Tips for Picking the Best Carpet

Unlike interior paint, which can be changed relatively easily, carpet is akin to a permanent sweater your house wears for years. Which makes selecting the type of carpet that’s best for your house and lifestyle a big decision.

But don’t be nervous — there are many options on the market that suit every lifestyle, and armed with the advice of our highly rated experts, you can choose your carpet with confidence. “Shopping for carpet should be fun, and if you are prepared, it will be fun,” says Jim Goddard, owner of highly rated Carpet Classics in Tigard, Ore.

To get started, check out the carpet information below to determine what might be your ideal option. And if it’s shag, then channel your most amazing Austin Powers accent and demand the best “Shag, baby,” that your local highly rated carpet dealer offers.

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Ultimate in Sophistication

If you have no kids, no pets and no worries, and want the most luxurious carpet available, consider wool. It makes for an excellent Berber, plush or frieze (the “new” shag) carpet. “The soft look and the rich feel of wool is still unmatched by any man-made fiber,” Goddard says. “Wool carpet is indeed a long-lasting luxury carpet.”

Pros: The longevity. Wool resists general soiling, crushing and most stains. It’s also naturally resistant to fire.

Cons: It’s a natural fiber, so you may have to deal with shedding and color changing. Also, it can be pricey, ranging anywhere from $30 to $75 per square yard. “You have to be extra careful when you clean it,” says Lynn Lawson, owner of highly rated Ralph Opfer Floors in Rancho Cordova, Calif. “But somebody who can afford it, can also afford to have it professionally cleaned.”

Want more splendor? Consider the newest option to hit the market, called a “soft nylon.” Made of very fine fibers, the carpet feels like silk. However, the softer the fiber, the more it shows footprints and vacuum marks. In fact, only certain vacuums will work on this soft surface. “A Dyson won’t work because it has too much suction and it won’t move across the carpet,” Lawson says.

Or look into a new, unique fiber called "triexta." While soft and durable, triexta is the only fiber with inherent stain and soil resistance that never washes or wears off.

Family Friendly

If you need a carpet that can withstand spills and stains, consider polyester. Although the popularity of this fiber has fluctuated over the years, new technologies have created a version that’s softer, stronger and more resistant to stains.

“I had a customer spill hair dye — which wasn’t covered under the warranty — on her 6-month-old polyester carpet,” Goddard says. “She got the stain out with laundry detergent and water. I was impressed.”

Pros: A natural and permanent stain resistance. It’s strong, and has a high melting point. It’s also inexpensive, with an average cost of $13 a square yard.

Cons: Isn’t recommended for high-traffic areas. Although today’s polyester options are stronger, polyester naturally crimps, which can lead to matting and tangling.

Got pets? Make sure you don’t buy a looped (Berber) carpet. “Even though it’s an ideal choice for high-traffic areas, pet owners should be careful,” says Billy Mahone III, operations manager of highly rated Atlas Floors Carpet One in San Antonio. “If your pet has long claws, they could get snagged on the loops.”

Best of Both Worlds

Nylon is a popular choice for many homeowners, simply because it stands the test of time. It wears well, is strong enough to resist matting and abrasion, and is easy to clean. Nylon-fiber carpets can also be dyed to suit your color choice.

And while homeowners can purchase other carpets with similar characteristics, Goddard says nylon’s longevity is unrivaled.

“You can purchase a super-tightly twisted, medium dense carpet that is multicolored to help hide traffic and soil, and you will love the way it looks new for years,” he says. “It just will last even longer if the fiber is nylon.”

Pros: It’s soft and durable. Nylon resists stains and soils, and holds up in high-traffic areas. Cost ranges between $10 and $40 a square yard.

Cons: While it’s easy to clean, it needs to be cleaned often to maintain its appearance. Depending on the dye, it may have problems with fading, bleaching or reacting to urine.

Watch out for the zap! Nylon tends to build up a static charge, which is transferred to a person walking across the carpet. Not only can this sting your fingers when you touch a doorknob, but it can harm electronic gear. Although most nylon is now treated with an antistatic coating, you might want to avoid installing it in your computer room.

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