How to buy good indoor carpeting?
September 13, 2010 12:46 PM   Subscribe

We are replacing the carpet in most of our house, and I'm at a loss where to start. Teach me about buying carpet and having it installed, please.

Our first floor is mostly wood flooring, but the family room and living room are carpeted. We need to replace that stinky, stained carpet, along with the carpeting in the (wide, curving) stairway and the second floor hallway. We are not replacing the carpet in the bedrooms, as it is in much better shape and I simply do not have the capacity to deal with emptying out bedrooms right now to have them done, as I'm six months pregnant with two young kids, an elderly dog, and a husband who works a lot. The carpet we're replacing is a light cream-based berber, and I curse the previous owners who picked it out.

With all the I'm-so-special details out of the way, where do I start? Is it OK to just go to one of the home improvement stores, or do I need to go to a specialty flooring place? Is there a particular brand or style that we should really consider? What about installers - are there pitfalls we should look out for, or can we just trust the installers from where we purchase the carpeting?

We want something good and that will last at least 10 years with proper care, of course without spending a fortune.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Get a installation warranty and make sure the match ups to the other floors, tile, wood etc are done right. Then heat the place up for the install, no kiddin' warm carpet stretches better and tightens up when flat and anchored. Also do you need to place sound wiring on the other side of the room[s] for your entertainment system? Now is the time to lay those wires down.
posted by Freedomboy at 12:51 PM on September 13, 2010

You can definitely go to a home-improvement store! You can find excellent carpet there and they will install. You will save money if you can play estimates from one place against another.

Naturally, as an expectant Mom you will be wary about chemicals, but stain-guard is really, really a plus when you have kids for protecting the life of your carpet. There are also thicker pads for under your carpet which are pricier but, in my opinion, SO worth it! Small children spend a lot of time crawling, playing and falling onto carpets, and when you play with your child, a softer pad is easier on your knees, too.
posted by misha at 12:59 PM on September 13, 2010

If there's wood floors under the nasty stuff, why not buy big area rugs? I really hate w2w carpeting myself. You can get a rug cut and bound at any place that sells rugs.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:59 PM on September 13, 2010

Sadly, it's just sub-floor under the carpet. Someday, we'll replace the carpet with wood and have everything refinished. But for now, I need to get rid of the nasty stuff as easily as possible.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 1:06 PM on September 13, 2010

Elderly dog, you say? Consider the type of padding that will not absorb fluid, it has a plastic barrier on top. This means that if your pup has an accident, you'll be able to clean it out of the carpet instead of struggling with lingering odor in the padding.

We bought our berber at Lowe's, and we're pretty happy with it. Our neighbor swears by empire carpet (they come to your home, so you can see the samples in the actual room), and paid about what we did. With little kids around, don't spend big bucks on fancy wool carpets, you'll probably replace within 10 years anyway.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 1:19 PM on September 13, 2010

The best carpets (other than for certain specialist applications) are made of wool. Wool resists dirt and burns better. It looks and feels nicer and is of course, a natural product. It is, however quite expensive. Curiously, I was once told by the MD of carpet company in Axminster, the home of the UK carpet industry (where, surprisingly, quite a few mid-high end carpets are still made), that Americans tend not to go for wool. He said he really had no idea why this was as, in most respects, it makes a superior carpet.
posted by rhymer at 2:25 PM on September 13, 2010

You couldn't do a cheap wood laminate as a stop gap instead of carpet? I'm thinking the dog, the child, the cleaning probs in general, the fumes stuff that comes out of fresh carpet.

(But I'm a wall to wall carpet hater from way back)
posted by IndigoJones at 2:34 PM on September 13, 2010

Shop around. You might be able to find a cheaper price from a carpet-only place, as they can't off-set a downturn in the economy with selling something else, like a giant home do-it type chain store can, and you can probably work with people more directly. I had an annoying time dealing with Lowe's and their contractor system. The person who initially priced the job was scheduled on the day he said he could install, so after a few days of frantic calls, Lowe's sent out a replacement contractor who seemed to hate his job, and ended up forgetting to re-install a floor vent and missed a closet, and it was a pain trying to get him to come back and fix those relatively minor issues.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:35 PM on September 13, 2010

And laminate is a nice alternative that you can really do yourself (my father-in-law is an all-around handy guy, and carpet installation is one thing he always hires out - he was excited about installing laminate wood floors). If you get the snap-together type (not sure if there is any other kind), it might price out similarly to carpet, and some of it can be really well padded (though nothing soft like carpet). The only thing you need to ensure is that the floors are even, if not level. There can only be a certain amount of variation in level per foot for snap-together laminate material to work, otherwise the edge snaps won't hold.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:39 PM on September 13, 2010

Upgrade to a nicer pad, and your carpets will wear better and feel cushier, even if the carpet itself is not an expensive one. Hem and haw a little to see if they will give you a special price on upgrading the pad.

Don't be surprised when they measure for the carpet - you'll likely have to buy more than the square footage you have. This is because carpet comes in 12-foot wide rolls, and the installer wants to lay all the carpet facing the same direction. So if you've got a room that's, say, 13x13 feet, they can roll out the carpet a full 13 feet in length, but to do the width, they'll make you buy another 12x13 piece just to cover that extra 1x13. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, otherwise, I'm about to be taken by our local company.

Be careful about getting looped carpets with pets; their claws can cause it to zipper.

Nylon will wear better than olefin (polypropylene) or polyester because it is more crush-proof. Olefin also has a low melting point and you can end up accidentally fusing some of the fibers just by dragging the furniture around.
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:09 PM on September 13, 2010

Visit a handful of different flooring stores. (As many as you can stomach.) Ask the same questions and compare the answers. This is a pretty good way to figure out what's bullshit and what's true. Then you can start looking at products and comparing costs (as well as you can - everyone has different names for the same manufacturers.) We shopped around a lot, and ended up going with a small family-owned business in our city. You might find better pricing at a big-box store (Home Depot or Lowes) but beware - their installers are generally sub-sub contractors who don't give two shits about doing a good job on your install, and HD and Lowes will wash their hands of any service issues once they've supplied the product to the installers. Caveat emptor.
posted by killy willy at 10:54 AM on September 14, 2010

Coming back in to say that our Lowe's installers did a fantastic job, but my husband coached the son of one of them in soccer, so we had a passing acquaintance going in. In my particular area, I have heard that Home Depot has the attitude Killy willy refers to, so I guess ask around to see if anyone you know has good/ bad installation stories and go from there.
posted by misha at 2:24 PM on September 14, 2010

Thanks for all the input!

Laminate is not an option, since there are hardwood floors already in the majority of the first floor, and I just can't see being able to make laminate look good bumped up against real wood. I'm also kind of anti-laminate, since I've never seen it hold up and look good for too terribly long.

Definitely looking at upgraded padding with moisture barrier on the top and bottom of the pad. We probably *will* replace it all in ten years or so; thus while I'd love to have wool carpet, it's not price-appropriate for us right now.

Hopefully this will get done in the next month; we're just finishing up with having some painting done, and I didn't want to get going on carpet until that was all done. Nesting, dontchaknow! I'll be keeping all of this advice in mind as we shop, most certainly.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2010

The new carpet was installed today, and it is lovely. I ended up purchasing a Martha Stewart carpet from The Home Depot, and got the premium double-moisture-barrier pad as well. The contractor they set me up with was great, and everything is done at least a week earlier than I expected.

I appreciate all the suggestions and advice. Now to keep people from getting the new carpet dirty. I foresee a large basket of slippers by the front door in our near future ...
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 3:54 PM on December 6, 2010

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