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Comfortable Carpet

For warmth and softness underfoot, carpet is your choice. Carpet has two components -- face pile and backing. Because the face pile (or yarn fibers) is subject to all the wear and tear, it's your key consideration. Backing is almost never seen once the carpet is installed, but it plays a role in the overall quality. Any carpet measuring more than 54 inches wide is referred to as "broadloom."

Carpet face pile comes in two variations: cut and loop. In cut-pile carpets, individual yarns stand up straight from the backing. In loop-pile construction, the yarn comes out of the backing, loops over, and returns into the backing. Loop-pile carpets with a level surface are called level loops. If the loop height varies, the carpet is a multilevel loop. Most loop piles will perform better than cut piles over the long haul because the loops help evenly distribute the impact of foot traffic. One caveat: Loose loop-pile products, such as berbers, won't hold up as well under heavy traffic, especially if they are made with polypropylene, a less-resilient fiber.

Cut-and-loop, or cut/uncut, carpets combine both pile types to add surface texture, and often blend multiple yarn colors. Sometimes referred to as "sculptured," these multitexture, multicolor carpets hide footprints and soil well.

Generally, the heavier the carpet, the better it will hold up. However, don't select a product based on weight alone. Consider the carpet's density, pile height, and fiber type when comparing different varieties. Many carpets come in good, better, and best choices. These will be similar styles available in the same colors. The difference is usually weight. A retailer might offer a textured saxony in 28, 34, and 40 ounces, for example. If you're budget-conscious, select the heavier product for high-traffic areas and the lower-weight carpet for less-used rooms.

More About Carpet:

The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) recommends buying the best carpet you can afford for heavy-traffic areas. Look for performance rating guidelines; this system is usually based on a five-point scale, with a 4 or 5 rating being best for high-traffic areas and a 2 or 3 suggested for low-traffic areas, such as bedrooms.

Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI)

Carpet is made of a top layer, called face pile, and a backing. The most expensive part of the carpet is the face-pile fiber, so the heavier the weight, the more it will cost. Most broadloom, or wall-to-wall carpet, is constructed with a process called tufting, in which hundreds of fiber clusters are embedded into backing material. The most common types of carpet construction are level loop (loops of equal height), multilevel loop pile (two or three different loop heights), cut-pile (loops are cut to create various surface finishes), and cut-and-loop pile (a combination of cut and looped yarns). In loop-pile carpets, both ends of the tufts are stitched to the backing, whereas cut-pile carpets have tufts that stand straight up. (Cut-pile carpeting often is referred to as velvet and plush.)

Carpet quality can be evaluated by the way the fibers, or yarns, are twisted and heat-set, and by the density of the tufts. "Density" refers to the amount of pile yarn in the carpet and the closeness of the tufts -- the denser, the better. "Twist" describes the winding of the yarn around itself; a tighter twist provides enhanced durability. "Heat-setting" is the process that sets the twist by heat or steam, enabling yarns to hold twist over time. Saxony, one of the largest-selling carpet types, is a cut-pile carpet in which yarns are twisted together, then heated to lock in the twist.

Deep pile height that is densely tufted has a luxurious feel. A deep pile height is a matter of personal choice and not an indication of durability. In fact, the shorter the pile height, the more crush-resistant and long-lasting the carpet will be.

Carpet fibers may be natural or synthetic. The five basic fiber types are nylon, olefin (polypropylene), polyester, acrylic, blends, and wool.