Warm, soft and cosy underfoot, carpet is making a comeback. And from chic neutrals to brightly coloured hues and decorative patterns, there is plenty to choose from. As the cold winter months continue, treat your feet and add some warmth and colour to your home with the latest designs and textures.
Sanded floorboards may look chic and are obviously cost-effective, but you can't beat the luxury of carpet for the delicious feeling underfoot. If you are planning to replace or update your carpets this winter here is what you need to know before you buy.
Why choose carpet?
There are plenty of practical reasons why you should choose carpet rather than bare boards.
- Soft and tactile, it's a good insulator against heat loss.
- It's a treat for bare feet and a soft cushion for toddlers.
- It absorbs sound, which is good news for anyone living beneath you.
- It's available in a huge choice of colours and designs.
- It's relatively easy to keep clean.
What type of carpet to choose
What type of carpet you go for depends on where you intend to use it. Carpets are categorised according to their durability, so a light domestic-use carpet would be suitable in a bedroom, which tends not to get too much wear and tear. Living areas will need medium to heavy-grade carpets, while heavy domestic carpet is best for areas with lots of traffic, such as stairs, landings and hallways.
Know your jargon
There is a wide variety of surface texture options available, which affect the feel, appearance and performance of your carpet. Here is a basic guide to the different styles and fibres:
- Twist piles have a coarse, rugged finish.
- Velvet piles have a smooth, luxurious appearance. A cut pile, it is like suede. On a like-for-like basis, there is no difference in performance between a twist pile and a velvet pile. The difference is purely aesthetic.
- Loop piles replicate the appearance of natural flooring, such as sisal and coir. Remember that cats (and anything with long claws) and loop piles do not mix!
- Saxony has a pronounced sensuous feel with a deep pile. While popular in bedrooms, saxonies will flatten and hence are not practical in high-traffic areas.
- Patterned carpet usually has a smooth velvet surface with excellent appearance retention and is very hard wearing. By and large, the more luxurious the surface, the greater care it will need. Shorter pile generally wears better than long, but is not as luxurious.
- Shag pile carpet, popular in the 60s, is having something of a style revival and is best reserved for areas with low traffic, such as bedrooms.
Before you buy
Remember: you are going to use your carpet every day and it should last a long time, so it's worth taking a bit of time and trouble to ensure you make the right decision. When selecting a carpet, consider the following:
- How much wear will it receive?
- Are you matching the carpet to a particular scheme and, more importantly, what are your future decorating plans? Remember to choose the carpet first and install it last!
- Do you want a plain carpet, patterned carpet, one with texture, a border, etc?
- How long do you reasonably expect your carpet to last?
- How much can you afford to spend? Don't forget to include the cost of fitting and underlay and other materials.
- Take a sample home to see it in your own natural light.
- Buy new underlay, as it will prolong the life of your carpet by up to 40pc.
- Always have your carpet fitted professionally. Don't be taken in by offers of 'free fitting'. Fitting is a craft and you will certainly be paying for it somewhere.
- Buy the best you can afford. As always, you get what you pay for and carpet is no exception.
Protection & maintenance
While stains and spills are inevitable and daily dirt and grit can, over time, ruin carpet, speedy action and regular maintenance should keep a quality carpet looking good for years to come.
- Always vacuum new carpet.
- When a carpet is first laid, you will usually see fluffing or shedding which is loose fibres working their way to the surface. This isn't a defect but should be vacuumed away soon after laying your carpet.
- Use the right products. If using carpet care treatments or stain removers, ensure they are Woolsafe approved, ie, scientifically tested so guaranteed safe and effective for cleaning and maintaining wool-rich carpets. Never use detergents, washing-up liquids, soaps or other cleaners and, despite what you may have heard about white wine or soda water, the experts advise never pouring anything other than an approved cleaner over a spillage of any kind. See www.woolsafe.org for advice on removing everything from red wine to candle wax, plus a list of approved carpet care products.
- Use doormats. The simplest way to reduce the rate at which your carpet will soil and so extend its life. Place inside and outside front and back doors and even at the bottom and top of stairs -- high-traffic areas that quickly get worn or stained.
- Regular vacuuming prevents dirt and grit from matting the fibres. An upright vacuum cleaner fitted with a beater bar and/or brushes is recommended for cut-pile carpets. A vacuum-only model is best for loop-pile carpets to prevent pilling.
- Use specialist protectors. At Grange Carpets, customers are advised to have carpets treated with Fibre Seal, which is Woolsafe approved and will protect against spillage and day-to-day grime and dirt. See www.fibreseal.ie. Alternatively, treat new carpets with Carp-a-tect, a clear protective film that grips firmly to carpet protecting against walked-in dirt, spills, etc, from €97. See www.upkeepers.ie. Neither will affect carpet colour and are both suitable for use on stairs.
- Deal with stains and spillages immediately. Soak up liquids with clean white absorbent cloth, white kitchen roll or tissue. Blot the stain, never rub. Always work from the outside in to avoid spreading the stain. Scoop up or scrape up solids and brush up the pile after cleaning.
- Apply cleaning agent to a cloth and never directly to the carpet. Rinse thoroughly with water afterwards, taking care not to wet excessively. Dry the spot, if possible, with a hair dryer.
- Extend the life of your carpet with deep cleaning. Hire a Woolsafe-accredited professional carpet cleaner or do it yourself with a deep-clean appliance which uses hot water and a special product to extract ground-in grime. Carpets in heavy-traffic areas should be deep-cleaned annually.
- For more guidelines, ask your retailer for advice or see guidelines from The Carpet Foundation; www.carpetfoundation.com.
Amanda Cochrane is editor of Image Interiors magazine, out now