What's New in Wall-to-Wall Carpet
New designs and advances in fiber technology make carpet worth a fresh look.
Wall-to-wall carpeting used to be pretty boring stuff: a neutral field of smooth-cut pile, without a lot of excitement or character. But like everything else in the house, carpet has gone high-style — not to mention high-tech.
Synthetic yarns, advanced dyeing techniques, and new manufacturing processes now produce carpet with more texture, color, durability, and stain resistance than ever before.
"New looms can combine different piles to create a pattern, like a floral or geometric print," says Gary Johnston, global brand manager at Stainmaster. The result is carpets that are not simply backgrounds for the rest of your decor but focal points in their own right.
The fibers are cut level, creating a smooth, soft surface. Though most often seen in formal rooms, those with tighter twists can be used in more casual settings. Saxonys are more likely to show footprints and vacuum marks.
What to Look For
The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting a carpet is how much foot traffic it will get. For the busiest areas, look for a dense construction. "Lay a carpet sample on the table and run your
fingers through it. You don't want to be able to see the backing of the carpet," says Barbra Wilson, manager of technical information at the Carpet and Rug Institute. You'll also want a shorter pile height — the general rule is half an inch or less. In a cut-pile carpet, look for a good, tight twist of the yarn bundles. In looped carpet, look for smaller, tighter loops. Less-trafficked areas give you more freedom, allowing you to choose from plush cut-pile Saxonys to twisty friezes (for details, see "Pile Style").
Next, consider the material the carpet is made of. Wool is the industry benchmark. "It's what every other fiber is trying to be," says M.J. Pullins, marketing director at Stanton Carpet. "It doesn't crush or fade. It's naturally fire-retardant, hypoallergenic, discourages the growth of bacteria, and even regulates the room's humidity." But because it tends to cost more than other fibers, wool accounts for a relatively small share of the market.
Two-thirds of all carpeting purchased in the United States is made of nylon, thanks to its colorfastness, resilience, and easy maintenance. Olefin (also called polypropylene) is another durable, colorfast, and reasonably priced synthetic. Often used for level-loop and Berber carpet, olefin resists static, moisture, and mildew better than other fibers and can even be used outdoors. Polyester is not as resilient as other fibers, but it's soft to the touch and easily cleaned. Acrylic is most often used in velvet and level-loop constructions; it looks and feels like wool and gives you the most bang for your buck.
CUT AND LOOP
Combining cut and looped fibers produces a carved look, often created in a tone-on-tone. These carpets are durable and camouflage stains.
What your carpet is made of is important, but how the yarns are constructed is what gives it a
This pile is cut, but the tufts are denser and sheared more finely than Saxonys. Plush and velvets are almost always used in formal spaces; they hide vacuum marks and footprints well.
New manufacturing techniques combine piles for a
Loops of different heights create a casual, textured pattern that works well in high-traffic areas.
The cut yarn is tightly and unevenly twisted, giving it a textured surface. Friezes hide dirt well and give a room a laid-back look. Shag is
a longer variation of frieze.
Where to Find It
For more information:
The Carpet and Rug Institute