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Carpet Specifications - What Homeowners Need To Know

By Alan Fletcher -Carpet Expert, Consumer Advocate

 

This is "Critical Information" that every homeowner must have in order to determine how durable the carpet is, to help determine it's value; and able to meet your needs, goals and lifestyle.

 

The Carpet "Specification" Label

On the back of every retail Carpet Sample there should be a manufacturer's label that shows the Type of Fiber used to make the carpet pile; the Pile Density Rating; the Face-Weight of the pile; and the Pile Height. This is must-have information that every homeowner needs to help determine how durable the carpet is, to help determine its value; and determine whether or not it would be a suitable choice to meet all your needs, goals and lifestyle. 

There should be other information shown on the manufacturer's label too, such as: the type or brand of anti-stain treatments that may have been applied (e.g., Scotchgard); The manufacturer's brand name (e.g., Shaw, Mohawk, Beaulieu); the carpet style name (e.g., Enchanted Evening II) ; and the color name or color number (e.g., Emerald Forest Green or EFG-124).

If the label is missing, or does not provide all the information you need, then you need to ask the salesperson to provide you with a "Carpet Spec Sheet". This is a one-page report from the carpet manufacturer that provides all the carpet specifications regarding the carpet style in question. The carpet salesperson may have to call the manufacturer to get it, or call their local carpet mill representative to obtain all the information you need. 

 

The salesperson says Carpet Specifications are not available anymore! 

This is not true! There's only one carpet manufacturer that I have ever known to refuse to provide carpet specifications to their dealers and to consumers, and that mill is Karastan. All other carpet makers are willing to provide carpet specifications to their dealers; and often to homeowners directly either by phone, by fax, snail mail, email or on the internet. You may need to be patient and give the salesperson sufficient time to call and get the information for you. (It may take a few days) 

However, if your carpet salesperson refuses to obtain all the carpet specifications you need, then you might want to shop elsewhere. You can call the carpet mill yourself and ask for the carpet specs as long as you have the manufacturer's brand name and the carpet style name. Here is my List of Carpet Mill websites and their phone numbers. 

 

How is Carpet Graded?

Carpet is graded by the quality and configuration of the materials used including; the Fiber Type; the Fiber Face-Weight; the Tuft Twist Rating; the Pile Density Rating; the Pile Height; and how well it is constructed overall (Including Dye methods; Backing systems; and Manufacturing processes). Determining which carpet is the absolute best choice for a particular application can be quite difficult for even a seasoned carpet professional. 

 

Choosing the Right Carpet Fiber

The most critical factor for every homeowner to consider is the Fiber Type. I have created a detailed web page that covers everything you need to know about Carpet Fibers, Nylon, Sorona®, Polyester Smartstrand®, Stainmaster®.

 

The Pile Density Rating is the Key to Carpet Durability.

The Density rating is determined by pile yarn weight, pile thickness and pile height. Think of it like a densely wooded forest where the trees are thick and packed closely together. Dig your fingers into the pile of the carpet. Are the fibers tightly packed or can you easily see the carpet backing? The more densely the tufts are packed together the more durable the carpet will be. Pile Density is the key to having a carpet retain its like-new appearance longer.

 

Pile Density ratings range from 1000 to 6000 and is determined using a mathematical formula based on the Pile Height and the Fiber Face-weight.

Here is the formula: Fiber Face-Weight x 36, divided by pile height (in decimal form) = Pile Density. 

For example, a 35 ounce face weight carpet with a half inch pile height would have a pile density rating of 2520 (35 x 36 divided by .5 = 2520). 

Take my free carpet foot traffic test to see what grade of carpet may be best for your application and foot traffic level. Take my Free Carpet Foot Traffic Test

 

What is Face-weight? 

Face-weight is the actual weight of the fiber used to manufacture the carpet pile, but does not include the weight of the carpet backing. Fiber Face-weight is not the same as Total Carpet Weight, which includes the weight of the carpet backing and the fiber face-weight. Most carpets have a face-weight between 20 ounces and 100 ounces, but the average face weight for a residential carpet is about 45 ounces. A higher face weight does not automatically mean the carpet is a better grade; is a higher quality; is more durable; or is more costly. Pile Density is the most important factor next to Fiber Type. 

 

What is the Pile Height?

The Pile Height measurement is not usually shown on the carpet sample, however all you need is a tape measure to determine a close guess. I generally recommend a pile height of less than 3/4" to help reduce the chance of matting and crushing of the pile. 

 

What is the Carpet Tuft-Twist Rating?

The Tuft Twist is a major key to having your carpet retain its like-new appearance longer. 

With plush styles of carpets, the tufts of fibers are twisted in the same way that people curl their hair. The carpet fibers are grouped together into tufts and twisted while heat is applied to "set" the fibers permanently, hence the term "heat set". 

Carpet fiber, also called yarn, is either extruded or twisted to form a single strand or "filament", These filaments are similar in size to a human hair. A bunch of filaments are grouped together and twisted together to form Tufts. While the strands are twisted, heat is applied to "set" them permanently, hence the term "heat set". This is very similar to the way women might use a curling iron to create curls in their hairstyles. The tighter the tufts are twisted together, the more durable the carpet will be, and the longer the carpet can maintain its like-new appearance. 

This tuft has 7 twists and is a sign of a well-made, more durable carpet. Frieze styles have tufts similar to this.

 

 

This tuft has 4 twists and is not as durable. This is a sign of a lower-grade carpet. Inexpensive Plush and Textured Plush styles often have tufts similar to this. 

 

 

The Number of Tuft Twists is an important key to making sure your carpet retains its like new appearance longer. Frieze styles tend to have a higher tuft twist (over 6) and is why they are well-known for their durability and retaining a like-new appearance longer than many other styles.

  • The Tuft Twist Rating is based on the number of twists per lineal inch of the tuft. 

  • The Tuft Twist numbers usually range from 3.0 to 7.5

 

 Click here to view the full size version of Alan's Carpet Durability Chart (PDF Format) 

 Click here to view the full size version of Alan's Carpet Durability Chart (PDF Format) 

 

Why a Good Tuft-Twist Rating Matters

Carpets with a low Tuft Twist Rating (3 to 5) tend to untwist or “blossom” at the tuft tips more quickly, thus creating a worn out, frizzy looking or matted down appearance. Carpets seldom wear out from the loss of fiber, they just start to mat down; gradually lose the luster and shine; and just start to look bad. Once the tufts have blossomed and become matted down, it cannot be reversed.

 

For this reason a Carpet with a higher Tuft-Twist (5.5 to 7.5) will retain its like-new appearance longer and tolerate a higher level of foot traffic. When comparing similar quality carpets side by side, you must consider the tuft twist rating to help you determine which carpet is the better choice. Carpets with a lower tuft twist rating tend to "blossom" more quickly and as a result will be less durable and will appear word out sooner.

 

Study my Carpet Durability Chart above to better understand how carpet durability is determined in part by the number of twists each tuft has. Frieze styles typically have a very high tuft twist rating of at least 6 or more. That's one reason why frieze carpets tend to wear better and last longer than many other carpet styles. 

 

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Read Over 200 Frequently-Asked Carpet Questions & Answers (Q & A)

All State Verify Contractor License Requirements   Carpet Specifications - Face weight, carpet density, tuft twist   Basic Carpet Installation

How to Buy Carpet Wisely in Today's Marketplace   How Much Does Carpet Cost?    Common Consumer Carpet Buying Mistakes

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