How Long Does Carpet Last? Average Life & Wear Signs Guide
Every carpet has a lifespan, but how do you know how long does a carpet lasts and when it’s time to replace your carpet?
There’s no expiration date, but there are rules of thumb of how long a carpet should last.
An even better gauge is signs of wear. I’ll share my experience on what signs of carpet wear mean the carpet is at its end of life, and what signs may be a false alarm.
Here’s what you’ll find in this article (click the link to jump to that section):
- average life of carpet (and what impacts the average lifespan)
- how often should you replace carpet padding?
- signs your carpet needs to be replaced
- how to increase the lifespan of your carpet
How long does carpet last?
An average carpet will last 10 years. This is a ballpark number that varies depending on the quality of the carpet, how many people are in the house, and what rooms the carpet is in. I’ve heard nightmare stories of carpet only lasting a couple of years, and I’ve known people who the same carpet for 30 years (and it will look pretty good!)
So what can make such a big difference in how long a carpet lasts. Let’s break down different common scenarios:
A carpet that lasts 5 years or less
Very few homeowners have carpet lasting under 5 years, but it’s common in apartments and rentals.
Landlords expect renters not to take great care of the carpet, and they buy cheap carpet expecting to replace it. This combination of carpet abuse and little investment into the carpet, means the carpet is looking pretty raggedy by year 5.
A carpet that last 10 years or less
Homeowners with lower quality carpets find it lasts 5-10 years. What features make it only last this long? Usually, it’s either a lower quality carpet material like polyester, or maybe it’s a family with a bunch of kids. Children tend to wear carpet by running around and going in and out of the house frequently. Sometimes, as a homeowner with kids or pets, you’re better of not investing as much in carpet so you can afford to replace it sooner.
A carpet that lasts 20 years
Many homeowners want their carpet to last 20 years. Buying and having carpet installed is a long process, so the less you have to do it the better.
Most homeowners whose carpet lasts 20 years have done their research, and purchased carpet made of nylon or wool and paid attention to the most important factors for carpet durability. If this interests you, you can click either of those links, or you can get complete step-by-step carpet buying advice by my how-to-buy carpet guide.
Can carpet last 30 years?
It can, but it probably won’t.
I’ve seen carpet 30 years old that looks great, but it usually takes two things: you did your carpet research (described in the 20 year section), and one or two adults live in the home with no young kids or pets (okay to be fair, not all pets and kids wear carpet, but it’s usually a strain).
How long does carpet padding last?
Carpet padding is too important to the life of the carpet to not replace it. So when people ask, “Can I install my new carpet over my current padding?” My short answer is no.
There are maybe two cases where I’d consider not replacing the padding with the carpet:
- Your carpet was damaged (stain, tear, etc), but the padding wasn’t.
- You have slab rubber pad that hasn’t degraded.
Poor padding will lead to premature wear of otherwise good carpet. Fortunately, new high-quality padding is inexpensive compared to carpet. You can check out my carpet padding guide for tips on how to not spend too much buying good pad.
6 Signs your carpet needs to be replaced
The ballpark estimates I gave for average carpet life are difficult to follow because everyone’s home situation is unique. The easier way to decide if your carpet needs to be replaced is to look at it. Here’s are signs that your carpet needs to be replaced (in order with most definitely needing replaced up top, less likely to need replaced at the bottom)
1. Matting or flattening of the carpet
Matting of the carpet means it the carpet is flattened down. It’s the most common sign of true carpet wear. Basically, the carpet fibers are worn out, and there’s no way of reviving them. Sometimes a carpet cleaning and raking (yes, carpet cleaners rake carpet) will give it a temporary resurrection, but the damage is permanent so you might as well buy new.
2. Fraying of carpet fibers
Fraying or “blossoming” of fiber is when the ends of the carpet fiber become unraveled. Think of split ends in hair, but with carpet, the split ends can’t be conditioned. There’s no repair here so it’s time to look for new carpet if you’re bothered by the look.
3. Fading of carpet in areas of sunlight
Some carpet will lose their coloring when exposed to constant sunlight. If your carpet is looking bad because it’s faded near the windows, there isn’t an easy fix. This may mean it’s time to buy new.
4. Smells and mildew
Does your carpet have a musty or mildew smell? It may be time to move on. This often is not only a problem with the carpet, but it also goes down to the padding or even floor boards. Sometimes a professional carpet cleaner or restoration company can give restore the carpet. My rule of thumb is if it’s recent moisture damage to a newer carpet, consider having the carpet restored and the moisture issue fixed. If the carpet is more than halfway through it’s expected life, get new carpet or flooring (make sure to fix the moisture issue first!).
Pet pee can also be a foul odor coming from your carpet. A carpet cleaner may have an easier time with if it’s localized to an area, but sometimes even pet odors can be difficult to fully remove.
5. Stains or darkened traffic areas
Stains or dark traffic areas may not mean your carpet is over. Two important things to check: is the carpet color changed because it’s matted down, or is it faded in an area where there’s more sunlight?
If the answer is “yes” to either of those see #1 and #3 above. But if not, you have stains that likely can be cleaned out. Carpet cleaners can work magic on a carpet that looks old and ready for the landfill. I’d go the cleaning route before investing in a new floor. DIY cleaning is also an option. I have an article on how to remove red wine stains from carpet and how to remove old stains from carpet.
6. Snags, tears and holes
Have you ever snagged your carpet? Maybe your vacuum grabs it or you’re dragging furniture. What about burnt a hole? Most commonly a dropped candle or cigarette.
These can feel like it’s time to get rid of your carpet, but these repairs are actually pretty easy. You can hire a professional, or you can learn how to DIY repair carpet snags yourself.
How to increase the lifespan of your carpet and final tips:
Want a carpet that lasts over the average of 10 years? Here are a few tips:
- Vacuum regularly. Dirt and grime wear down carpet over time like dirty engine oil damages a car. Vacuum regularly. We have a list of my favorite vacuums.
- Have carpet professionally cleaned at least every 2 years. This will give it a deeper clean, but it will also help reduce the build-up of allergens and mites. This an especially important step for allergy sufferers.
If you’re buying new carpet, I have over 50 pages of tips. You can go through my free carpet buying guide to cover all your bases.
Don’t have enough time to go through the whole carpet buying guide?
There are two articles that are most important to buying a carpet that lasts. One is my carpet specifications article. It ranks how important different specs are to durability. The other article is my carpet material article. The material you choose will have the biggest impact on the lifespan of your carpet.
Any questions on how often your carpet should be replaced? Let me know in the comments below.