How to choose carpet

Jo Messenger looks at carpet, which has been reinvented to bring comfort to any home, and discusses costs, installation and maintenance

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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.

‘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 Colour Unlimited service, £65 to £115 per m²

How much can I expect to pay?

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 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 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.

Popular materials

  • 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.
  • 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 a 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, £45 per m², by Kersaint Cobb

Where’s the best place to buy a 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 it?

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, £45 per m², Brockway

How do I look after it?

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 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.