How to Choose Quality Wall-to-Wall Carpet

Synthetic and natural fibers offer wide choice

Wall to wall carpet

Selecting a new carpet for your home is a very important decision, as a carpet can really make or break your decorating scheme regardless of whether you do just one room or the whole house. The most important part of choosing a new carpet is the fiber type. The most popular choices of fiber for carpeting are nylon, polyester, and olefin. Natural fibers, such as wool, are also desirable. So how do you know which one to pick?

Well, first take into account the room in which you plan to install it, then how much traffic it's likely to be subject to. To make it easier, check out the tables below to see which fiber best suits your needs.

Synthetic fibers

Of the various types of wall-to-wall carpet purchased, the most common is nylon ... most likely because it’s the strongest and never becomes that dreaded “threadbare” carpet. However, it does start to look rather unattractive if it’s not properly maintained (never vacuumed or washed) or if substandard padding was installed. Often, higher quality nylons are “branded,” meaning they’ll say the brand name instead of just “100% nylon.”

Weaker, but with better stain resistance and color choices, polyester carpeting is a little cheaper than nylon but may be a suitable choice. It’s made sometimes from recycled plastic materials, which some people tend to think sounds a little funny when you walk on it. Probably a good idea is to try to see a room where it’s installed before you spring for an entire house worth of it.

Olefin is the weakest but most concealing (dirt-wise) of the three choices, so it’s usually used in high-trafficked areas like family rooms. It’s best when it’s made into a berber style carpet because it has a nice, textured knobby weave. It's also used in outdoor applications.

All synthetic fibers are petroleum-based products, so if earth-friendly products are a priority, you might need to look further for natural, sustainable alternatives.

Fiber Type Pros & Cons Cost/sq. yd.
Nylon The most preferred synthetic fiber, nylon is resilient, easy to maintain, and hard-wearing. Works almost anywhere. It comes in a huge array of colors and types including plush, saxonies, and berbers. Some manufacturers, like FLOR™, recycle their nylon carpet products.
$10 to $35
Olefin (Polypropylene) Best when you need high stain, static and mildew resistance. Not as resilient as nylon and oily stains can be difficult to remove. It can be treated with a soil protectant. May be used for indoor or outdoor applications.
$8 to $25
Polyester (PET) Soft feel and good color options. Best for use in low-trafficked areas, not as durable as nylon. Inexpensive and tends not to hold up. A sustainable option made from recycled soda bottles.

$8 to $18

Natural Fibers

Many people who want to use "green" materials in their homes will often eschew wall to wall carpeting entirely. Issues with offgassing of VOCs that are used in synthetic carpets as well as their backing and adhesives can compromise indoor air quality. And regardless of the fiber content, wall-to-wall carpet collects dust, mites, and allergens that can pose problems in many families. However, the following sustainable fibers are available.

Fiber Type Pros & Cons Cost/sq. yd.
Wool Excellent resilience. Naturally stain resistant. Very soft and extremely durable. High maintenance and very expensive. Considered by many to be the "gold standard" for carpeting.
$24 to $60+
Coir/Sisal Sustainable coconut coir fiber and sisal from the Mexican agave combine to make a modern carpeted surface. Repels dirt, but also hides it well. Durable and low maintenance. May be bound and used for area rugs.
$27 to $39
Seagrass A natural grass fiber that is strong and durable, but impermeable to dying so it retains it's natural golden brown color. Available in a variety of weaves. Often bound and used for area rugs.
$16 to $50+


You’ll pay the most for a wool carpet because it’s not synthetic and has an excellent durability rating. Wool takes dye well and no other fiber works up as well into carpet. The major downside the the cost.

What to look for

Whatever type of carpet you end up buying, look at the following characteristics:

Tight construction—The tighter a carpet is constructed, the more likely it will be able to stand up to crushing and matting. A carpet constructed with 100 strands of fiber will simply not hold up as the same piece of carpet with 200.

High twists per inch level/percentage—A twist rating refers to how many times the fiber is twisted together in a one-inch length. Five twists per inch or more indicates a good quality carpeting.

Face weight—The face weight of the carpet should be around 35 to 40 ounces. The term means the number of ounces of fiber per square yard of carpet. It’s very hard to tell by looking, so you have to check with the dealer. Most will generally be able to provide more specific detail.

Density—Look for the heavier types of carpet, as these will hold up best to the test of time (and feet!). To check the density, fold back the carpet and examine its backing. See how easy it is to move the carpet tufts to look at the backing. The closer the fibers are attached, the less wear on each individual fiber. Denser carpet and carpet with more yarn tufts per square inch has a better resistance to crushing.

Carpet styles

Plush—Composed of lightly twisted pile, plush carpet is uniform in color and also very soft. This type of carpet usually shows footprints and vacuum cleaner marks. Very smooth and dense, but less dense than Saxony.

Saxony—Saxony style carpets have a dense, level-cut pile with closely packed tufts. With its smooth, soft finish, this carpet is the most common type available. Like plush, it also shows footprints and vacuum marks, so keep that in mind if you're planning on installing it in high trafficked areas.

Berber—This looped style carpet is very durable and has become very popular in recent years. Usually it has an off-white color, heathered look that comes from the use of flecked yarn. Berbers also come in pastel and dark tones. They can have level loop, cut-and-loop, or multi-level loop designs, and generally shows less footprint tracks and vacuum marks. This style has a thicker yarn content than other choices of carpet.

Frieze—A very tightly twisted cut pile carpet. Frieze carpet is made up of yarn described as "hardtwist" because the yarn has been given an extra turn or two which makes the surface texture a little rougher and less prone to show footprints. This style holds up well under heavy traffic.

Cut-and-loop—One of the more economical choices, cut-and-loop pile carpet has great durability and offers a nice variety of designs. Cut-and-loop carpeting is created by tufting some loops higher than others, thus creating a unique texture which is sometimes referred to as a "sculptured" style. This type is usually multicolored and has the ability to hide soil as well as wear and tear.

Level-loop—Ideal for high-trafficked areas, level loop carpeting is made by weaving even loops of yarn into carpet backing at both ends. Unlike the cut-and-loop styles, level loop offers an even-textured and casual appearance. The short and densely packed loops are easy to clean and prevent dirt and dust from filtering into the carpet.

To distinguish low quality carpet from high, note the backing of the carpet. A lower quality carpet may have big squares on the back, while a higher quality carpet will have smaller, tighter squares. A woven backing is an indicator of the best quality of carpet. Make a checklist and go through it when looking at samples. If your carpet has a twist level of approximately four or five, perfect. If it has a density of about 3,000 to 4,000, great. Face weight of 35 ounces or better? Go for it. Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s a lot easier to make a decision on the decoration of your new home.

If you need help installing wall-to-wall carpet, find a qualified installer at Next Step Remodeling Small Repairs .

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