Matching carpets to rooms effectively

Carpets will greatly affect the appearance of the rooms involved, so make yourself familiar with THE different types of carpeting available before you make any major purchases.

MATERIALS USED

The quality of the material and the density of the pile used in your carpet are the two most important factors governing its durability and ensuring it keeps its attractive appearance. The best and most common carpets used to be made from pure wool. but now the range has widened to include many synthetics and blends, which often add to the advantages of this type of natural libre. WOOL This is still the favourite with most people and probably the best single material for carpets. Usually made of blended wools from different countries, carpets of this type are hard-wearing. resistant to dirt and fire and naturally springy so they do not compress easily under heavy pieces of furniture. In addition, natural fibres are more absorbent and therefore take dye more readily than man-made ones, so soft floor coverings made from wool are usually available in a wider range of colours than those made from synthetics. Many modern carpets are a blend of 80 percent wool and 20 percent synthetic material; these retain all the characteristics mentioned above and increase the durability.

ACRYLIC This material, although cheaper, is closest to wool in feel and appearance, but lacks wool’s resistance to burns and is more likely to crush and become permanently flat. It wears slightly better than wool, but soils more easily and is more difficult to shampoo since it is less absorbent; this means, however, spills can be removed before they become permanent stains. Acrylics are often sold under the trade names Acrilan. Courtelle. Dolan and Dralon. NYLON The strongest of all the synthetics, it is often added to wool to make a top quality carpet. It resists permanent staining and, although il soils quickly, is easy to clean. Some inexpensive carpets are made entirely from nylon, but they tend to have an unpleasant spongy feel and a shiny appearance and are subject to a great deal of static electricity, especially in a dry atmosphere. To avoid this, a new type of nylon has been developed. Nylon WILL NOT catch light when touched by flames: instead it melts, leaving a permanent mark. If you want a nylon or part-nylon carpet, look for names such as Bri-Nylon. Timbrelle. Celon. Grilon. Enkalon, Nylfrance. Anlron and Dupont 501. OLYPROPYLENE One of the newer fibres being used for carpets, it resists wear and staining very well. It is a fairly cheap material, but its use is mainly restricted to filling out other, higher quality materials; many carpet backings contain polypropylene. since pile made from this fibre tends to lose its texture and flatten very easily. The names Meraklon and Fibrite indicate the presence of this material.

RAYON Often called viscose, this soils and crushes easily and is used mainly as a filler, often with wool and nylon. Carpets which have very little use might be made from rayon; but since it does not wear very well, it should not be used in any areas which will get heavy traffic. Brand names such as Fibre-, Fivlan and Tapiflor indicate rayon or part-rayon carpets.

How carpets are made

There are several different ways of attaching pile to its backing; the method used is important since it will govern the appearance of the carpet and, to a certain extent, its quality. Wilton This pile is often the strongest, but it is also limited in terms of colour. This is because each different colour thread used is taken to the back of the base when a new colour is introduced. The threads are not broken, but built up underneath the pile to give a thicker backing, thus making the use of too many colours impractical. The loops formed by this method of weaving can be left as they are or cut off.

Axminster These carpets have each thread cut oil’ at the back and restarted when required according to the pattern. Because these threads do not build up on the underside, this type is not so thick in the back as a Wilton; but any number of different colour threads can be used. Intricate designs with a great many colours will almost always be made with an Axminster construction. With this type, the threads which form the pile are nearly always cut. Tufted This type consists of short pieces of fibre needled into a stitched backing and held there by an application of rubber or plastic on the reverse side. The loops formed can be either left as they are or severed to form a cut pile. Bonded These carpets have their pile stuck directly onto backing and occasionally heat-fused together. The construction is usually carried out with man-made fibres and different effects are possible – from a level cut pile to a cord. Cord This type has a similar basic weave to Wilton, but the loops in this case are always left uncut and drawn tight to give the traditional corded effect. Although originally haircord. most modem versions are made from sisal or a synthetic fibre. If the quality of the material is good, they will wear better than short cut pile.

It is worthwhile learning about the types of carpet construction, but always bear in mind the quality of a carpet is governed much more by its material and density than by the way it is made.

Types of pile

There are three basic types of pile – cut pile, loop pile and a mixture of the two; but these types lend themselves to several variations. Loop pile This consists of a series of loops raised up from the carpet backing. Wiltons, cords and many tufted carpets have these as a result of the way they are manufactured. Cut pile When the loops are cut very short and even, the result is described as velvet. This pile has a smooth appearance, but often shows ‘shading -light and dark patches which result when the pile is brushed against the grain.

When the fibres are cut evenly, but left fairly long for a luxurious effect, the pile is known as shag.

Twist is a cut pile which has a tight curl built into the yarn before weaving to give a rougher look. It is not as prone to shading as velvet pile. Sculptured pile This is a mixture of the above types: it can be simply a cut pile, where the strands are different in length or appearance, or a mixture of looped and cut piles, which makes possible the carved patterns you sometimes see.

Grades of carpet

One of the most important considerations in choosing carpeting of any kind is its suitability for different purposes. Here we give a general guide set out by the carpet trade for you to follow; but make sure you go to a trustworthy retailer to make sure you get the best advice. The following classifications are sometimes referred to by number only: 1 Light domestic Used mainly for the bedroom or other areas which do not suffer from much wear. 2 Medium domestic More durable than light domestic, but still suitable only for secondary rooms and areas which do not get heavy wear. 3 General domestic Suitable for living rooms which are not used heavily – for example, in a very small household or one which is made up of adults only. 4 Heavy domestic This is the quality most suitable for well-used family rooms and thoroughfares such as living rooms, halls and stairs. 5 Heavy contract Unlikely to be needed in any domestic situation, this quality is used for hotel lobbies, airports and other areas which get extremely heavy use.

If you are in any doubt about which grade to choose, go for the better quality – the pain of spending more money initially will not be nearly as great as the heartbreak you will feel when your new carpeting looks tatty and worn well before its time and needs replacing. Because of the high cost of carpet fitting, this will be much more expensive than it would have been to invest in the proper quality from the start. Most manufacturers now use the same colour range for the various grades, so you could conceivably carpet your whole house in one colour, but using several different qualities.

Carpet MEASUREMENTS

Narrow or ‘body’ carpet is normally 685mm wide, although 460mm and 915mm versions are also available. The term broadloom has nothing to do with the quality and denotes only the size of the carpet; varieties start at 1800mm and go up to 5m widths. You will only establish which width is the most suitable by drawing a plan of the area you need to cover and checking where the various widths will fall. It is often the case that narrower carpets involve less wastage and therefore less expense. Once you have chosen your width, buy only that width carpet to complete the job; two pieces of carpet cut from rolls of different widths might vary enough in shade to ruin the final effect.

The term ‘carpet square’ does not necessarily describe a piece cut in this shape – it means only a large piece of carpet, often with bound edges. which is laid loose in the room rather than fitted up to the walls. This arrangement saves money, but tends to make the room look smaller and leaves an exposed surround which will complicate floor cleaning.

Carpet tiles come in much smaller units – usually about 500mm ; they can be laid loose or stuck down and trimmed to fit the room exactly. They can be laid to give a plain or chequerboard effect and are extremely practical because they can be lifted and washed or replaced when stained or damaged in any way. They are easy to install in awkward areas such as kitchens and bathrooms, where floor fittings and pipes must be accommodated; and you can lift them easily to take with you if you move home. For the best results with carpet tiles, move them around regularly so they get equal wear.

STAIR CARPETING

This is probably the part of the home which gets the most wear, so carpeting here should be chosen and fitted very carefully. The most luxurious way to treat stairs is by fitting carpet edge to edge. It is much cheaper, however, to lay A narrow runner ; not only are purchase and possibly installation costs lower with this method, but you can also move the carpet to even out wear when necessary. Do not settle for anything less than very heavy quality here, since no area will show wear and look run-down more quickly than a well used staircase covered with cheap carpet. Avoid using foam-backed or shag pile carpet in this area; foam backs are difficult to lay on stairs: the foam may disintegrate under pressure and the tuft of shag pile may work loose and become a hazard.

SISAL COVERING

This type of floor covering is made from a tough. coarse plant fibre which wears very well and costs less than a normal carpet. It comes in a wide range of colours, but a blend of two or more is the most practical since this will show very little dirt. Most sisal is now backed with latex, which makes it easy to clean.

RUSH MATTING

Available in squares, circles or roll lengths, backed or unbacked, rush matting is another inexpensive and durable floor covering. It is particularly suitable for laying on solid floors which have a tendency to get damp, since it is not only unaffected by damp but is actually improved by the presence of moisture which prevents it drying out. Rush should not be close-fitted since you will find it necessary to lift it from time to time to get at the dirt and dust which tend to settle underneath. When you are laying this material, be sure to bind all raw edges or they will fray in no time and become dangerous as well as unattractive.

FELT COVERING

This material is suitable for areas of light wear such as bedrooms. It can also be used effectively as A surround covering if you have a large rug in the centre of the room. It is cheap and warm and comes in a huge range of colours, but it spots very easily and it is difficult if not impossible to remove stains.

Colour AND pattern

Like all major furnishing items, carpets should be neutral enough to blend with any future change of style. Plain carpets will often make a room look larger and less cluttered and will leave you more scope in choosing the rest of the furnishings, unless you are unwise enough to pick a particularly violent shade which dominates everything around it and will almost certainly become tiresome.

Some ungeometric patterns do, to a certain extent, hide spots and dirt; but the best choice, if this is your aim, is a random blend of natural colours. If you do go for a patterned carpet, be sure to buy it because you really like it – not because you think it will make cleaning any easier. Also remember a small regular pattern, in carpet as well as fabric, shows spots just as plainly AS a light, solid colour – and more than a dark one. With plain carpets, dark shades show flecks and dust more quickly than pale ones, but need overall cleaning less often; so unless the room you have in mind is used infrequently and by very careful adults. avoid very light coloured carpet altogether.

Remember all carpets, especially pale ones, fade to a certain degree with general wear and exposure to sunlight. Some of the original brightness is restored when the carpet is cleaned.

Care of CARPETS

You will want your new carpet to last a long time: and if you look after it properly, there is no reason why this should not be the case.

All pile carpets need a little time to settle. During this initial period, bits of fluff will appear on the surface and should be vacuumed away as soon as possible. This does not indicate your carpet is falling apart or indeed that anything is wrong at all; it is simply the excess fibre, left after weaving. which rises to the surface with use.

Be sure to clean your carpet regularly to prevent grime and grit becoming embedded in the fibre; and try to avoid walking on it with stiletto or metal-tipped heels or rubber and crepe sole shoes. If possible, rearrange the furniture from time to time. When you do this, lift each piece and carry it to its new location – never drag it across the floor. Look for areas of particularly heavy wear – by the fireplace. perhaps, or in front of the sofa – and put down small rugs for protection.

If you see a single thread sticking up from a cut pile, don’t pull it; take a small pair of scissors and cut it neatly to the same level as the rest. Wilton loops also come loose from time to time. If you find a long one. there will be another nearby which is lying flat or seems much shorter than the rest; pull this gently with a needle and you should find the raised loop will be lowered.

When it is time for a shampoo, you will have to decide whether to do this yourself or hire the services of a professional firm. The latter involves the minimum time and disruption and they are not as expensive or as hard to find as you might think. If you decide to do the job yourself, you can hire an electric shampooer – there is no need to buy one unless you have a large house with many carpeted rooms to be cleaned regularly. Carefully follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and be sure not to get the carpet too wet. Remove any stains before you start and try to avoid walking on the wet pile for several hours.

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