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Helpful Tips for buying carpet for your home

Shopping for carpet is a lot like shopping for a car. It involves a huge financial investment; all the different styles, colors and brands can make your head spin; and you often end up dealing with high-pressure salespeople. The experience can be so overwhelming that it’s tempting to shop with only a basic color and style in mind and rely on salespeople for recommendations.

Carpeting is one of the largest investments you’ll make in your home. By doing some basic homework, comparison shopping and working with a reputable retailer, you’ll be able to buy carpeting that fits your needs—and gives you confidence that you’re getting a quality product for a good price.

Nylon outperforms all other fibers in durability, resilience and easy maintenance. This is a good choice if you want your carpet to last a decade or longer, for high-traffic areas, and in homes with kids and pets (Photo 1). Higher quality nylon fibers are “branded,” and the carpet label will use terms like “100% Mohawk Nylon” or “100% Stainmaster Tactesse.” Lower-quality, “unbranded” nylon fibers are listed simply as “100% nylon.” The strongest and softest type (and most expensive) is 6.6 nylon. Cost is $10 to $45 per sq. yd.

Triexta (brands include Smart-Strand and Sorona) is a newly classified fiber derived partly from corn sugar (Photo 2). It has excellent, permanent anti-stain properties (nylon must be treated with stain protectors over its life span). It also has good resilience, but it’s too soon to tell whether it will match the durability of nylon in high-traffic areas. Because of its superior stain resistance, this is a good choice if you have young kids or pets. Expect to pay $20 to $45 per sq. yd.

Polyester (also called PET) is stain resistant, very soft and luxurious underfoot, and is available in deep and vibrant colors (Photo 3). However it’s harder to clean, tends to shed and isn’t as durable as nylon. It’s best used in low-traffic areas (like bedrooms) and in households without kids or pets. A nice, cushy choice if you like to exercise on the carpet. The cost is $8 to $18 per sq. yd.

Olefin (polypropylene) is an attractive, inexpensive fiber that’s strong and resists fading, but it’s not as resilient as nylon (Photo 4). It’s most often made into a looped Berber with a nubby weave that conceals dirt. It has good stain, static and mildew resistance. Olefin carpeting is often selected for high-traffic “clean” areas such as family rooms and play areas. It costs $8 to $25 per sq. yd.

A salesperson might tell you that a certain carpet is a good deal, but don’t rely on his or her word alone. Check the label, handle the carpet and ask the salesperson about these signs of quality.

At least a 34- to 40-oz. face weight. This is the number of ounces of fiber per square yard. The range is generally from 20 to 80, and the higher the number, the heavier and more resilient the carpet.

A tuft twist of 5 or higher. Twist is the number of times the tufts are twisted together in a 1-in. length. The higher the number, the more durable the carpet.

A density rating of 2,000 or more. Density is determined by the thickness of the fibers and how tightly packed they are. The thicker and heavier they are, the better quality the carpet and the less susceptible to crushing. Bend the carpet sample backward (Photo). If you can see the backing easily, it’s a low-density (lower quality) carpet.

Is it BCF or staple fiber construction? Carpet fibers can be either Bulked Continuous Filament (BCF) or “staple.” Staple fibers shed more than BCF fibers. This doesn’t affect the long-term quality of the carpet, but it does mean you’ll have to vacuum more often until the initial shedding stops (which can take up to a year), and it can also be an issue for allergy sufferers.

At least a 10-year “texture retention” warranty. This covers how well the fibers return to their original shape after being walked on. Although manufacturers tout their 15- and 25-year warranties, salespeople caution that warranties are seldom honored except in cases of obvious product defects.

A lot of carpet problems stem from poor installation. Bad seaming, a too-thin pad and inadequate stretching can make a carpet look terrible within a few years. If you or a friend knows a great carpet installer, use that person instead of one provided by the carpet dealer. The installer will measure your house, tell you exactly how much carpet and pad to get, recommend a quality dealer, and pick up the carpet and deliver it on installation day. You can save yourself some money on the installation by removing the old carpet and pad yourself. Ask your installer how much you’ll save to see if it’s worthwhile.

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