Free Unbiased Carpet and Flooring Information
Understanding Carpet specifications is the Only Sure-Fire Way to...
The "Specification" Label
On the back of 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 whether or not your carpet selection would be a suitable choice and meet all your needs, goals and lifestyle.
There should be other information shown on the manufacturer's label too, such as: the type or brand of anti-stain treatment that may have been applied (e.g., Scotchgard, R2X); The manufacturer's brand name (e.g., Shaw, Mohawk, Dream Weaver, Karastan); the carpet style name (e.g., Enchanted Evening II) ; and the color name or number (e.g., Emerald Forest Green or EFG-124).
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 "Carpet Spec Sheet". You only need to ask for a spec sheet if you are seriously considering the carpet in question. When you are narrowing down three or four choices, that's when it would be wise to ask for spec sheets on all 4 so you can compare them all side by side.
The Spec-sheet is a one-page report from the carpet manufacturer that provides all the carpet specifications of the carpet brand and 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. They will fax it or email it to the dealer, usually within a day or two.
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 was Karastan. I think they are providing them now.
All other carpet makers have been ready and 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 refuses to obtain all the carpet specifications you need, then you might want to shop elsewhere. You can call the carpet mill 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.
How is Carpet Graded?
Carpet is graded by the quality and configuration of the materials used including;
Determining which carpet is the absolute best choice for a particular application can be quite difficult for even a seasoned carpet professional. Learn about Carpet Specifications
Choosing 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, Sorona®, Smartstrand®, Stainmaster®
Pile Density vs. Carpet Durability
The Pile Density rating is determined by pile yarn face 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 down to 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 basically from 1000 to 6000 and is determined using a mathematical formula based on the Pile Height and the Fiber or Pile Face-weight. Here is the mathematical formula to calculate pile density:
(For example: a 35-ounce pile face-weight carpet with a half inch (.5) pile height would have a pile density rating of 2520. (35 x 36 divided by .5 = 2520)
What is Carpet Pile 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 the Carpet Tuft-Twist Rating?
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 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. The Tuft Twist Rating is based on the number of twists per lineal inch of tuft. The Tuft Twist numbers usually range from 3.0 to 7.5
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 Carpet Tuft-Twist Rating Matter?
Regardless of what you might read with carpet warranties that offer a warranty if your carpet were to lose more than 10% of it's fiber content over a ten year period. The fact is, carpets rarely wear out from the loss of fiber, they just start to mat down; and gradually lose its luster and shine; and after a few years of neglect, the carpet just starts to look worn out and ugly.
Once the tufts have blossomed and they become matted down, it cannot be reversed. There is rarely a claim that will be justified when this happens. 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 also consider the tuft twist rating to help you determine which carpet is the better choice for you. Carpets with a lower tuft twist rating tend to "blossom" more quickly and as a result will be less durable and will appear worn out sooner.
Use my free Carpet Durability Chart to better understand how carpet durability is determined in part by the number of twists each tuft has.