Carpet is quiet, soft, slip-resistant, and often quite beautiful. No wonder carpet is the most popular floor covering choice for homes. With so many choices available, the decision of which carpet to purchase can be daunting. There are several factors to keep in mind that will help to simplify your selection.

Level of Traffic

In the high-traffic areas such as the stairs, hallway, or family room, buy the best carpet you can afford. All carpets have performance ratings, usually rated on a scale from 1 to 5, 5 being the best. By purchasing a higher-rated carpet for at least the heavy-use areas, you will much happier with your carpet in the long run. A rating of 2 to 3 is sufficient for low-use areas.


Because it covers so much space, carpet is the foundation of your room’s décor. It can be a neutral color, blending other fabrics, or it can be a bright color, and be the focal point of the room. You will want to select a color that will create the atmosphere you desire. Warm colors really do make a room seem warmer, while cool greens and blues have a calming effect. Lighter colors make a room seem bigger, while darker colors make a room seem cozier. You should never choose a darker carpet to hide soil.

Fiber Construction

Fiber construction is the most important factor in determining how long your carpet will last. Cut pile carpet, where the loops are cut, leaving individual tufts, is the most popular construction. It is available in a velvet finish, where the carpet has a smooth formal look, and also as a friezé, where the yarns are extremely twisted, giving the carpet a more informal look while minimizing footprints and vacuum marks. The other main type of carpet is the loop pile, where the loops are left intact. If the loops are level, the carpet is called a Berber. There are also multi-level loop and cut and loop piles which create pattern effects in the carpet. While loop pile carpets can often last longer than cut pile carpets, keep in mind that if any of the loops become snagged and are pulled on, an unsightly run can easily develop. Regardless of the type of pile you choose, you will want to compare the density of the tufts, denser the better, as well as the twist of the yarns, tighter the better.

Fiber Type

There are three main fibers used in carpet: olefin, wool, and nylon. Although polyester and acrylic are also sometimes used, these three fibers represent over 95% of the market.

In recent years, olefin has grown in popularity not only because of its lower price but also because of its ability to reduce staining. Olefin does not absorb liquid, so when a colored liquid is spilled onto the fiber, staining of the fibers is greatly reduced. This characteristic is also one of olefin’s greatest weaknesses: any stains will reside at the base of the fibers and will continually wick back to the surface after the fibers dry after a cleaning. Another major weakness of olefin is the fact that it scratches very easily. The traffic areas will begin to look dingy or worn, even after a cleaning. The reason is that the fibers have been scratched by foot traffic. This is a permanent condition. It is best to avoid olefin if possible and leave it for commercial use.

Wool is a natural fiber and is known for its ability to withstand foot traffic. It will outlast any other fiber, which is why oriental rugs last so long. Wool’s disadvantage is that it stains easily. It is also the most expensive fiber type.

Nylon is the most popular fiber and represents about two-thirds of the fiber piles used. Nylon is much more resistant to stains than wool. It is also more resilient than olefin and does not scratch as easily. Nylon fibers do differ from each other. Name-brand nylon fibers will outperform standard nylon. Also, all nylon is treated with a stain resistor such as Teflon or Scotchguard.

There are many choices in carpet selection. Visit several retailers to find one with a knowledgeable and trustworthy staff you feel comfortable working with.