The second thing most people decide on is the general color scheme of the carpet. Green? Blue? Beige? Color is important when you consider that what’s on your floor will influence the other color choices for that room or your entire home.. It’s like selecting the right dress when you go out. The accessories follow- they are the accent pieces that draw attention to your gown.
The next thing to consider is the fiber. You’ll find that everyone has an opinion about which fiber is the “best”, including me. Every salesperson or designer will tell you something different. It can get very confusing.
Carpet is made using four main types of fiber: wool, nylon, polyester, and a new variation of polyester called Triexa (branded as SmartStrand by Mohawk Industries). (Sisal is a vegetable fiber mostly used in decorative rugs or specialty carpeting. It is not a “general use” fiber and is a topic for another article.) Each has advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right color is a personal decision- there is no right or wrong. Choosing the right fiber type for your home and lifestyle will determine the performance you receive from your new carpet.
Wool, used in rugs for centuries, is the only natural fiber used in wall to wall carpeting today. The sheep whose wool is used for carpet fiber are special breeds. The characteristics of their wool are different than wool used in clothing. Wool is scarce and therefore expensive. Many retailers don’t show wool carpet samples because it is beyond the budget for many people. It is common to see wool blended with other fibers, such as nylon or acrylic. This way, you still get the characteristics of a wool carpet but the cost is lower.
Wool is soft and luxurious. It wears and cleans well. Its fiber structure hides dirt. It comes in a wide variety of styles and colors. It is hypo-allergenic. It is the fiber to which all the others are compared.
But, in addition to its cost, wool stains easily. Also, it must be made in heavier weights as compared to the synthetic fibers to wear equally as well.
Chemists have formulated synthetic carpet fibers from petroleum for decades. Some of these synthetics did not work well. Nylon was the first commercially successful synthetic carpet fiber. It wore extremely well.
But earlier generations of nylon fiber also stained badly. Chemists spent years figuring out how to make nylon fiber more stain resistant. Stainmaster brand nylon hit the market in the late ‘80’s and changed the carpet industry. Suddenly you could put light colors of carpet in heavily used rooms and maintain it much more easily.
Today, virtually all synthetic fibers are stain resistant. (Note: none of these fibers claims to be stain proof). The trend is towards ultra soft fibers.
Besides stain resistance, there are other reasons why nylon fiber has the largest market share of the man-made fibers. Nylon carpet comes in a wide variety of colors and styles. It is very resilient. This means that when you walk on it, the fibers “bounce back”. Nylon is tough- it wears well. Besides resisting stains, it cleans easily. It has low static levels. You can use it in any type of home and anywhere in the home — low traffic rooms, high traffic areas, budget homes, fancy homes.
Polyester (PET) has a great “green” story. Most of the polyester used in carpets is made from recycled bottles. In fact, billions of bottles each year are diverted from landfills, melted, and turned into carpet fiber!
Polyester fiber is dyed while still in a melted state. Called solution dyeing, this process puts the color in the molecular structure of the fiber. Solution dyed fibers are extremely colorfast even in strong sunlight. This fiber is very stain resistant to almost all household spills. It also cleans well. Static is non-existent. Generally, polyester carpet costs less than nylon carpet.
Polyester carpet fiber has a few drawbacks. It does not have the same resilience as nylon. Once badly crushed, it will not “bounce back” like nylon. Furniture marks are much more difficult to remove. Polyester carpets must be made in heavier weights to perform as well as nylon carpet. While water based spills come right out, oil based spills are more difficult to remove. Oily spills tend to reappear and could take several re-cleanings to completely remove the spill.
This fiber took almost twenty years to develop specifically as a carpet fiber. While related to polyester, the Federal Trade Commission recognized it as a unique fiber in 2009. Mohawk markets Triexa fiber under their SmartStrand brand.
Triexa fiber has become very popular in the last few years. It is very stain and fade resistant. It cleans well. It is available in a huge range of colors and styles. And it is as resilient as nylon fiber while generally lower priced. It does have an affinity for oily spills. These spills tend to wick and re-appear if they are not carefully cleaned.
All of these fibers have warranties against wear and stains. But it is up to you to read-and understand-the fine print. You must understand what is covered and what is excluded. Each type of fiber and each brand of carpet has differing warranties. Don’t assume that your new carpet warranty is all inclusive. Otherwise, when a problem arises, you could get a nasty surprise.
One other thing to consider: installation. This is a separate topic. But it is important to realize that a bad installation can make the best carpet unusable. Get detailed information about your carpet installation BEFORE you pay for your carpet. Don’t let the installation become an afterthought.
Once you do your homework, make a final selection, and have the carpet installed, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor!