Types of Carpets and Rugs
Carpets and rugs
Carpets are a popular option, but the choice — even before you consider colour or design — is immense. What they are made of and how they are made affects their feel and durability. Read labels carefully and take the advice of the supplier. Make sure prices quoted include the necessary underfelt and fitting.
Woven carpet has the pile closely woven into the backing to produce a high-density surface (Axminster and Wilton refer to weaving methods, not the source of the carpet). Woven carpets are beautiful and durable, but can also be expensive. The majority of carpets in the mid-price range are non-woven. Most are tufted, made by ‘needling’ the pile into a backing, with a secondary backing for strength and stability.
Types of carpet pile
Density of pile refers to the number of tufts per square centimetre or inch —the thicker the pile the more hard-wearing the carpet should be, and for areas of heavy use, a looped or kinked pile is a sensible choice.
Close or velvet is luxurious, but will show ‘tracking’ where it has been walked on.
Hard-twist has an extra kink in it, like curly hair. This adds to its wearability, but can make it slippery, so best not used on stairs.
Long or shag is usually looped or twisted. This creates an interesting texture, but is very difficult to keep looking good.
Looped has a characteristic nubbly texture. When made with mixed fibres this may ‘pill’ into small balls of loose fibre, so choose a 100 per cent wool (often called Berber-style).
Saxony is a dense, mid-length pile, best for areas of light to medium use.
‘sculptured’ or ‘carved’ pile is a mixture of cut and looped, creating a heavily textured effect; for medium to light use.
Some fibres are more resistant to stains than others but, whatever the manufacturers claim, carpets are not truly washable, even when treated with a stain inhibitor.
Wool, the traditional fibre for carpets, has a natural resilience. A mix of 80 per cent wool with 20 per cent easy-care synthetic (usually nylon) is considered to be the best fibre for carpets.
Synthetics – acrylic most closely resembles wood, but others include nylon in various forms, polyester, polypropylene and viscose/rayon, either on their own or combined with other fibres.
Cotton is used for washable rugs and to bulk out other fibres.
Silk is still used in hand-knotted oriental carpets and rugs.
Carpet will last much longer and be more comfortable if it is cushioned by an underlay. This can be the felted hairy type, or a rubber or plastic foam that increases the ‘bounce’ factor. Both types should be professionally fitted at the same time as the carpet.
Narrow ‘body’ or ‘strip’ widths are used as runners for halls, and on stairs.
Broadloom (woven on a wide loom) comes in multiples of 1 m (3 ft) up to 5 m (16 ft).
These can be cut easily to fit round awkward shapes, making them useful for small or irregularly shaped rooms. Individual tiles can be lifted to be cleaned or replaced but, despite claims, this does not make them ideal for wet areas. They should be fixed either with a flexibleat each corner or with a special double-sided tape. Carpet tiles present interesting design possibilities, such as chequerboard and chevrons, borders, stripes and checks and even, with precise cutting, inlaid motifs.
Rugs add colour and interest to a room as well as providing protection for carpet or wood — and you can take them with you when you move. Match your rugs to your style: ethnic alternatives to expensive oriental rugs include a wide variety of kelims, dhurries and animal skins, while felt, cotton and rag rugs suit a cottage style.
Lay rugs on a non-slip backing so that they do not slide on smooth floors or ruck up on carpets.
‘Above all, floors should be practical and easy to clean – avoid pale colours and heavy textures in well-used areas’
Types of stair covering
Close-carpeting on the stairs is definitely a job for the expert. Not all carpets are suitable so take advice from a professional.
Carpet runners leave some of the stair on either side uncovered and are much simpler to fit than close carpeting because it is held in position with stair rods, which slot into clips or eyes screwed to the base of each stair riser. The carpet can be moved up or down the stairs occasionally to even out the wear — tuck under the excess at either top or bottom of the stairs when laying. Leave the exposed wood at the sides natural or think about a colour to tone or contrast with the carpet, or a decorative paint finish such as marbling.
Rubber tiles can look very effective on stairs, with some design input. Choose, for example, two contrasting colours for the tread and the riser, or have nosings (the front edge of the tread) in a different colour. Alternatively, you could create a patchwork effect with several different colours.
Ceramic tiles are very suited to a Mediterranean or North African style. They are noisy, but could inspire an interesting design feature. They need to be professionally laid.
Other options – stairs do not have to be covered. Leave them exposed as natural wood, or paint them. You could simulate a runner and carry the design down into the hall, and paint the floor to match.