How to choose carpet

Choosing carpet for your home? Follow our guide to carpet costs, fitting and, inevitably, carpet cleaning

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Of all types of flooring, carpet is the most comfort-boosting option. Nothing compares to the soft feeling of carpet underfoot, and while it may not be as easy to care for as other flooring options, such as laminate and solid wood, there is no better choice for comfort, warmth and sound absorption. ‘With so many options available, making the wrong choice can be costly,’ says Rupert Anton from The Carpet Foundation, the UK carpet industry’s leading body.

‘When choosing carpet, think about the wear and tear your carpet will receive; do you live alone or are you part of a busy household? Consider whether you’re after a ‘quick fix’ or something longer lasting. Don’t forget to include the cost of fitting and underlay in your budget. Even if you’re replacing a carpet, you should also invest in underlay, so that your new carpet sits properly and wears evenly.’

John Lewis carpet

How much does carpet cost?

You can buy a corded foam-backed carpet from as little as £2.99 per square metre from stockists such as Carpetright, with costs at some high-end suppliers reaching over £100 per square metre. On average, you are looking at around £20 per square metre for polypropylene carpet and £30 per square metre for wool-rich carpet plus underlay and fitting.

Woven or tufted carpet?

There are two types of carpet, woven and tufted. Woven carpet is made using a labour-intensive method whereby colours and decoration are woven in rather than printed onto the surface. A high-end product, it is usually made from 80 to 100 per cent wool, and it comes in two forms: Axminster, often patterned with a velvet finish, and Wilton, which can be plain or textured.

Tufted carpet is the most popular type, with a more varied choice of styles. It is made by punching the pile yarn into a backing fabric using needles, which produces cut and loop pile designs.

Which carpet material to choose?

When it comes to choosing the material for your carpet, the main consideration is whether you prefer natural or synthetic. Both have their benefits, so it is mainly down to your personal choice – and budget. 

Wool has long been used in carpet manufacturing and is still recognised as the best fibre. It has a luxury feel and a low propensity to soil. It is also naturally flame-retardant. Don't rule out synthetic, though: extremely hardwearing, with a high resistance to abrasion, nylon is easy to clean. It’s often used in an 80 per cent wool and 20 per cent nylon blend. Polypropylene is another good option; highly stain-resistant, man-made fibre with good abrasion resistance. It’s typically used in twists, loop piles and Saxony types.

100 per cent wool carpet by Kersaint Cobb

Where’s the best place to buy carpet?

Always buy from a reputable retailer. The Carpet Foundation has 700 members who operate under a Code of Practice approved by the Trading Standards Institute. You can expect a written quotation, so there are no nasty surprises on your bill (such as charges for moving furniture), a protected deposit, and free conciliation if you experience any problems.

Where can I lay carpet?

Always have your carpet fitted professionally; it’s a real skill and should be fitted in accordance with BS5325, the British Standard for the installation of textile floorings.

Carpet can be laid in any room, but is not recommended for kitchens, and most people avoid it in bathrooms. Halls, stairs and landings take the most wear and tear, so it is advisable to lay a hardwearing design in these areas, with at least 80 per cent wool content.

You can be a little more indulgent in bedrooms, for example, that aren’t used as much. Consider man-made fibres such as polypropylene for kids’ rooms and dining spaces as it’s highly stain-resistant. It’s also worth noting that most carpets are suitable for use with underfloor heating, but it is advisable to check your choice with the heating system manufacturer.

Stripe colourways, Solar ways, Brockway

How to clean carpet?

Vacuum regularly – at least twice a week. Quickly tackle any accidents to lessen the chance of lasting stains; solids should be scraped up. Blot spills carefully, working from the outside in, and apply cleaning agent to a cloth, never directly onto the carpet. For full instructions, don't miss our guide to cleaning carpets in 10 easy steps.

We've also checked out the best carpet cleaning products, the best carpet cleaning machines, and – among others – the best vacuums for deep cleaning carpets and best vacuums for pet owners.

For a professional service, contact the National Carpet Cleaners Association. You can also hire carpet-cleaning machines: Rug Doctor cleaners cost from £22.99 for 24 hours.

Choosing a runner for your stairs

Carpet experts Roger Oates Design advise:

Which stair carpet?

There are two main types of carpet suitable for stairs: flatweaves and Wiltons, which are dense and have a smooth, velvety feel. A flatweave is recommended for winding stairs, since it is more flexible than a Wilton. Fitting a flatweave carpet to winding stairs is a difficult job which should be done by a professional. 

Which stair carpet colour and pattern?

In terms of colour, go for bold stripes or a pattern to make a statement, or neutrals for an unobtrusive look. Always choose your runner before you choose your paint colour. The rooms that lead off from the hall and stairs ought to have a similar colour scheme, though not necessarily the exact same shade. A patterned runner is also great for disguising stains, which will always be more visible on a plain runner. 

Fitzroy Bright

Fitzroy Bright runner, Roger Oates Design

(Image: © Roger Oates Deisgn)

How to lay a runner on stairs

When laying a runner on the stairs, leave a minimum of 5cm up to a maximum of 15cm wood/paintwork showing on either side of the runner. Anything in-between is really down to personal preference.

Fitting runners on landings

A bordered or non-bordered flatweave runner can be fitted on landings by way of mitred edges. Quarter and half landings can also be fitted in the traditional overlay fashion where one length of flatweave is laid perpendicular to the other. The seams and joins are either sewn by our skilled fitters on site or prepared in the workshop prior to dispatch.  For a larger landing you may want to consider a fitted ‘wall to wall’ option. Skilled workers in the Roger Oates workshop hand sew the lengths together to create larger pieces that can then be fitted in a similar way to standard broadloom carpet.

Striped runner in hallway

Swanson Celadon flatweave, Roger Oates Design

(Image: © Roger Oates Design)

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