Carpet Buying Guide

#1 Unbiased Carpet Buying Guide

Last update: November 2018

This comprehensive carpet buying guide covers everything you need to know when shopping for carpet without a sales pitch.

A little background: It began as a project to help my father’s carpet cleaning customers when it came time for them to buy new carpet. He wanted a website to recommend to his customers when they were shopping for carpet, but all the sites we found either were incomplete or biased (trying to sell you a certain carpet, pad, or stain treatment).

So we decided to create our own site helping people buy carpet, and here it is. It’s been edited over the years to respond to our readers feedback, include new carpet technology, and just be more helpful.

There’s more to the story, but I don’t want to bore you. If you’re interested in the history of how Carpet Captain started, you can read more about it here.

The work put in to this guide has helped hundreds of thousands of carpet shoppers like this one:

I’m really amazed at all the information in it and wish I had this knowledge when I purchased my carpet back in 2007 … Your website is an example of how useful the internet can be.

-Dan S.

I don’t share this with you to pat myself on the back; I share it so you will know that this guide won’t waste your time.

So what will you learn?

  • the exact specifications that make a durable carpet
  • why the perfect carpet for one room or person isn't perfect for another
  • what "bells and whistles" aren't worth your money (but might be recommended by a salesman on commission)
  • what "bells and whistles" aren't worth your money (but might be recommended by a salesman on commission)
  • tips for getting the best deal
  • scams to avoid
Of course, this is all for free.  However, if you’re on Pinterest, I’d take it as a donation if you follow me there (new to Pinterest and more follower = more motivation to keep going). I provide information on buying, maintaining and the design aspect of all types of floor. Just click this button to follow: Carpet Captain

 How to buy carpet (table of contents)

How do you buy carpet?

I recommend reading through this guide top to bottom. There are 15 steps divided in 5 phases, and it should be a pretty easy read. 

If you want to skip around, you can see what each phase is about below. If you click the button, it will take you directly to that section.

Here’s a preview of the 5 phases to buying carpet:

Get estimated initial projects costs. You can start planning financing and budgeting. This step comes first because you need to know what you’re getting into financially. If you don’t, it will be difficult to determine what type of carpet you’ll need, when to buy, etc.

Plan the perfect carpet and pad for your home. This is the “meat and potatoes” of carpet shopping. You’ll learn what makes durable carpet and padding, and based on your home’s needs, what you’d be over-paying for. You’ll know what matters in carpet better than 90% of salesmen—and promise no sales pitch.

Who and when? At this point, you know what you want and about how much it will cost.  Now let’s put it on your calendar at the most optimal time (different dates can affect costs and health). Also, who should you buy from? There’s different pros and cons depending on who your needs. This will help you make the decision.

Shopping day: questions to ask, scams to avoid, hidden fees, negotiating. You’ve put in the hard work now, and teaches you how to side-step making it all go to waste due to a scam or just poor buy. Learn the right questions to ask and scams to avoid.

Prep for installation day. This isn’t just cleaning your home. Yes, you’ve bought the carpet, but the journey isn’t over. Unfortunately, for some people, everything is good to this point. But at the end of the day, the carpet will only be as good as the installation. Here’s how to prep.

After the purchase. You can relax and congratulate yourself on an excellent job buying your new flooring. Here are just  a few articles you might want to check out to take care of your new carpet.

Phase Zero: carpet vocabulary reference

You can skip this section (nothing to see here, folks).

But if you’re out shopping or researching carpet and come across a word you don’t know, here are a couple of good references:

Just remember these links are here if you want to come back to them later. But for now, we can dive into the finances of buying carpet…

Phase One: carpet costs, budgeting, and financing options

Step 1: Carpets costs and budgeting

You might want to sit down while reading this section.

Flooring is a major home remodel. Like any home investment, the final price tag may leave you feeling a little nauseous. But here’s the trick to making budgeting less painful: take it a step at a time.

The first step to buying carpet is to estimate how much new flooring will cost you. This will help you with answer some early questions in the carpet planning process:

  • How much do I need to budget for carpet?
  • What types and styles of carpet can I afford?
  • Can I afford carpet right now?
  • Will I need financing?
  • Am I getting a fair price?

So how do you estimate what carpet will cost?

Easy… check out the Carpet Captain pricing page. You’ll get an estimate of what carpet, padding, and installation cost. To make it even easier, I’ve developed a simple calculator that will give you an estimate just by answering two questions.

There are more reasons than just budgeting to figure out what you’ll pay for carpet. (hint: over-measuring your room square footage by retailers/installers is the #1 way you can be overcharged… you’ll find more tips like this later in the guide). The pricing page I linked to above also tells you how to measure, so you can check to make sure the estimate you receive is in the ballpark of where it should be.

Step 2: How will I finance my carpet? Is cash really king?

Now that you know how much carpet will cost, does it fit into your budget?

“Yep, I have the money waiting in the bank.” If this is the case, you can skip this section. But keep in mind, sometimes you can actually make money to finance all or part of your carpet (example: credit cards that offer cash back). Interested? Check out our flooring financing guide.
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“I’m going to have to save up a little more.” Perfectly fine, but know that you have options. And I’m not talking about a “get your paycheck early” loan with super-high interest.

Lenders are able to give low-interest rates on home improvements because they’re an investment. In other words, it’s not as much of a risk to them as say a loan to start a business.

In some cases, you may pay 0% or even get $100+ cash back for financing your carpet.

Phase Two: plan the perfect carpet and pad for your home

Step 3: Planning your type (aka style) of carpet

Have you heard of Berber carpet? What about frieze or plush?

These are all styles of carpet. Like it sounds, the carpet style will be a major factor in how it looks in your home.

You’re probably thinking, “How a carpet looks is my opinion? Do I really need to read about it?”

You do. And not because I’m an interior design expert (far from it), but because the style will also affect how your carpet performs.

This is a big part of the carpet buying process, so I’ve included individual pages for each style of carpet. The link to each page is below.

I’d recommend starting with the article on the “comparison of all carpet styles.” From there, you can narrow down your choices. Then read the pages on your favorites to make a final decision.

You’ll also want to pick out the best carpet color for your home and consider checking out Carpet Captain’s Pinterest page for design ideas.

P.S. We’d love to have you follow Carpet Captain on Pinterest. Follow simply by clicking this button: Carpet Captain

Okay, now you know what style of carpet you want. Time to choose what it’s made of. This is going to be the biggest (but definitely not only) factor in its durability.

Step 4: Choosing your carpet fiber (aka carpet material)

Carpet performance and durability is determined by the carpet material more than anything else (although, there are many factors we’ll cover later).

A toy that is made of metal might be “built to last” but “heavy.” Another toy made of plastic might be “lightweight,” “inexpensive,” but have “health hazards.”

Carpet is no different. There are 5 most common materials of carpet, and each will have unique pros and cons.

Is durability top priority? Maybe consider nylon or Smartstrand?

Want something inexpensive that still resists stains? Olefin or polyester could work.

What about all-natural? Resists mildew? Made of recycled materials? Newest technology? Best with children or pets? …There’s a material for each of these cases. The challenge is to find which carpet fiber will be best in your home.

To get an idea of the best material for your home, I’d read the summary article first: comparison all carpet materials. Once you finish that, you can make your final decision by reading more details on your top materials 2 or 3 materials with these articles:

A couple of other articles you might want to check out on carpet materials are nylon and wool blends and branded vs unbranded nylons. If you can’t decide between the two most popular carpet materials, the nylon vs polyester page might help you break the tie.

Your carpet style and material are picked out. That’s more than half the battle!

But remember the saying, “It’s only as strong as the weakest link?”

That holds true for carpet. And there are many important details to pick out for the perfect carpet.

Step 5: Picking the perfect specifications that impact durability of your carpet

Many carpet shoppers walk into the store and hope they get a durable carpet by only looking at the price (not the cheapest, not the most expensive) and the warranty.

True, generally you pay more for better quality carpet. But there are still a few flaws in the “blindly choosing by price and warranty” carpet buying philosophy. And these can be costly:

  • most carpet warranties are a joke
  • carpet price is determined by many factors other than those that impact durability
  • this leads to overkill—people try to “be safe” and spend more than they need
  • “small” amounts of overpaying are big… buying $3.70/sqft vs $3.10sqft = $500+ lost for many homeowners

So what’s a better approach?

Figuring out what specifications actually matter in carpet performance.

This isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. In fact, I’ve only needed to dedicate one page to carpet specifications that impact durability. This is probably the 2nd most important page about carpet on this site. It covers face weight, twists, density, wear ratings, and more specifications that will directly impact how long your carpet lasts.

Once you’ve checked those of your list, you’re ready to move on to the carpet pad…

Step 6: Planning the perfect padding

Out of sight out of mind?

Not true for carpet padding. Padding is like the structure of a bridge. It may not be what you drive on, but you better hope it’s made right. And yes, you won’t plunge down 50 feet into water if you mess up the padding. But you could waste a perfectly good multi-$1,000 carpet.

So how do you pick out a high-quality pad?

For most people, you’ll do well with a 7/16” rebond pound that is a minimum of 6lbs (preferably 8lbs+). But there are cases where you are better served with something else. A few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have a loop style like Berber?
  • Do you have a pet urine problem? What about basement moisture?
  • Could you save money going less or more durable?

Our Ultimate Guide to Carpet Padding covers all of these questions and anything else you could want to know on carpet pad.

And once you finish that, congratulations! You’ve now covered all of the basics of carpet buying.

What’s left?

I’ll cover some “special cases” articles below, and then we’ll go into how to buy (where, when, and how to get the best deal).

Step 7: Check out our carpet case studies for specific situations

Maybe you have a cat. Or need a kitchen carpeted. Or have a wheelchair. Or…

The list goes on.

Here are some special cases for carpet and the Captain’s recommendations. This part is simple: skip the articles that don’t apply to you, and read the articles that do:

Best carpet for pets
Best carpet for kids
Best carpet for stairs
Best carpet for the kitchen
Best carpet for wheelchairs and power chairs

There are also a few articles that aren’t “situations,” but are case-specific for the performance features you want in your carpet:

Most durable carpet in the world
Best carpet to resist stains
Most luxurious carpet
Best value carpet (aka best for the money)
Why an expensive carpet failed
Can carpet remnants save you money?

Now you’re really finished with choosing your carpet. Steps 8-12 are dedicated to going to the store and buying it. Walking into the store, you are way ahead of the game. This makes getting the best deal possible easy. And now the fun starts.

Phase Three: picking when and where to buy

Step 8: Who should you buy from? Local store, big box retailer, online, in-home

Today, you have flooring stores competing for your business.

Competition is fiercer than ever. This can be both a headache and an opportunity for retailers. But for you, it’s pure opportunity. Retailers compete to offer you better deals, more flooring options, and an overall better experience.

But with all this competition, is there a best place to buy?

The short answer… No.

But there are pros and cons of each type of store. Here’s a sample of some of the advantages of each:

  • Big box stores will always be there if you have a problem with your carpet
  • Local stores have surprisingly competitive pricing and survive based on their customer service
  • 1800 and online carpet retailers potentially offer the lowest prices
  • Buying leftover carpet from an installer might be even cheaper
  • Samples-to-your-home (eg. Empire Today) you can shop in the comfort of your home

Each store also has disadvantages. Some may surprise you. So check out our article covering Where should I buy carpet?

Buying carpet online isn’t common today, but if you’re interested, learn more about buying carpet online here.

Time to head to the store. Next decision is when do you want to leave?

Step 9: When should you buy your carpet?

Does it really matter?

It does if you care about money and health.

Maybe that sounds a little extreme. And I’ll admit you can buy carpet any time of the year and not harm your health or bank account.

But on the other hand, you can save money buying carpet certain times of the year. And more importantly, new carpet can put your health at risk if you don’t take certain precautions.

So when should you buy your carpet to save your health and savings account?

First, let’s take care of your family’s health. Start by checking out my page on how to protect your family from health risks of new carpet.

Did you skip that link? I think the information on that page is so important, I’ll give you a short summary: Some carpets off-gas VOCs (chemicals). Most of these chemicals are released in the first 72 hours. It’s a good excuse for a 3-day vacation. Can’t afford a vacation? Try to choose a warm day for installation, so you can keep all the windows and doors open.

There’s your summary. But I still recommend you check out the entire article.

Oh, and I also mentioned saving money. There’s nothing super-secret here. Just simple supply and demand. When fewer people are shopping for flooring, retailers are more willing (and have more time) to cut a deal with you.

So when are retailers eager to make a deal? Check out Carpet Captain’s research on the best and worst times to buy carpet.

Phase Four: Going to the store and buying, know what to expect and look out for

Step 10: Prepare for shopping day and what to expect when you arrive at the store

Are you ready to go carpet shopping?

I can answer for you. You are. And you know more than most salesman will (except for the really helpful stores).

But to keep the momentum going, it helps to know what to expect when you step into the store.

Before you leave, grab some lunch. Low blood sugar = poor decisions. You might also do some light reading on the most common carpet scams. It helps to know the traps people fall into before you shop.

Now you’re ready to walk into the store.

You step in and hear, “Welcome to XYZ Carpet Store! Looking for anything specific today?”

A salesman that cares about you and not just your money will ask questions that get to the root of what you need in new flooring. Here is a sample of questions you may hear…

  • What rooms are you wanting to install flooring?
  • What’s motivated you to get new flooring?
  • Is this for your primary home, rental, or vacation home?
  • How long do you plan on living there
  • Do you have pets?

In other words, he will need to get to know you. At least well enough to have an idea of what you need in flooring.

What if he asks you none of these questions — just what type of flooring you need?

Personally, I’d be skeptical of the store. Even though I know what I want, any store that doesn’t want to take the time to recommend the best product for me doesn’t deserve my business.

Time to move on to the next store.

In most cases, I recommend checking out 3 stores before making a decision. Of course, if all of the retailers fail your “have my best interest in mind” tests, then you’ll need more than 3. If the first retailer passes with flying colors and has the flooring you want, you might be lucky enough to make a deal on your first stop.

So let’s close the deal.

Step 11: What to do before closing the deal

You’ve picked out the carpet you dreamed of. Time to hand over your credit card?

Not quite yet. You’re not only buying carpet, padding, and hiring someone to install it. You’re also buying a warranty, removal of carpet, and often times many other services are bundled in.

So what will you be paying for?

It’s important to make sure there are no surprises (and there are often surprises)…

This means asking about warranties, installation, and hidden fees. I could go on for pages on each of these, but here are a few tips and links to more information…

  • Every carpet will have a warranty, and it may be deceiving. Don’t rely on the warranty to determine how long your carpet will last. Read more on warranties here.
  • Is the installer subcontracted or a store employee? If carpet performs poorly due to installation, who covers the replacement? Get it in writing. This seems like a simple questions, but I’ve heard of many cases where a homeowner wanted to make a claim and the store and installer were passing the blame back and forth rather than coming up with a fix.
  • Besides carpet, padding, installation, and taxes, are there any extra fees? Check out this article on hidden fees.

Now you know everything you’ll be paying for. What price did we agree to again?

Step 12: Closing the deal

You might not be on Shark Tank, but you still have to close the deal.

Your quoted prices aren’t set in stone. It’s normal to negotiate flooring just like any major investment. Bonus points if you are making a big flooring purchase, or plan on future home improvements the retailer can help you with.

Check out my thorough guide on negotiating flooring without making an enemy.

Congrats! You made the deal.

Hungry again?

You can eat dinner at home for this next part. It’s been a long day, but you’re nearly finished with your carpet buying journey (but not completely finished, the next part is important)…

Phase Five: Prepping for installation day

Step 13: Hiring and installer

Depending on where you buy the carpet, they may hire an installer for you. Of course, you can also hire your own. If you hire your own, check out this article on finding great installers in your area. You may want to check it out even if the store is hiring your installer because it gives tips on making sure your installer is a good one.

Step 14: What to expect and look out for on installation day

You researched, planned, and purchased your carpet. It seems about time to relax. But hang in there for a little bit.

Installation day can make or break your carpet purchase.

Here are a few things you can do to make sure it’s a smooth process:

  • Verify what the retailer said about who covers (installer or retailer) any future issues with the carpet
  • Review the page on hiring an installer and signs you’ve hired a lousy installer
  • Make sure the installer is bonded and insured for any damage (states vary on what is required, but if your installer isn’t, it is worth looking up your state regulations)
  • Make sure the carpet at your home is the one you decided on. Sometimes the wrong carpet shows up whether it’s a scam or accident by the retailer.
  • Remove or lock up any valuables. You hope you have an honest person in your home, but this is as good for the installer as you to make sure there are no misunderstandings.
  • Keep pets and children outside or somewhere else for the day. After all, you remember brand new carpet can have health risks, right?

A good installer is worth his weight in gold. You won’t need to worry about these questions. But unfortunately, you likely won’t know how skilled and honest your installer is. That makes acting on the above tips extremely valuable.

Now it’s time to get out of the installers way and let him work his magic.

Step 15: Installing your flooring

Now your hard work is over, but your installer’s hard work is just getting started.

It’s helpful to be around on installation today to answer any questions and overall make sure things go smoothly. But this doesn’t mean stand over the installer every step of the way. Keep the golden rule (treat others how you would want to be treated) in mind. I’m sure you wouldn’t want someone standing over you while you work all day. Give the installer his space.

Offering water or any other beverage is a nice added touch. It helps if your installer is comfortable. Offering lunch or snack can’t hurt (remember low blood sugar = poor decisions from earlier?). Chances are the installer will turn it down anyway, but it never hurts to make friends with the person doing work in your home.

This new carpet is looking great! Now let’s keep it that way…

Vacuums and carpet care articles to bookmark for later

This is bittersweet. You’ve graduated the Captain’s carpet buying course (sweet!), but now you don’t need me (bitter!).

To keep you around a little longer, there are a couple of articles I want you to keep in mind (and are worth bookmarking for later):

  • unbiased vacuum research guide: I’ve researched nearly every vacuum out there for every purpose imaginable. You’ll find my favorite vacuums for pets, allergies, specific prices ranges, and more. Your carpets a big investment and the right vacuum will help you protect it
  • Captain’s carpet care guide: This is just a collection of topics I’ve written on getting out stains and other things you may run into as a homeowner.

Captain’s parting words!

You + Carpet Captain = the power of the internet. You’re now one of roughly half-million carpet shoppers savvy enough to take a proactive approach and utilize Carpet Captain to help with their purchase. Sounds like a big group, but it’s more of an elite few when you look at how many people buy carpet each year.

More people take a passive approach – walk into the store, listen to a sales pitch, look at “warranties” and “carpet durability ratings,” and buy what seems reasonable. This passive approach ultimately leads you to buy whatever the retailer wants to sell you. And this is probably not the same as what is best for your home and finances.

The good news: hard-work pays off. And with a major home improvement like flooring, it pays big.

Now go enjoy your new carpet, and thanks for letting me be part of the process. You probably won’t go through this again for at least 10 years.

Any questions left on buying carpet? Let me know in the comments below.

Carpet Buying Guide

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Bailey

Thank you for all this valuable information! We want to re-carpet our whole house, about 2100 sq. ft., including stairs … we plan to stay here for a while, mortgage paid off, Phoenix-area … found small family owned business with excellent reviews … picked out a Shaw premium carpet (platinum), 1/2. in/8lb. pad, price includes moving all the furniture and carpet removal. Quote was about $6.80/sq. ft. or roughly $14,100 for the job. Does this sound about right or should I keep looking for a better deal? Thank you!

Mrs. Davis

OMGoodness, was this ever helpful – thank you so much. Do you have any information like this for buying wood floors or for tile floors? I plan on putting carpet, wood and tile in during our remodel. Once again – thanks!

Melissa Moore

We are getting Stainmaster Pet Protect from Lowes. for bedrooms, hallway and family room. They offer SM “Select” (bonded?), as the one that comes with the carpet, and “Splendor” i (Duraplush), s the upgrade. I saw your link for SM padding. Lowes only offers thes 2, plus memory foam. You said don’t be deceived by softer padding. The upgrade is definitely softer.. What is your thought, please?

JonS

Ordered twp 12×13 sq ft rolls. Paid extra for sevond cut. One for bedroom, other for hall. Sales says it is in stock. Card info given and ship date will follow soon. Let’s say purchase was on 8th. I call the mill and they have my order in cutting. Ship next day or day after. Then the big wait. I called yesterday due to installer getting busy and still no ship info. Emailed the sales person who apologized for being new and messed up. All I wanted was estimate of ship. I know it takes time from GA to IL.… Read more »

Marianne Horner

I am wondering how often this website is updated (copied from second comment:) Specifically, is there any updated information about SmartStrand? I know that it is fairly new and it’s claims cannot be validated for a period of time.