One of the most important factors that determines how your new carpet will perform is its construction. Carpet construction consist of the fiber, the backing, the latex used to hold the backings together, density of pile, pile height, twist level of the fiber, shearing or finishing, treatments for stain resistance, and the dye method used to put color onto the carpet.
Most carpets are tufted or punched through one backing with a series of needles. The backing that you see is the secondary backing used to “sandwich” the fiber between the primary and secondary backing using a latex glue. The tightness of the weave of this secondary backing is not as important as the latex glue holding the backings together. If the latex fails, the two backings delaminate and the fiber starts to fall out; also the carpet , if installed wall- to- wall, will wrinkle. This is a mill defect that cannot be seen until a time beyond that of most warranties. Most often the more expensive carpets use a better quality latex, thus insuring a long lasting installation.
Most backings are a web or weave of plastic and have such names as “Action Bac”. The other types of backing are foam rubber, urethane, and jute. Foam rubber is now used as a secondary backing on some inexpensive kitchen carpets, or indoor-outdoor carpets. This type of backing should be used only if you are involved in a do-it-yourself project. Urethane backings are better than foam rubber. Urethane holds the fibers tighter and bonds the fiber to the primary backing thus making for less delamination or fuzing to the face yarn. Jute is the backing on the carpet your parents bought. It is a superior carpet back. However, because the United States is not able to import jute on a regular basis at a fair price, the carpet mills have resolved to use the available plastic backings for their tufted carpet. Some jute is still used for heavy berber carpets and for some wool carpets.
New SoftBac carpets from Shaw have been successfully used for several years, and have proven to be superior to standard plastic backings.
PILE HEIGHT AND DENSITY
When shopping for carpet you will hear terms like face weight, density and twist. These are the three things that determine the construction of the carpet’s surface. First of allface weight is just the amount of fiber on the surface of the carpet expressed in ounces per square yard. This number is not to be confused with “total weight” which refers to the face weight PLUS the weight of the latex and the two backings. Some misinformed salespeople will proudly proclaim a carpet to have a weight of 70 or 80 ounces. In most cases this is the “total weight” not the face weight. DO NOT purchase a carpet just because it has a higher face weight. Back in the days when SEARS sold carpet they were famous for selling carpet by the pound. Their salespeople would exclaim “Well Lady this is a 60 ounce carpet for only $14.99”. The uninformed buyer, not knowing any better, would be impressed.
The term density is simply what the name implies. The closer together the strands of the fiber are together at the base of the carpet, the more dense the carpet. Density is important because it effects how the carpet is going to look and perform. For example a low face weight carpet i.e. 18 ounces, if constructed in a loop that is extremely dense, will last for years. A prime example is that old kitchen carpet made from nylon. It lasted for years in your KITCHEN! Nylon is so strong, that even 18 ounces performed when constructed in a dense short pile. If one were to make a carpet less dense, then the amount of yarn and its twist level would have to increase in order to achieve the same level of performance.
Twist level is the amount of twist that two plies (or more) of fiber are given. You can sometimes count the twists by examining the face of the carpet carefully. The more twist in the fiber, the less dense the carpet has to be, and it can even have less fiber. A short, medium dense, 40 ounce face fiber, high twist carpet will last as long as many looped carpets. A twist level of six twists per inch is a good starting point. This means in a inch of a two ply fiber there would be six turns or twist that you could count.
There is an old saying in the carpet business. “The shorter, the tighter the twist, the denser, the better the carpet. ” The short tight twist carpet is called a frieze This is the best wearing style of carpet that is not a loop pile i.e. commercial carpet. A frieze with a longer pile and a little less density is a style called textured plush. This style is still excellent for wear, and has a elegant look. A textured plush with even less yarn creates a style called a textured saxony. This style is still going to perform well, but in the very heavy traffic areas some crushing will be noticeable. Remove even more yarn while keeping the same longer pile, will create a shag carpet. Shags are casual, and if tightly twisted, can give years of service. Shags will crush, but will recover with a good vacuuming, but only if the carpet is kept clean.
SHEARING OR FINISHING
If the fiber is not crimped as in the above textures, and the carpet is sheared several times, the carpet will look like avelvet in super dense construction, a plush in less dense construction, and a saxony in even less dense construction.
Velvets are super formal and tend to show the most footprints, vacuum marks, and traffic. Velvets are also the most difficult carpets to seam well. If you have a desire for a super elegant carpet and do not mind footmarks etc. on the carpet, then you will love a velvet carpet.
Plush carpets are very similar to velvets except for a slightly more coarse look and a less dense pile. Also the twist in the fiber is not as tight as a velvet construction. Plush carpets are elegant and are often thick so as to feel good when felt by the hand or foot. Like velvet carpets, plush carpets show seams and footprints. Both velvets and plush usually come in solid colors. Solid colors are elegant, but do not hide soil.
Carpets that are not sheared or cut are called Looped carpets. Cheaper looped carpets are known as indoor-outdoor carpets. In general a dense short loop carpet is often confused with a indoor outdoor type because they look similar. A good quality dense short loop carpet is what is often used for commercial work in office buildings, schools, etc. This type of carpet is often called commercial carpet. Looped carpets often look good longer than those expensive plushes. The reason is longer pile carpets show some wear and tear and loop carpets do not .(until you wear a hole in them). Those kitchen carpets of the 1970’s wore extremely well because they were a loop style carpet.
Berber carpets are just a looped carpet with flecks of color. Often the loops are not of the same size, but rather, some large and some small to create a casual textured looped carpet. Not all berber carpets wear well because, in order to create the casual look, mills have added air to the loops. Air does not resist crushing well. The more air in the loops the quicker the carpet will mat. Some fibers mat more than others, so be careful when picking out a berber carpet.
Some sort of stain treatment is added to almost all carpets today. There are no miracle stain treatments. A light colored carpet will soil. If you spill something on the carpet that is not a bleach or a dye, chances are you will be able to remove the stain. All the residential stain treatments will wear off in about five to seven years. Just choose your carpet with some common sense. If stains are a number one concern, look at the new Smartstrand (Trademark) aka Triexta carpets or a solution dyed nylon. These two types of fiber have no need for an added stain treatment, and they stay stain resistant for the life of the carpet.
SUMMARY ABOUT CONSTRUCTION
For long wearing carpet choose short tight dense construction . To hide footprints completely, choose a berber or looped carpet. No carpet is bullet proof. Its the only textile you buy and then proceed to walk on it. You would not tape that expensive dress to the floor and walk on it and expect it to stay looking new. Some people should not buy carpet but instead would be better off with Hardwood.