Are you looking for a carpet to add a layer of style to your living room or bedroom? Or did you recently move into a fully furnished home and are wondering what type of carpet they have?
Learning the type of carpet before buying it is helpful so you know how to maintain and clean it. If your house comes with a pre-installed carpet, there are ways you can find out what material it is made of so you don’t make a mistake when cleaning it.
Learning about carpet types and their piles will also help you determine if you have the right kind of carpet for the right kind of room. While carpets serve as an accent or to give the room a more cozy feel, not all carpets were made equal. Some of them are suitable for high-traffic areas because they won’t stain or show dirt so much, while others are more luxurious but can be more sensitive to wear and tear.
The burn test: Synthetic or natural fibers?
One of the easiest ways to determine the type of material your carpet is made of is to conduct the burn test. This may sound frightening, but it’s the easiest way to determine whether your carpet is made of synthetic or natural fibers.
First, get a piece of fiber from the carpet (from an inconspicuous area, preferably, so people won’t notice that there is a fiber missing). One of the best ways to do this is by holding up the fiber with tweezers and then carefully cutting off a single strand.
Second, go to a place where it is safe to perform the burn test (such as outdoors), so you can protect your house and belongings from accidents. Now comes the most important part—hold up the strand with your tweezers and place the fiber in the flame of the butane lighter. While you’re doing this, pay close attention to what the fiber does while burning, how it ends up looking, and how it smells while it is burning.
Synthetic fibers (e.g. nylon, polyester, or olefin) tend to arch away from the fiber. Natural fibers (e.g. wool), on the other hand, don’t move away from the fire. If you are still unsure about the carpet type after burning, try to crush the fiber between your fingers. Synthetic fibers leave no residue, while natural fibers will leave behind noticeable traces.
How a fiber burns and smells varies, of course, depending on the type of material. For example, nylon tends to burn slowly and smell like celery while melting. Polyester, on the other hand, sputters and melts while the smell is sweeter. Wool, a natural fiber, burns slowly and sputters, while the residue easily crumbles.
Identifying the type of carpet pile
Aside from learning all about a carpet’s fiber (whether it is made of natural or synthetic material), it’s also important to understand the pile—how the fiber is attached to the carpet backing. Sometimes, the fibers are left intact and sometimes, they are cut into various lengths and angles. A carpet’s pile determines how comfortable it is, how it feels underfoot, and how easily it can wear out.
Berber pile carpets are also known as the “uncut pile” because of the way the loop pile leaves the entire yarn intact on the surface of the carpet. They are made of thick, bulky yarns of wool, nylon, polypropylene, or sometimes a blend of all these fibers. As a result, they give off a cushioned feel underfoot.
Berber pile carpets are highly durable, easy to clean, and stain-resistant. They are often used in commercial establishments or rooms with high traffic. When cleaned, they won’t show vacuum marks. Nevertheless, if you have pets, you need to be careful with their claws as they can snag and pull the loops easily.
2. Frieze-cut pile
Frieze-cut piles are made of tightly twisted fibers covering a dense, low-pile surface. They give off a coarse texture that makes the carpet durable and suitable for high-traffic areas. The short fibers on the surface tend to curl in different directions. As a result, they are good at hiding footprints, vacuum marks, and dust, which also gives them a somewhat informal look.
3. Level loop pile
In level loop piles, you have even loops of yarn into the carpet backing at both ends. This makes it very durable and resistant to dirt and footprints. Even if your fibers are made of synthetic material, the carpet will still have a natural, casual appearance. Some level loop piles come with higher loops which create a more luxurious feel.
If you are looking for a carpet for high-traffic areas, getting a carpet with a level loop pile is a good option. You need to be careful with pets though, as their loops can still easily be pulled with your pet’s claws.
4. Multi level loop pile
Multi-level loop piles are just like level loop piles. The only difference is that the loop heights vary (they usually come in two to three different loop heights) and the resulting look is an informal, textured appearance. It is good for high-traffic areas and family rooms as it hides marks and stains well. Nevertheless, you still have to be careful with pets as the loops can be easily pulled by them.
5. Pattern arrangement
Sometimes, you will be able to find a carpet that combines cut and loop piles of different heights (and possibly different weaves) to create carpet texture or a geometrical design. This type of pile—pattern arrangement—creates visible patterns through the different cuts and loops in the carpet. Usually, this is done on a single-color carpet. This is also similar to the sisal pile, although the sisal pile only arranges the cuts and loops in rows and not so much in different patterns.
6. Plush pile
Plush pile carpets are sometimes called velvet-cut piles because the sheared surface gives off a smooth, soft, and luxurious finish. The yarn is twisted a little, allowing the ends to blend together which adds to the overall look. Plush pile carpets, however, are temperamental. They easily wear down, show footprints, and the color can look different from place to place when the fibers lie in different directions. They give off a feel of luxury, but shouldn’t be used in high-traffic areas.
7. Saxony cut
Saxony cut carpet piles come with fibers that are very soft and very dense, thus creating a lush, fuzzy surface. They are made of tightly twisted cut piles that are set straight by heat and while the tips of the fibers remain very distinct, they give the carpet a soft, elegant texture and finish.
They are durable enough, though probably not as durable as your loop pile carpets. If you plan on getting a carpet with a Saxony cut pile, it’s better to put it in medium to low traffic areas, such as a formal living room or den. They are also more expensive than other cut pile carpets.
8. Sculpted pile
Sculpted pile carpets have two kinds of fibers: looped and cut-pile, resulting in a carpet with varying heights and textures. They are also known as ‘cut & loop’ carpets or ‘patterned’ carpets. If you’re looking for a carpet that creates surface textures and patterns, either in one solid color or multiple colors, a sculpted pile is one of your best options. Sometimes, some sculpted pile carpets are arranged in geometric patterns which gives the carpet a three-dimensional texture.
Sculpted pile carpets are also great when it comes to hiding footprints and stains. Thus, it is good to have this in high-traffic areas.
9. Sisal pile
The sisal pile is a type of loop pile. It takes loops, sometimes in different colors and at different heights, and arranges them in rows to create a textured, patterned surface. While they are durable and can also hide footprints and stains, you need to be careful with pets. Sharp claws can snag on the loops and pull them out.
10. Textured cut
Textured cut piles are carpets that come with fibers of uneven length. Sometimes, they are twisted into spiral strands using a special kind of steam treatment so that the individual strands don’t become kinked. Textured cut piles are also known as “trackless” carpets because they don’t show footprints and other marks, unlike other cut piles.
The textured cut pile is great for middle- to high-level traffic areas as they are durable and don’t need to be cared for as much as other piles, like Saxony. Because of the way the spiral strands are set, the light doesn’t reflect on it so much so it isn’t so noticeable when the fibers are crushed down.