The Best Carpet for Your Home

Updated: December 15, 2019

Choosing the best carpet for you and your family can be a little bit confusing. Which fabric is right for your needs: Nylon, Triexta, PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate or polyester), Olefin? What is a “Tuft Twist” rating? Besides the questions you may have about the types of carpet, you will also need to consider your family lifestyle, your budget, and the layout of your home before making a decision. 

In this article, we take you step by step through all the information you need to figure out the best carpet for you. Or, if you prefer, you can click here to skip ahead to our handy side-by-side comparison that lets you quickly and easily compare features of today’s most popular synthetic carpets.

Carpet is a major purchase and, as with any major purchase, answering a few preliminary questions will aid your decision-making process.

While there are no wrong answers to these questions, your answers will help you make the best decision for you!

  • What is your budget?
  • How large of an area (square feet) will you be carpeting?
  • How many people live in your household?
  • Do you have children, elderly individuals, or pets living in your home?
  • Do you have a mudroom or entry area where shoes can be removed when you walk in the door before walking on your carpets?
  • Will your carpet be subjected to a lot of direct sunlight?
  • How much traffic does the area you plan to carpet normally get?

After determining your answers to these questions, you’ll also find it helpful to identify your top priorities for the areas you will carpet. For example, a large family with lots of indoor traffic may decide durability is their number one priority, while a family with a lot of pets might decide stain resistance is most important. And a single person with no pets might decide that softness and comfort is their number one priority.

Now that you have a better understanding of your budget, needs and priorities, you’ll also want to understand some industry terms that may come up when you’re considering your options. 

 

Common Carpet Terms

Fiber

This is the material the carpet is actually made from. There are two main categories of carpet fiber:

1.  Natural fibers
Carpet can be made from a variety of natural fibers such as wool, silk, cotton, linen yarn or flax, sisal, jute, Coir or coconut husk, seagrass, and even paper!

Of all the natural fibers, wool is the gold standard for carpets, and very expensive. Wool is the type of fiber that synthetic fibers are made to imitate (at a more affordable price) because it feels nice and it is strong and very resistant. Wool carpet resists static, stains, and even fires due to its high nitrogen and water content.

2.  Synthetic fibers
Carpets made from synthetic fibers like nylon, olefin (polypropylene), polyester, triexta, or acrylic are the most popular because of their affordability and durability.

Ply

When researching what type of carpet is right for you, you may hear terms like two-ply, three-ply, and four-ply and wonder just exactly what that means.

Carpet is actually made by spinning single strands of material together into a yarn which is attached to a woven backing. And the term “ply” refers to the number of strands that have been woven together to make the yarn. 

So two-ply means that the yarn is made from two strands of carpet material woven together. Three-ply has three interwoven strands, and four-ply has four interwoven strands.

As you might have guessed, the larger the “ply,” the thicker the carpet will be.

Pile (Face or Nap)

The terms “pile,” “face,” and “nap” are used interchangeably and mean the height of the carpet fiber or loops. As you might imagine, high pile carpet has fibers that are taller and looser, like the iconic shag carpets of the 60s. Low pile carpet has much shorter and tighter fibers or loops, like Berber or indoor/outdoor carpet.

The most common lengths of pile are:

  • Low – less than ¼ inch
  • Medium – ¼ to ½ inch
  • High or Plush – ½ to ¾ inch or more

Density

Carpet density refers to how close together the carpet fibers are, and it is expressed in terms of how many ounces of fiber are in each cubic yard of carpet. Similar to walking barefoot on a thick grassy lawn, carpets with higher density will be more durable and feel better to walk on.

Face Weight (Weight)

Carpet face weight measures the weight (in ounces) of the carpet fiber (without the woven backing) in each square yard of carpet. Although carpet retailers would like you to believe this is one of the most important factors in selecting quality carpet for your home, the truth is it’s not.

Really, the only time a carpet’s face weight is important is when you are considering two types of carpet that are identical in every other way. In that case, the carpet with the higher face weight offers better quality than the one with lower face weight.

Texture

The texture of a carpet comes from the way it is constructed and, as you might imagine, there are a variety of different textures. These charts describe the benefits of each.

cross section of cut pile carpet

Cut Pile Textures: Cut pile is carpet whose fiber loops have been cut to create a softer surface. It one of the most popular textures because of its versatility and durability. The following options are available for cut pile textures.

 

Type Description
Frieze/Shag Made of tightly twisted strands, this carpet has a more casual appeal because it’s surface appears curly and uneven so it hides footprints and vacuum patterns well. It is durable and well-suited for high traffic areas and commercial applications.
Plush/Velvet Just as the name implies, plush carpet feels dense and luxurious, and is a favorite for formal settings. It is also prone to show seams, footprints, and vacuum marks.
Saxony A straight, even surface that has a soft, plush feel and compliments traditional interior designs. It’s most often used in living rooms and dining rooms.
Textured Plush Think of carpets — with fancy swirls, chevrons, or other patterns —  whose textured surface adds a nice decorative touch and hides footprints and vacuum marks.

 

cross section of loop pile carpet

Loop Pile Textures:  Loop pile is carpet with fibers whose ends have not been cut. It is typically more dense than other carpets and better at resisting stains. But it’s not a good choice for homes with pets whose nails can catch and snag. When it comes to loop pile textures there are also a number of options to consider.

 

Type Description
Level Loop Level loop carpet has a uniform look because all the fiber loops are the same height. It stands up well to high-traffic areas but may have a tendency to show dirt and wear because the surface is uniform.
Patterned Loop Also known as multi-level loop, this type of carpet has loops arranged in two or three heights to form a decorative pattern appropriate for more casual rooms. The patterns help hide soil, stains, footprints, and vacuum marks.
Cut and Loop As the name implies, this carpet is composed of cut fibers and loop fibers arranged in a variety of decorative patterns like chevrons, squares, and swirls which tend to effectively hide soil, stains, footprints, and vacuum marks.

 

Twist

Twist refers to the number of times the fiber strands have been wound around each other in one inch of the yarn. Carpets with higher twist counts are typically stronger, more durable, and stand up well to traffic because they aren’t as easily crushed.

PAR Rating

Designed by Shaw Industries, PAR stands for Performance, Appearance, and Retention and it measures how well carpet will perform based on use by a typical family of four. The scale is 1 to 5, with 1 being the least durable and 5 being the most durable.

Now that you’re familiar with these important industry terms, you’re ready to compare your options. To make it easier for you, we’ve prepared a side-by-side comparison chart.

 

Side By Side Comparison Of Today’s Most Common Synthetic Carpets

If affordability is a concern for you as it is for most homeowners, you’ll be choosing a synthetic carpet made from nylon, olefin (polypropylene), polyester (PET), or triexta. But which fiber is best for you? The chart below shows you the pros and cons for each carpet type.

 

Feature Nylon Olefin Polyester Triexta
Price Per Square Yard
(does not include padding or installation)
$8-$45 $9-$12 $6-$15 $2.29-$4.48
Soft
Durable
Long-Lasting
Stain Resistant ✔* ✔*
Static Resistant
Heat Resistant
Moisture Resistant
Hypoallergenic
Avoids Fading
Maintains its shape
Conceals dirt and grime
Good for high traffic areas
Easy to clean

 

* except for oils

 

My Professional Insights for Selecting the Best Carpet

In addition to the features listed above, you might want to know some of the things I’ve discovered in my 20+ years working as a certified carpet inspection, cleaning, and restoration expert.

Nylon is my number one fabric choice for its affordability, durability, resilience, stain resistance, and comfort. But you should know that all nylon carpet is not created equal. High-quality nylon will be listed as 6.6 nylon, Mohawk nylon or Stain-Master nylon. If none of this is listed on the manufacturer’s label, the nylon is likely a lower quality and may not last as long or be as durable as a higher quality nylon.

You will also want to check the denier of the nylon. The denier is the filament strength of the nylon. A higher denier will be a longer lasting carpet. Some carpets advertised as “soft touch” will be a lower denier and may not be as durable or as stain resistant as a standard denier nylon.

Although Triexta is a little more difficult to clean than nylon, it’s my second choice for fabric. It’s newer than nylon, so doesn’t have the time-tested reputation that nylon has. But it’s proving itself to be durable, stain resistant, maintains its shape and color, and holds up well in high traffic areas. And it’s less expensive than nylon, so it would be my number one choice if I were on a budget.

Olefin is mostly used in commercial and outdoor applications. If you have a very high traffic area, this might be a great choice for your home. Be sure to check to make sure the fabric is very tightly looped. The tighter the loop the more durable the carpet.

Polyester is my least favorite carpet fiber because it tends to shed and isn’t as durable as nylon or Triexta. If used at all, it should be placed only in extremely low traffic areas.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in learning more about caring for your natural stone surfaces.

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