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Go Wall-to-Wall on Carpet Terminology

If professional cleaning can’t revive your carpet, it’s probably time to replace it.

Manufacturers say carpet should last about 10 years. With regular vacuuming, prompt attention to spills and periodic cleaning, it could last longer. But sooner or later, carpet must be replaced.

Before you visit showrooms or invite a salesperson to your home, get comfy with carpet terms and tips, compiled by our team and based on multiple interviews with top-rated carpet experts:

Pile is a carpet’s visible surface, also called the nap or face. It comes in two styles: loop pile, where both ends of each yarn piece are anchored to the carpet back to form a loop, and cut pile, where only one end of yarn is anchored. Other styles are variations of the cut and loop. Pile can vary greatly. A soft, velvety pile looks luxurious, but shows every footprint, and is best suited to formal rooms. A shorter, more tightly woven carpet works well in a high-traffic hallway or entryway.

Tufting is the most common method of carpet manufacturing, in which yarn ends are pushed through backing to create the pile surface.

Density is the amount of yarn and closeness of the tufts. Check density by bending a carpet corner backward, toward the backing. If you can see very little backing through the tufts, the carpeting has a high density.

Materials for carpet yarn include:

∎ Wool, which hides dirt well and provides a soft look and rich feel, tends to be a luxury option, at $30 to $75 per square yard.

∎ Polyester, strong and relatively inexpensive at an average cost of $13 a square yard. Because polyester is prone to matting and tangling, it’s a poor choice for high-traffic areas.

∎ Nylon, a popular choice because it’s soft and durable; resists stains, matting and abrasion; and is easy to clean. Costs range between $10 and $40 a square yard. Be aware that while most nylon has an antistatic coating, it can build a static charge that is uncomfortable and could harm electronic gear.

When choosing carpet, aim for the best quality you can afford. Consider professional installation; professionals know how to deal with seams and handle stretching.

Work with a carpet company that has good reviews on a trusted online site, and take a few steps to avoid possible scams:

∎ Confirm that the carpet and padding you picked is what you actually get. Scammers will install a lower grade and hope you don’t notice.

∎ Measure the room yourself. Some companies will quote what seems a great price, per square foot, but sell you more carpet than you need.

∎ Unless you want high-end and unique carpet, don’t believe a contractor who claims no other company carries a carpet type or color. The same carpet is often rebranded, sometimes by suppliers.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Follow her on Twitter Angie—Hicks.