What you need to know about carpeting

Carpeting serves several vital functions: it protects floor surfaces, absorbs sound, provides comfort and helps trap warmth during cool weather. Because carpet prices can be high, it's essential that you give yourself an advantage by educating yourself on the various features of carpeting so you know how to differentiate a quality product from an inferior one.

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An Introduction to Carpeting

There are three basic terms you'll need to be familiar with to shop wisely for your carpeting: density, pile weight and pile height.

Carpet density refers to the tightness of the carpeting fibers or yarn. The denser a carpet is, the better. This is true regardless of whether you're buying wool, nylon, polyester or Berber carpet. Most discount carpets tend to have lighter densities, which means they'll wear out faster. When it comes to carpeting, cheaper isn't always better.

The pile weight of a given carpet refers to the weight, in ounces, of the actual fiber contained in one square yard of carpet. Higher pile weights usually mean higher carpet densities and, therefore, superior quality.

Pile height simply refers to the height the pile loops reach, when measured from the top of the carpet's primary backing. This is more a matter of preference than quality; dense carpets can have short pile heights, and loosely woven carpets can have tall pile heights. It all depends on your needs.

These qualities apply to all types of carpet, from plush products designed for wall-to-wall use to carpet runners intended to line your hallway or wind up your staircase.

Other Factors to Consider

Quality is but one of many factors you'll need to consider when shopping for carpeting. After you've determined a particular product is of satisfactory quality, you'll need to make sure it's fire-resistant and, ideally, soil-resistant.

Carpet padding is a very important add-on if you want to increase the softness of your carpeting, or if you want added sound absorption. When it comes to carpet padding, it's most important that you read the warranty carefully. Many warranties only cover certain features of the carpet padding, such as soil resistance, texture retention or static resistance.

If you're getting professional carpet installation, ask the company to use adhesives with low emissions ratings to ensure that your indoor air quality remains at a safe level. Should you want to add carpet tile to your home, make sure that the tiles you buy are compatible with your specific flooring type.

Lastly, the condition in which you keep your carpet will obviously have an effect on how long it lasts and how good it looks. Regular carpet cleaning using a vacuum cleaner is important, and you should occasionally get it professionally shampooed as well.