We explain how to choose the right carpet, the pros and cons of carpet vs other flooring types, how to find a carpet fitter, why you really do need underlay, and much more.
Before buying a carpet, there are a few things to consider:
From hand-woven wool to plush synthetics to hard-wearing sisal, there are plenty of materials available. Which you choose will depend on where you'll use the carpet, as well as your budget.
The choice between carpet and other flooring types such as laminate or wood depends on your how you plan to use a room, as well as your style preferences.
Laminate or wood flooring is brilliant for high-traffic areas that will need frequent cleaning, such as living rooms, studies and playrooms. Meanwhile, carpet makes a room warmer and helps to insulate and soundproof your floors. It's can be a great choice in rooms where you tend to walk around barefoot, such as bedrooms.
In November 2021, we surveyed 6,381 people who had bought a carpet in the past five years. Most respondents told us they chose their carpet for comfort, warmth and the way it feels. Here's the full rundown of people's main reasons for choosing carpet:
The carpet owners we spoke to also pointed out a number of practical reasons to choose carpet over other flooring types, including:
The pile of a carpet describes its individual fibres. These can be looped (where the fibres loop back into the backing material) or cut (cut off at the top). A carpet's pile can have a big impact on how durable it is.
The key measurements you'll need to know to assess a carpet's durability are its density (how closely knitted together its fibres are) and its pile height. In general, short, dense, heavy carpets are more durable and hard-wearing than those with loose, shaggy fibres.
Press your thumb into the carpet pile. The more quickly it springs back and recovers, the more dense and resilient it should be.
Look at the back of the carpet to see how closely packed the tufts are. Carpets with long, loose strands are lighter and less durable than short, dense ones.
Also check its weight. This should be printed on the back of your sample swatch.
There are two main types of carpet in the UK: woven and tufted. Woven carpets are labour-intensive to make, and therefore more expensive, while tufted carpets are easier to produce. Most carpet sold in the UK is tufted.
Expect to pay from around £60 per square metre for an authentic woven carpet. They're made using traditional methods that date back to the 16th century.
They have a reputation for high quality and rich colours, and also tend to be durable. This makes woven carpets a popular choice for well-trodden areas that are regularly on show, such as hallways and living rooms.
There are two main types of woven carpet:
Tufted carpets are by far the most popular in the UK. They're made by a machine that punches pile yarn into the base material, and come in a variety of styles and materials.
Prices vary, starting from a couple of pounds per square metre for the cheapest synthetic carpets, and from around £12 per square metre for very basic wool carpets.
Tufted carpets can have either looped or cut pile, which mean they can look very different.
Flick through the gallery below to see the different types of tufted carpet, and use the dropdowns to find out more about each type.
Synthetic materials such as polypropylene and nylon are cheaper, more stain resistant and less prone to mould and mildew. But they’ll also wear out more quickly.
Natural fibres such as wool and sisal can be pricey, are more prone to staining and can attract insects, but the fibres are resilient so they’ll last longer.
When we surveyed carpet owners about which material they chose, there was an even split between people who favoured synthetics and those who preferred natural materials. Some chose a wool and synthetic mix, which can combine the benefits of a natural carpet with some of the useful qualities of synthetics, such as increased stain resistance.
Some retailers, such as Carpetright, have developed carpet ranges designed to be more eco-friendly, using materials such as recycled plastic bottles or fish nets.
Use the dropdowns below to view examples of popular carpet materials.
Here's a quick summary of the main carpet types.
Easy to clean
Prone to flattening
|Prone to flattening|
Not suitable for high-traffic areas
Holds colour well
Good choice if you have a pet
|Can be prone to soiling and holding on to oils|
Not as stain- esistant as other choices
Strong and hard-wearing
Hard to clean
It's important to see the carpet with your own eyes before buying it. Most our survey respondents (69%) told us they visited a carpet retailer's shop before buying.
One respondent's advice was: 'You need to be able to see a reasonable amount of the carpet on a roll to get an idea of what it would look like in a large area.'
Whether or not you're able to get to a store, it's a good idea to get carpet samples, as 27% of our survey respondents did. You can ask for samples when visiting your carpet retailer, or order them online to be sent to you.
What seems like the perfect shade underneath bright overhead strip lights in a shop can become an entirely different colour in your bedroom where you only use muted lamp light, for example. Check it at different times of day, too.
Some carpet owners told us that borrowing samples was also helpful because it gave them a chance to walk on them to see how they'd feel underfoot.
Underlay helps carpet to sit properly and wear evenly, and makes sure that it lasts as long as it can. It can also improve the way the carpet feels when you walk on it, and increase heat and sound insulation.
Underlay wears out over time, so you should replace it every time you buy a new carpet. Remember to factor this into your costs. We offer advice on buying underlay later in this article.
In many cases, you'll need to have a surveyor come round to give you a full price estimate, including carpet and underlay plus extra accessories (such as door trims) and fitting costs. But doing some calculations in advance can help you narrow down what's likely to be within your budget.
When working out carpet costs, remember that you have to buy the carpet in set widths, so there can be a lot of wastage.
Carpets are mostly sold in rolls that are either 4 or 5 metres wide, and a section will be cut from the roll to match the length of your room. The carpet fitter will trim away any excess from the width, but you’ll still have to pay for this unused carpet.
You can use offcuts to make doormats and rugs, or to carpet the inside of cupboards. They’re also handy for placing underneath the legs of furniture to avoid squashing the pile.
The price of your carpet will vary considerably depending on its material. Typically natural-based materials such as wool and silk are more expensive.
High-grade wool is one of the most expensive carpet materials, with prices for 100% wool carpets ranging from around £28 per square metre to more than £100 for a branded one. Polypropylene is one of the least expensive options, with prices starting from as little as £6 per square metre.
If you know the measurements of your room, use our carpet calculator to get an initial cost estimate (this does not include fitting costs or any extras).
The next step is for a surveyor from your chosen retailer to visit your property, take accurate measurements and give you a full estimate of the costs. This will usually be a free, no-obligation appointment, but check the small print before you book.
If you haven’t yet ordered samples, ask the surveyor to bring some. They might be able to bring larger samples so you can get an even better idea of how the carpet will look.
The surveyor should advise on any extras that you’ll need to pay for, such as:
Make sure you’ve got your estimate to hand when you order your carpet.
Discuss the quote with the retailer to make sure you have everything you need, and that you’re not paying for services you don’t want.
You’ll probably have to pay for the carpet and underlay upfront, and pay separately for fitting costs when the carpet is laid, but check the payment arrangements with the retailer so you don't get any nasty surprises.
You can use our Which? Trusted Traders search tool, below, to find a reliable carpet fitter you can trust. All Which? Trusted Traders go through a rigorous assessment process that includes credit and customer reference checks, as well as a visit from a qualified assessor.
If you're planning to splash out on a luxurious new carpet, it can be tempting try to keep costs down by opting for cheaper underlay – or even reusing your existing underlay. The truth is, regardless of how much you spend on carpet, it will only be as good as its underlay. Just like carpet, underlay wears out over time, so you should replace it every time you buy a new carpet and factor this into your costs.
A good underlay will improve how your carpet looks and feels, and how well it lasts. It will also boost heat and sound insulation.
Depending on the type and quality, the cost of underlay can range from £3 to more than £11 per square metre. In high-traffic areas (such as stairs), it's worth spending a bit more for a higher-quality underlay.
The retailer is likely to recommend a particular underlay, but if you're keen to cut costs, you might find you can get cheaper options elsewhere.
Underlay comes in different thicknesses, typically between 6mm and 12mm. Typically, the thicker the better –10mm was a popular choice among those who responded to our survey* – although how important this is will depend on the room.
Each underlay product also has a tog rating. This refers to its level of heat insulation; the higher the tog rating, the better the insulation. The tog rating is influenced by the underlay composition, density and thickness. Typically it varies from 1 to 4, with 2.5 being a common rating.
If you're thinking of getting underfloor heating, the tog rating of the carpet and underlay combined needs to be low enough to allow the heating to work effectively. Consult your underfloor heating supplier or carpet retailer for more advice.
New carpets can shed balls of fluff for several weeks after they’ve been laid. Some amount of shedding is perfectly normal and you can keep it under control by vacuuming regularly.
*Based on a November 2021 survey of 6,381 people who had bought carpet in the last five years.