Captain’s Carpet Highlights
- Many people buy carpet based on appearances, warranties, and salesman recommendation but these can lead to bad purchases (more on why in chapter 3)
- No floor matches carpets softness, insulation, and comfort, but hard floors have their advantages
- The fiber material will have the biggest impact on durability (I like nylon for most people).
- Density or face weight is next in line for how long your carpet will last (greater than 3k or 40oz is a good goal)
- Padding is the unsung hero. It can make or break your carpet purchase
- Installation is also. It doesn’t matter how great your carpet is, it needs good installation (we’ll cover how to find a good installer)
Chapter 1: 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:
- Carpet vocabulary (carpet industry terms defined)
- Bulk continuous filament (BCF) vs staple fiber carpet
Captain’s note on carpet tiles! Below you’ll learn the details to buying the perfect carpet, but they don’t 100% apply to carpet tiles. If you’re considering carpet tiles, I recommend checking out my carpet tile guide.
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…
Chapter 2: Carpet costs, budgeting, and financing options
Step 1: Carpets costs and budgeting
You might want to sit down while reading this section.
New carpet probably costs more than you think. Maybe I just say that because I’m always in temporary shock from the cost of home improvement projects.
Either way, it helps to get an accurate estimate before you start.
Why get an estimate before starting? Here are the benefits:
- Helps you budget
- Know what quality of carpet you can afford
- Decide if there’s a better time to buy carpet
- Determine if you’ll need financing
- Most important reason: decide if you’re getting a fair deal
The last point deserves a little more explanation. The #1 “scam” on flooring projects is overcharging and overmeasuring by retailers and installers (I’ll cover more on common scams in the ‘Getting a good deal’ section. That may sound obvious, but it’s easy for a flooring store to recommend a carpet to you that is priced similar to other carpets but is lower quality (overcharged) or for an installer to add a little extra square footage to your house (overmeasured).
These small differences can make hundreds (if not more) dollars difference in what you pay. Getting an estimate on your own is easy insurance against these scams.
It can be, but I’ve tried to do most of the work for you with my carpet cost calculator. You just have to answer 2 questions, and it gives you a ballpark estimate. A detailed breakdown of carpet prices by carpet, pad, and installation is also included on that page, so you can see how much certain changes impact your cost.
Want a free estimate from an installer? Get estimates from 3 pre-qualified installers in your area by filling out this short form from HomeAdvisor.
Now that you have an idea of what your carpet project will cost. Let’s decide the best way for you to pay for it.
Step 2: What is the best way to pay for my carpet (and the best ways to get cash back)?
If you don’t have enough cash to cover your ballpark estimate from ‘Step 1,’ this section will guide you on the best ways to pay.
But even if you do have the cash, there are ways to optimize how much cash back you get. I’m not talking about scammy “deals” or “rebates” sites. Like buying a car, flooring is such a big purchase you can come out financially ahead by the way you pay.
So what are the ways you can pay?
- your cash
- borrow from a friend or family
- credit card
- retailer financing
- home equity loan
Each of these has advantages. Some are safer, some are better options if you don’t have the money or have bad credit, and some will give you more money back. It’s too much detail for this guide, but there is one thing I want to point out that is often overlooked:
Cash can have more risks than most people think. The main reason is you don’t have someone to fight for you if you get ripped off on the carpet or installation (credit can give you this advantage), but you also miss out on hundreds of dollars that you can get if you use financing correctly.
I have a page on carpet financing for good and bad credit. It’ll break down the benefits and risks of each way to pay for your carpet. It’s worth checking out unless you’re 100% set on how you’re going to pay (and even then it may be worth checking out 😉 )
Now that we’ve covered how much you’ll pay, and how to pay. Let’s move on to planning what carpet and pad specifications will make the best fit for your home.
Chapter 3: Plan the perfect carpet and pad for your home
Many shoppers walk into a store and hope to buy carpet based on the looks, the warranty, and the salesman recommendation.
In other words, they just have faith that it’ll turn out to be a good carpet, but shopping for carpet doesn’t have to be done this way (and shouldn’t). But there are problems with this strategy…
- looks now don’t tell you anything about looks 3 years from now
- warranties are a joke (you can read about why I don’t ever trust carpet warranties here)
- and salesman lie
Number 3 may be a little harsh. There are many honest salesmen, but there are 2 main problems with salesman recommendation. Some aren’t given proper training on the products, so they have to BS you. Others take-home pay can depend on pushing products that lead to the most profits for the company but aren’t necessarily in your best interest. It may be pushing “premium” features that you don’t need, or it could be recommending a product with high-profit margins that doesn’t last as long.
There is some good news. Learning what will make a carpet last long, which specs are misleading, and what is worth paying for and what isn’t doesn’t take long. I’ve laid it all out in this chapter.
Step 3: Decide your carpet style (it’s more than just a look)
Berber, frieze, plush, cut and loop, saxony…
Any of those sound familiar?
Each is a different style of carpet, but carpet style is more than interior design. There are two reasons to learn about carpet styles:
- So you know what your options are for the look of your room
- Because some styles will have an impact on how long your carpet lasts especially in special cases like with kids or animals
Like shopping for clothes, this part can be fun (that is if you like shopping for clothes).
The quickest way to research is to visit my carpet styles overview page.
After you’ve narrowed down the carpet style you want, you can read more about it to be sure it’s for you:
While we’re on the topic of style, here’s a couple of other tips:
Carpet color is similar to carpet style because it mostly is a design choice, but it also can impact how long your carpet lasts or even how big your room looks.
Check out my guide on choosing the best carpet color. It’ll cover more than you’d imagine about how color will impact your home.
You can also get design interest from the Carpet Captain Pinterest page. It’ll cover carpet and other flooring options.
P.S. I’d love you to follow Carpet Captain on Pinterest. It helps support the site by spreading the word. Follow simply by clicking this button: Carpet Captain
That’s it for style.
Now, the fun is over. Let’s move on to one of the most important decisions you’ll make with your carpet purchase…
Step 4: Choosing your carpet fiber material (maybe the most important decision you’ll make)
There are at least 6 important specifications when it comes to carpet durability.
But if I had to rank the specs, carpet material is the #1 factor determining how long your carpet will last.
That said, it’s not 100% straightforward. Different fiber materials have different advantages. Let’s use a toy as an analogy:
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 common carpet fiber materials. It’s worth reading the comparison of all carpet fibers on my best carpet material page.
But here is a brief rundown of the types of carpet fibers:
- Is durability your top priority? Nylon may be your best bet.
- Want excellent stain resistance? You’ll have options but Smartstrand usually leads the pack.
- Want a less expensive fiber that still resists stains? Polyester is popular and olefin is an option.
- Don’t forget about the luxurious, all-natural, and also extremely durable fiber–wool
Click any of the links above to get more information on the carpet materials (and you should before buying it–remember, this may be the most important decision you’ll make). Also, I have a page directly comparing nylon vs polyester if you’re deciding between those two (they’re the two most popular)
There are a few other articles you should consider.
Many times you’ll run into blends of carpet fibers. For example, a carpet might be 70% polyester and 30% nylon. Learn how carpet blends perform (including wool-nylon, polyester-nylon, etc).
One other important thing: brand names. Many times brands don’t matter. It more matters what the carpet is made of and the specs. But there are some areas brands can make a big difference, especially with stain resistance. Read about carpet brands.
That should cover everything you need to know about carpet materials. You’ve got arguably the most important carpet buying step down.
But remember the saying, “It’s only as strong as the weakest link?”
That holds true for carpet. So let’s move on to the other important details that will determine how long your carpet lasts.
Step 5: Picking the perfect specifications that impact the durability of your carpet
I told you earlier that carpet material is the most important factor in durability.
That true, but there are 7 other specifications you’ll like run into:
- face weight
- par rating
- pile height
- total weight
- twist level
- wear rating
Total weight is misleading, so I’d ignore it altogether. The rest will make a difference in how your carpet performs–some more than others.
I rank all of these factors, let you in on common ways they are used to be misleading, and give ranges you’ll want for each in my guide to carpet face weight and durability. This is my most recommended page for people to read on Carpet Captain.
Captain’s left out the backing! In 95% of cases, carpet backing doesn’t matter. It’s almost all made out of the same or similar materials today. Sometimes you’ll see “fancy” backings marketed, but they mostly just add weight and softness that doesn’t add to performance. You can read more on carpet backing here if you’re interested.
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.
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.
Chapter 4: 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.
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.
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)…
Chapter 5: 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.
There are services that do the homework for you. Basically, they do the research to make sure installers are qualified, and you can easily search these installers by zip code at no cost. HomeAdvisor is my favorite service that does this, and you can search their list of installers in your area by clicking here.
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…
Chapter 6: Best vacuums and carpet treating tips
This is bittersweet. You’ve graduated the Captain’s carpet buying course (sweet!), but now you don’t need me (bitter!).
Before you go, I want to give you a few tips on getting the most out of your carpet.
You probably know vacuums are important because they extend the life of your carpet (by getting rid of the grimes that tears up the fibers) and make your carpet more sanitary.
But… many people overlook that carpet combined with the right vacuum can be a benefit for allergy sufferers over hard flooring. The reason is dust and allergens hit get trapped by carpet. The carpet acts like a filter that the vacuum can “empty.” This is compared to hard flooring with the allergens sit on the floor but are kicked up in the air as people walk by (until it is mopped).
My favorite vacuum for 2020 is this one, but every home and budget is a little different. I break down the best vacuums by the amount you want to spend and your needs on my page ranking the best vacuums.
Oh yeah, one file thing. Every once in awhile, you’ll probably have a spill or accident on the carpet. I have pages to help you through it (you can bookmark this page which leads you to everything on carpet care), but you may also consider having some of the recommended cleaners just in case. My favorite cleaner to have on hand for red wine stains (it’s actually designed for clothing but works great!) is this one called Wine Away.
Captain’s parting words!
Well, that’s it.
This should give you the ammo you need to be a smart carpet shoppers. And as you know, it’s not a small investment to best to shop with the power of knowledge.
That said, if you still have any questions, I’m pretty good about answering in the comments within a day or two.
Any questions on how to buy carpet? Let me know in the comments below.