The earliest carpets date back to the 5th century. These were meticulously hand-knotted, first using sheep’s wool and eventually incorporating hair from camels and goats. The threads were colored with dyes made from plants and minerals, and woven into patterns. Each region and town had its own trademark design, partially influenced by the available dyes and culture. For example, carpets from Caucasus used geometric and mosaic designs, carpets from Asia minor were known for floral patterns, and carpets from China showcased dragons, lotus (a symbol of immortality), and pomegranates (a symbol of fertility). Carpets from Central Asia tended to have a rich, deep red color.
Today’s carpets are often machine-made and incorporate both natural and synthetic materials. They are often used as flooring materials because of the excellent insulation and aesthetic appeal. Here is a simple guide on how to choose carpets, depending on how it will be used and your own budget.
1. Types of Carpets
Body or strip carpets are narrow carpets typically used for the stairs or rooms with irregular shapes. They often come in either 69 centimeters (or 27 inches), 46 centimeters (18 inches) or 57 centimeters (22 inches).
Broadloom carpets are often used for more regular-shaped rooms, and come in 275 centimeters (9 feet), 366 centimeters (12 feet) and 457 centimeters (15 feet).
Carpet materials can also be bought in squares or tiles, which range from 23 centimeters (9 inches) to 366 centimeters (12 feet). The advantage of buying carpet ‘sections’ is that you can flip over the material once it starts to show wear and tear. It’s also very convenient to buy packs of tiles (typically you need 1 pack per square yard) rather than one large bolt of carpet fabric.
2. Measuring Quantiy
You need to measure the room length and width, including any bays and recesses. Don’t assume the walls are completely parallel: check all sides of the room, just in case a room that appears square is actually wider or longer at one end. Give an allowance of about 100 millimeters (or about 4 inches) in order to give the carpet fitter an overlap. Also add about 225 millimeters (or about 9 inches) for the side with the door.
Here is the best way to measure carpets for staircases. First, measure the riser and multiply this by the number of risers. Then, measure the tread and multiply by the number of treads. Add the two numbers, and add an extra allowance of 450 millimeters or 18 inches.
If your staircase has a bend, measure each tread and riser at the widest point in the bend. Add this section to the total amount for the straight parts of the staircase.
Don’t forget to add the measurement of the corridor or walkway if you wish the carpet to extend past the stairs.
3. Considering function
Carpets can be classified into light domestic use (for bedrooms and minimally used rooms), medium domestic (for rooms that show more wear and tear), general domestic or medium contract use (for hotels and areas which have occasional community traffic, like church halls), heavy domestic/ general contract use (for public places that have daily community traffic, like restaurants), and heavy contract use (for places with large daily traffic and exposure to heavy machinery, such as shops).
Even if you’re just buying a carpet for your home, consider the kind of ‘abuse’ it will get. Do you have young children who make a lot of mess? Pets? Hobbies that involve a lot of dirt? Where will the carpet be?
Hard-wearing carpets are necessary for living rooms and hobby rooms. Some materials, like axminster made of 80% wool and 20% nylon, are less likely to show dirt. Tufted carpets are better for homes that don’t have pets.
Dining room carpets need to be able to withstand any stains from spilled food. Polyprolene carpets, needlepunch and low-loop nylon carpets are easy to wipe clean. Practical homemakers may also wish to buy cheaper carpets, that can be replaced—without guilt!—in case of an irreversible stain.
Lightweight carpets can be used for bedrooms and study rooms.
4. Shopping for the best bargains
The color and pattern of the carpet is a purely personal choice—but having decided that, how do you find the best value for your money?
Carpet prices change depending on the quality of materials and manufacturing method. A wool wilton carpet will cost more than one made of man-made fiber. In general, a tufted carpet is more affordable than a woven carpet. Other things, like the density of the material, and the complexity of the design, also affect the price.
Some shops will try to win customers by offering ‘free’ carpet fitting but the fees may actually be built into the price. It’s best to shop around, and then—once you find a price you like—give the measurements of the room and then ask for an estimate that includes delivery and fitting fees. You also need to ask about the cost of underlay, which is needed for any carpet that doesn’t have foam backing.