clean would probably get up the more stubborn spots but i've not tried it yet. 


it wears like steel... BUT, if a loop comes up you better break out the glue gun because you can lose a whole row if your cat finds it!

TangoMango on Aug 20, 2007:

I am currently looking into getting rugs. This is a great intro to the world of carpeting and rugs. Thanks!

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