How to Buy Carpet—What You Need to Know to Make the Perfect Decision

It’s not something you buy every day. But when it’s time to buy carpet, you’ll want to know your stuff. Make a bad decision and you’ll pay dearly for a long time, and I am not talking just about the money. You’ll pay a significant price in dissatisfaction and disappointment.




First, decide the style of carpet and type of fiber you want, determined by where it will be installed and how much money you have to spend.

Visit several retail carpet stores that will let you take carpet samples home for a few days. Walk on them, view them in a different light. Set a heavy piece of furniture on them to see if the fibers will “rebound” once removed.

No matter how much pressure the sales staff pours on, remember you are not obligated to purchase from any store even if you checked out samples from them.


Styles of Carpet


Usually one solid color with even, smooth pile height. Varies from lightweight (apartment-grade) with fewer tufts per square inch to heavier weights that are very dense. Comes in a vast range of colors. Shows footprints and vacuum marks.

Textured plush

Two shades mixed with varying pile heights that reduces vacuum marks and footprints. About the same price as plush.


Very tightly twisted tufts of yarn. More expensive than plush but wears much longer—15 years is not unusual. Frieze comes in a variety of pile heights from short all the way to super shag. Durable, holds up to heavy use without matting or showing traffic patterns. Rebounds well.


Has two types of tufts—loops and cut pile in varying heights. Often called high-low. Usually has several shades of color varying from light to dark. Doesn’t show much dirt; often used in apartments.


Very dense cut pile carpet with well-defined tufts. You can actually see the individual tuft tips, giving it a very textured look. Has a rough, textured appearance, although quite similar in appearance to plush.


A popular choice in recent years, berber has nothing to do with color (usually comes in light earth tones) but rather with construction. Berber capret is made of short looped yarn that is aligned in rows for a uniform look. The loops can snag and run easily like a pair of hose. When that happens, it is nearly impossible to repair.

Cut pile berber

Not really berber, as the loops are all cut to make short pile from fat yarn. The speckled look resembles the look of berber. Looks good when new but wears poorly.


Known for its small, low-level loops and short cut pile. Usually glued to the floor. Not typically used in residential areas, as it’s not soft underfoot.


Types of fiber


A synthetic fiber that out-performs all other fibers. It wears well, cleans like a dream, resists matting and comes in all colors and styles. And it is inexpensive.


This fiber is made from polypropylene, a type of plastic. Olefin is quite cheap. Most berber carpets are made of olefin. But olefin has problems. It is difficult to clean—more like impossible—so it tends to look dingy in traffic areas. Feels rough underfoot.

Polyester or P.E.T.

This feels very soft but beware—polyester carpet mats terribly and is not resilient. Because polyester carpet feels so great and is quite inexpensive, it’s a favorite among uninformed consumers. Not unlike polyester leisure suits. Remember them?


Quite expensive, but a truly elite fiber for carpet. Requires cleaning by a specialist who deals in wool. Wears well, lasts for decades but not often worth the price, which can be astronomical.


Paddings under carpet

Each carpet manufacturer recommends a specific pad for a specific style. Don’t go higher or lower than recommended—go with exactly the type of padding recommended to insure the best result.


This is the type of padding that usually comes with the “padding included” or “free padding” offer. Don’t accept it. It will not hold up to traffic, will flatten quickly and is not recommended for residential use.


The most common for residential installations, rebond is made of recycled urethane foam, is usually multi-colored and looks like lots of little pieces stuck together (it is). It comes in a variety of densities and thicknesses to accommodate all manufacturers’ specifications.


Very dense and more expensive than rebond, fiber pad will help a berber carpet wear better.


  • Take care of spots the moment they happen. Use a good spot remover like Spot Shot.
  • Hold off as long as possible from having the carpet professionally steam cleaned, but once you do this set a standing appointment for at least once yearly.
  • The best thing you can do for carpet is to vacuum often and thoroughly—twice weekly if at all possible.


And in conclusion …

Have you figured it out? There is no better carpet for the price than a 100% nylon frieze installed over rebond pad. Nylon frieze resists stains. Spots that do happen come up very easily. It does not mat or become crushed, even in high-traffic areas. Nylon frieze is reasonably soft underfoot and will bring you many years of enjoyment.

That was easy. Now comes the hard part—selecting a color you will enjoy for 15 years or longer!


Carpet and Design


First published: 4-14-15; Revised, Republished 3-27-19

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Caught yourself reading all the way 'til the end? Why not share with a friend.

9 replies
  1. Tori Raddison says:

    Thanks for explaining that plush carpet shows footprints and vacuum marks in it. That doesn’t bother me much because I like seeing vacuum marks. It makes the room feel cleaner.

  2. Olivia Ray says:

    It is good to know that Nylon frieze resists stains and has a long lifespan. My wife and I are raising our family and we know stains are going to be inevitable. We might be heading to the carpet store soon to get some of this nylon frieze in a few rooms in our house.

  3. Gina Morse says:

    When I was in college for interior design, I was taught that if you have to save money somewhere, buy cheaper carpet and splurge on the pad. The pad protects the carpet from wear and it will last much longer.

  4. Bryce Trout says:

    I am in the market for new carpet and it is impossible to choose! There are so many styles and I can’t tell the difference. I really appreciate you talking about the different types of carpet as well as the padding. I didn’t even think about padding. This article was very helpful thanks for posting.

  5. Jo in KS says:

    Thanks for the carpet info, Mary. We live in a one story home (on a slab). When we replace our carpet what kind of padding is the best insulator? Our floors are always cool and so our feet and legs really feel that in the winter. Any thoughts appreciated.

  6. skye says:

    This has convinced me. No carpet, period. I hate having glues and synthetic fibers around my kids and pets, and there is no way a carpetcan get as clean as a hard surface floor. Area rugs can be taken out for cleaning. And for Beck, yeah, I know how you feel, but for my part, the joy of a pet is worth it. The carpet doesnt love you back, the pet does.

  7. Beck says:

    Does anyone know a good way to get rid of carpet pulls other than using scissors or a sweater shaver? We had cats and they would play and sometimes make the fibers come up higher than the carpet in several spots. I know next time no indoor pets!

    • Kitsy says:

      I bought a great area rug at a home goods store that had a 1-1/2″ bare spot near the edge from a large pull (from the big clips that held the rug up on display). I got a huge discount and the store manager said I could glue the yarn down. I would probably use hot glue that dried fast and a knitting needle or something similar to shape it into short loops while I glued it. (I got lazy and put a chair over it!) Hope this helps!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *