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Carpet Types

Backing types

Foam rubber

  • feels soft underfoot
  • doesn't need separate underlay, saving money
  • non-shrinking
  • the backing disintegrates in time
  • a layer of newspaper stops it sticking to the floor. Newspaper should cover the whole floor except round the edges
  • stick it down with double sided carpet tape or glue round the outside
  • not popular now


  • a low cost backing with some squishability
  • has mostly replaced foam rubber backing


  • Prone to shrink during cleaning
  • Prone to rot in damp locations
  • Such carpets benefit from underlay

Woven plastic

  • Synthetic equivalents to hessian are unaffected by cleaning & damp

Plastic sheet


  • Used for commercial carpet tiles.
  • Stiff, heavy & durable


Sometimes seen at the bottom end of the market, these carpets have no visible backing. The pile is matted/felted rather than tufted, and sticks together firmly. The author has no experience with these.

Pile materials


  • A luxury type, with soft flattening-resistant pile
  • Generates static, causing wear
  • Soaks up stains
  • Self extinguishing, won't spread fire
  • resists cigarette damage much better than synthetics
  • Costs more, stains more and wears worse than wool/synthetic blend

Wool/synthetic blend

  • The best option for luxury carpets, these behave much like pure wool
  • The right blend more or less eliminates static production, extending carpet life
  • 70/30 and 80/20 are quality mixtures (70-80% wool)


  • Generates static, causing wear. In exceptionally low RH conditions can produce mild shocks
  • Some stain resistance
  • The most popular option for homes & business premises


  • Bleachable: bleach-safe fibre & bleach safe colouring
  • 100% synthetic
  • The carpet type with maximum cleanability

Identifying pile

There are 3 ways to identify pile material on an existing carpet.

  • Natural fibres are all matt when held close to the eye, Synthetic fibres have shiny bits here & there when held close to the eye
  • Natural fibres only give up about 50% of the water used when wet cleaning, synthetics give up around 90% of the water
  • Bleach (somewhere inconspicuous) removes all colour from natural fibres, some colour from most synthetics, and has no effect on bleachable polypropylene.

Pile production methods

Axminster & Wilton

  • Much used luxury carpet types.
  • Woven twist pile
  • Pile much more resistant to flattening than cut pile types
  • These are manufacturing methods, not brand names, so may be made in any location.
  • Long claws can sometimes catch the loops & tear them out

Cut pile

  • Made by punching cut pile through the backing
  • much cheaper
  • don't last as long
  • The most popular carpet type.
  • The pile flattens worse than twisted pile types


  • robust low cost carpet type
  • corrugated appearance
  • feels rough and stiff
  • mainly used in business premises

Carpet tiles

  • If one tile gets stained or damaged, it's easily replaced.
  • typically rough & tough
  • Much used in business premises
  • Sticking down with tackifier makes for quick tile removal any time.


  • Luxury carpet type popular in the 70s.
  • Now superseded, though it can still be found if wanted


A brand of fully waterproof antimicrobial carpets.


Quality of carpet depends on

  • Pile density
    • the more the better, generally
  • Pile material mixture
    • 70/30 and 80/20 are good for luxury carpets, or 100% bleachable polypropylene for cleanability
  • How pile is attached to backing
    • Woven piles like Axminster & Wilton are more durable than punched cut pile.

Pile length also affects performance, short pile is much more resistant to flattening than long.

Buying carpet


Large discounts can be had from retailers.

Beware of the travelling sellers that show good quality specimens then fit cheaper carpet, claiming it's what you ordered and paid for.


Choose clean carpet only. Used carpet can be cleaned, but cleaning may fail to remove all stains, and general dirt can hide stains. Used carpets are available from giveaway schemes such as freecycle and others.


New limited size pieces left over from stocked carpets. Often no cheaper than buying the same carpet off the roll.

Smaller pieces are available from some carpet suppliers free.

Economy Measures

If money is tight, using reasonably clean used carpets as underlay can leave enough money for better quality carpet. This has its pros and cons, and is discussed here.

  • It supports the carpet less than underlay, and relatively thin weak carpets can wear faster as a result.
  • Pile pointing in one direction in the old carpet can worsen wrinkling on a loose carpet due to a tendency for the top layer to walk in one direction
  • These are risk factors rather than anything that's going to happen, and in practice this approach normally works ok.

Carpet fitting

See Carpet laying

Carpet Stretching

This is one topic that tends to bring up opposing points of view at times, whether stretching is necessary or not. Lots of people lay carpet sucessfully without stretching it. Slight stretch can help avoid risk of ripples occurring later.

Carpet and Downlighters

Mixing downlighting with carpets is a recipe for poor energy efficiency. The darker the carpet, the worse the result.

Carpet & daylight levels

If interior daylight is poor, changing from dark to light carpet can help. Fairly obvious, but it gets overlooked.

Carpet in Vehicles

  • Vehicle carpet is prone to condensation
  • Hessian backing does not last as well when damp is enountered, but is fine if it stays dry.
  • Synthetic pile & backing is most tolerant of damp.
  • Bathroom carpet is the domestic type closest to car carpets. Its waterproof.
  • The author doesn't know if original vehicle carpets have any fire retardants added to improve safety.

Carpet in Bathrooms

Unpopular due to hygiene issues

If you want bathroom carpet, a carpet cleaner would be a good idea too.

Pick a non-shrink backing

Waterproof backing is best for suspended timber floors. A permeable backing is best for historic masonry floors with no dpc, as it permits evaporation from the floor.

Carpet Cleaning

See the Full FAQ

Repair & Maintenance

Areas of flattened pile

  1. Spray with water.
  2. Brush vigorously until pile stands up.
  3. Leave to dry

Fraying or shedding edges

To stop deterioration

  1. hoover clean
  2. cut away stragglers
  3. apply latex glue to backing, eg Copydex.

PVA also works, but dries semi-rigid, so must be kept to the backing and base of pile only to maintain a soft feel for bare feet. PVA can make the carpet feel stiff at first, but it softens in use.

To repair

  • Cut out a rectangle where damaged
  • Cut a replacement piece of carpet from somewhere inconspicuous, eg under a sofa (or of course from stored spare carpet if you have some)
  • Align the lay of the pile of the new patch with the carpet
  • Fix patch to trimmed damaged area using carpet tape
  • Or glue patch in place using latex
  • Apply latex to all cut edges to prevent fraying.
  • If you don't want the carpet to stick to the floor or underlay, put a piece of cloth flat under the cutout hole, gluing it in place, and glue the new patch to it.

Paint on carpet

Wet paint

If the paint is water based and still wet, act right away and you should get a perfectly clean result.

  • Mop it up wth paper towels or loo roll
  • Scraping a few times with a scraper can get more emulsion out of the pile, making cloth cleanup faster
  • Half an hour with a cloth & plenty of clean water should see it looking like new.
  • This much wetting entails a risk of browning or complete disintegration

Dry paint

Spots of dried emulsion can be removed with a chisel. With this method its possible to remove lots of paint spots and leave the carpet looking like new.

Simply scrape the chisel over the paint spot in the direction shown:

 //  ---> scrape it this way --->

When scraping, it's necessary to rotate the direction of scraping round so the carpet is scraped from all angles. Scraping over it in one or 2 directions isn't effective. What does in all directions mean? If you were to move yourself around the paint spot while you scraped, always scraping toward yourself, that would do it.

Occasionally the scraping approach fails to break up hard lumps. If so, whack down on the lumps with the chisel for a bit until they break up. The plan is to slowly break them up, not to apply enough force to cut anything.

Rugs & mats

Slip risk

Rugs & mats on smooth surfaces tend to slip easily, risking injury. Rubber backing solves this. To use an existing slippery rug, rubberised string mesh can be sewn onto the back, or a thin smear of silicone sealant applied all over the back. Clear is invisible if a tiny bit gets somewhere visible.

Edge curl

Mats that curl up at the edges are a trip hazard. Sometimes they can be fixed by weighting them down for a while, sometimes not. Thick rubber backing behaves well. Peelable double sided tape is an option for badly behaved mats on hard floors.


Carpet is made into rugs & mats by 'whipping' the edges. This is a 2 step oversewing process. First white thread widely spaced is used to consolidate the edge, then carpet coloured thread is oversewn closely to give a good finish and further robustness. Carpet offcuts are sometimes turned into rugs economically.


Mats sat on carpet tend to walk in the direction of the carpet's pile. Sewing it in place with half a dozen stitches to the carpet's backing using a mattress needle (a curved needle) is an option.

See Also