Area Rug - What to Know Before You Buy

Before You Buy An Area Rug

Area rugs offer the most variety in floor coverings. But before you buy, you need to know just a couple more things about them — other than that they can define a space and elevate your décor. Whether you choose handmade or machine made, antique or thoroughly modern, you need to consider these questions:

What Size And Shape?

Area rugs are made in standard and non-standard sizes and they can be rectangular (most common), round, square, oval, octagonal or long and narrow for runners. The most common sizes are 2’x3’, 4’x6’, 5’x8’, 6’x9’, 8’x10’ and up.

Choosing the correct size area rug depends on the dimensions of the space you want to cover. Here are some hints on how to figure out what size rug you need.

If you are thinking square or rectangle, place a piece of paper where each of the corners will fall in the area you wish to cover. Measure the space and adjust the “corners” as needed to make the space larger or smaller given the standard rug sizes. You’ll  probably have to go up or down a few inches. Take your time.

If you’re considering a round rug, you can run a piece of tape from the center of the space you want to cover to the outside edge. Measure it. This gives you the radius of the circle. Double it and you have the diameter. Round rugs are sold by the diameter. Again, you may have to adjust it up or down to reach a standard rug size.

Oblongs or ovals are measured like rectangles — by the length of the longest part and the width of the widest part. You can run a piece of tape on your floor to determine the length and a second to determine the width. You will have a large cross taped to your floor, but it will tell you how big an oblong you need to cover the space.

If you choose to cover the whole room with your area rug, it is best to leave a 12-inch to 15-inch border of flooring exposed to frame your rug.

Rugs that are destined to go under the dining room table should be large enough so that when seated at the table, the back legs of your guests’ chairs are on the rug with enough space to push back and stand up. This way, no one has to go over the edge to getup from the table.

One more thing.  When you buy, bring a tape measure.  A 9’x12’ rug often isn’t.  Like textile clothing sizes, they need to be “tried-on”, or at least measured so you know what true size you are actually buying, particularly if it is a handmade rug.  Don’t be surprised if it’s a little short in each direction.

What Color?

Color is at least as important for an area rug as how it’s made. The combination of color, design and setting (your room) all come together to create your own personal artistic statement.

Area rugs don’t have to match the colors of the room precisely. Great interior design often features combinations of colors that either contrast or compliment a room’s primary color scheme. But a good rule of thumb is to stick to one primary shade and two additional colors.

What Pattern?

Pattern is divided into three categories in the rug industry: curvilinear, geometric and pictorial. Knowing what kind of pattern you prefer can help narrow the field a bit.

Curvilinear literally means curved lines. It refers to patterns with swirl, arc and bows.

Geometric refers to patterns based on simple geometric shapes such as, lines, triangles, squares and rectangles.

Pictorial, the smallest group, refers to patterns that portray people, animals and scenes.


Style is such an ambiguous idea. It simply means a distinctive manner of expression. Over time, names get attached to the word style: Contemporary style. Classical style. Art Deco style. Your style can draw on bits and pieces of all of these and more. It is a personal expression of the way you want to live your life.

Rugs also have acquired styles: Natural, Navajo, Oriental, Persian, Chinese, Turkoman, Caucasian, Tibetan, Indian and Colonial, just to name just a few. No one expects you to know all of these or even some of these. You need to know what you like. If you do some research and find an image of an area rug you find attractive, take it to your retailer and then you can discuss what style it is. It’s another way of beginning the search.

What Now?

Once you know the direction you are traveling, there is only one final lesson. Know and trust your retailer. If you are shopping for antique rugs, this is fundamentally important. All investments should be made with the help of a knowledgeable counselor.

If this not an investment, then what you have learned here will guide you to buying the best area rug in the right style for the right price.

Finally, Be Calculating!

Figure the total cost of rug ownership. The price on the tag of the rug you’re buying is just one component of your cost. You don’t want any of those Aha! moments, right?

Product Delivery

Delivering your rug and padding to your home may or may not be included in the price you’re quoted. Ask.


Many retailers offer financing. Financing is not an additional cost, but rather an option of payment. It usually requires interest payments and that can add to the total cost.

Remember to ask your retailer about the manufacturer’s warranty and care guide. You will want directions on how frequently your rug should be cleaned and some indication of the cost to clean it.

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Overall Rating: 4.7 stars - 33 reviews

Date: January 9, 2017
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
Very informative.
Date: July 28, 2016
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
thank you. this was very helpful.
Date: April 4, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
This is really all new to me, therefore this information was very helpful. Thank you very much Josephine
Date: September 21, 2015
Page Rating: (4.0/5)
You dont say that certain rugs should not be used for underneath a dining room table such as tufted as one exmaple as its too hard when chairs are pulled in and out. I read that indoor/outdoor is better for underneath a dining room table as chairs slide better on it.
Date: March 21, 2015
Page Rating: (1.5/5)
Rotten advice to trust your retailer: His interest is to get the highest price; the buyer the lowest!
Date: December 8, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
The best summary on your area rugs articles. Thanks.
Date: November 2, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
This page was very helpful to me. It enlighten my understanding about buying a round rug to place a round table on.
Date: September 11, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
excellent advice was wondering what type of mat to use over wall to wall carpeting took your advice thank you!!!!
Date: August 7, 2014
Page Rating: (2.0/5)
Great, but looking for fabric type of rug. Wondering what type works best on wood flooring so it does not damage/scratch the wood floor. Did not see any mention of fabrics. Thank you!
Date: May 26, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
This is a wonderful site, I was lost until I found this web page.

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