Types of carpet
If you're thinking about buying a new carpet, there are a few decisions you need to make. As well as choosing a colour or pattern to suit your space, you'll also need to pick a type of carpet and a material.
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, and will also ultimately come down to your budget.
The main things to consider are:
- How much you want to spend. Costs can vary from less than £5 per square metre for a simple synthetic to more than £100 per square metre for a premium, hand-woven design.
- Who (and what) will be walking on the carpet. High-traffic areas, such as hallways, will benefit from more durable materials. If you've got children or you like to entertain, you'll need something that's easy to clean, while pets with claws will rule out looped carpets that can easily snag.
- The look and feel you're after. The way your carpet is made will affect how it looks – from glossy and plush, to tight and dense – and how it feels underfoot. Think about whether you want a soft pile you can sink your toes into or something flatter and more stable.
Why choose carpet?
Carpet is good for making a room more cosy and insulating your floors. It's a good choice if you tend to walk around barefoot.
In our latest survey*, most of our 2,000 respondents told us they chose their carpet for comfort, warmth and the way it feels.
But the carpet owners we spoke to pointed out that they had found lots of practical reasons to choose carpet over other flooring types, including:
- to provide a non-slip surface on stairs
- because pet dogs found laminate too slippery to walk on
- it can easily be lifted to do work on floorboards or plumbing below
- objects dropped on a carpet are less likely to break than those dropped on a wooden floor
- they're easier to lay over uneven surfaces and can do a better job of disguising the problem.
Choosing a carpet pile
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).
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.
There are a few ways to check a carpet's durability before you buy, but one quick test is to press your thumb into the pile. The more quickly it springs back and recovers, the more dense and resilient it should be.
You can also take a look at the back of the carpet to see how closely packed the tufts are, or check its weight, which should be printed on the back of your sample swatch. Carpets with long, loose strands are lighter and less durable than short, dense ones.
Woven and tufted carpets
There are two main types of carpet in the UK: woven and tufted. The difference lies in the way they're made: woven carpets are labour intensive and therefore more expensive, while tufted carpets are easier to produce. Most carpet sold in the UK is tufted.
You can 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 them 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:
- Axminster carpets are made by weaving fibres in and out through the backing material. They are known for their intricate patterns.
- Wilton carpets are made on a loom of the same name, which weaves the yarn in a continuous strand.
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.
They also come in a wide range of prices, starting at just 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 have very different appearances.
Choosing the best carpet materials
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 people told us that they chose a wool and synthetic mix, which can provide the benefits of a natural carpet with some of the useful qualities of synthetics, such as increased stain resistance.
Here’s how the different materials compare:
Which type of carpet should you choose?
*Survey of 2,151 Which? members in August 2019