How to buy a carpet
We explain how to find a carpet fitter, why it’s wise to get an itemised bill and why you really do need underlay.
Visit a carpet retailer
Sometimes you can't beat seeing a product with your own eyes before buying it. When we surveyed more than 2,000 carpet owners* an overwhelming majority said that they visited a store to do research and narrow down their carpet choices.
One carpet owner'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.'
Get carpet samples
You can ask for these when visiting your carpet retailer or can order them online to be sent to you. Whichever route you choose, don’t rely on how carpet looks in pictures or even in the store.
What seems like the perfect shade underneath bright overhead strip lights can become an entirely different colour in your bedroom where you only use muted lamp light, so you'll need to take the swatches home and look at them at different times of day, to confirm your final decision.
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 would feel underfoot.
Choose an underlay
Underlay helps carpet 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.
The retailer is likely to recommend a particular underlay, but if you're keen to cut costs you may find you can get cheaper options elsewhere.
If you’re considering laying beneath your carpet, your choice of underlay will be crucial. 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.
Work out the price of your carpet
The most important factor to remember when working out carpet costs is 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 4 metres 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.
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.)
Get an estimate
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 may 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:
- removing and disposing of old carpet or other flooring
- moving furniture
- gripper rods (to hold the carpet in place) and door trims
- door alterations.
Order your carpet
Make sure you’ve got your estimate to hand when you order your carpet, to help you keep the budget on track.
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 up front, 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.
Get your carpet fitted
When you book your carpet fitter, check the services they offer and any extra costs involved. You might have to pay the fitter in cash, so make sure you have the right amount on the day.
You can search free of charge 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.
How to save money on buying carpet
- Buy in winter: Prices start to drop in mid-December and good discounts can be found through the January sales.
- Haggle: If you’ve seen a good deal on a similar carpet elsewhere, try using it as leverage to negotiate with the salespeople.
- Get itemised quotes: You can see where extra charges have been added that you might be able to avoid. For example, by removing old flooring yourself.
- Remnants: Most carpet stores have a section with pieces left from the end of rolls, which are often discounted. You might get lucky and find one that is the right size for your space.
- Door trims and gripper rods: You can re-use your existing accessories if they’re in good enough condition.
- Underlay: Sourcing the underlay separately might be cheaper. Some carpet owners have told us they found the same underlay that was offered by the retailer for half the price online. Just make sure it will definitely turn up before your carpet fitters do.
- Carpet trimmings and offcuts: These can be used to make doormats and rugs, or to carpet the inside of cupboards. They’re also handy if you haven’t quite decided where to put your furniture yet - place them underneath the legs to avoid squashing the pile while you try out different locations.
- Discontinued stock: Carpets that are being discontinued often have price reductions. Make sure you have a back-up option or time to go back to the drawing board if the carpet sells out before you order, though.
Looking after your new carpet
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.
*Survey of 2,151 Which? members in August 2019