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  • Lisa Hubbell

The ABC's of Buying Carpet

Comparing carpet prices for similar styles.

When carpet samples look the same but the price range is extreme:

Just like shopping for cars or clothes, different carpet styles have a lot of look-a-likes; yet, prices vary tremendously and there’s a reason for that. Fiber type, yarn twist, pile height, density, soil and stain protection features, and carpet backing are among the driving forces affecting price.

Fiber Type:

Wool is by far the most expensive carpet fiber and, if you are looking for carpet made with wool, you can expect to pay a premium. However, more than 90% of today’s carpet in America is made using 1 of 4 synthetic fibers: nylon, polyester, triexta, or polypropylene. Each fiber has its benefits, but some are more expensive to produce and will provide a longer life span than others. Nylon and triexta are the most expensive synthetic fibers to manufacture and have a greater life expectancy than the two other fibers; hence, just as a genuine silk blouse costs more than a polyester version, the retail price for nylon and triexta fibers are higher than a look-a-like carpet made with polyester or polypropylene fibers.

Yarn Twist:

“Yarn twist” refers to number of turns the individual tufts of yarn are twisted per linear inch. Twist is secured with heat setting and, typically, the greater amount of twist is equivalent to greater resilience and structural integrity of the tuft. Basically, greater twist equals better bounce back from direct traffic and greater ability to stay twisted. A carpet fiber that has lost its twist will look frayed, fuzzy, and matted which is not exactly a carpet’s best look!

Pile Height:

“Pile Height” or “Pile” refers to tufted carpet yarns that are measured from the primary backing to the top of a carpet’s pile not including the thickness of the backing. In short, it’s the length of each tuft. Pile can range from 1/8″ to 1″ for plush styles and even longer lengths in shag styles; however, pile is generally of interest in plush styles. A higher pile means more yarn was used in the construction of the carpet and will therefore cost more than a lower pile carpet.


“Density” refers to how closely carpet yarns are tufted together into the primary backing. Think of density in terms of the number of tufted yarns per square inch. The denser a carpet is the more a surrounding yarns can support one another. This type of construction often becomes of interest with plush style carpet which largely depends on its teammates to support each another and prevent a crushed appearance. As you can imagine, a denser carpet increases the retail value as a greater quantity of yarn was used to construct the carpet.

Soil and Stain Resistance Features:

Every carpet has soil and stain resistance to some degree, but some products today have taken soil and stain resistance to a new level and warranty the carpet for pet urine, red wine, mustard, and chemical solutions such as bleach or benzyl peroxide. Obviously, a carpet’s increased capacity to resist soil and permanent stains increases the carpet’s value. Furthermore, carpet manufacturers are improving stain resistance by a process called “Solution Dying.” Just as the term implies, the yarn is dyed in its solution (liquid) state. This process allows for the fiber to be sealed and for the dye to entirely permeate the yarn. Prior to solution dying becoming the standard, carpet yarn was dyed after the yarn was in its solid state and took up color at injection points called “dye sites.” Dye sites are literally microscopic holes injected into yarn for the purpose of taking up dye. However, this process also allows for other undesirable colorants to be taken up including red wine, pet urine, mustard, coffee, and other stain causing culprits.

Carpet Backing:

“Carpet Backing” not only holds the carpet all together it also holds the carpet to the tack strip after installation. A higher quality backing will help resist carpet buckling even after years of use, will resist pulling away from the tack strip, and will lend to the overall structural integrity of the carpet. All it takes is observing different carpet at different price points. You will find three different types of backings: the standard backing which is rough and broader connections, the soft back which is a layer of soft fabric over standard backing, and the opti-back with a more flexible and tighter construction.

Those are some quick tips to help you in your pursuit for new carpet. We at Western Carpet are here to help and, of course, we have an outstanding selection of carpet.

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