Carpet Specifications Explained
©2021 by Alan Fletcher - Carpet Expert and Consumer Advocate
Buying new carpet is a major homeowner expense and many homeowners end up buying the wrong grade of carpet and end up making costly mistakes. If you want to make a wise carpet selection and be sure to get your full monies worth, you need to know what carpet grade or quality level of carpet you need to buy for your home.
Understanding Carpet Specifications is the ONLY sure-fire way for you to know if the carpet you are buying is able to tolerate the level of foot-traffic you have in your home and about how long you can anticipate it will last and retain its like-new appearance. Buy the wrong grade of carpet and it WILL certainly wear out faster than you anticipate and you will not be happy with the outcome.
Where Do I Find Carpet Specifications?
Sometimes locating all the carpet specifications you need to help you make wise and informed carpet-buying choices can be difficult, if not nearly impossible, depending on where you shop for carpet. Some carpet manufacturers are reluctant to freely provide carpet specifications to their dealers and their customers. Some carpet retailers are also reluctant to provide carpet specifications to their customers.
The Carpet "Specification" Label
On the back of almost every retail Carpet Sample there should be a manufacturer's INFORMATION label that shows the Type of Fiber used to make the carpet pile; the Pile Density Rating; the Face-Weight of the pile; and the Pile Height.
This is must-have information that every homeowner needs to help determine how durable the carpet is, to help determine its value; and determine whether or not it would be a suitable choice to meet all your needs, goals and lifestyle.
There should also be other information shown on the manufacturer's label too, such as: the type or brand of anti-stain treatments that may have been applied (e.g., Scotchgard); The manufacturer's brand name (e.g., Shaw, Mohawk, Beaulieu); the carpet style name (e.g., Enchanted Evening II) ; and the color name or color number (e.g., Emerald Forest Green or EFG-124). You will also find the warranty limits.
When it comes to Pile Height, Pile Density and Face-Weight... Not having this information provided to you might not be a big problem if you can find or even closely guesstimate two out of three of the carpet specifications, then you can easily figure out the third specification...Using simple mathematics!
Below I explain in detail what you need to do, and how you can quickly and easily figure out all the carpet specifications you need to acquire, even if the dealers refuse to give you hardly any information at all!
First lets explain the three main carpet specifications that are typically hardest to find:
1. What is Carpet Pile Height?
If you want your carpet to last longer, I recommend a Carpet Pile Height of less the 3/4". On stairs, I recommend a Carpet Pile Height of 1/2" or less and a Carpet Padding Thickness of 7/16" or less and a Pile Density Rating of at least 8-pounds. Learn more about How to choose the correct Carpet Padding
The Pile Height measurement is not always shown on the carpet sample, however all you need is a tape measure. Don't include the carpet backing, just measure the soft fibers from the backing up.
Convert the measurement into a decimal for calculating purposes. Example= One half inch (1/2") is equal to (.5) decimal. See Chart.
I generally recommend a pile height of 3/4" (0.75) or less to help reduce the chance of matting and crushing of the pile over time. Why? A shorter Pile-Height makes for a much more durable carpet, it makes the carpet much easier to clean and makes the carpet more stain resistant and less prone to matting and crushing of the pile.
For example, we all know that Commercial Grade Carpets usually have a very short pile-height and have a dense pile. They can tolerate heavy foot traffic for decades and are easily cleaned time and time again. This is the recipe for success commonly used in offices, airports, casinos and banks all across America.
Understanding Looped-Berber Carpet Styles
Looped Berber styles are best when the loops are smaller and tightly packed together. Large loops tend to fall over and look worn out very quickly. Inexpensive looped Berber styles tend to have larger loops and are typically made from Olefin, which a durable fiber but hard to keep clean fiber (it tends to attract dirt).
Better grades of looped Berber styles are typically made from Nylon and have smaller loops and are much more durable and easier to keep clean. Nylon Berber styles are often 4 times as costly as a Berber made from Olefin, however a Nylon Berber will easily last at least 4 times longer and retain its like-new appearance much longer too. A good quality Nylon looped Berber style will cost about $20 to $35 plus pad and install.
Berber styles require a special padding that is more dense with a lower profile. For example a good quality Rebond padding, 1/4" to 3/8" thickness and a density of at least 8 pounds. Some prefer a rubber pad or a synthetic fiber or wool pad for basements. Learn more about How to choose the correct Carpet Padding
2. What is Carpet Pile Density?
Pile Density is a mathematical calculation based on the fiber Face-Weight and Pile Height. Think of a heavily wooded forest. The more closely packed together the trees are, the more dense the forest is. The same goes for carpet. You want a carpet with the tufts packed tightly together. This helps the carpet resist matting and crushing of the pile and increases longevity. Pile Density is a major factor to consider when it comes to carpet durability too, almost as important as the type of Carpet Fiber you select.
3. What is Carpet Face-Weight
Face-weight is the actual weight of the fiber used to manufacture the carpet pile, but does not include the weight of the carpet backing. Fiber Face-weight is not the same as Total Carpet Weight, which includes the weight of the carpet backing and the fiber face-weight.
Most carpets have a face-weight somewhere between 20 ounces and 100 ounces, but the average face-weight for a residential carpet is about 35 to 60 ounces. A higher face-weight does not automatically mean the carpet is a better grade; is a higher quality; is more durable; or is more costly.
Fortunately, these three carpet specs are mathematically related which is good news for you. If you can figure out one, or two out of the three specs, then you can easily figure out all the other specifications using the formulas I reveal below! Don't worry about the number 36 or what it means, as it is a constant industry factor with all these calculations.
What is Carpet Tuft Twist?
Carpet fibers, also called yarn, is either extruded or twisted to form a single strand or "filament", These filaments are similar in size to a human hair. A bunch of filaments are grouped together and twisted together to form Tufts. While these strands are twisted, heat is applied to "set" them permanently, hence the term "heat set" or "perm".
This is very similar to the way women might use a curling iron to create and set curls into their hairstyles. The tighter the tufts are twisted together the longer the carpet is able to maintain its "like-new" appearance.
It is not difficult to guesstimate the number of Tuft-Twists of a carpet you are considering. Tuft-Twist is really quite simple. When you look at a carpet you can look closely at the tuft and easily count the number of twists yourself. You just need to know that it is based on the number of twists per lineal inch of tuft.
Below are Tufts that are one-inch long. I have used two colors to show the number of twists.
The Tuft Twist Rating is based on the number of twists per lineal inch of tuft.
This Tuft has 7 twists and is a sign of a well-made carpet. Frieze styles have tufts similar to this and cost about $30 per square yard on average, or $3.33 per square foot.
This Tuft has 4 twists and is not as good. This is a sign of a lower-grade carpet. Inexpensive Plush and Textured Plush styles often have tufts similar to this and range from $10 to $20 per square yard or $1.11 to $2.22 per square foot. More expensive styles have higher Tuft-Twist ratings.
Why is Tuft Twist So Important?
The Number of Tuft Twists is an important key to making sure your carpet retains its like new appearance longer. Frieze styles tend to have a higher tuft twist (over 6 twists per lineal inch) and is why they are well-known for their durability and retaining a like-new appearance longer than many other styles. When you look at a potential carpet to buy you can look at the tuft and count the twists yourself. Looped Berber carpets have twisted tufts too, but it is very hard to count them with the naked eye. Most looped Berber styles will state the Tuft Twist Rating posted on the back of the carpet sample or shown on the manufacturer's spec sheet. (ask for it)
Carpets with a lower Tuft Twist Rating (of 3 to 5), tend to untwist or “blossom” at the tuft tips more quickly, thus creating a worn out, frizzy looking or matted down appearance. Carpets rarely wear out from the loss of fiber, they just start to mat down; gradually lose the luster and shine; and just start to look bad or ugly. Once the tufts have blossomed and become matted down, it cannot be reversed or repaired.
Learn more about What Grade of Carpet Should I Select?
What is the Best Carpet Fiber?
Learn The Facts About Carpet Fibers, Carpet Specifications and Carpet Durability. This is the Practical information homeowners need to make wise and informed Carpet buying choices. Carpet Fibers - What Consumers Need to Know
Are Carpet Warranties Any Good?
What consumers need to know... New Carpet Warranties are not very good. It's an eye opening experience to read a Carpet warranty, although it's not easy to understand. There are so many limitations and exclusions, and it's obvious they word it in such a way as to make it very difficult for anyone to substantiate a valid warranty claim. You must also follow their care and maintenance instructions and requirements to the letter or risk voiding the warranty altogether. Don't buy any carpet based solely on the carpet warranty limits alone. Make your selection based on carpet specificarions and your needs, goals, lifestyle and finally your budget.
Learn more about new Carpet Warranties
Can I Calculate Carpet Specifications Myself?
YES! Let's assume you don't know what the Pile Density rating is of a carpet you are interested in buying, but you do know the Face-Weight and Pile Height:
Let's assume you don't know what the Face-Weight rating is of a carpet you are interested in buying, but you do know the Pile Height and Pile Density:
Let's assume you don't know what the Pile Height is of a carpet you are interested in buying, but you do know the Face-Weight and the Pile Density:
Let's assume you don't know the Tuft-Twist rating of a carpet you are interested in buying.
Carpet Specifications Revealed...
Face-weight is usually a number between 1 and 100
Pile Height is a Fraction turned into a decimal (like .75 for 3/4").
(Convert your measurement in inches into a decimal using the Conversion Table above)
Formula: Face-Weight x 36 ÷ Pile Height = Pile Density
In this example, what we know is that the face weight is 30 ounces and the pile height is 0.5 (one half inch). We can now use Rule #1 to determine the Pile Density Rating.
Carpet Specification Rule # 2:
Formula: Density x Pile Height ÷ 36 = Face Weight
In this example, what we know is that the Pile Density is 2160 and the pile height is 0.5 (one half inch). We can now use Rule #2 to determine the Face-Weight in ounces.
Formula: 36 ÷ Density x Face-weight = Pile Height
(36 ÷ 2160 X 30 = 0.499998 (0.5)
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©2021 Alan Fletcher - All Rights Reserved.
All content is the opinion of the author.