Carpet Terminology: words you may come across when buying carpet

The first step to getting a good carpet deal is speaking the language. It’s boring, but it’s best to start with the basics. You can use this as a reference as you come across words you don’t know. Even better, you can become familiar with each of these words—it helps set the tone when you’re negotiating with the salesman. Below are common terms used in the industry:

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Backing: Like its name, this is the back of the carpet, which can be divided into two parts: primary and secondary backing. Primary backing provides the structure for the tufts of carpet. The secondary backing provides a barrier from the carpet padding and floor. The backing can be made from natural or synthetic materials. Also, recycled materials are becoming more and more common. There are anti-mold backings available (discussed in further detail in our top 5 mistakes report)

Blossoming: Unraveling of the carpet tufts. It gives the carpet a frayed appearance at the surface.

Bulked continuous filament (BCF): One of two processes of manufacturing carpet (for the other option, see stapled fibers). In this method, one continuous fiber is used and weaved throughout the backing.

Carpet cushion: Another name for carpet padding. (see padding)

Crush: Bending down of the carpet fibers, usually due to heavy traffic or heavy furniture. Crushing is often irreparable. This can be a carpet cleaner’s headache. People call claiming their carpet is dirty, but it is really crushed. Crushed carpet reflects light in a way that makes it look soiled and worn out.

Cut pile: (see pile)

Denier: Carpet denier is the thickness of each strand. Generally, thicker is better, but when you hear of denier, it’s actually because the carpet has a thinner denier. Thinner denier makes carpet softer. Read more about denier and carpet softness here.

Fiber: The basic material with which carpets are made. Since it is the building block of the carpet, the fiber is very important. A detailed breakdown of the major carpet fibers is included later in this report.

Looped pile: (see pile)

Matte: Another name for crushing. It is an often irreversible bending of carpet fibers that results in a dirty and worn out appearance.

Nap: Another name for pile.

Padding: The layer of cushion that is installed between the floorboard and the carpet. Most people are aware that carpet padding will determine how soft and comfortable their carpet is to walk on, but many fail to realize that the padding is a very important part of your carpet purchase.  To ensure you don’t sell your carpet short, we’ve included a whole section on the carpet padding. Read it and you will know how to buy padding to maximize your budget and your carpet life.

Pile: The visible part of the carpet. This consists of yarn tufts and is the portion of the carpet that is walked on.

Cut pile: A common style of carpet where the loops are cut leaving straight tufts of carpet.

Loop pile: A carpet style where the loops are left uncut. Many Berber carpets have loop pile.

Pile height: The height from the carpet backing to the top surface of the carpet.

Private Labeling: When a retailer changes the manufacturer label on the carpet to the retailer’s own label. Private labeling allows it to appear that retailers have a unique line of carpet when it is, in fact, the same carpet at many other stores only with a modified label. This is a standard practice in the carpet industry.

Resilience: The ability of a carpet to resist crushing.

Seam: The line where two pieces of carpet join. Most carpet is produced in 12 ft. wide rolls (13’6” and 15’ are also options). Any room wider than the width of the carpet will have a seam. For this reason, avoiding seams is rarely possible. However, good installers have a knack for installing the carpet in such a way that it hides the seams as much as possible.

Seconds: Carpet that has a defect. The defect can be anything from a large bleach spot to a small snag in the pile.

Stapled fibers: One of two processes of manufacturing carpet. In this option, individual tufts are attached to the carpet. It is normal for these carpets to shed fuzz when they are new. The carpet has to be vacuumed regularly to clean up the fuzz. This shedding process should not last longer than six months.

Synthetic:  A man-made material. Most carpet fibers are made from synthetic materials.

Tack strip: strips of wood with fine tacks used in carpet installation. Tack strips are installed at the edges of the room with tacks facing up. It anchors the carpet in place by two mechanisms: the carpet is jammed between the tack strip and the wall and the tack strips are securely snagged into the backing of the carpet.

Tufts:  A group of carpet fibers wound together to make individual groups of fibers. One of the initial parts of the manufacturing process is to weave yarn into tufts. These tufts are installed into the carpet. You can visualize each tuft as an individual piece of the carpet, whether it’s a loop as in Berber or an upright group of fibers.

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3 years ago

What does I, II, and III mean on different Mohawk carpets? Same carpet with I, II, and III after the name.

Carpet Donkey
2 years ago
Reply to  Peg

This almost always is for three different qualities of carpet (generally a difference in face weight) that share the same color line, construction type, and warranty package. 1 is generally the lightest face weight, 3 the heaviest.

2 years ago
Reply to  Peg

same carpet, Different pile heights

3 years ago

I learned a lot, enough to buy what will be the right carpet pad. Thank you!
A suggestion: your website might tell us how big a pad to order, and how big the finished size of the pad should be with respect to the carpet size. The pads come in the same size as the carpets which I know only from experience creates a tripping hazard. Other websites just say to trim off the outer 1″ of the pad but don’t explain the whys or how to get it even.

3 years ago

Very informative. Thank you.

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