HOME CLINIC; Sorting Out Carpet Terms and Types

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/05/07/nyregion/home-clinic-sorting-out-carpet-terms-and-types.html

HOMEOWNERS often find selecting a carpet to be difficult. There are so many styles to choose from and the descriptions are often obscure and ill-defined. Indeed, many carpet manufacturers add to the confusion by using the same or similar terms in a variety of ways.

Woven or tufted carpet, face weight, S.P.I., pile, secondary backing, heat set, plush and shag are just a few of the terms that a carpet buyer will encounter.

In order to understand some of these terms, it is helpful to know how carpets are made. Traditional carpets are essentially woven textiles, and as such, they are made up of a series of threads or cords that run the length of the carpet. These are called the warp. Other threads, called the weft, pass under and over at right angles to the warp threads. Carpets made of just the warp and weft are called flat weaves or kilims (this term is commonly applied to tribal and Oriental carpets, but not exclusively).

In addition to warp and weft, most carpets have other threads tied into the weave. These are called the pile, and they are woven so that they stand up from the foundation. The pile is the part of the carpet that you walk on. Woven carpets must be cut in line with the warp and weft and they must have a binding along the edges to keep the threads from unraveling.

Woven carpets are the oldest types of carpet. Another type of carpet is tufted. Tufted carpets look like woven carpets, but their construction is quite different. They have a ready-made back and the pile is inserted into it. The pile is locked in place with a coating of latex, and then a secondary back is applied for added strength. Tufted carpets can be cut in any direction, and they do not need binding along the edges.

The tufting process allows manufacturers to make carpets faster and with a greater variety of textures than with weaving. In general, tufted carpets are less expensive than woven ones, but they are not as durable.

Many of the terms used to describe carpets have to do with the profile of the pile. Level-loop carpets have a pile made of loops of equal size and height. These carpets wear well, are easy to clean and are good for high-traffic areas like hallways and family rooms.

Trimming the tops of the loops on those carpets makes cut-pile carpets. This creates a plush pile with a velvet texture. Cut-pile carpets are not as durable as loop carpets, so they should be installed in low-traffic areas like the living room or bedroom.

Cut-and-loop carpets have a pile of loops and cut loops. This combination creates a carpet with an uneven textured surface that is durable but is harder to clean than the level loop or cut loop carpet.

A Saxony pile is similar to cut pile with one important difference: the pile fibers are twisted then heat set. Heat setting bakes the twist into the fibers and makes them more resistent to matting, fuzzing and denting. Thus a Saxony carpet is able to retain its plush, velvety texture longer than an ordinary cut-pile carpet.

Berber carpets have tightly spaced loops of thick yarn. These carpets have a dense textured surface that is very durable, but the loops readily capture dirt and they are hard to clean.

Finally, there are the terms plush and shag. A plush carpet has a dense, deep pile. A shag carpet has loops so long they flop over. Shag carpets have an interesting texture, but they trap dirt and are difficult to clean.

Other carpet terms are used to describe the density of the pile. Face weight, for example, indicates the weight per square yard of the carpet’s pile. A heavy face weight of, say, 48 ounces indicates a plush carpet with extra yarn that will be resilient and long-wearing.

Similar to this is carpet density, measured in stitches per inch (S.P.I.). This number tells how much yarn has been put into the face of the carpet. Generally, a higher number signifies more loops and indicates better quality.

Comparing carpets by S.P.I. figures can be misleading if the carpets have different pile configurations. For example a good cut-pile carpet may have 10 to 12 S.P.I., while a similar quality Berber with thick yarn loops may have only 5 to 6 S.P.I. One simple way to judge the quality of a carpet is to fold it back slightly (pile side up). The better carpet will reveal less backing.

In addition to buying a carpet, the homeowner is also faced with the problem of selecting a carpet pad and having both installed correctly. These topics will be featured next week.

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