By nature of their composition and construction, designed to produce an appealing soft surface, carpets are more vulnerable to wear than other floor coverings. It is therefore essential to choose a quality suitable for the room or area where the carpet is to be laid. The carpet in the living room, for instance, must withstand more wear than that in a bedroom. Many pile carpets are graded as follows:
1. Light domestic (e.g. bedroom use).
2. Medium domestic.
3. General domestic and/or light contract.
4. Heavy domestic and/or medium contract.
5. Luxury domestic and/or heavy contract.
Carpets are made in various ways. The traditional method is weaving. Axminster woven carpets have a cut-pile and the edges need binding. They are available in a wide choice of patterns, fibres and colours.
Wilton woven carpets are usually a plain colour but are also available in designs incorporating not more than five colours. The pile is usually cut and edges require binding.
Tufted method of construction has pile needled into the backing and secured with adhesive. The better qualities have a secondary backing to ensure dimensional stability. The pile may be cut, looped or a mixture of both. Cut edges will not fray and do not need binding. They are available in patterned designs as well as plain, two-tone and sculptured effects.
Cord carpets are made in a number of ways. They may be woven in a manner similar to Wiltons but with their pile uncut. Sisal cord carpets are woven. Non-woven cords are made from a mat of fibres stuck to a hessian backing with a ridged surface. Cords can also be made from a tight tufted construction with uncut loops.
On the whole, what your carpet is made of is more important in determining wear than how it is made. The crucial factors here are the type and the density of pile (surface) of the carpet.
Wool, the traditional natural fibre, has good resilience, wears well, has low flammability and is resistant to staining. However, pure wool carpets are expensive and a 20 per cent addition of nylon produces 80/20 blends which are claimed to wear up to five times as well as pure wool. Acrylic man-made fibres make resilient carpets with good wearing properties. Of all man-made fibres they resemble wool the most closely in appearance and handle. Some acrylics are mixed with rayon and nylon to make triple blends.
Nylon man-made fibres are hard-wearing but, in common with most synthetics, tend to show dirt easily. However, they are easily cleaned by home-shampooing. Rayon (viscose) man-made fibre is an economy fibre with a tendency to flatten, although the better qualities are treated to make them more resilient. All-rayon carpets are suitable only for areas of light wear or short-term use.
Other synthetics are polyesters, including attractive shag-pile carpets, and poly-propylenes, recommended for bathrooms.
To determine pile density, bend a sample of the carpet back on itself, and see how much of the backing “grins” at you The denser the pile, the less of the backing you will be able to see. A dense tightly packed pile wears better than a carpet where the pile is sparsely spread and, given the same densities, the longer the pile the better.
Colour and pattern
Plain carpets are often regarded as more elegant than patterned designs. But patterns offer the advantage of concealing inevitable dirt and signs of wear. A small all-over geometric design (small squares, circles, stripes etc) is a good compromise. Very pale carpet colours show marks and stains. Very dark colours, on the other hand, show bits of thread or crumbs etc. However it is probably best to compromise with, for example, a medium shade of brown, which can be a smart basis for a number of different room decoration schemes. Shades of mid-grey, mid-green or gold also prove practical. Remember that a well-chosen carpet is likely to be with you for some .years. So the colour and pattern you choose may have to survive several changes of wallpaper and paint — another good reason for choosing neutral or subdued colours.
Small homes will seem larger if you continue your floor-covering through from one room to another. Some manufacturers make the same colour carpet in different qualities for this purpose.
Metric widths are as follows: 1 metre (approximately 3 ft 3 in.): 2 metre (approximately 6 ft 6 in.): 3 metre (approximately 9 ft 10 in.); 4 metre (approximately 13 ft 1 in.). But you will also find carpets continuing to be sold in imperial sizes: the old standard widths of 6 ft, 7 ft 6 in., 9 ft, 10 ft 6 in., 12 ft, 13 ft 6 in. and 15 ft. Broadloom is the term used to describe these widths. Narrow “body” widths of 27 in. (68 cm) and 36 in. (91 cm) are also available.
Fitted carpets are warm and easy to clean but relatively expensive, since little-used areas of the room are covered with high-quality carpet.
Carpet tiles are available in a wide range of standard sizes and shapes, and in many designs with features such as borders and fringes. The advantage of a square is that you can turn it from time to time to equalise wear and it is easy to take with you if you move. Hard floorings can look attractive combined with carpet squares or rugs.
For any carpet or carpet square without a heavy-foam secondary backing underlays are essential. They cushion wear, prevent soiling, provide extra insulation and create added softness and resilience.
Do not use newspaper or an old carpet as an underlay. Good quality felt is satisfactory. Choose a type made from animal hair or wool waste rather than jute. The better qualities are impregnated with rubber. Felt thicknesses are usually expressed in weights; a weight of at least 40 oz per square yard (1356 grams per square metre) is recommended for little-used rooms and 48 oz per square yard (1627 grams per square metre) for much-used rooms and stairs. Foam underlays are made from polyurethane or rubber. They provide extra resilience but should not be used with underfloor heating. Combination rubber/felt underlays with a layer of each material are a good choice
Make a room plan on paper marked out in 1 in. (2.5 cm) squares, each square representing 1 ft (30 cm). Make all measurements with a steel rule and clearly mark any recesses and bays. Take this plan with you when shopping for your carpet. Your supplier will help you to work out the best, most economical way to lay the carpet of your choice. Remember that the width of the carpet should go across the width of the room and the length should run down the length of the room. The “patchy” effect on some plain carpets (the technical term is “shading-) will be less if the pile leans away from the light. Never join a carpet at right angles to a doorway.