Is there ANY reason to go for wall-to-wall carpet?
November 14, 2012 9:04 AM   Subscribe

The house I now own has gross old carpet that I want to rip out and replace with hardwood or Pergo. The family room and kitchen have a beautiful hardwood floor that has lasted for almost 20 years. I am getting a redecorating bee in my bonnet and want hardwood (or at least Pergo) over the rest of the house. Are there any advantages to having wall-to-wall carpet? At all?

I've googled this question and all the pro-carpet articles are from, you guessed it, carpet manufacturers. So I'd like to hear it from an unbiased source. Is there any advantage whatsoever to getting new carpet instead of hardwood or Pergo flooring? Cost is the only thing I can think of but I would rather pay extra for a hard floor surface.

I have cats and can't imagine any circumstance where I would not own multiple pets (I come from a long and proud line of pet-crazy people). I've never known a carpet in a pet-owning home to not get gross in short order even if the pets are housetrained and brushed regularly.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where it rarely freezes and almost never snows except on the mountains, so freezing floors are not an issue. I have no kids and don't anticipate having any live-in small children.

All the pros of hardwood or similar seem to add up to a long list and all the cons of wall-to-wall carpet a similarly long list. Is hardwood or Pergo a no-brainer?
posted by Rosie M. Banks to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Seems like a no-brainer to me. Go for classic hardwood if you can afford it. Engineered hardwood or Pergo is difficult to replace and match if it gets damaged. This is due to the interlocking nature of the individual pieces and variations in color from batch to batch of product.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:07 AM on November 14, 2012

Only other advantage of carpet I can think of, aside from what you've already mentioned, is sound control: Especially in multi-story multi-family units, carpet leads to quieter interactions with other neighbors.

Night before we closed on our house we were in there ripping out the carpet so we could restore the white oak floors underneath to their original glory. I like to think there's a special place in hell for the carpet salesman who convinced the previous owner to cover up that beauty.
posted by straw at 9:10 AM on November 14, 2012

Some people like having carpet in the bedroom so you step out of bed on to a warmer surface. Carpet can also help dampen sound if that is an issue.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:10 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can get site-finished hardwoods to match the rest of the flooring in the house. Not too expensive, looks great. You will have greebles underfoot, so take shoes off at the door and run a vacuum weekly or else they'll hitch-hike on your feet and end up in bed with you.

Be prepared for enormous tumbleweeds of fur under beds and other furniture.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:11 AM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I prefer Hardwood. Pergo seems to always look cheap, but it appears to be indestructible (at least in my house). Carpet is nice (good carpet anyway which isn't any cheaper than hardwood) if you need better traction or don't like cold floors (as you said not a problem for you). Dogs seem to have a hard time on hardwood, especially old dogs. My house is all hardwood/pergo (the house came that way) except for two bedrooms for the warmth and dog jumping on the bed ability. BTW good rugs largely take care of the hardwood disadvantes. In another advantage for hardwood it is just about the easiest really nice DIY upgrade to a house. The tools aren't too bad (about 400 for the compressor, nailer, floor nailer and jig saw)and all except the floor nailer are really useful for all kind of projects. After about 5 boards I had it down on how to install the flooring. It is really tough on your back and knees and will take some time but DIY will cut the cost in HALF or more and make it cheaper than cheap carpet (which requires some real skill to install and look good).
posted by bartonlong at 9:12 AM on November 14, 2012

Personally, I find it easier to keep carpet clean (or at least clean-feeling; stuff stuck to your feet/socks is the worst) with regular vacuuming. For me, at least, dirt/dust/pet hair tend to just sort of fly everywhere, end up in the corners, behind and under furniture, etc. This is in a house with three cats and three (not always tidy) roommates.

So, basically, I'm advocating wall-to-wall carpets as dirt catchers, which might not be a very popular position to take. Additionally, they feel nice on your feet if you tend to go barefoot or not wear shoes in the house.

That said, I have area rugs and crappy, splintering old pine floors, so maybe really nice hardwood would be a different story.
posted by i. shishkin at 9:13 AM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

I grew up in a house with carpeting and now I live in a house with hardwood floors. Although I love my hardwood floors, I sometimes miss being able to lounge around on a carpeted floor. Nowadays I have to sit on a cushion on the floor or my joints hate me. I suppose, if you have a family full of floor-sitters or floor-loungers (or friends who like to sit on the floor, or you just don't have a lot of places to sit and need floor sitting space) you might want carpeting. Or lots of cushions and rugs.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:15 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Carpet on stairs = quieter, especially if there are children. Less chance of slipping on slick floors for older people, less chance of elderly tripping over area rugs. Then there is the color thing; if you don't want some shade of brown, you need carpet.
Hospitals found that there was less contamination with carpet. Contaminants tended to stay in one place, not spread, until vacuumed away.
posted by Cranberry at 9:21 AM on November 14, 2012

To answer a couple of questions:

- I live in a detached one-story house.
- Not a floor-sitter for the most part.
- Current pets are three young cats. I may have a dog one day but it's not in the cards right now.
- I have a couple of really nice area rugs to solve any cold-feet-in-the-morning problems, and as I said earlier, winters are not that cold here.
- I am, alas, lazier than I should be about vacuuming. I am trying to fix this. I'd love a Roomba, conditional on it's not scaring the kitties too much.

I'd love real hardwood, and the family room and adjoining kitchen are already nice hardwood, and if I can possibly swing it, I would prefer hardwood in the whole house (except the bathrooms, obviously).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:21 AM on November 14, 2012

The only other advantage (not covered here) is the ability of carpet to change the entire look of a room depending on the color and pile of it. You can do it with an area rug, of course, but a whole sea of deep brown or an interesting cut pattern in a wall-to-wall carpet can be a very strong decorating choice.
posted by xingcat at 9:33 AM on November 14, 2012

I like carpet because I don't wear shoes (and often not socks) in the house. It's warmer and I'm a lousy housekeeper and carpet doesn't leave me feeling every speck of dust the way hardwood or tile does. But it's a personal preference thing -- many more people seem to like hardwood than they do carpet.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:34 AM on November 14, 2012

I am pretty biased against wall-to-wall carpet. So let's just say I support your hardwood dreams. In light of that, a couple of thoughts on how to not have buyer's remorse:

I found that having fewer books, upholstered pieces and the like cut down on the amount of dust I had. So do not assume that dust (or similar) is an issue of X magnitude and will never change.

Some floor finishes are slicker than others. I would talk to someone about that aspect and shoot for less slick.

As for noise control, upholstered pieces, curtains and the like can also absorb sound. Acoustics are a lot more complicated than just what is on the floor.

And you should totally post pics of your new hardwood so I can be envious.
posted by Michele in California at 9:36 AM on November 14, 2012

This past summer we finished replacing ratty old carpet with Pergo all throughout the house.

+Looks nicer

+Will theoretically last longer

+Easier to sweep pet hair than vacuum pet hair, in my experience

+When the cats and dogs have their freakouts and run around chasing each other like wild monkeys, the humans are amused by the turning of the corners and the losing of the footing and the sliding into walls.

+The floor is always visibly dirty, requiring more frequent cleaning than the carpet did (probably because it's easier to ignore dirt that blends into the carpet)

+Spills (even water, or occasionally, pee) need to be wiped up immediately or it will seep in to the hardwood. We learned after the first room (and several stealth pee incidents) and started sealing the floor, even though the manufacturer's instructions said it wasn't required.

+The floor is f*cking slippery, even when it's not wet. When it's wet, like from someone tracking in the rain (or snow, in our case), it can be a real hazard.

+Husband and father-in-law installed the Pergo themselves. You can tell which areas of which rooms were done first, because the floor just looks less than stellar in those areas. The areas they did last look like a professional did it.

+It's loud - it creaks and moans and groans. Maybe related to husband and father-in-law, the non-professional floor installers? I could have listed this as a benefit, I suppose, if I was a more paranoid mother of a teen girl. But she's never tried sneaking out late or sneaking anyone in, so I guess it's a wash.

Still, all told, I think the floors look much much nicer, and the extra cleaning I do is worth it, in my opinion.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:56 AM on November 14, 2012

I've lived with both, and my preference is for wood (or Pergo) floors with a fairly large area rug covering most of the room. That way, you get the charm and appeal of the wood, with the lower sound level of carpet. This matters a lot -- rooms with uncovered wood floors can feel empty, echo-ey, and uncozy. With a few cats on bare wood floors, you'd be chasing tumbleweeds constantly. If you can get into the habit of cleaning with something like a dust mop every day (quick and easy, but still), you can keep it under control. If that's not how you want to spend your time, the messiness will be constant. With the middle of the floor covered by a large area rug, most of the dust finds its way onto the carpet and stays put until vacuumiing day, so that's a good compromise.

I do like having carpeted stairs. Bare wood stairs get nasty looking in an awful hurry, and create a lot of racket.
posted by Corvid at 10:10 AM on November 14, 2012

I have two long haired cats (one of whom REFUSES to be brushed) and a short haired cat. No matter how often I sweep there are constant tumbleweeds of fluff rolling around my hardwood floors. And I can never manage to get all of it. There are invariably one or two little bits that escape and then grow, which makes my living room look messy. In contrast, my bedroom is carpeted and only needs a vacuum once a week or so to look tidy. I'd carpet my entire house if I could.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:18 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just had carpet replaced with hardwood. Happy overall, but a couple of issues that I hadn't thought of: The light colored floors make the whole area brighter than did the beige carpet. You have to worry about scratching when you drag or move anything. And it's hard, so you can't toss things on the floor.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:22 AM on November 14, 2012

I got engineered hardwood, which looks much better than Pergo. It's not cheap, but the labor is much cheaper. I got a dark color, so the dust shows up very easily, which is the only downside that I see. However, at least you can tell when it's clean. (If I see carpet, I just assume that it's gross.)

If there are places you want to "carpet", you can always just get an area rug. This works for sound insulation, and stairs, and catching dust in the general area, and feeling soft. Plus, you can wash it thoroughly. (If you get the indoor/outdoor kind, you can just hose it down.)

Floating hardwood (engineered) also interlocks and "floats" as one piece and so your whole floor may bounce if you jump around on it. It doesn't bother me, but it might bother you.
posted by ethidda at 10:59 AM on November 14, 2012

+It's loud - it creaks and moans and groans. Maybe related to husband and father-in-law, the non-professional floor installers? I could have listed this as a benefit, I suppose, if I was a more paranoid mother of a teen girl. But she's never tried sneaking out late or sneaking anyone in, so I guess it's a wash.

This is a 'feature' of a floating floor (like most pergo installations). One of the many reasons I dislike pergo. Hardwood is the best and like I said pretty easy to install. I checked out a book from the library read it and started in the closet. This hid most of my early sins and a small tight space is the hardest place to install. Once I got that down the rest of the house looked great. I actually think nailed hardwood is easier to install than floating floor pergo and if you do it yourself the hardwood is cheaper than paying a pro to install the pergo.
posted by bartonlong at 11:04 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

We tore up the carpet in a ~100 year old house, then had the hardwood floors repaired, patched up and/or fully replaced (different solutions in different rooms).

The only thing that bugs me at all about the wooden floors is the scratching (and the constant worry about trying not to cause scratches).

Even with the best efforts (felt pads on the bottom of all furniture legs, shoes off in the house etc) even one year down there are heaps of minor dings & scratches from one thing or another. Sanding & re-finishing is a solution, but it'd cost at least a few thousand so you wouldn't want to do it more than absolutely necessary, and you take off a few mm of wood every time so eventually you'll eat through your boards. With the right kind of finishing you can patch up small scratches in the finish, so look into that (hardwax oil here).

If you can accept a bit of patina in your floorboards as a fact of life then go for it. They're easy to clean with a regular sweep, supplemented with a good mopping every few weeks. Add or remove rugs as you like (we store rugs in summer for cooler floors, for example).
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:54 AM on November 14, 2012

The reason we see as much carpeting as we do is because it's cheap.

With carpet, it is easier to maintain an appearance of cleanliness, but it's much harder to actually get clean. I grew up in a house with carpeting and a lot of cats; we had to steam-clean routinely, and even then—still not very clean.

UbuRoivas: "Sanding & re-finishing is a solution, but it'd cost at least a few thousand so you wouldn't want to do it more than absolutely necessary, and you take off a few mm of wood every time so eventually you'll eat through your boards."

It's worse than that: most oak flooring is really just veneered, so you only have a few mm to take off. That said, I'll take hardwoods over carpet 10 days out of 10.
posted by adamrice at 12:03 PM on November 14, 2012

There are zero upsides to wall-to-wall carpet that can't be mimicked with an area rug, if necessary. Rip that bad boy out.
posted by lydhre at 1:44 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

There are zero upsides to wall-to-wall carpet that can't be mimicked with an area rug, if necessary. Rip that bad boy out.

You'd also be amazed at just how much crap will fall out of a rug when you take it outside & give it a good shake or beat it with a broom on the washing line...even after vacuuming it regularly. It's very handy to be able to do that.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:01 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not arguing for carpet, but you asked if there are any advantages:
* Warmer floors. Carpet is warmer to walk on than hardwood.
* Quieter - Carpet is quieter for light sleepers, kids, etc.
* Cats like carpet better. Cats often prefer soft surfaces to harder, smooth ones.
* Dogs scratch up hardwood over time. Of course, they tear up carpet even worse, so this is probably a wash.
* Even good carpet is half the price of hardwood, unless you install it yourself.

Having said that, I'd pick hardwood 100 times out of 100 if I had the money.
posted by cnc at 3:40 PM on November 14, 2012

Ugh, after living in my MIL's house with carpet that has just been totally ruined by animals (urine, feces, vomit, general uncleanliness), I would never ever ever want carpet. Go for hardwood. It also doesn't require full-on vacuuming. A combination of a broom, dry Swiffer, and stick vac will go far.
posted by radioamy at 3:43 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have lived in places with hardwood floors, click together "wood" flooring and carpet.

Trust me, carpet is much much MUCH warmer.
posted by tonylord at 4:08 PM on November 14, 2012

We just moved into a house where most of the rooms are carpeted (one room has parquet and the kitchen is tiled, but the rest are carpeted, even the bathrooms). As soon as we can afford to, I'm ripping these bad boys out and getting hardwood or something similar installed because carpet sucks! It holds dust and always looks dirty, no matter how often I vacuum.

I say there's no advantage to wall to wall carpeting. None.
posted by patheral at 8:46 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have asthma and have had way fewer asthma attacks since moving into a house with hardwood floors. The house I moved out of had cheap cheap carpet installed by the cheap cheap landlord and I believe it was the source of the carpet beetles that ate all my beautiful sweaters.
posted by dottiechang at 9:07 PM on November 14, 2012

Hardwood floors can cause plantar fasciitis, or worsen an existing problem with PF. Concrete floors are even worse.

I have plantar fasciitis, and spending time in a home with all hardwood floors is painful, unless I keep my shoes on. Which I don't like to do. I love wearing just socks on floors with comfortable carpeting. And a lot of people, understandably, prefer that everyone remove shoes when entering their homes, regardless of what type of flooring they have. Some people bring cushy indoor booties with them. Some hosts will provide cushy indoor booties for their guests.
posted by marsha56 at 2:59 AM on November 16, 2012

Thank you everyone for your feedback! I'm going to get hardwood (as soon as I can afford it and have time to supervise such a project; I'm emphatically not a DIY'er). I find the hardwood in the family room very easy to clean, even with the cat hair. It's refinished in some very hard varnish (not sure what it is exactly) and a vacuum, Swiffer, and broom do for most cleaning.

I'm fortunate enough not to have foot problems, I'm not elderly (yet!), and cold temps aren't really an issue where I live (what we call "cold" is nowhere near New England or Upper Midwest cold).

So - resolved, and thank you!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:49 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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