How to Choose the Right Carpet for Your Home

Mariel Loveland
Written by Mariel Loveland
Updated September 30, 2021
Carpet in living room
PC Photography / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

A match made in carpet heaven is all about style, fiber type, and construction

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Turns out, there’s a lot more than color to consider when choosing the right carpet for your home. Fiber type and construction are make-or-break factors, but consider this good news. With all the types of carpets on the market, knowing what to look for will help you find the best carpet of the bunch. This guide can help.

How to Choose the Right Carpet for Your Home

Carpeting and rugs account for about half of the flooring in all homes. Needless to say, you’re not alone in your search for the perfect carpet, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. When you’re choosing the best carpet for your space, it’s important to consider:

  • Style: Style isn’t just limited to color. Carpets come in a variety of textures and patterns.

  • Lifestyle: If you’re expecting muddy paw prints and rogue juice spills, you’ll want to choose a stain-resistant fiber.

  • Location: Higher-traffic areas require more durability than a carpet tucked away in a guest room.

  • Budget: Prices vary between luxury natural fibers and synthetic fibers, so knowing your budget will easily narrow things down. Don’t forget to work the carpet installation into your budget, too. Are you doing the job DIY or hiring a local carpet installer?

  • Warranty: Most reputable manufacturers offer 10 to 25-year warranties depending on the type of carpet, so weigh it against the potential defects.

Types of Carpet Fibers

Carpet fibers tend to impact the cost, durability, and feel of a carpet. It’s typically split into two groups: natural fibers and synthetic fibers. Wool is the most popular natural fiber for wall-to-wall carpeting, though other natural fibers (like sisal, cotton, and jute) are commonly used in area rugs. Synthetic fibers tend to be less expensive and hold brighter colors, but they’re not always as durable.

Wool

As a natural fiber, wool is very resilient. It tends to keep its shape even in high-traffic areas, which makes it an excellent option for a hallway or staircase. Unfortunately, that type of durability will cost you. Wool is one of the most expensive fibers on the market. It’s also a bit more difficult to clean than synthetic fibers, so it’s best kept away from muddy shoes.

Cost: $4 to $20 per sq. ft.

Sisal

Sisal, a natural fiber made from agave leaves, is more common in area rugs, but some homeowners still prefer it in wall-to-wall carpeting because of its durability. It’s one of the most durable natural fibers, making it a great option for high-traffic areas like foyers. Unfortunately, it can be a little rough on the feet, it isn’t stain resistant, and it’s expensive compared to synthetic fabrics.

Cost: $5 to $15 per sq. ft.

Nylon

Nylon is one of the most popular fibers because of its durability. This synthetic fiber was the first of its kind, introduced all the way back in the 1940s, and has since proved to be one of the most popular. Unfortunately, removing carpet stains from nylon isn’t always easy, but you can opt for a nylon carpet that’s specifically treated for stain resistance.

Cost: $2 to $5 per sq. ft.

Polyester

Polyester is another synthetic fiber, but it’s not as resilient as nylon. Make no mistake, though. It is durable, especially in a frieze or dense-cut pile construction. Above all, polyester fiber is stain-resistant and holds brighter colors that resist fading (meaning it works well in a sunny room). Plus, most PET polyester is crafted recycled from soda bottles, making it relatively eco-friendly.

Cost: $1 to $3 per sq. ft.

Olefin (Polypropylene)

Olefin, also known as polypropylene, is another synthetic material that can be made from recycled plastic. You’ll typically find it in synthetic Berber carpets because that type of construction helps it maintain its shape. Because it’s resistant to moisture, mold, and mildew, it’s a popular choice for damp basements and outdoor spaces. This fiber is also resistant to stains, but it’s not as comfortable on the feet as something like nylon.

Cost: $1 to $3 per sq. ft.

Types of Carpet Construction

Sitting room with carpet on floors
John Keeble / Moment Open via Getty Images

Once you decide on the type of carpet fiber, you should consider how the fiber is used. Carpeting comes in two different constructions: loop construction and cut pile. Long story short: They’re just manufactured differently. One is made of loops of yarn, and the other is cut so there aren’t any loops.

Loop Construction

You might know loop construction as Berber, but that’s just one type. Berber (or level-loop) carpeting has short loops of yarn. Multi-level loop carpeting has loops of varying lengths that create a textured or pattern.

Because loop construction is made from loops of yarn, it is prone to pulls. This is particularly true for homes with pets that have claws or nails. Nonetheless, it has a low-profile look that makes it durable. It’s a great fit for a living room or office but may lack the cushion for a bedroom.

Cut Pile

Cut pile carpeting is trimmed at the tip so there aren’t any loops. This gives it a softer feel, and it’s generally regarded as more comfortable under the foot than loop construction. Cut pile carpet comes in a few different varieties.

  • Plush: This carpet is best compared to fresh-cut grass. It’s cushiony and soft but also elegant.

  • Saxony: Like a plush carpet, saxony is smooth and sleek, but its longer, twisted fibers make it dense.

  • Frieze: Most people know this as a shag carpet.

  • Cable: This carpet has a thick, long yarn that makes it good for high-traffic areas.

  • Textured: Like multi-loop construction, this carpet’s yarn is cut to varying lengths giving it a rougher texture.

Cut and Loop

Cut and loop is exactly what it sounds like: it’s made with a mix of looped and cut yarn. These rose to popularity in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and often showed off different decorative patterns. Today, they’re still trendy in spaces that utilize texture, but they’re not the best for high-traffic areas because they’re prone to looking worn out over time.

Comparison of Carpets

Best Carpets for Durability

Wool or sisal carpeting is generally considered the most durable on the market—even over nylon and polyester. These are particularly resistant to wear in a cut pile construction that isn’t prone to snags.

Best Affordable Carpets

Sorry, natural fiber. When it comes to affordability, synthetic fiber always wins. Polyester and olefin are two of the most inexpensive.

Best Carpets for Kids and High-Traffic Homes

Families with children or high-traffic areas should opt for a carpet that’s durable and stain-resistant. In this case, choose a synthetic fiber like polyester or olefin. Nylon is also acceptable, but only if it’s been treated to resist stains. Keep fibers on the shorter side. The longer they are, the easier they’ll look worn. Remember: color and patterns help hide dirt, so you may want to reconsider white.

Best Carpets for Allergies

Steer clear of wool. If you must have natural fiber, opt for sisal. Otherwise, synthetic fibers (like polyester, olefin, and nylon) are generally considered the best for people with allergies because they’re mold and mildew-resistant. Remember: longer fibers trap dust and dirt, so ditch the shag and go for a shorter construction.

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