Tips & Tricks
By Leigh Smith | February 24, 2021
When choosing carpet for your home, there are hundreds of styles and colors to choose from. Mix that with all the different terminology, and you may start to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options. We've put together a simple guide to help you navigate carpet basics so you can feel more confident about the selection process.
Let's start with some basic terminology.
When talking about the carpet's construction, we talk about how the fibers look and the texture they create due to their structure. There are three main types of construction: loop pile, cut pile and cut loop. Loop pile is made from looped fibers left uncut, whereas a cut pile will shear the tops of the loops and fray out, creating little twisted tufts. And, as you may have guessed, the cut-loop construction leaves some loops untouched, and others sheared to create different textures and patterns. There are variations of these constructions for greater design freedom, but we will stick with just these three for this guide.
Next, let's talk about the different fiber types. We will focus on five fibers in this guide: wool, nylon, triexta, polyester (PET), and polypropylene (olefin).
Wool is a natural fiber that has been used in carpets for centuries, and for a good reason. Wool carpet is sustainable, crush-resistant, and luxurious. Due to its unique spring-like shape, wool stands up well to foot traffic and furniture. Unlike synthetic carpets that crush and matte, wool can spring back from crushing and retain its shape for longer. Another fantastic benefit of wool is its insulating properties that keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Its ability to hold and release moisture in the air increases indoor air quality and keeps you feeling comfortable every season.
Some downsides of wool include cost and maintenance. Wool is a premium fiber and can come at a premium price. On average, a wool carpet costs around $6/sf, compared to other carpets that come in closer to $3.00/SF. However, for high-quality wool products, you may be looking at prices closer to $10.00/SF. Another downside of wool is that it sheds. Some wool carpets may shed more than others, but your carpet will shed on average for a couple of months. The best way to manage shedding is to be sure and vacuum your carpet regularly to help collect excess loose fibers.
Nylon carpet is one of the most popular synthetic fibers as it has excellent durability, resilience and tends to resist staining. When shopping for nylon carpets, you may see the term "Nylon 6,6" or "Nylon 6". These labels are referring to the type of nylon the product is made from. Of the two, Nylon 6,6 is often described as the stronger, more resilient fiber because of its molecular makeup. However, after many tests, it is hard to tell much of a difference in performance. Another advantage of nylon carpet is its ease of maintenance! Regular vacuuming and a yearly deep clean will keep this carpet looking beautiful for years to come.
The downsides of nylon can be price and texture. Compared to other synthetic carpets, nylon is higher in price. While some nylon carpets are priced at the same range of wools, generally, they come in at around $4/SF. Nylon carpets may also be rougher than wool or other synthetic carpets but can be made softer by thinning the fiber itself.
Triexta is the newest carpet fiber on the market and is one of nylon's biggest competitors. You may be more aware of the other names often used when talking about this fiber, such as Sorona and SmartStrand. Triexta is durable like nylon but has better stain resistance. What makes this so special is the hydrophobic quality of the fiber itself. This helps to repel spills and soiling, making clean up a breeze. To show off how well this carpet stands up to stains and messes, Mohawk installed SmartStrand in a rhino's enclosure for two weeks and cleaned it using hot water extraction at the end of the two weeks. Amazingly, the carpet looked brand new!And, did you know, some Triexta is made in part with corn glucose? This makes the carpet more environmentally friendly and lowers VOC emissions.
While triexta has inherent stain and soil resistance, this does not apply to oily spills. Things like butter, makeup, and cooking oil can be challenging to clean up if spilled on your carpet. Another downside of this fiber is that it has only been in the flooring field for a little over 10 years, so we can’t confidently talk about the lifespan of a carpet made with triexta.
Polyester is different than the rest of the synthetic fibers as it is made up of recycled plastics. The advantages of polyester are its color options, softness, and price point. Polyester carpets are so vibrant and have excellent color retention due to the dyeing process they go through. The fibers are dyed during production instead of after. This process is called "solution dying." The main benefit of this is that color does not fade or wear off like a carpet that is dyed post-production. Another great thing about polyester carpets is their price point. On average, polyester carpets cost about $2/SF. Of course, there are high and low ends depending on unique treatments, carpet weights, and manufacturers, but compared to nylon or wool, polyester is more cost-friendly.
When it comes to high traffic areas of your home like hallways and living rooms, polyester may not be the best fit. Compared to nylon, polyester does not have stand-up resiliency or durability. This carpet is best for spaces like bedrooms or offices, especially since polyester carpets are soft underfoot. If installed in a high-traffic area, the fibers will start matting and crushing, showing an obvious movement path.
Polypropylene, or Olefin, is a synthetic carpet that is best known for its low-price points, color, and fade resistance. One of the best uses for polypropylene is for outdoor carpets and area rugs. This is because the fibers are water-resistant and have excellent color retention. If you are looking for a bright, colorful area rug at a lower cost, look for one made with these fibers. Like polyester, polypropylene is solution-dyed so its color won’t wear off due to sun exposure or foot traffic.
One of the downsides of polypropylene is that of all the synthetic fibers mentioned; it has the lowest resilience. You may notice most olefin carpets and rugs will come in short loop constructions. A short loop will stand up to wear and traffic longer than cut piles and show less crushing. This fiber is not typically recommended inside the home as a wall-to-wall solution unless you need a quick, inexpensive fix.
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