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Expert Carpet Guide

Carpet can be grouped into three primary constructions; loop pile, cut pile, and cut and loop pile. Each of these construction types may be used in the home; although cut piles represent the largest market share for residential carpet. Loop pile carpets, such as Berber, have been increasing in popularity over the past 10 years. Cut and loops represented a significant portion of carpet sales during the 1970s and 1980s, but cut and loop usage has been reduced considerably.

Loop Pile Carpet

All carpet actually begins as a loop pile and the loops are cut during manufacturing to provide the cut pile appearance. As the name implies, cut and loops are a combination of cut loops and uncut loops to provide texture or patterns. Most cut and loops are primarily cut piles with some loops left uncut for patterns; although a few styles utilize the opposite effect.

Cut Pile Carpet

Cut pile constructions can be used in both residential and commercial carpet installations. However, cut piles are used far more widely in residential applications and comprise the largest share of the residential market. There are numerous subcategories of cut pile carpet. Each category provides a different appearance or finished look. The following categories of cut pile can be found when shopping for residential carpet.

Saxony Carpet

This is a cut pile carpet in which two or more plies of yarn have been twisted and heat-set so that the tip of each carpet tuft is distinguishable on the pile surface. Saxonies have the tendency to show footprints and vacuum cleaner sweeper marks. This is based in light reflection of the fiber when pile direction is changed. When brushed in one direction, the pile may assume a darker hue, while adjacent yarns brushed in the opposite direction may present a lighter hue. When viewed in the opposite direction, colour hues of darker areas will appear lighter. This is not a defect of any kind, but merely a characteristic of this carpet construction.

Plush Carpet

Sometimes called velvet because of the velvet or velour appearance obtained by using staple yarn and high-density construction. Plushes provide a more formal appearance than other cut pile constructions. They are subject to revealing vacuum cleaner sweeper marks and footprints due to light reflection similar to a saxony. Delustred (non-shiny) yarns may reduce this shade variation. Plushes tend to be more subject to pile reversal or water marking. Water marking is the result of permanent pile reversal in localized areas. Watermarking provides the appearance of a wet surface in darker shaded areas. The shape of these areas may appear irregular, which reinforces the appearance of a wet area. This is considered a normal occurrence for Plushes and is not considered a manufacturing defect. The occurrence of water marking may be a result of local conditions or other unknown causes. In previous examinations, products that have been replaced with similar problems develop watermarking in the same areas, suggesting local influences.

Textured Carpet

Textured cut piles also may be called “trackless”, “foot-print free” and mistakenly “frieze carpet”. These names describe the tendency of this construction to show fewer footprints and sweeper marks than other cut pile constructions. It should be noted that no cut pile can be classified as being completely free of shading. These constructions are obtained by stuffing yarn into a steam box and providing a kinked or curled yarn. The fibre is exposed to live steam to set yarn memory in this curled position. This curling of the fibre reduces light reflectance, thus reducing the appearance of footprints. Generally, when viewing a texture from the top, kinked yarns may provide a two-tone effect as a result of shade variations from reflected light.

Frieze Carpet

A true frieze carpet is similar to a texture in that footprints and vacuum cleaner marks are disguised. The textured appearance is acquired by placing a high twist level on the plied yarns This high twist level causes the tuft to twist back upon itself providing a kinked appearance. In general terms, higher twist levels provide enhanced performance characteristics, when compared to lower twist products with the same construction attributes. True frieze carpet styles tend to be more costly because of higher costs of production and they may not provide the same perceived value as lower twist, textured products.

While other cut pile categories exist, these constitute the most popular styles of residential carpet. These include shag carpet – a low density, high pile height product popular during the 1970s. This construction tends to increase and decrease in popularity depending upon design trends. Also, multi-level cut piles, sometimes called carved saxonies, utilize higher and lower cuts to form patterns.

Plain or Patterned Carpet?

The choice is yours. Plain carpet is safe and suits most rooms or decorating styles. It also gives you greater flexibility with wallpaper and soft furnishings so can be easier to build schemes around. Using the same colour throughout does give a feeling of space and links rooms.

Plain carpets come in just about every colour or shade. Deeper colours create a mood of intimacy and sophistication while lighter colours make a room feel airy and spacious.

While most of us have plain carpet, there are a wonderful variety of patterned carpets, from small scale well defined designs to larger scale geometrics and plaids and tartans. Patterned carpet most definitely does not mean 1970’s swirly, pub style carpet! They can be very contemporary.

Striped carpet is very popular at the moment, particularly in hallways and on stairs. Stripes can lift spirits and, on a practical note, make a small space seem larger. They also co-ordinate well with plain carpet.

Finally, if you want your very own colour – you can. Certain manufacturers offer a bespoke colour service, some will make you a bespoke pattern as well – should you have questions re bespoke carpets please feel free to call in and discuss you needs with one of our experts.


We, and the Carpet Foundation recommends a new underlay for every new carpet. The reasons for this are:

  • Underlay is vital for a new carpet to sit properly and wear evenly
  • It improves the feel of the carpet underfoot and helps with that ‘luxury’ feel
  • It increases heat and sound insulation and can reduce energy costs
  • It reduces pile compression and so enables a carpet to retain its appearance for longer
  • Noise insulation. Acoustics are considerably improved with carpet and underlay while impact noise is reduced
  • New underlay can increase the life of your carpet by forty per cent

Just as carpet may wear more in certain areas, so does the underlay. You wouldn’t buy a new car with old tyres! What is more,manufacturers may not accept a complaint if old underlay has been used or, worse still, no underlay has been used at all.

There are many types of underlay on the market which our flooring experts are more than happy to discuss with you to ensure you get the right underlay for your requirements.

Underfloor Heating

Underfloor heating systems are growing in popularity and we are often asked about their compatibility with carpet. The Carpet Foundation carried out some research in conjunction with the Underfloor Heating Manufacturers Association (UHMA) and this proved conclusively that most carpet can be used over underfloor heating systems without impairing the performance of the system. The research showed that a carpet/underlay with a combined thermal resistance of less than 2.5 togs allows the underfloor system to operate efficiently. Indeed, the real thermal resistance values of carpet/underlay were on average 1 tog lower than was previously believed.

The results showed that:

  • None of the carpet/underlay combinations interfered with the efficient warming of the airspace in the room above
  • The tested tog values of the carpets were significantly lower than the previous laboratory test values
  • Carpet and underlay with a combined ‘real’ thermal resistance of up to 2.5 tog (3.5 tog based on laboratory tests) may beused over underfloor heating systems. So, while you can be reassured that carpet and underfloor heating systems can operateeffectively and efficiently together we do recommend that you consult the heating manufacturer to ensure that your choice ofcarpet/underlay combination is suitable for the system.