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Carpet Manufacturing Specifications Explained
By Alan Fletcher -Carpet Expert and Consumer Advocate aka The Carpet Professor
Understanding Carpet Specifications is the key to buying new carpet wisely! Here is what homeowners need to know about choosing new Carpet by understanding the importance of obtaining Carpet Specifications. This is "critical information" that every homeowner needs to know to help determine how durable a carpet is; to help determine value; and able to meet their needs, goals and lifestyle.
The Carpet "Specification" Label
On the back of almost every retail Carpet Sample there should be a manufacturer's 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. Carpet Stain Warranties - What Consumers Need To Know
Carpet Specifications are often hard to locate. How to find them!
Once you find a carpet you like, you need to have full access to the specification before you buy. If the label is missing, or does not provide all the information you need, then you need to ask the salesperson to provide you with a manufacturers "Carpet Spec Sheet". This is a one-page report from the carpet manufacturer that provides all the carpet specifications regarding the carpet style in question. The carpet salesperson may have to call the manufacturer to ask for it, or call their local carpet mill representative to request the specifications you need. This can be difficult, time consuming, frustrating and challenging. (This is why I have built my own special hand-picked list of recommended carpet dealers)
Question from a reader: I’ve tried to follow your advice and look for the right Face-Weight, Pile-Density and Tuft-Twist to last 10-15 years. The only places that I can find who have these specifications listed on their carpet samples are the big box retailers. The local carpet retailer near me doesn’t list the carpet specifications on their samples. The salespeople might know the face-weights but often don’t know the Tuft-Twist or Pile Density. Why don’t all carpet dealers post carpet specifications on their samples?
Many locally owned carpet dealers do list all or some the carpet specs on their carpet samples, but some do not list any at all. They might think the customer should select their new carpet based on price, color and perhaps a durability rating like Shaw’s PAR Rating System. I firmly believe it’s very important for homeowners to have complete access to all the carpet specifications. It’s the only way to determine the grade or quality level of the carpet in question, and to be able to determine if the carpet would be a good choice based on the homeowners individual needs, goals, lifestyle and budget.
Take my Free Carpet Foot Traffic Test to see what grade of carpet you should buy.
Not all locally-owned dealers are honest and reputable, I am sorry to say, and some carpet salespeople are reluctant take the time to provide their customers with carpet specifications because it can be a “hassle” to do so. The problem is partly due to private labeling, retail competition, and partly due to salesperson laziness.
Some carpet retailers simply don’t want you to be able to shop around for the lowest price (comparison shop) so they limit the amount carpet information available to the customer. They may even change the style and color names to make it difficult to compare prices with other local retailers.
Three (3) ways Carpet dealers can easily obtain Carpet Specifications for you:
1. Dealers can call the Carpet manufacturer directly – most carpet mills are happy to fax or email the carpet " spec sheet". You can also call the carpet manufacturer yourself as long as you have all the key information about the carpet in question. The manufacturer; the style name; the color name; or color number.
2. Dealers can login to their online carpet mill account to access carpet specifications. This may require a store manager to login to obtain the information you want. It is easy for them to do, if they are willing to take the time to do it.
3. Dealers can call their Carpet Mill Representative to obtain the information you need. Every carpet retailer has the cell phone number to reach their carpet account representative. It may take a day or two for their mill rep to provide the carpet specs you want, but they can provide it if they are willing to take the time. If they don't, then I suggest you buy from another dealer who will!
It’s true that the carpet manufacturers are not putting the detailed construction information on their carpet samples like they used to in the past, but any decent carpet salesperson should be willing to get you the information you seek. However, you have to ask for it and be patient enough to wait for the information to be acquired, and it may take a day or two for the salesperson to get it.
Most homeowners take several carpet samples home for a few days and narrow their carpet selections down to three or four good choices and then ask for the spec sheets for them all to compare them all side by side. Take your time making your final selection and don’t be afraid to take a week or two to think about it. Never let any salesperson pressure you into buying right now for any reason. It’s common for salespeople to urge you into buying right now by saying the sale will be ending soon or that the current prices are about to increase.
The salesperson says Carpet Specifications are not available?
This is not true! There's only one carpet manufacturer that I have ever known to refuse to provide carpet specifications to their dealers and to consumers, and that mill is Karastan. However, lately they have been providing specs to consumers. I have a list of phone numbers you can call to ask for carpet specs here.
All other carpet makers are willing to provide carpet specifications to their dealers; and often to homeowners directly either by phone, by fax, snail mail, email or on the internet. You may need to be patient and give the salesperson sufficient time to call and get the information for you. (It may take a few days)
However, if your carpet salesperson absolutely refuses to obtain all the carpet specifications you ask for, then you might want to shop elsewhere. You can also call the carpet manufacturer yourself and ask for the carpet specs as long as you have the manufacturer's brand name and the carpet style name. Here is my List of Carpet Mill Websites and their phone numbers.
Can't find or locate Carpet Specs? Find out how to figure them out for yourself. How to Figure Carpet Specifications
How is Carpet Graded?
Carpet is graded by the quality and configuration of the materials used including; the Fiber Type; the Fiber Face-Weight; the Tuft Twist Rating; the Pile Density Rating; the Pile Height; and how well it is constructed overall (Including Dye methods; Backing systems; and Manufacturing processes). Determining which carpet is the absolute best choice for a particular application can be quite difficult for even a seasoned carpet professional.
How to Choose the Right Carpet Fiber
The most critical factor for every homeowner to consider is the Fiber Type. I have created a detailed web page that covers everything you need to know about Carpet Fibers, Nylon, Sorona®, Polyester Smartstrand®, Stainmaster®.
The Pile Density Rating is the Key to Carpet Durability.
The Density rating is determined by pile yarn weight, pile thickness and pile height. Think of it like a densely wooded forest where the trees are thick and packed closely together. Dig your fingers into the pile of the carpet. Are the fibers tightly packed or can you easily see the carpet backing? The more densely the tufts are packed together the more durable the carpet will be. Pile Density is the key to having a carpet retain its like-new appearance longer.
Pile Density ratings range from 1000 to 6000 and is determined using a mathematical formula based on the Pile Height and the Fiber Face-weight.
Here is the formula: Fiber Face-Weight x 36, divided by pile height (in decimal form) = Pile Density.
For example: a 35-ounce face-weight carpet with a half inch (1/2") pile height would have a pile density rating of 2520
(35 x 36 divided by .5 = 2520). Learn more Figure Carpet Specifications
What grade of carpet may be the best choice for your home application and level of foot traffic? Take my Free Carpet Foot-Traffic Test to find out!
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 between 20 ounces and 100 ounces, but the average face weight for a residential carpet is about 45 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. Pile Density is the most important factor next to Fiber Type.
What is Carpet Pile Height?
The Pile Height measurement is not usually shown on the carpet sample, however all you need is a tape measure to determine a close guess. I generally recommend a pile height of less than 3/4" to help reduce the chance of matting and crushing of the pile.
What is Carpet Tuft-Twist Rating?
The Tuft Twist is a major key to having your carpet retain its like-new appearance longer. With plush styles of carpets, the tufts of fibers are twisted in the same way that people curl their hair. The carpet fibers are grouped together into tufts and twisted while heat is applied to "set" the fibers permanently, hence the term "heat set".
Carpet fiber, 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 the strands are twisted, heat is applied to "set" them permanently, hence the term "heat set".
This is very similar to the way women might use a curling iron to create curls in their hairstyles. The tighter the tufts are twisted together, the more durable the carpet will be, and the longer the carpet can maintain its like-new appearance.
This tuft has 7 twists and is a sign of a well-made, more durable carpet. Frieze styles have tufts similar to this.
This tuft has 4 twists and is not as durable. This is a sign of a lower-grade carpet. Inexpensive Plush and Textured Plush styles often have tufts similar to this.
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) and is why they are well-known for their durability and retaining a like-new appearance longer than many other styles.
Why does a Good Tuft-Twist Rating Matter?
Carpets with a low Tuft Twist Rating (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 seldom 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. Once the tufts have blossomed and become matted down, it cannot be reversed.
For this reason a Carpet with a higher Tuft-Twist (5.5 to 7.5) will retain its like-new appearance longer and tolerate a higher level of foot traffic. When comparing similar quality carpets side by side, you must consider the tuft twist rating to help you determine which carpet is the better choice.
Carpets with a lower tuft twist rating tend to "blossom" more quickly and as a result will be less durable and will appear word out sooner.
Study my free Carpet Durability Chart to better understand how carpet durability is determined in part by the number of twists each tuft has. Frieze styles typically have a very high tuft twist rating of at least 6 or more. That's the main reason why frieze carpets tend to wear better and last longer than many other carpet styles.
More Useful information for Homeowners: