Nothing looks like it, feels like it, performs like it. It's inviting, creates a comfortable atmosphere, and enhances the look of all your home furnishings.

Carpet is practical, too. It insulates, reducing air conditioning and heating costs, softens sound by absorbing noise, provides a cushioning layer of protection and comfort, and is easy to maintain.

Because carpet is a key decorative element in the home, and is a major purchase, you must keep several factors in mind in the selection process.

The Look...
The Feel...
The Performance...

The Look...

Before purchasing carpet or rugs, you need to answer the following questions: How is the room going to be used? Will it have heavy or light traffic? Will the room be the center of activity for family and entertaining? Is there direct access from outside, or will the carpet be away from entrances?

Your budget and your needs are two key elements in selecting carpet and rugs. There is a wide range of choices and costs from which to make your selection. Ask yourself how long you expect to keep your carpet before replacing it. A better grade of carpet will give you a greater length of service than one of lesser quality. Buy the best carpet you can afford for the heavy traffic areas of you home - halls, stairs, family room. A medium grade will provide good service in rooms with less traffic - bedrooms and guest rooms. The selection of carpet color is a very personal choice. You will want to select a color that unites your decorative elements and creates the atmosphere you desire. There are also practical considerations in color selection. New stain and soil resistant technology makes today's lighter color carpet much easier to clean, allowing more decorating options. Medium and darker colors, tweeds, and textures will help disguise common soil in your home's high traffic areas.

The Feel...

Carpet construction - how the yarn is "tufted" or locked into a backing - affects its texture and, ultimately, the long-term durability and appearance of the carpet. There are four basic types of pile:

Level loop pile: Loops of equal height. Generally offers long-lasting wear for high-traffic areas. Many of today's popular Berbers are level loop.

Multi-level loop pile: Usually has two to three different loop heights to create pattern effects. Provides good durability.

Cut pile: Loops are cut, leaving individual yarn tufts. Still one of today's most popular constructions, its durability is achieved with factors including the type of fiber, density of tufts, and the amount of twist in the yarn.

These include:
Velvet/Plush: Smooth, level surfaces; formal atmosphere. Velvet carpets are elegant constructions with fine, densely packed, tightly twisted tufts. The tufts appear to blend together, creating a rich sweep of color that lends itself to formal settings. When selecting a velvet carpet, look for one with a low to medium pile height for the best performance and wear. Velvet styles will show shading, just as any fine velvet fabric will do. To many people, shading lends character and richness to the carpet. It also means velvets will tend to show vacuum cleaner marks and footprints.

Saxonies: Various surface finishes; versatile performance and appearance. Saxony solid color styles have a rich appearance that is ideal for traditional or formal rooms. Saxonies have more tip definition than velvets - you may hear the term "pinpoint" or "pencilpoint" tip definition associated with them. If you enjoy the deep pile luxury you can get with a Saxony, you should look for tight, uniform tufts, and a medium to dense construction for optimum performance. Keep in mind that some deep pile Saxonies may show footprints and vacuum cleaner marks.

Textures: Informal atmosphere; suitable for whole house application. Minimizes footprints.

Cut and loop pile: Combination of cut and looped yarns. Provides variety of surface textures, including sculptured effects. Cut and loop carpets offer the visual appeal of both texture and pattern, and many of these styles are on the cutting edge of fashion today. They're created by tufting some loops higher than others. When the carpet is sheared, the higher loop tufts are cut, but the lower ones are not. The resulting cut pile tufts look darker than the loops, creating a pattern.

Frieze & trackless: These are both highly textured cut pile constructions which are ideal if you're looking to minimize the appearance of footprints and vacuum cleaner marks. Frieze (pronounced "free-zay") carpets have tufts which are so tightly twisted they curl back on themselves in random directions. This creates a nubby or "pebbled" look. Trackless style constructions usually fall somewhere between a textured saxony and a frieze. Both styles can be casual or formal, and both are ideal for rooms with higher traffic.

Printed patterns: These are actually saxony carpets with a pattern applied as the last manufacturing step. The design and color possibilities are truly infinite, and with modern dyes and construction techniques, the look should last for years.

Fiber content: Roughly 97% of all carpet is produced using synthetic fibers, which are designed to feature style, easy maintenance, and outstanding value. There are five basic types of carpet pile fibers.

Nylon: Represents 2/3 of all pile fibers used in the United States. Wear-resistant, resilient, withstands the weight and movement of furniture, and provides brilliant color. Ability to conceal and resist soils and stains. Generally good for all traffic areas.

Olefin (polypropylene): Strong, resists wear and permanent stains, and is easily cleaned. Notably colorfast because the color is added in the fiber production. Resists static electricity and is often used in both indoor and outdoor installations because of its resistance to moisture and mildew. Used in synthetic turf for sports surfaces, and in the home for patios and game rooms. Many Berbers are made of olefin.

Polyester: Noted for luxurious, soft "hand" when used in thick, cut pile textures. Has excellent color clarity and retention, easily cleaned, and resistant to water-soluble stains.

Acrylic: Offers the appearance and feel of wool without the cost. Has low static level and is moisture- and mildew-resistant. Commonly used in velvet and level-loop constructions, and often in bath and scatter rugs.

Wool: Noted for its luxury and performance, wool is soft, has high bulk, and is available in many colors. Generally, wool is somewhat more expensive than synthetic fibers.

The Performance...

The type of fiber used and the way the carpet is constructed (loop, cut, etc.) determines the basic performance of the carpet. Quality can be enhanced by the way the fibers, or yarns, are twisted and heat set, and by the density of the tufts.

The density of a carpet refers to the amount of pile yarn in the carpet and the closeness of the tufts. The denser, the better. The twist of a carpet refers to the winding system of the yarn around itself. Should be neat and well defined. A tighter twist provides enhanced durability. The heat-setting process is one that sets the twist by heat of steam, enabling yarns to hold their twist over time. This is very important in cut pile carpet. Most nylon, olefin, and polyester cut pile carpets are heat-set.

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