Because it provides a unifying focus that ties together walls, window treatments and furnishings, carpet may be the single most important element used in interior decoration.
The most common carpet construction is called tufting. A tufting machine pierces the carpet backing material with loops of yarn that form the carpet pile. If the loops of yarn are uniform in size and height, the carpet is a level-loop pile. Berber styles are level loop carpets that have tight loops and maximum fiber density.
Carpet with loops of uneven height is called multilevel loop. If some of the loops are cut and the carpet height is even, it's called cut loop. If some of the loops are intact and some are cut, but the pile height is uneven, the pile is called random shear.
If all carpet pile loops are cut and form a uniform 1/2-inch high pile, the carpet is called Saxony. A Saxony pile that's more than 1/2-inch high and less dense may be called velvet, plush or textured plush. A carpet that has a mixture of straight tufts with twisted or curled tufts is called random frieze.
Friezes or twists, with their curled tufts, form a resilient textured pile that resists matting, doesn't show footprints and is sometimes referred to as trackless. The most durable carpets are the loop-pile styles--a good choice for high-traffic areas.
Density and weight also help determine carpet durability. Density refers to the number of fibers found in one square inch of carpet, and is referred to as either stitches per inch (spi) or stitches per three inches.
The minimum spi for residential carpeting should be nine to 10. Berbers should have a minimum of five to six spi and level-loop or commercial carpets should have 10 to 12 spi.
When selecting carpet, check for tightness of fibers. Bend the carpet sample so it forms a 90-degree angle and check how much backing material you can see. The less visible the backing, the tighter the fibers and the more durable the carpet.
Also check the carpet's pile yarn weight. Select a carpet that has no less than a 40-ounce pile weight (higher pile weight is better) for Saxonys, plushes or Berbers. Note that pile weight refers to the weight of the carpet pile only.
The carpet specifications will also list the type of fiber used in the carpet construction. This may be shown as pile content, pile yarn or simply as pile. The pile content is also an important guide to carpet durability and maintenance.
Carpet yarn may be nylon, olefin, polyester, polypropylene or natural fibers such as wool or cotton. The most durable carpets are made with olefin fibers. Carpets made with pure olefin may feel rough to the touch, however. Berber carpets are also available in olefin-nylon blends or in 100% nylon construction. The oldfin blends or pure nylon fibers feel softer than pure olefin. Nylon fibers are also durable, easy to clean and resist matting.