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MATERIALS : Carpet Lays Groundwork for Insulation


Despite changing tastes in home decor and design, carpeting has remained a mainstay. Of all flooring materials, carpeting accounts for more than 75% of the market.

Its popularity stems from the fact that it gives a plush, comfortable feel underfoot, dampens sound, insulates cold floors and hides ugly ones.

As popular and widespread as carpeting is, though, buying it puzzles many people.

The first thing you have to know to buy carpeting is how much you need. To find an approximate amount, measure the length and width of the floor in feet and multiply those two numbers. Since carpeting is sold in square yards and not square feet, divide that number by nine; this will give you the square yardage. Then add about 10% for waste and odd room angles. Ultimately, let the dealer make the final measurements (most insist on doing so, anyway) to get the precise amount.

Next, you need to decide what type of carpeting is appropriate for a given room. Ask yourself if there will be heavy or light traffic and what type of look and feel you want.

Carpeting comes in a number of constructions and texture. The most common are:

* Level-loop pile: This construction consists of yarns that form loops of equal height, with both ends of the loop anchored in the backing. These carpets provide long-lasting durability and generally are used in high-traffic areas, such as family rooms and hallways. Berbers are level-loop pile carpets.

* Multilevel-loop piles: These are built the same as level loops, but the loops are of two or three different heights to create patterns.

* Cut pile velvets (also called plushes): Take a level-loop carpet, cut off the top of the loops, and you have a plush. It's the kind of deep, smooth carpet in which you can see your footprints. Used mostly in light-traffic areas such as bedrooms to add a lush, luxurious touch.

* Saxonies: Made the same way as a velvet, but the yarns are twisted. It's not as lush as a velvet, but its construction makes it more versatile and usable in a variety of rooms.

* Cut and loop pile: A combination of cut and looped yarns that provide a variety of textures, including sculpted effects, and durability.

About 97% of carpeting made in the United States is made of synthetic fibers. The four basic types are:

* Nylon: Accounts for most of the fibers used in carpeting in the United States. It's wear-resistant and resilient enough to bounce back from the weight of people and furniture, making it good for all rooms.

* Olefin: Wear-resistant, strong, resists static electricity and mildew.

* Polyester: Noted for its soft, luxurious feel in thick-pile carpeting. It cleans easily and is resistant to water-soluble stains.

* Acrylic: It offers the look and feel of wool without the price. It has low static-electricity levels and is moisture- and mildew-resistant. Commonly used in velvet piles.

Wool is the fifth fiber used in carpeting. It is soft, luxurious and durable, but costly.

In addition to construction and fiber content, another factor that affects carpet appearance and durability is density, which refers to the amount of yarn used.

One way to judge density is to bend back the carpet and see how close the individual tufts of yarn are to each other and how much of the backing is exposed. A high-density carpet will reveal lots of yarn and little backing.

Another way to determine density is to press a finger against the carpet and observe how easily it penetrates to the backing. The easier it penetrates, the less dense the carpet is.

As for carpet cushions, the firmer the better. A good cushion increases a carpet's comfort and extends its life by absorbing the impact of foot traffic.

For more information, call the Carpet and Rug Institute at (800) 882-8846.

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