Selecting Carpet for your Home – Tips and Thoughts

From Decorate Fabulously! (click on photo for info on workshop)


I said in a post back in April (oh my, how time flies!),  it is definitely time to replace the upstairs carpet. Not only because it’s horribly old, extremely ugly and here when we moved in, but because our beloved black lab Duncan had some serious bladder control issues before he lost his battle to lymphoma.  

I pulled up parts of the old carpet and sealed the subfloor right after the April post to prepare for the new. Sealing it was great solution as it permanently sealed in the stains on the subfloor and the smell disappeared for good. It was definitely worth the effort and personally, I think it’s the only solution for pet stains.  

One thing that I like to do in my blogs is to share my thoughts behind my decisions. Designers are trained to sit back, analyze and think out a job before jumping into it which is something that you can learn to do too. The process can help save you time and money.  

In my case, there are two defined areas for new carpet with two different sets of requirements.  


  1. The stairs, a landing, 20 ft. hallway and a study connected to our master bedroom.
  2. Two bedrooms that were my children’s. Now that they are on their own, almost on their own, we are converting them into guest bedrooms.


  1. Fresh paint in picked out for both bedrooms. Jim, our new favorite painter was here to do one bedroom last week and is finishing the 2nd this week. I had the carpet installed first so the newly painted walls wouldn’t get scratched by the backing of the carpet. Warning: Unless freshly painted walls have a month or two to completely dry, chances are that even the best carpet installer will leave a scratch or two… or three. It’s hard to avoid. A good painter will use tarps to protect your carpet and furniture.
  2. I am working with a whole house color (I will blog about this soon)  that is a cornbread-like gold by  Behr called Gold Buff.. It is on most of the walls of my lower level, up the stairs, in the hallway and in the study. The carpet needs to coordinate with this color. It sounds like a lot, but it’s actually very neutral and it makes me happy.
  3. I needed the carpet installed ten days after ordering because I had an unexpected guest visiting. See note below.
  4. Price is a factor, but I will pay more for a carpet that will wear well and that I really like, rather than settle for a lower priced carpet that I feel looks cheap from the get-go.

NOTE: I do not recommend doing anything when you need it in a rush. I will admit that I almost always am doing a project because of a special event such as out-of-town company, a graduation party, etc which is not a good thing.  Chances are if you make choices in a hurry, you will regret it. I sacrificed my number one pick of carpet for the stairs and hallway because it was back ordered. In the end, it didn’t come in on time anyway and when it did come in the stairs were bound incorrectly. 

Art and James, who installed the 2 bedrooms  back in April are my favorite installers (another crew did the hall and study) and I wanted them to finish the job. I ended up waiting till this week when they were finally available to get the job finished. It was totally worth it and I am so glad I waited for them. There is a huge value in good workmanship and it is always worth the wait.  


The Two Guest Bedrooms:  

  • Carpet must coordinate well with the new carpet in the connecting hallway that will be a different color and style.
  • I prefer a neutral color so I am not locked into a specific color five years from now.
  • Medium grade is acceptable since it will get very little wear.
  • Must feel good under bare feet.

I chose a frieze, which is really pronounced like “freeze”, but most people say it like free-zay…  

Frieze: a cut pile in which the yarns are extremely twisted, forming a “curly” textured surface. It minimizes foot prints and vacuum marks. The Frieze is similar to the old mini shag but the carpet strands are thinner with a bit more twist and resiliency.   

Personally, I like the look of frieze. It’s a little less formal than a traditional plush and has a cozy feel. I went with an oatmeal shade. I actually considered a frieze for the hallway and stairs, but it tends to crush when walked on until the next time that it is vacuumed. That’s not a good thing for my highly travelled stairs, but it made perfect sense for the bedrooms.   

I selected a carpet that was $2.30 per square foot installed with padding. There was also a special that gave me an extra $200.oo off due to the quantity. The price included the removal of the old carpet, moving furniture and installing the new. I thought that was a pretty darn good deal. Please remember that I am in the mid-west. Prices in NYC or California… aka areas with a higher cost of living, will be higher for sure. The key is to know your market.  

The Thumb Test: I give carpet what I call a “thumb” test to judge the quality of a carpet. The cost of a carpet is directly related to the density or the thickness of yarns per square inch. Since it’s never listed, I simply dig my thumb into the pile (yarns). If I can easily feel the base of the carpet, chances are it’s of a lesser quality and that it won’t wear as well as a higher quality carpet. If you feel very little of the base because of the yarn density… then it’s a higher quality and it will typically wear better. Use this knowledge when weighing in on your decision. Additionally, spending a bit more on padding will extend the life of any carpet and feel better under your feet. If price is a factor, definitely do not scrimp on padding.  

Industry Ratings: (From Shaw Carpeting)  

Ratings from 1 to 5

On the label of every residential carpet style, you’ll find an easy-to-find, easy-to-understand Performance Rating.  

Rated from 1 to 5, the scale represents the carpeting’s ability to withstand extended wear. A perfect rating of 5 means that after rigorous, industry-standard testing, the carpeting maintained the appearance of brand new carpet.  

A rating of 4.0 or above is considered outstanding. These carpets are recommended for heavy traffic locations, including family rooms and children’s areas.  

A rating of 2.5 to 4.0 is predicted to provide normal durability. These carpets can be used in most home applications if properly maintained and cleaned.  

A rating below 2.5 should be considered for light to moderate traffic areas only, such as bedrooms.  

NOTE: It’s not practical to associate years with the carpeting durability rating. There are so many variable factors— area of the home, traffic patterns, number of inhabitants, level of proper maintenance, etc.— that what might be only three years of acceptable carpeting performance to one could be a lifetime to another.  

The carpet performance rating results from rigorous testing that conforms to industry standards. Some of other definitions for carpet terms are:  

Face weight – The amount of surface yarn in a square yard of carpet (expressed in ounces per square yard), excluding that which extends below the primary backing.  (*Note-face weight will not be available on all styles and should not be the primary factor for choosing a carpet).
Twist – The number of times fiber strands are twisted together in a one-inch length of carpet yarn.  Twist affects the texture and look of cut pile carpet.  
Density– How tightly carpet fibers or yarn is packed together and bound into the carpet backing.  Higher density affects the appearance of the carpet and provides greater comfort and luxury underfoot.    

Click here for a great article I just found with tons of information regarding carpeting. It’s worth the read if you are going to invest in new carpet!  

Now… back to my house:  

Requirements for The Stairs, Landing, Hall and Study:  

  1. Must be Durable.  The stairs get a ton of traffic from people and pets. I don’t want it to easily crush or snag
  2. Easy to Clean.
  3. Have a Pattern. A pattern or multi color carpet was important because I’m only vacuuming those stairs once a week. We have 2 cats and 2 dogs; one sheds so much I could knit a winter wardrobe from the collection of hair I vacuum each day. If there is hair, so be it, but that doesn’t mean I want to see it.
  4. Coordinating. The carpet must coordinate with a slate floor in the entry, gold walls and medium to dark stained trim, stairs and crown moulding.

The stairs are “L” shaped and split by a landing. The lower stretch of the stairs are open on one side with a medium finish. I should add that they are beautiful just as they are, but I slipped down a set of wood stairs one time and am lucky I didn’t break my neck. In my opinion, uncovered stairs are not  plus if you have a lot of traffic they will eventually look a mess.   As a result, I am opting to have a runner on the stairs. I’ll still see some exposed wood, but it will be safer for us.   

 The old carpet was 24″ wide and ran up the center of both the open stairs and then above the landing on the closed stairs. Because the first set of stairs in the entry hall  is wider than the top set, I made the runner 29″ wide to appear a bit grander and emphasize that the steps were wider. I stayed with the original 24″ wide runner for the remaining stairs. Note that a landing separated the stairs as you can see in the photo below.   

When making a runner you have several options:  

  1. The installer can simply fold under the ends of the carpet to make a finished look
  2. The company can pre-bind the ends with a matching fabric for a crisper, cleaner finish.
  3. Some carpet is available pre-bound and sold specifically for stairs.

I chose the second, but it’s really a matter of preference. It was about $200 more, but I like the finished look of a binding.   

Back to my selection: I chose a thick, medium height cut pile carpet with several colors of thread. It was quite a bit more, costing me $4.20 a square foot, but worth it to meet my requirements. The price included the same services as the carpet selected for the bedrooms. I also need to add that aesthetically, I wanted a gorgeous printed pattern or a loop with an interesting weave, but in the end practical won out. Darn animals.  


I chose to work with a small retail store called Simply Floors. It’s a small family owned business that I preferred because:  

  • Someone  long ago recommended them to me.
  • I have used them before and like them.
  • I knew I could trust them.
  • Time was an issue and they could get my carpet installed quickly.
  • Their pricing is reasonable.

If you go to this design-a-room link courtesy of Armstrong on their website, you’ll find a cool tool that will show you what a room will look like with different finishes. It’s a great way to get design ideas.   

At the last-minute, my pain in the beloved husband wanted me to go to Lowe’s or Home Depot to get a better price. Very begrudgingly I did, but I will admit it was interesting to verify that Lowe’s and Home Depot were very, very similar in price. In fact, a bit more on one and a bit less on the other, but it was going to take month to get it in. Because of this, I stuck with my original choice.  Two days later, I ordered from Simply Floors.   

Note: This extra price shopping put me back two days and my stairs didn’t get done in time for my out-of-town guest, arghhhhh!!!! Then, as I said earlier, when they did come in they were wrong. That’s okay though, because I knew Simply Floors would make them right, which they are doing today.   

If you are comparing carpet prices, here are a few things to look for:  

  • Compare “thumb” tests.
  • Compare the entire package per square foot. Add the removal of old carpet, moving of furniture, if applicable, carpet, padding, installation and take-away. Then compare.
  • Give value to personnel. Choose a reputable business with people you trust. Relationships have a value.  If you have a problem down the line, a good relationship with a reputable company will be worth spending a bit extra per square foot. 
  • Quality installers may cost a bit more, but are sooooooo worth it in the end. It’s senseless to put money into something and then not have it done right.  If a quote is significantly less than other quotes you receive, going with the least expensive is NOT always the best route, because ultimately, you may end up paying more in the end or settling for something that is not up to the standards that you should expect. 

Although I went with a smaller family owned store, you can find good personnel  at a big-box-store as well as at a small mom and pop store… asking friends and family will quickly tell you who you can trust and I put a lot of value into reviews on-line as well.   

Tomorrow I’ll have “before”, “during” and “after” photos of the stairs. Art and James are finishing them up today, I can’t wait to go home to see the results. It was worth the wait to have it done properly. Next week I’ll share “before”, “during” and “after” photos of  of the two bedrooms which had a design change mid-process when my away-at-college-year-round-son put in his two cents.  Apparently, he is not ready to let go of his room yet, which is fine with me.  xoxox Amy  

PS.  Come home and visit Tyler!  


One thought on “Selecting Carpet for your Home – Tips and Thoughts

  1. Carpets come in all kinds of patterns. Some of them have a very distinct pattern, using different colors to achieve the finished effect. Others have a more subtle pattern, using different shades of the same color. Still more create patterns by cutting the pile of the carpet to different lengths. So you have to consider all of these possibilities, as well as thinking about whether a plain carpet would be the best choice for the room you are re-carpeting.

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