Friday, February 22, 2008

The Carpetology Guide to Buying Carpet: Step 1 - Research

So it's time. Between the dog, the kids, and the last snowy, muddy winter, your carpet has taken quite a beating. You need to shop for new wall-to-wall flooring. You've narrowed out hard wood, bamboo and linoleum. You want something soft and sound-absorbent, yet durable enough to handle your busy family. Carpet it is. But where do you begin?

Carpet buying isn't difficult, but it isn't something you want to take lightly. Don't panic, however. Take your time and a deep breath, and get to know the facts about carpet.

The first step? Research.

We recommend starting with trusted flooring sources like the World Floor Covering Association, an organization that wants to see you make an informed decision about whatever flooring surface you install in your home. From a virtual room designer to a flooring solutions quiz, the WFCA will offer you the intelligence you need to help get you started. Take the time to read through the Why Carpet? section of the site that details the strengths and benefits of carpet. And check out Before You Buy; it provides information that you need to take into consideration before purchasing, such as length and width of rooms, stairs, and necessary durability. [Don't forget, too, to check out WFCA's Floor Talk!]

Next, check out the Carpet and Rug Institute. CRI is a nonprofit trade association that is composed of nearly all the carpet and rug manufacturers in the U.S. and even includes many suppliers and service providers as well. Suffice it to say, they know carpet. This organization is dedicated to disseminating the best, most accurate information about carpet and the carpet industry. It even conducts primary research studies to gather information for the public, interior designers, architects, specifiers and others. Because of this, the Web site is extensive enough to spend days reading - you can pour over the history of carpet, check out the most frequently asked questions found in the carpet industry, or learn about the benefits of carpets and rugs in your home.
Regardless of where you find your answers, make sure you're asking the right questions. Which types of carpet are right for you, your family and your house? Do you know why? What color carpet will best fit your decor and your lifestyle? How much traffic will the carpet have to support?
[You can download from the Wear-Dated website a useful one-page Show-Me Sheet to help organize your questions, answers, ideas, preferences and requirements as you do your research.  Added 9/9/10: I'll try to locate a copy of the Show-Me Sheet for you...]

In addition to the CRI and the WFCA, check out Fabulous Floors Magazine. This publication is geared toward consumers, and devoted to flooring styles as a key element in home decor. Back issues can be found online, and each issue includes vibrant photos of flooring choices set in the context of homes. The magazine offers a way for you to see carpet installed in a room with paint, furniture and accessories before you actually make a purchase.

As an additional source of information, research the carpet mills located in the U.S., or try going to carpet manufacturers' Web sites directly. This isn't necessary, but it will give you a better handle on who manufactures which brands, and the differences between all of them. You can find a list here at - an online magazine for the flooring trade - and on The Carpetology Blog's sidebar. 

That should tide you over until the next step in the carpet buying process: Decision time!


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