Have you ever wondered why carpet is as thick and plush as it is? It isn’t by accident.
Imagine a carpet with a few scraggly fibers sticking up. You wouldn’t want that in your home. When you purchase new carpet, you expect a certain quality. That’s why, over time, rules and regulations started filtering into the carpet industry to protect you when you finalize your purchase.
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) establishes regulations about carpet weight and density, to require manufacturers to create products that meet certain requirements. They’ve created two categories: one for single or multiple family dwellings, and one for elderly or care facilities.
Buying new carpet isn’t an easy endeavor. When you upgrade your carpet, you hope for a long life. If you get anything but the best, it’ll start to fail quicker, and you’ll be more convinced you made a costly mistake.
If you want to make a wise choice about the carpet you have installed, get past the color or pattern and dig deep down to the carpet grade. Your carpet’s specifications are the only way to know you’re installing the right product for the foot traffic you have in your home. The wrong grade will wear out faster, and will show the wear sooner rather than later.
Face weight is the weight of the fiber used in the manufacturing of the carpet pile. Face weight refers to the total ounces each square yard of fiber is. This does not include the weight of the carpet backing – that’s included in the total weight.
In general, you’ll find carpet across a full spectrum of face weight, somewhere from 20 to 100 ounces. For residential use, most carpet weight settles in between 35 and 60 ounces. A higher face weight does not equal a better grade of carpet. Higher face weights will not mean you’re selecting a more durable product.
The FHA also requires fibers in carpeting to meet minimum density requirements, as well. Density refers to how close each fiber strand is at the base of the carpet. It also is determined by how many strands of fiber the carpet contains altogether.
Higher density numbers mean the carpet will have less matting and show less evidence of foot traffic through normal activity. You’ll often find higher density carpet used near doorways or main thoroughfares, where the carpet will get more use.
Keep in mind that once again, carpet density by itself will not tell you about quality any more than carpet weight; it’s all context. Think of it more as a starting point to learn more about quality.
If you’re trying to find the best carpet for your situation, we have one more measurement you should consider. Carpet height refers to how long the fiber is from base to tip. The longer the carpet height, the more fragile the fibers will be. For high traffic areas, including stairs, pile height is a major determinant.
Calculating Carpet Density
To calculate carpet density, it’s a simple calculation of carpet face weight x 36/ carpet pile height. If you take the carpet face weight number in ounces and multiply that by 36, then divide that number by carpet height, you’ll get the density. Here’s a simple example:
Carpet with a 60 ounce face weight and a .75 inch pile height would be calculated as follows:
60×36/.75 = 2880
This would be a density of 2,880 ounces per cubic yard.
What does this number tell you? It can show you the best placement for the carpet, depending on the final number.
The Carpet and Rug Institute provides specific standards for the carpet and rug industry on carpet installation. When purchasing a carpet for most residential situations, you’ll want to install a carpet with at least a 3,600 density. Of course, higher is always better. Higher values signal a thicker, denser carpet that will handle better under pressure before it begins to show wear. If you’re installing in a commercial location, it’s recommended that you look for density of 5,000 or higher to ensure a long life.
How Carpet Density Impacts Daily Living
If you decide to install a carpet with higher density, it will impact wearability. Denser carpet lasts longer because it withstands impact better. It also makes it more difficult for dirt and stains to penetrate away from the surface and migrate down to the backing. When it’s easier to clean, which means you’ll have better looking carpet, longer.
However, there’s another carpet term to familiarize yourself with that impacts durability even more.
Carpet twist is the number of times a strand of fiber is twisted per inch. Higher twist level of four or more will be less likely to unravel over time, which makes them more durable overall.
Once again, the two are not interchangeable. A carpet doesn’t have to have high density to be durable; if the twist count is high, it might hold up well over time. The opposite can also be true.
Yet as you start to build a picture of the overall quality of a carpet, you can start seeing all of these things work together.
When selecting a carpet to install in your home, a lot of emphasis is placed on the carpet itself without mentioning the carpet padding. If you purchase carpet from a less-than-scrupulous source, they may play down the importance of padding, pushing you towards carpet that brings in more revenue. But we’ll tell you the two work closely together, and you should focus on the quality of each.
Carpet padding is what helps stabilize the carpet onto the subfloor. If you purchase the wrong padding for your situation, it can adversely impact the wear of your carpet.
Like carpet, pads also have a density rating. In most areas of your home, you should have a pad density rating of at least a 6 or greater. Pay attention to thickness as well, with 3/8 to ½ inch thick a good level for most locations throughout your home. For high traffic areas including your stairs, opt for a slightly thinner and higher density pad to give you more wearability.
Now that you know more about carpet density and how it impacts wearability, stop by today, and find the right carpet for your home.