A first-time buyer's guide to choosing a carpet
For the first-time buyer, the choice of carpets can be bewildering. Our carpet experts share some practical tips for choosing the best carpet for your needs.
It’s exciting setting up home for the first time, but terrifying how much everything costs.
We’ve been there. Most of our sales colleagues know first-hand what it’s like, and we’re used to advising first-time buyers.
So what questions do we ask and what do you need to consider when buying carpet for the first time?
What’s your life style?
Yes colour and budget are important, but we always start with the space and how it will be used.
Do you have pets? What about kids – toddlers or teenagers? A partner who regularly changes the oil in the car or motorbike (but not his/her boots)? How much foot traffic? Or entertaining, with food and wine?
These and other factors can determine the best choice of carpet for your new home. Here are some other questions that will help you make the right choice.
What are the main carpet options?
The array of carpet types and styles can seem mesmerising, but the main options are easy enough to understand.
• Wool or synthetic?: All carpets used to be made from 100% wool, but when the price of wool shot up, the quality came down. Which is why 80/20 blends using synethetic fibres took off. Some of these now offer high standards of comfort and serviceability (ie, they are hard wearing and more forgiving).
• Pure wool: The best manufacturers still use 100% wool, especially New Zealand wool, for their top-quality carpets. Not only is wool a magnificent fibre with beautiful attributes, people sometimes forget that it’s also a natural product, and both renewable and recyclable.
• Wool loop carpets: These deserve special mention because of the way they’re made. Their loop pile means the wool doesn’t need the same care and can be of a lesser quality, but you still get a high standard of carpet. (However, cats and dogs can snag them with their claws.)
• 80/20 mix: The most common blend is wool with 20% nylon. This gives all the advantages of wool, in terms of look and feel, with the added strength of nylon.
• Synthetic fibres: Carpets made from synthetic fibres are becoming more popular. They can be very hard-wearing and give a luscious effect under foot with a soft and silky feel. For busy households (see the lifestyle factors above), I often recommend going for a polypropylene carpet, which can be cleaned with bleach.
Synthetic carpets are extremely tough, but the downside (because they are made from oil-based products) is that they flatten after a time. So you may well need to change your floor covering more often.
More advice for the first-time buyer...
Which should come first?
Carpet suppliers always say the carpet, furnishers will tell you the furniture, and the decorator doesn’t get a say! But think, how long do you expect your floor covering to last? If you want 10 years, will your sofa last that long? Carpet sets the stage for everything in the room. Get it right first time and everything follows. It’s easier to change your mind about the emulsion or wallpaper.
What style should I go for?
The first decision is plain or a pattern? Plain is the most popular at the moment. It’s a safer choice, and works well with simple and minimalist interiors – or bold wallpapers and furnishings. By contrast, there’s a different trend toward geometric patterns, especially among customers looking for a more eclectic style.
Dark or light colour? Go darker on the floor, lighter on the walls. It’s common sense, and cheaper to re-paint than replace your carpets. If you have a busy household and still want a light-coloured carpet, then choose polypropylene and plan to replace it more often.
What about smaller homes and apartments? Use one colour throughout – it will make the place feel bigger. Lighter colours expand the space too, but pale carpets will show their age sooner. So again, darker floors (and lighter walls) are a more practical option.
Deep pile or flatter? I’d advise you choose a shorter, tighter pile for the most heavily trafficked areas, like the hall and stairs. A deeper pile should be fine in the living room or bedrooms. But always have a mat at the front door (and if possible, where a kitchen/diner gives way to a carpeted lounge area). A decent mat can add years to your carpet’s life.
What's best for a limited budget?
The best advice, though not necessarily what you want to hear, is ‘You get what you pay for’. There’s a gulf in quality between carpets some outlets might sell for €10 a square yard and one priced at €300. Remember you will be walking on (and living with) your new floor for years, so beware false economies. We can advise you on what’s best value in a particular price range. Or point you toward a discounted carpet remnant.
Can I save on underlay?
It’s a false economy to skimp on underlay when your new carpet is designed for use with it. It’s like driving a new car on flat tyres. Underlay takes the weight of passing feet. When it goes, carpet wear accelerates. Decent underlay is an investment, and improves heat insulation and noise reduction.
Any other advice?
Our tips are just that – advice. Go for what you’re comfortable with. What reflects your personality? If you like strong colours, for instance, we’ll show you how to make a statement. If you prefer something more laid back, choose subtle tones. Want both? Then add accents of colour with rugs, throws and cushions. The options are endless, and we’ll help you explore them.