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Explaining carpet fibers and types

When buying carpet for the first time, homeowners can be overwhelmed with unfamiliar terminology. Navigating such terminology, not to mention the vast array of options inside typical carpeting stores, can be difficult and make carpet buyers nervous about making the right decision.

Homeowners looking for carpeting for their homes are bound to hear about particular fibers and types of carpets. But such talk is lost when buyers don't understand carpet fibers and what makes each type of carpet unique. The following rundown of the various carpet fibers and types of carpet should help homeowners make more informed decisions.

Carpet fibers

When a carpet salesman or store employee references "carpet fiber," he or she is referring to the type of material used to make a particular carpet. No two fibers are the same, as each feels different to the touch and reacts to routine wear and tear differently. Here are the five most popular carpet fibers:

• Nylon: Nylon is the most durable carpet fiber, and that has contributed to its popularity. Nylon is available in a wide range of styles and is a flexible material. Many nylon carpets come with a stain-resistant treatment to protect the material from common stains and spills.

• Polyester: Highly resistant to stains and fading, polyester is soft, and today's polyester carpets are more resilient and durable than those of yesteryear.

• Triexta: Triexta is a type of polyester fiber that is especially soft. A relatively recent addition to the market, triexta carpet fibers are especially susceptible to stains and spills.

• Olefin: Olefin carpet fibers are among the least expensive, thanks in part to its lack of durability compared to other fibers. Olefin carpet fibers repel UV rays and therefore don't fade when exposed to sunlight.

• Wool: Wool tends to be the most expensive carpet fiber, but that cost is offset by its considerable durability and soft feel. Wool carpets can last several decades, but they also are high maintenance and not especially resistant to stains.

Carpet types

The type, or style, of carpet refers to how the carpet is designed. The type of carpet homeowners choose may depend on where in their homes the carpet will be installed.

• Frieze: Frieze carpet, sometimes referred to as twist carpet, is made of twisted strands of carpet, and many homeowners prefer frieze carpet because of its modern and stylish look. Frieze carpet can be somewhat expensive, which is why some homeowners install it in bedrooms and sitting rooms where it won't be susceptible to high traffic.

• Saxony/Cut pile: Saxony or cut pile carpet is ideal for high traffic areas, such as the living room or hallways. That's because it tends to be resistant to matting and crushing and still feels soft underfoot.

• Berber: Berber carpets, often referred to as loop carpets, are especially durable, making them strong options for high-traffic areas of a home. Though there are variations in loop carpets, a traditional loop carpet is created when yarn is sewn or tufted into the backing and left uncut.

Choosing a carpet for a home is no small task, but homeowners who educate themselves about the various carpet fibers and styles can find the right fit for their homes.