6 Signs You Need to Replace Your Carpet

Lacey Nix
Written by Lacey Nix
Updated May 2, 2022
Orange carpet empty living room
Photo: Andersen Ross / Getty Images

Regular cleaning helps to extend the life of your carpet, but torn and damaged carpets may need to be replaced

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Although proper maintenance can dramatically extend the life of your carpet, every carpet that sees regular use will need to be replaced sooner or later. Some of the signs can be obvious, but there are others that may be more subtle. The cost to install carpeting averages around $1,800, and the cost to carpet stairs is about $3.50 to $11 per square foot.

How Often Should I Replace My Carpet?

Carpet can last anywhere from five to 15 years, depending on the carpet type, carpet cushion, carpet fibers, and how much foot traffic it endures. Even in barely-used rooms, high-quality carpets will start showing signs of age after 10 years as the padding deteriorates, the threads wear, and the shades shift. To determine when you should replace your own carpet, consider the following top six signs that reveal irreversible wear and tear:

Telltale Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Carpet

1. Stains in Carpet

red wine white carpet stain
Photo: Tetra Images / Getty Images

Are you covering up carpet stains with furniture and rugs when carpet cleaning fails to remove them? If your house is starting to resemble a minefield, it’s time for a carpet replacement. Most carpets come with a stain-resistant finish, but over time, the treatment fades and eventually leaves the carpet unprotected.

Luckily, professional carpet cleaners know tricks to remove tough stains. Dean Leffel, owner of highly rated Home Cleaning Centers of America in Indianapolis, says most carpet cleaners only clean to the base of your carpet, to avoid damaging the glue that binds your carpet to the pad. However, he says this doesn’t get any stains that penetrate deeper than the carpet.

“We have a system of flushing out deep stains with a flood extraction tool,” he says. In this method, Leffel floods the area with cleaning solution and uses a heavy duty extraction tool to remove the stain from the carpet and pad.

Sometimes, Leffel says, stubborn stains just won’t go away. Bleach, plant food, tea, wine, and mustard are typically the toughest stains to remove, and carpet cleaners say many homeowners make the stains worse by using shoddy DIY stain-removal methods they find on the web, or store-bought carpet-cleaning products that can actually damage carpet with harsh chemicals.

Stains caused by pet urine, feces, vomit, mold, and mildew are usually easy to clean if you act fast. But these biological substances eventually will absorb into the carpet padding, leading to mold and mildew buildup under the carpet. If the biological stains are in several places, consider replacing the carpet to avoid health hazards with mold. Leffel says they sometimes get creative with replacing small pieces of stained carpet by removing carpet from a rarely used closet.

2. Wear and Tear on Carpet

Has your carpet seen better days? Are you putting rugs all over it to cover rips and tears, or rearranging furniture to cover defects? Are your kids scared to lay on it? Matted carpet, tears, and significant wear on the main walkways are major signs your carpet is on its deathbed.

Polyester carpet fibers have a reputation of matting and losing their form. Once it falls down and loses its tuft, it doesn’t return to normal, even with professional cleaning. Nylon carpeting, however, is typically more resilient than polyester and responds well to carpet cleaning, even when matted down.

You might be able to fix small tears and rips yourself, or you can hire a carpet professional to make the repair. However, large rips and tears tend to signal the carpet needs to be replaced, especially if the tears are present on stairs or major walkways.

3. Stinky Carpet

If you own a pet or haven't cleaned in a while, you may notice a lingering smell on your carpet, but the odor should be gone or noticeably diminished after a proper cleaning. If it doesn't, this means that the odor has penetrated deep into the carpet fibers, the carpet pad, or the subfloor, and it may even indicate mold and mildew growth.

In cases like these, it's often more cost-effective to replace the entire carpet completely in order to fully eliminate the odor or odors.

4. Condition of Carpet Padding

Carpet padding is like the pillow under the case; the carpet is nothing but a layer of fabric without the padding. It helps support the carpet, working as a foundation and making it comfortable to walk and lay on. It buffers sounds and keeps a room quieter and even improves insulation.

However, carpet padding also absorbs many spills, and cleaning the carpet doesn’t necessarily clean the padding. Signs of old padding include unevenness, wrinkles, and a crinkling sound when someone walks over it.

5. Increased Allergy Symptoms

Often, older carpets catch and retain more allergens and particulate matter, which may cause your allergies to act up. If you notice an increase in allergies, one source may be your older carpet.

6. Old Carpet

Are you still using the 1970s shag carpet that came with your house? Have you had it cleaned several times? Believe it or not, carpet doesn’t last forever, even with good care. Most manufacturers say carpet should last for 10 years with proper care.

After 10 years, signs of wear show on the major walkways and the carpet fibers start losing their texture and tuft. If you find yourself cleaning the carpet over and over and not getting the results you want, it might be time to lay the carpet to rest. Signs of old carpet include:

  • Color loss

  • Fading

  • Matting

  • Ripples

  • Wrinkles

  • Lack of padding support

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